Why do I feel guilty for not wanting a Wedding?
January 17, 2010 3:42 AM   Subscribe

Minimalist vow-exchangers: any regrets later on not having a wedding?

My fiancé is moving to the states in a few months, and per his visa, we're getting married within 90 days of his arrival. We're both in tight financial straits right now, since he makes pesos and I'm unemployed. I'm also pretty disgusted with the wedding industry--it's so materialistic, financially irresponsible, and seems like a lot of women just use weddings to fulfill ridiculous, cheesy fantasies about being a princess for the day.

We both just love each other so much that the details of the one day seem irrelevant compared to all of the actual marriage planning we've been doing. Ideally, I'd just like my immediate family and a photographer there; none of his friends or family can afford to a visa to the U.S., let alone plane tickets. Since I'm an introvert and was out of the country for a few years, my local social circle is small, and don't even know who I'd invite without it feeling a bit awkward to me. (I have had friends ask about it, but I just shoo them away by saying we're just going to exchange vows privately.)

I'd so much rather save the money we'd use on a wedding and have a months-long honeymoon, but I also don't want to kick myself in a few years. Has anyone ever exchanged vows in the most basic way possible and ever regretted it later? Why do I feel guilty for not wanting a capital-W Wedding: am I watching too much Sex and the City?
posted by blazingunicorn to Human Relations (69 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I had a very small wedding. There were 13 people, if you include the minister. No music, no flowers, he wore the only suit he had and I wore an off-the-rack lacy dress that was not a wedding dress. Our family members in a circle around us as we exchanged vows. After, we went to eat lunch at a restaurant, and have cake -- a plain sheet cake.

To me, some of this was about the money. It was also about me wanting to focus on the promise we were making, and not focus on an extravaganza. I never regretted it, but I will say that almost everyone I've told reacted in muted horror. They don't see that it could be a beautiful and meaningful day without all the consumerism and bridezilla-style me-ism -- a strange belief, in my opinion. If you don't worry about how other people will judge your wedding, then it won't matter.
posted by Houstonian at 4:13 AM on January 17, 2010 [8 favorites]

We did the same thing, about a year and a half ago. Immediate family only (eleven people I think). I have not regretted it for a minute.

I think it really does depend on the kind of person you are - we're not interested in big parties at all, so it didn't seem logical to spend lots of money on one for ourselves.
posted by smalls at 4:21 AM on January 17, 2010

You shouldn't let anyone make you feel guilty for doing what you want. All the people I know who've expressed regrets about the Wedding Ceremony are people who put out thousands of dollars and tons of effort. "I wish it was more intimate" is way more common than "I wish it was bigger and louder".
posted by The Whelk at 4:24 AM on January 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

Look, if you have regrets you can always "renew your vows" later. Plus I have been to plenty of "weddings" of people who were already married (this happens quite a bit with people who are about to be deployed, etc.) who decide to have the party later.

It's all up to you. Have the ceremony YOU want. That's all that really matters.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:27 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd so much rather save the money we'd use on a wedding and have a months-long honeymoon, but I also don't want to kick myself in a few years.

You'll probably have more and better memories of the time you spend with your sweetie on a months-long honeymoon, as opposed to a one-day big bash that is mostly for the benefit of reaffirming everyone else's cultural and financial prejudices, and perhaps not so much for you and your sweetie.

If it were me, I'd use the cash for the relationship I am building with my partner, with little hesitation. But what do you and your partner want for each other?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:36 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

The members of my extended family are quite dispersed; it's several years since I last saw several of my cousins, as things like christmas aren't major enough events that everyone wants to travel to meet up. The only things that get my extended family together in one place are funerals and weddings.

I'm not planning a wedding right now, and I wouldn't be looking for lots of fancy consumerism if I was, but I am mindful of the fact that it's been n years since my parents have seen met cousin x, and aunt y hasn't met nephew z and so on. So a wedding that my extended family were invited to would probably be appreciated by my parents and extended family.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:43 AM on January 17, 2010

My feelings about weddings were very similar to yours. I had an even smaller wedding than you're planning; just the judge at the courthouse. We were entirely focused on the vows we were making and the words we were saying to each other; it was beautiful to us. No regrets twenty-five years later.
posted by violette at 4:45 AM on January 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

My parents had a wedding with just themselves and both sets of parents. No expensive outfits, no photos, and they catered their own buffet afterwards.

They don't seem to regret it at all (nearly 40 years later), and knowing them, I think they'd have absolutely hated a big expensive shindig.
posted by emilyw at 4:48 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mr. Murrey and I got married last April with just a officiant and 2 photographers (and our dogs and unborn son) present. We got married at a greenbelt that was extraordinarily special place for us. Essentially, it was just us.

The thing is, all I simpy wanted was to be married to my best friend. I didn't need other people there to help me celebrate the abiding joy I felt deep in my heart that the beautiful man in front of me is now my family and will always be my truest love. The presence of other people could not have made this feeling more real to me.

