Outdoor Reception

The Business of Weddings

Tracey Columns

Though it’s now been a couple of weeks since our daughter’s wedding celebration, it’s safe to say that my husband and I are still riding high. Our time together was so full of love and laughter. I’m happy for the newlyweds and for both of our families. We will all benefit from this union.

However, the experience has also left me, once again, taking a hard look at our culture’s wedding industry and shaking my head. Okay, okay … full disclosure. I’m a dinosaur, one who was married in the front yard of her tiny little house, in the company of family and friends. Following our simple and very touching vows (!) we all shared a pot luck reception and danced to a string quartet! (Remember, it was 1977.)

So yes, I am acutely aware that times have changed but when it comes to cranking out a modern wedding, I wonder just how many couples are truly enjoying and fully experiencing the commitment they are coming together to honor and celebrate?

Much like our other two children, our youngest daughter and her fiancee were determined to make their special event relaxed and inclusive. They focused on connecting with loved ones and dear friends. It was about having fun and avoiding pressure.

With this as their goal, she and her bride planned two and a half days of non-stop enjoyment. All 22 kids in attendance were free to run pretty wild in this very protected and secluded spot high in the stunning Sierras, Sugar Bowl Resort. By day, they had endless lawn games to play. By night, about 60 adults would join the kids around the fire pit for s’mores and storytelling.

Adults went hiking, enjoyed reading on the deck, rode bikes, disappeared into the woods to draw or simply caught up with each other. Everyone seemed so content!

We bought three buckets of wildflowers from a local farmer and did all of the centerpieces in a variety of jars left over from her big sister’s wedding. Favors were simple little bags of trail mix … perfect for this outdoorsy crowd. Music for the ceremony was a string trio and for the reception? A Mac computer and amazing playlist compiled by all of our kids and monitored by my dear son-in-law. The food? We feasted! I must say, this place hit it out of the park!

Yes, all of this cost money. It was a worthwhile investment. But what seems most important is that ultimately, these two and their precious daughter, now have such special memories to carry with them. I can’t help but think that some of these memories will surely support their marriage at different times. Why? Because we all gathered to witness their union and like life itself, this meant everything they shared, promised, and dreamed of. It even meant that last marshmallow that fell into the embers, which made all of us laughed. What a wonderful way to begin married life!

I’ve played my hand. Even as I write this I’m wondering how many people are thinking about how awful our approach would be for their family. It’s true, we all do have different tastes. Please understand that I am not trying to foist mine upon you.

I suppose what I am really questioning here is the value, both monetarily and emotionally, of some of the wedding productions that take place these days. (Not to mention the lingering debt.) I loved my own little wedding for its simplicity. I have loved each of my children’s weddings for their thoughtful approach and downright fun receptions, as well as the fact that we all gathered days before the actual event to join forces and prep details for the wedding. I know other couples and families thoroughly love big productions and that’s dandy. All I hope is that when a couple decides to formalize their commitment to each other that they can approach the ritual and celebration in a manner that enhances their union, spares them friction and angst, and does not leave parents nor themselves in overwhelming debt.

Then again, navigating every one of these wedding planning and execution issues is sort of like marriage itself … challenging! So perhaps a big production is the way to go. Survive one of those and maybe your marriage can survive anything!

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