Unpacking the Wedding Industrial Complex

We’ve all seen the “I just got engaged” posts on social media.

There’s usually some combo of “I said ‘yes’ to my best friend,” a picture of the ring, a picture of the proposal, and a pic of the newly-engaged couple.

It all sort of makes me roll my eyes.


It seems that weddings have become separate from the marriage aspect of the celebration. It’s all about the bride, it’s all about her dress and her ring and her color scheme and her venue and many other things that have nothing to do with a marriage. This series of commercials from David’s Bridal really get under my skin, and to the heart of what a wedding is these days:

I’ll admit. My fiancé came up with the term “Wedding Industrial Complex,” and I found it hilarious. However, Wedding Indutrial Complex isn’t even an exaggeration, which I find a tad horrifying. It is a 72 billion dollar per year industry.

When my now-fiancé and I started talking about marriage, I told him I wouldn’t want an engagement ring; they are expensive, we were in college (and therefore unemployed), and besides, why would I need two rings when he only wears one? I won’t deny that his proposal was quite romantic and sweet, but it was also private. I’ll tell any of my friends who ask, but it didn’t seem appropriate to post on Facebook. Once we had talked to our parents about the proposal, we quietly both changed our relationship statuses on Facebook to “engaged.” What resulted was overwhelming. Everyone was excited and wished us well to be certain, but EVERYONE and their mothers all wanted the nitty gritty details. And the details people wanted to know were the superficial ones:

When are you going dress shopping?

When’s the wedding?

I’m invited, right?

Let me see the ring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (!!!!!!!!)

The last is actually the one I get most often. Even still. And it’s fine, I understand I’m defying tradition, but the ring isn’t what is important to me. Our marriage and relationship are what are most important.

That, and I just cannot justify spending $30,000+ for one day.

When I first started wedding planning, I wanted something small, very small. But with pressure from friends and even family about who MUST be there and what I MUST have there (and details I honestly couldn’t care less about, like chargers [???], seating charts, table numbers, and tablecloths) it slowly got bigger and bigger, to a point where both my fiancé and I were uncomfortable with it.

So we scratched everything and started from square one.

I am honestly 100% fine with eloping, and so is my fiancé, but we also recognize that could potentially hurt people we love who want to be a part of our day. And we don’t want to hurt anyone. But at the same time, why is our society so wedding obsessed, when our divorce rate is floating around 50%?

With so many wedding shows on tv reiterating that this will be THE most important day of my life, that I need an insanely showy and expensive gown (or maybe more than one!), or that I’ve somehow been dreaming about this day my entire life (I haven’t) and oodles of ideas for weddings on Pinterest, doesn’t it all seem a tad brainwashy?

Do all of the single/un-engaged young women on Pinterest REALLY need wedding boards right now?

What if they don’t get married for another 10 years, or at all?

I fear that all the wedding hype leads women to think that this is the ideal and “correct” path for their lives. It is definitely one path, and it can be a great one, but it is not the only one by far.

Not even mentioning the fact that anything and everything marked “wedding” is wayyyyyyyy more expensive than other things in those categories (think: gowns, flowers, cakes, just to name a few). The average cost of a wedding now is approximately $30k. That’s right. The average wedding is two thirds of the average income of the United States. Why is all of this necessary?

I, for one, do not think it is.

Twenty years ago, it made a lot of sense to invite lots of people to your wedding, even if you had not seen those people in awhile: your second cousin, your neighbor who moved away, your roommate from college, all these people may not otherwise have known you got married had they not been there, or at least invited. But today, with so many forms of social media and even wedding hashtags, everyone you are friends with or who follows you will be able to see and experience your wedding.

With so many wedding themes and colors schemes and venues at the forefront of weddings, getting married will be the forefront of mine. A small ceremony (less than 50 people)  and dinner at a nice restaurant to follow; no crazy expensive entertainment, no expensive rented tables and chairs, no expensive rented venue.

Because 30 years from now, my fiancé and I may not remember what we ate for dinner at our wedding, but we will remember those close to us who came to celebrate the start of our marriage.

And it’ll be nice to not have loan payments from our wedding day to pay, too.


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