It was exquisite.
posted by murrey at 4:55 AM on January 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

My husband and I got married while on a trip abroad, and the only attendants were the friend who officiated and the friends who were our witnesses. We threw a small party for friends and immediate family in our home country the following summer and never regretted not having a big wedding. It's been over seven years now, and we've never regretted it at all. On the contrary: Whenever I've attended a "big" wedding I'm happy I didn't have to go through the whole bride-in-a-white-dress thing.
posted by amf at 5:06 AM on January 17, 2010

It's 20 years on for us, and no regrets. I'm not a centre of attention type of person at all, anyway (female). I did know one lass who married young in a registry office, and her second wedding was all Gone with the Wind. If I was to take on another man at this stage, I have an even smaller wedding and as before, concentrate on the marriage.
posted by b33j at 5:08 AM on January 17, 2010

Yup, same, no regrets whatever. Our event turned out bigger than we planned, (about 25 in the end) but that was for family reasons, and it was lovely. Minimal ceremony, small party at my parents' house afterwards.
posted by handee at 5:12 AM on January 17, 2010

We had a small, registry office wedding (bride, groom, bridesmaid, best man, bride and groom's immediate families) at which I wore shorts and a T shirt and my beloved wore a lovely red silk dress because her sisters and her cousin wouldn't let her get away with anything more casual. Both of us were barefoot.

Later that day we had a reception under a marquee in the back yard at my parents' house, to which we invited everybody we knew. We had initially wanted this to be a bring-a-plate affair, but Mum wouldn't hear of that and paid for catering. Basically, the whole day was as low-key as we could feasibly get away with.

I expect you feel guilty because you realize at some level that weddings are not primarily for the benefit of the bride and groom, but for that of the assembled multitude; I expect you don't really want to deprive your friends of their day, but you're concerned about being able to afford it. That's where bring-a-plate-not-a-present could help, I think. You can have quite a large and happy gathering at minimal expense that way.

I think doing the stuff that was for us - the actual exchange of vows - in front of only our immediate families and two very close friends, then holding a larger celebration for the madding crowd, ended up being good for all concerned.

Looking back now, our only regrets are that we did allow ourselves to be talked into expenses like the dress and the catering that weren't really essential to the purpose; I still think bring-a-plate-not-a-present would have worked at least as well as catering did (though the catering was, it must be said, really good).

We absolutely don't regret making the day as casual as we possibly could. It was, I think, the least stressful wedding I have ever attended, and given that I was right in the middle of it, that's saying something!

A couple of years earlier, one of my friends had got married to a woman who absolutely had to have the Whole Wedding Experience (the gift registry, the expensive venue, the choir, the string quartet, the Big Dress, the two-hour photo session, the professional video - you get the idea) and it was just sad. Friends I trust to be straight with me who attended both weddings have said they had more fun at ours. I reckon our marriage is happier too, just quietly.
posted by flabdablet at 5:18 AM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm also introverted, and no fan of the conventional wedding industry either, but I have very fond memories of a few unconventional weddings I've been involved with, including my own. Approaching it creatively to suit your needs (rather than the industry's) can be fun and liberating. The princess-for-a-day standard and stripped-down minimalism are not the only possibilities.

It sounds as if you might've been living in your fiance's home country, and maybe that's where his family and most of your friends are now. If so, why not get married there? If you want to keep the budget down, make it a potluck and have a friend take pictures.
posted by jon1270 at 5:25 AM on January 17, 2010

My husband and I were married with just our parents as witnesses. We all went out for dinner at a nice restaurant afterwards. That was 17 years ago and we've got no regrets that we did it that way. Granted, we had both been living on our own for quite a while when we married, so we had all the "stuff" (food processors, china, towels) that a lot of younger couples count on getting from a big wedding.
posted by rhartong at 5:27 AM on January 17, 2010

Second generation of this kind of wedding here; my parents got married quietly during the war with only my aunt and uncle as witnesses. They were married in church but had no huge celebration. My Mom wore a green velvet suit. They were married 58 happy years, no regrets.

Mr. Hexatron and I were married by a judge, at his house, with only our witnesses and kids there. After we went out to a Chinese restaurant. I made my dress which was cotton and lace and carried flowers with my grandma's Polish prayer book from her wedding. I only regret we did not have a professional photo taken. After the wedding we went home to where my parents lived and they gave us a party at home with our friends, modest but fun. No regrets for not having the big wedding, and we are still married after many years:-)

Hexatron's Wife
posted by hexatron at 5:29 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

The one thing I would suggest is to make an effort to invite his parents (and possibly help out with travel costs if that is a problem). They still might not be able to go, but it would create a more pleasant start to your new life together, especially since it seems your family will be invited. Alternatively, you could have a small celebration/dinner out the next time you visit his home country.
posted by fermezporte at 5:41 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

My partner and I got married at the courthouse, with two good friends as witnesses. I have not regretted it at all. In its own way, it makes a good story.

On re-reading, you will especially not regret it if a small wedding is what you want, and not forced upon you by finances. You'll be fine.

That said, I really enjoyed my brother's wedding last year, and am enjoying helping friends plan what looks likely to turn into a big happy weekend event, with people coming in from all over the country, and I find myself thinking that I might want a 20th anniversary party when we reach that point in three years, because it is kind of cool to have a bunch of people celebrating your relationship with you. If you find yourself wishing for a party in celebration of your love and marriage somewhere down the road, you can certainly do that.
posted by not that girl at 5:46 AM on January 17, 2010

The princess-for-a-day standard and stripped-down minimalism are not the only possibilities.

This. Just because you have more than 5 guests at your wedding doesn't mean you're a Bridezilla.
posted by Lucinda at 5:53 AM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

We eloped to Hawaii, although we ended up with 20-30 wedding guests when people visiting the park stopped to watch the ceremony. Have never regretted doing it that way, and in fact several friends followed our lead and did similar low key, just the two of them, weddings.
posted by COD at 6:15 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

We got married in the tiny backyard of a B&B in Toronto. It was eight people and it was lovely. We then had brunch with loads of champagne and fancy wedding cupcakes and I made favours for all eight people and that was fabulous. I loved being able to sit out in the garden that morning with my mother; I was so relaxed I seriously considered getting married in my bathrobe. In the end, I just didn't bother with shoes.

We then went back to the UK and did it all again with 125+ people. It wasn't nearly as relaxing, but I did enjoy being able to celebrate with a larger group of friends and family. I have nice but dim memories of both.

In our case, not doing it this way wasn't really an option since we each had a non-mobile, dying parent in each country. But I found personal value in both events. You might consider a tiny private wedding followed by a family brunch and then on your honeymoon, visiting your husband's native country and having some kind of pot luck or other celebration - it's nice when people want to shower you with good wishes.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:31 AM on January 17, 2010

We had 8 people at ours. Civil ceremony with minimal legal required vows. No regrets at all.
posted by srboisvert at 6:36 AM on January 17, 2010

I feel exactly as you do about weddings, plus I have some family issues I just wanted to avoid so Mr. Cestmoi and I eloped almost a year ago. No regrets at all, the one thing we did spend on was a great photographer so we can always share pictures with those who ask about it.

Also like you, I wondered if I would regret not having a bigger wedding but I don't at all. But at the time I did remind myself that if I ever wanted to, we could always have a big anniversary or vow-renewal party.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:46 AM on January 17, 2010

I have two friends who got married in traffic court on a real emergency basis (insurance-related). They tell great stories about the "wedding" and the only regret they seem to have is that they didn't have nice rings ready and didn't get them for a long time afterwards.
posted by immlass at 6:53 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

We went even smaller than you and did a couple of witnesses and City Hall here in Toronto. Neither of us have family issues or anything but as immigrants from two different countries with family/friends scattered all over the globe the logistics of a bigger wedding were something we didn't want to take on. We just wanted to get married after many years living together. I remember the judge asking if we wanted "the short version or the long version" and I blurted out "short!" It was probably 30 seconds ...... That was only 3 years ago but no regrets in the slightest and don't see any on the horizon. Honestly my sense is that it sounds like you're somewhat like us and wouldn't either. We did celebrate with various family members over the next year or so whenever we were in town though.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:58 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

My husband and I married each other, alone together on a mountain in Colorado — where the law lets you do that. It was only last August, but I haven't regretted it yet. It's true that if you don't throw a wedding, you won't have wedding memories, but why assume that those memories would be so great? Maybe some bad or disappointing things would happen, including all the effort you put into trying to make sure the memories would turn out good. And all that effort could instead be put into real love and the beautiful details of your normal life together. There are so many memories to be had: Why try to manufacture conventional wedding-type memories, when the best things that happen to you might occur the next time you go for a walk or eat breakfast or go to bed with your husband? Today.
posted by Alizaria at 7:02 AM on January 17, 2010 [9 favorites]

I had a big giant wedding (and it was super-fun), and I think your plan sounds lovely and charming.

I had a big wedding not because the wedding industry told me to, but because I have a very large family. (In fact, the family-to-friends ratio at the wedding was like 4:1, and I invited a lot of friends!) I followed family and cultural and religious traditions that were important to me, and where I thought things were dumb, or meaningless, or whatever, I changed them. (I was married in a Catholic cathedral, where I didn't wear a veil and I had a woman give the sermon, for example.)

I've been to awesome weddings ranging from courthouse quickies to family barbecues to $80,000 extravaganzas. What they all had in common was that it was what the couple wanted, and nobody regretted how they did it. While one may regret small details -- I wish digital photography had been more widely available when I got married -- I think one is unlikely to regret the event overall if one does it according to one's own personality and wishes.

Besides, think of all the smug superiority you can enjoy later on when people tell you, "We went into tons of debt for our wedding and Aunt Mae ruined the entire thing ...." ;)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:03 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Vegas wedding here. Just us, the rev., and a photographer/witness. Don't regret a thing.
posted by Gilbert at 7:09 AM on January 17, 2010

We just went to the courthouse, didn't even take pictures or anything. We haven't regretted it at all.
posted by Nattie at 7:20 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Something to consider: if for some reason you DO regret it a few years down the line, there's no reason you couldn't have a wedding celebration then. People do it when they renew their vows. You can do whatever you want, really, so my advice for the present is not to have one.
posted by Nattie at 7:21 AM on January 17, 2010

I've never been married, but I can give you the perspective of a family member of minimalist vow exchangers, in case part of your concern is over their feelings. I'm Alizaria's son, and I was fine with them not having a wedding. It saved a weekend trip for me, which would have required me to take time off from work, which would have just cut down on time that would have been available to spend with my family later on. I had seen them recently for a family reunion, and I later saw them over the holidays, so what right would I have to complain about not seeing them on one specific occasion? At one point they had an idea of having an extremely small wedding with just their three offspring invited, and that would have been fine too. Had they chosen that option, I wouldn't have thought to complain about the size or the lack of other friends/family.

Haven't you ever noticed you weren't invited to a wedding and been relieved? Haven't you ever gone to a wedding imagining you'd have a great time with the couple but ended up just getting a few moments of small talk with them because they were so busy attending to all the guests and logistics? Weddings are huge hassles -- worthwhile for some people, but not for others. It sounds like you're in the latter category. Don't do it if it wouldn't be worth it to you.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:25 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Every time I watch a friend planning (and paying for -- oh my god those things are expensive) a big wedding, I'm happier that we didn't go through that process. So to answer your question directly, no regrets, at all.
posted by Forktine at 7:30 AM on January 17, 2010

I was in the middle of planning a big wedding and got so sick and fed up with the process that my fiance (now husband) and I decided to plan a wedding for just the two of us. We found an old, historic courthouse in Virginia and hired a justice of the peace to marry us on the front steps. Since he has 3 brothers and I have a sister and extended step-sibling family we decided it would be best if it was only the two of us.

We followed up by driving to Shenandoah National Park to go camping for 5 days and threw ourselves a lavish reception in the woods, and decorated our tent with chinese lanterns and rose petals.

I don't regret a thing.

And PS, we were given A LOT of money in gifts after we got married. I think people somehow felt bad for us for not having a big wedding.
posted by sickinthehead at 7:36 AM on January 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm the opposite. We had the huge wedding and 11 years later we kind of wish we'd just eloped. Not just because of the money, the stress just wasn't worth it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:39 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Endnull and I take the record for smallest wedding - Us, and the judge. We didn't even have family there. I have absolutely no regrets, and neither does he (as far as I know). I see no reason at all for big weddings, and view them as pointless wastes of resources. (Of course, I also have some pretty negative views of marriage as a legal institution, so this may taint my view of the entire process in the western world.)
posted by strixus at 7:42 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Got married by a judge at the courthouse with just a couple of friends present as witnesses. No diamond ring, no honeymoon, no party, no nothing. We didn't even get our wedding bands until a few months later. We had next to no money and neither one of us was interested in a shindig anyway. We just had our five-year anniversary and our marriage keeps getting better and better. We've never had a single regret.
posted by feathermeat at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2010

Simple wedding, about 40 people showed up to ours. Complete contrast to the 2 weddings my sister had (the first had the fairy tale wedding industry standard including bagpipers, the second was on a tropical beach). She's about to get divorced for the second time. This isn't to jump up and down on the ashes of my sister's relationships, but to point out that there are a LOT more important things than a show wedding and it's certainly not worth getting into debt for.

10 years later, we are happier than ever and have never regretted having a simple wedding. Have the wedding you want; congratulations and best wishes for a happy life together.
posted by arcticseal at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

As the daughter of someone married at city hall recently, I would just say that your wedding is not just important to you, it is important to your family. I don't mean the party -- I mean the vows themselves. it is a major change for you family. my dad did not invite me to his city hall wedding and that really hurt; I got to go at the last minute but it still hurt that he didn't tell me. I know his parents were hurt - esp as they were in the same city. they didn't care whether he married at city hall or in a cathedral -- just that they didn't get to see it. This experience has made me always think that in addition to the bride and groom the other people who ought to be given a choice to be there are the people who parented you and those you have parented.

you note that his immediate family can't come -- but can yours? and is it possible to take a webcam into the cit
posted by jb at 8:02 AM on January 17, 2010

Why do I feel guilty for not wanting a Wedding?

I think you're feeling this way because you're setting the situation up in your mind as "The world expects me to do X, but I want to do Y." That's not the case. Martha Stewart can't sell wedding magazines featuring no-frills courthouse weddings or elopements. The "wedding industry" is there and visible because it makes money, not because it's the only way real people do weddings.

In the past couple years, I've been to a pretty wide variety of marriage ceremonies including a 5-guest courthouse vow-exchange, a 50-guest church wedding, a 100-guest BBQ in the woods, and a couple 300-guest country club weddings. No one seems to have regretted the particular type of ceremony they chose because all of them chose the type of wedding they wanted. It's not wrong to have a courthouse ceremony, and it's not wrong to have a country club wedding (and I question the logic that spending $X on a wedding is financially irresponsible, but spending that same $X on a months-long vacation is reasonable).

You or your fiance may have family or friends who expect you to conform to a particular model of doing weddings, but the "wedding industry" is not conspiring against you. When I attended the courthouse ceremony, there was a line out the door of city hall--the most diverse (and happiest) group of strangers I have ever seen. This is something many, many, many people do--happily, and without regrets.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:05 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Weddings are as personal as births and deaths.

About 8 years ago, I knew a couple trying to plan their wedding, and were starting to read through the whole rigamarole of picking out the dress, deciding a location, etc., and after about a month or so they both realized they were both miserable even just thinking about all of it. They had a long talk and realized "you know, this kind of pull-out-the-stops wedding just isn't us." So, they decided that they would elope instead -- they'd take a vacation somewhere they both really wanted to go, and then while they were on vacation they'd stop into a justice of the peace whereever it was they were and exchange their vows there. They also decided NOT to invite their parents, which at first didn't fly too well, but after some long heart-to-heart talks, their parents supported their decision.

And once they settled on doing things that way, suddenly they got extremely excited about planning things -- where would they go? Were there any funky wedding venues they had there? What else would they see on their vacation? (They'd settled on New Orleans for a destination, and were for a time considering a wedding in a voodoo temple.) But utimately, they did indeed just go to New Orleans for a week, and at some point during the trip they stopped in to a New Orleans courthouse and had a simple, before-the-judge, no-family-as-witnesses marriage. Followed by, I suppose, the two of them getting dinner at Napoelon's or splitting a marital muffeleta or something. But ultimately they just went on a vacation, just the two of them, and the actual wedding was something they just did while on vacation.

No regrets, so far as I know; they've been married 7 years now and have a 4-year-old, and seem very happy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

sorry-- I cut myself off.

I was saying that even if his family cannot be there, that is not a good reason to exclude your parents. my parents-in-law were married in her hometown with only his mother and sister bc he was from New Zealand. Technology being what it is today , perhaps you could web broadcast the ceremony for his parents. Or certainly make a video that you could send to them.

I think that when friends and relatives come from all over, people feel oblidged to feed and entertain them. But the people who love you most don't care about that. They care about witnessing this profound moment in your life when you make your vows to your spouse.

My dad's second marriage did not last, sadly. But I never regret that I did end up being there, and I'm still a bit hurt that my dad assummed that I wouldn't mind missing it.
posted by jb at 8:14 AM on January 17, 2010

sorry again. re-reading your question, I see that you do plan to include your parents. Thank-you.

If you can use technology to include his family, even after the fact, they will thank you too.

but as for the fancy part-- for my part, what I cherish abt my own wedding was not the venue or the very fun ceilidh we had, but that I got pictures of my grandparents laughing. they are now both in a long term care facility, and that was the last time I will likely see them outside and partying.
posted by jb at 8:24 AM on January 17, 2010

Just a bit over thirty years ago my parents wanted a really simple wedding -- his family was behind the Iron Curtain and most of hers was scattered around the US and France. My maternal grandparents wanted a big wedding, but my parents didn't like the idea of all that fuss, so they sort of eloped without the running away part and had a wedding without telling her parents (they did have a reception later on to make up for it).

The ceremony was in their landlady's apartment, and the only guests were the landlady herself, my mother's best friend (later my godmother), my oldest aunt, and I think my uncle. (If he was there he had kind of a busy day, since it's also my oldest cousin's birthday!) My dad wore a suit, and my mother wore an ao dai; the wedding photo we have on a bookshelf looks like one of the guests took it.

The only regret they've ever mentioned in the years since is that because they rushed straight to their honeymoon, they only had a small piece of wedding cake each. Apparently, it was really good cake and they wish they'd had more!

So my suggestion would be to get a really good cake and then make sure you eat plenty of it.
posted by bettafish at 8:32 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mrs. Deadmessenger and I had a courthouse wedding, preceded by a nice breakfast at our favorite cafe. No witnesses, no real pomp, and a total cost of less than $150, including the cost of the marriage license and judge's fee.

We have never once regretted doing things the way we did. In fact, I'd like to think that our marriage is a hell of a lot stronger than those of our friends who worried more about their wedding than their marriage.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:32 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Our wedding was 22 guests (12 of those were the immediate family of my spouse and myself) at my mother's house, three days before Christmas. I wore a purple velvet dress a friend made. We had a buffet style dinner that we made, and our one big splurge was $400 on a really fantastic cake. We were married by candlelight, and the officiant was a good friend. Without the cake (which was actually a gift, we didn't pay for it out of pocket), the entire thing cost about $600, including invitations and rings.

A year later, my husband's sister was married in a fairly standard "big" wedding - rented hall, white dress, etc. etc.

Everyone still talks about what a beautiful wedding ours was. No one talks much about her's.

A small wedding can be much more intimate, personal, and memorable than a big "off the shelf" event. When I was much younger (before I met my husband), I thought I wanted a huge wedding, but at this moment I can't imagine anything better than what we had.
posted by anastasiav at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

mrgood and I each were married before, and each previously had weddings on the larger side. While they were lovely in many respects, aside from the fact that they didn't last, it was years before his was paid off (longer than the marriage) and mine was stressful and I remember all that as much as the little family of ducks that settled around my feet as I said my vows (the ones that the ex disregarded.)

But, mrgood and I, after years together, decided to get married while away, with a nice reverend and two witnesses, and it was one of the happiest nights in memory. Not just because this one "took" - but because we wanted to BE married, not GET married. When we returned from our trip, friends surprised us with a dinner, as did family - but no brouhahas. All we had to do was show up and spend time with people who were happy for us. THAT was the difference too. We only have six or seven photos, taken with the last bit of film in the camera and no flash, and they are accidentally lovely, and capture the spirit of the evening more than the event. So, to the chorus - no regrets, but it depends on whether you want a wedding or just to proceed in the simplest way to the marriage part.
posted by peagood at 8:52 AM on January 17, 2010

We did a short-notice, 2 best friends only, City Hall ceremony the first time, and followed it a year later with a big friends & family, caterer, dress, cake, dj, etc. event. It had an officiant, but wasn't a legal ceremony. Both are really really meaningful to me. There are absolutely things that I loved about the big one, but it definitely cost a *whole* lot more, and took much more planning. I have no regrets about the small one. We've actually done three smaller legal ceremonies (an upside or a downside to being a same-sex couple in California, depending on how you look at it).

One thing about the big ceremony--I liked having my community and family there to witness our vows. It made the whole thing seem somehow bigger to me. Like our partnership was witnessed by and supported by all of the people there. Put it into a larger context, I guess.

So, do what makes you both happy now, and if you still feel the need for something bigger, throw a big party, with another exchange of vows if you want, or just call it an anniversary party.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:04 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I expect you feel guilty because you realize at some level that weddings are not primarily for the benefit of the bride and groom, but for that of the assembled multitude;

I've been to way too many BIG weddings (DJ, videographer, etc), some great, some awful ... but the only time I really "got" what the actual wedding ceremony was about was the time I was Best Man. It's entirely about the bride and the groom exchanging vows. The purpose of ALL the guests (friends, family, even passing strangers) is to bear witness to those vows. Everything else is just pomp and circumstance (and, of course, good business for Wedding Professionals).

To my mind, the only question you really need to ask yourself in terms of wedding size is, who do I want there to witness our vows? That is, who are the people who will help us hold to them as time goes by?
posted by philip-random at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wanted no wedding--I originally wanted to elope to Hawaii. The husband really wanted his family to be there, though, so we ended up with a 50-person affair in my mother's backyard. While I realize that this is much more "wedding" than most people here are talking about, we ended up spending pretty much nothing (had a friend officiate, his parents offered after to reimburse for booze and food--which was ordered from a local Turkish joint. In total, we really only spent a few hundred dollars on chair rentals, and after we factored in gifts from relatives, we came out ahead). Even so, planning was still extremely stressful. But you know what? In the long run, I'm glad I did it. Even though my friends and I were hiking up our in-case-of-rain tent twenty minutes before the ceremony, it ended up being a beautiful, unforgettable, and utterly magical day.

Our philosophy was that everything we did for our wedding was meant to honor us as people and us as a couple. This meant board games instead of dancing, personalized vows, and having a friend take the pictures for us. What honors you, as a couple, might be different. But as long as you keep your own needs, and the needs of your relationship, at the forefront, I'm sure that you won't regret a thing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:43 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Everyone still talks about what a beautiful wedding ours was. No one talks much about her's.

Oh, and seconding this. People get really, really jazzed about personal, out-of-the-box ceremonies. I was expecting more hand-wringing about things like our lack of rabbi, or my discount-store brown dress. Instead, people keep telling me how touched they were. The people who love you will surprise you--they want you to get married in a way that honors you as much as you do!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:46 AM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

My husband and were married before a judge, with a couple of friends as witnesses. My parents, mom especially, warned me that we'd regret not having a big formal wedding, missing out on an opportunity to make memories, etc. I remained resolute, explaining to her that I felt that exchanging vows should be a private moment, that I didn't want the stress of a big wedding to ruin the intimacy of the moment, and asked if they would throw a reception for us in their backyard for our close friends.

It all worked out marvelously. Everyone had a wonderful time at the reception, plenty of memories were made. As an added bonus, about six years after we were married, I went to law school and started clerking with a local firm. As it turns out the office they gave me (and still have) was once occupied by the judge who married us.

Absolutely no regrets.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:59 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do what makes You Happy!
For us it was standing before our friends in the back yard with a potluck afterwards. As low stress as we wanted! It was important to say our vows before our community of friends.
It's been 12 years
posted by Pecantree at 10:34 AM on January 17, 2010

Mr. Adams and I picked a minister out of the Yellow Pages and were married at our favorite bar/restaurant. We, the minister and our witnesses all sat in a large booth throughout the short ceremony. Afterward we had a very small reception for family and friends at an Italian restaurant nearby whose ad ("Try our banquet facilities!") I'd read on a placemat. Almost 16 years later every time we see a movie or TV show about weddings and bridesmaids and seating plans and picking out the "right" gown, we both turn to each other and say emphatically "I'm SO glad we didn't go through that!"

My best friend's wedding was even more minimal; we've been friends since kindergarten and even I wasn't invited to her wedding. I just got a call from her on a Monday saying "Oh, by the way, my last name is Xxxxx now; Mark and I got married Friday after work." They loved each other and wanted to be married but had no desire for a big ceremony, so they got the license, and had their parents and siblings meet them at the courthouse. She and her husband are now coming up on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Absolutely no regrets in both cases.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:37 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mr. Creepygirl and I were married in a courthouse ceremony with a judge and two friends as witnesses and have no regrets. Neither one of us has much use for big ceremonies or being the center of attention. I'm a huge introvert and find large gatherings (even of family) pretty draining, so a minimalist ceremony helped me feel relaxed and happy on my wedding day. We also were much happier spending our money on a down payment for a house that we'll live in for years, than blowing it on a one-day party that neither of us really cared about.

A few family members were a bit disappointed, but it didn't bother us. I've gone to a lot of excruciatingly boring, pointless, and even uncomfortable family events, for the sake of family, and never complained to them about it. So I didn't have a problem with standing firm on what my husband and I wanted for this one day, and not caring if other people didn't like it. Obviously, if you have a different feeling about obligations to family, you might want to consider being a little more accommodating of their wishes than we were.
posted by creepygirl at 10:41 AM on January 17, 2010

City Hall 16 years ago, one witness + camera, no rings, no poofy white dress, no regrets.
posted by Quietgal at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I only regret it for a few moments while I'm attending friends' lavish weddings.
posted by theraflu at 11:09 AM on January 17, 2010

I wanted the glamor of a wedding for my second marriage. We started to plan one, but it became stressful and stupid fast. So I bought an off-the-rack dress, he rented a suit, bought my daughter a discount flower girl dress and then we went to City Hall (which is luckily gorgeous in San Francisco). A friend who's an amateur photographer came with us. I got to feel all beautiful. My daughter got to take part in a "real" wedding. And we had the lovely pictures to send to the folks and friends so they had souvenirs/proof.

Never regretted for a second. We've been to a ton of weddings since -- most of them lovely and wonderful. But there's always a moment of stress/expense or whatever where I look and my husband and mouth, "Thank you."

I would have regretted it if I hadn't gotten the chance to play Barbie bride with the costuming or I didn't get a few fantastic pictures.

The community of having all your friends and family around is beautiful. The intimacy of just the closest people is beautiful too. As long as its about what the two of you really want -- not what you think you should or have to do -- and you love each other, you won't regret it.
posted by Gucky at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

A wedding should be what you want it to be. If a 300 person extravaganza is what you want, go for it. If you just want the two of you in front of a judge, that's what you should do.
posted by kmz at 12:35 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's no right or wrong here. People who hold big weddings are not necessarily bridezillas or spendthrifts or anything else negative. People who hold small weddings are just as married and just as happy as people who hold big weddings. I think the trick is figuring out how to be true to yourselves and to make yourselves feel warm and fuzzy at this momentous time in your lives. You don't have to have black and white feelings about this subject. I wanted a small wedding for many reasons, and a big wedding for other reasons. You can have feelings along the spectrum, and just figure out where on the spectrum you fall.

Regarding the second part of your question, "Why do I feel guilty for not wanting a capital-W Wedding: am I watching too much Sex and the City?" The only reasons I can think of are: (1) maybe you feel guilty for excluding your extended family and friends? or (2) perhaps you feel like you are depriving your future husband of a big celebration? Unless you really, secretly, do want some part of the big celebration and feel guilty for wanting it. (3) I suppose you could feel guilty if you felt that others wouldn't consider you really married if you just do a small, intimate wedding, but that's bogus.

If, on balance, you don't want a big celebration, then I think you should definitely skip it. What's the worst that can happen? You feel regret? That's not so terrible, really. I think I'd feel worse if I spent a lot of money and had a wedding that didn't feel true to me.

If you do want a big celebration - or there's some element of the bigger celebration that is attractive to you - why not work those elements in? There are lots of ways to get married without spending a lot of money. You could somewhat widen your invitee list and add in some special, meaningful elements, and you might feel satisfied. Why don't you brainstorm with your fiance things that would make your wedding special, meaningful. If it ends quickly with the small, simple wedding, then that's the end of the inquiry. But if there are additional people or details that would make the day more meaningful for you, think about whether you can achieve them without spending a lot of money.
posted by semacd at 12:59 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

We did a (premeditated) cheesy Las Vegas wedding chapel 7 years ago. It was very low key- just the two of us. Our honeymoon was kicking around Las Vegas for a couple of days afterwards. A couple months later, we had a big barbecue for family and friends. I have no regrets whatsoever.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 2:35 PM on January 17, 2010

I know a lot of people who were in the same visa situation as yours, and pretty much all of them had a justice of the peace wedding just to get it out of the way, and had a party/ceremony of some sort months or even years later. Just last weekend I met a couple at a party who had been quietly married for a few months and were planning their dream wedding for this June. So, don't let immediate money or timing worries bother you because I think everyone is familiar with the weird timing issues that visas can impose. Tie the knot when you need to and if you decide you want a wedding, do that too. They don't have to be mutually exclusive at all.

Maybe you could wait until some of his relatives are in town, if they ever visit, and have a big wedding style party...or better yet, have a couple of different wedding parties in different countries so nobody but you two has to travel. I kind of did this, since my in-laws live abroad - they threw a big banquet for us the first time we came to visit after our wedding. It wasn't a wedding and we didn't accept wedding gifts there, more like a coming-out party for my husband and me as a couple. You may not be allowed to say no to this the next time you visit the far-flung relatives - just warning you. I was pretty much told that I would be attending a banquet in my honor whether I liked it or not :)

I mean, if you don't want the party you don't have to have it and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But it is a big deal for some parents to have a wedding, and it's nice to feel like you're celebrating with all the people you care about. I wanted a tiny wedding and gradually it ballooned into a hundred-guest behemoth, and I have no regrets (actually, I kind of wish I had invited some of my more distant cousins). I loved my wedding, I loved seeing friends who I thought wouldn't show up, the whole thing was just vastly more meaningful than I ever gave it credit for. But I think the important thing is that you need to feel like your wedding reflects you and your preferences. If it doesn't, you won't have any real investment in it, and you'll come away having spent a bunch of money on not much fun.
posted by crinklebat at 3:36 PM on January 17, 2010

And to second sentiments expressed above, within a few months of my wedding my grandmother died unexpectedly. I was SO glad she got to see her eldest granddaughter married and I wouldn't trade it for anything, and it meant so much to have her there.
posted by crinklebat at 3:50 PM on January 17, 2010

We got married at the courthouse with just my daughter in attendance. I've never regretted for a second not having a wedding. I wouldn't have minded a nice honeymoon though... maybe someday.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2010

we faced the same dilemma. because we both have a large and loving network, we opted for a large guest list for a casual affair in the park.

the basic thinking is, we'd regret not having the people, but we wouldn't regret not having a string quartet, nine bridesmaids, and a champagne fountain.

that said, i think we could have eloped with just our immediate families and felt fine, but i think our way feels better, since we can afford it. if we couldn't afford it, we'd elope rather than go into debt.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:11 PM on January 17, 2010

Nope. Huge waste of money. Glad we saved it for something else.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

We got married in the registry with my brothers and sisters and parents watching. The only thing I regret about it is that I didn't invite a more professional photographer than my Dad.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 6:09 AM on January 18, 2010

It's true that if you don't throw a wedding, you won't have wedding memories, but why assume that those memories would be so great?

I keep hearing from people who had big weddings, most recently from my newish sister-in-law, that the day is so stressful and overwhelming that they don't actually remember it. My sister-in-law says she barely remembers the ceremony and only kind of some flashes of the reception, which is too bad because it was a great wedding.
posted by not that girl at 8:09 AM on January 18, 2010

Having a teeny-tiny wedding does not guarantee marital bliss any more than having a huge blowout wedding does not guarantee divorce three/six/nine months later.
posted by Lucinda at 9:07 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Honestly, it was a much better wedding for being smaller than it could ever have been if it had been a blow-out. The only downside was that some family took offense, but i still have no regrets. It feels really good to start off your life together having made a sensible and wholesome decision to make the most of your money.
posted by xammerboy at 10:42 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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