First off, full disclaimer: I love weddings. I’m just that type of girl. (I may or may not be the type of girl who has a secret stash of Martha Weddings dating back to the late nineties… but I’ll leave you to ponder that.) But as much as I’ve adored being included in so many celebrations over the years, I can’t help but observe a pretty big shift in wedding culture over the last decade. Perhaps you’ve noticed it, too: The bride wants everyone at the Four Seasons by 5pm Thursday, so as not to miss the kick-off party. Instead of wearing their best dark suits, the groomsmen now have to buy matching seersuckers for the outdoor ceremony. Oh, and the bachelorette party? It’s not just a party anymore, it’s a full blown weekend. In Tulum. And we’re all chipping in.

Personally, I’m torn. Obviously, I love the idea of creative events and fantasy-filled weekends with friends. How could anything be more romantic and memorable than that? But with the average cost of weddings soaring to an all-time high in 2015, perhaps it’s time we raised some questions about the purpose and propriety of these events. I look back to a favorite photograph of my grandparent’s wedding in the late 1940s, a simple backyard ceremony in Dallas. If they were here today, what would they make of the destination weddings and bachelor parties of today? It’s easy to see that wedding rituals were much more understated affairs for middle class people in their day. Looking back, I feel the shift really started with Vera Wang in the 90s, and the defining of a new industry. Weddings, like so many other cultural rituals, became a place for people to compete. The onset of blogs fostered a creative community, where the competition continued. Who has the most amazing custom screen-printed invitation? Who has the best photobooth idea? The cleverest hashtag?

I guess the real question is, have we gone too far with weddings as a culture? Is the strain of these events outweighing the fun? Or should we take advantage of our one chance to gather our favorite people in a magical place and create the fantasy day of our dreams? Luckily for me, I’m still in daydream mode when it comes to my own future wedding… But I’m thinking something understated. Simple. Probably Paris. (wink wink)

featured image by kae & ales



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Comments (26)
  1. 1
    Maya June 17, 2015 at 10:36 am

    YES. They are. I am a bride-to-be and I am consciously trying to make my wedding and related events (bachelorette party, showers) attainable for all. I think the current wedding culture is taking away from the whole point…the two people who are promising to share a life together. It is a once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) experience that should be celebrated, but brides need to realize they are not the only ones getting married in a given season. People should be responsible about their friends’ time and financial strains.

  2. 2
    Amanda Bono June 17, 2015 at 10:41 am

    yes! I just got married and now it is depressing to look at wedding blogs because I always think “why didn’t I do this or that?” Anyway, my wedding was awesome and we spent 1/7th of the price of an average wedding these days. The wedding is about celebrating the union of two lives for a lifetime, not a party to be outdone. Our culture needs to remember what weddings truly symbolize.

  3. 3
    Kristi Kyle June 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I couldn’t agree more – well said!

  4. 4
    Traci June 17, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I do think wedding culture has gotten out of hand. Bachelorette party weekends too. All of it. There are too many expectations, even with the best intentions. I’m currently planning a wedding and trying my best to remember how overwhelmed I have felt participating in others’ celebrations. I want ours to be about the love, and being with the people we love. I want the people in our wedding party to be more excited than stressed, which is unfortunately rare these days (at least in my experience!). Well said, and a good reminder for us all!

  5. 5
    Mia June 17, 2015 at 11:44 am

    I haven’t experienced an “over the top” wedding celebration, but based on my experience weddings can definitely be fun and memorable even on a budget. Our wedding in 2011 (100 people) cost us ~$15,000. I was lucky to have a lot of help from family and friends who offered to fulfill different “services” that would have otherwise been costly through vendors. I got flowers through a wholesaler as my mom and aunts (who happen to be good at flower arranging) did all the bouquets and arrangements. One of the photographers was a friend of mine. One of my bridesmaids was great with makeup so she did the makeup for the other ladies. We had a very simple rehearsal dinner, and did not have a big bachelorette weekend. I also did not have a big tiered wedding cake but instead a variety of cakes from my favorite pastry chef, which ended up costing a lot less. Basically a lot of people just pitched in to help and I cut costs wherever I can, but never felt that I was compromising too much, and I still felt that it ended up being beautiful. Whenever someone offered to help, I accepted! As many of my guests were traveling from out of state and even out of the country, I was happy that they came to attend and didn’t want to ask for more in terms of parties/brunches/trips etc. Many of my friends who got married also had weddings that are not your standard $30,000 affair – these weddings that I was invited to were also simple yet beautiful, with friends and family offering to help with various tasks. Even now when I get together with our friends, they still end up talking about our wedding and how fun it was – it’s really about celebrating the milestone of marriage with the people that matter. Years later, people don’t gush about the external “things” – they talk about the memories that were created.

  6. 6
    Abby C. June 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I think it has more to do with people waiting until they’re older to get married and have children, and as a result, having a little bit more fun money to play with. Also, with people more mobile and often moving to different cities after high school/college, these events are great excuses to bring everyone back together. So I say bring on the festivities! I love any chance to get to see good friends and loved ones.

  7. 7
    Morgan June 17, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    If it’s not fun then you might have gone too far. If it’s fun and everyone is happy, then good. Not to say you have to do everything your MIl wants tho either … 😉

  8. 8
    Stefanie June 17, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I love participating in the festivities, and reconnecting with old friends and new mutual friends of the bride and groom. And, sometimes it takes an occasion as big as a wedding to get everyone to commit as a previous commenter indicated. But yes, the closer in the concentric rings of friendship you are to the bride, the more expensive this participation gets! I also have no interest in personally stressing over plans for a year for maybe a total of 7 days of “memory making”? So, I have plans for something uber simple myself. P.S. Jennifer – hate to brake it to you, but France has a 40 day residency requirement (for at least one of the pair) for marriage there. On second thought, maybe it’s not such a bad idea to move over there for 40 days – kinda like an extended pre-wedding honeymoon! 😉

  9. 9
    Carolyn June 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    i think the key is to make sure you are keeping the people you want to include in mind when you make your plans. if you are a young bride with young professional friends that are just starting out – don’t ask them to buy plane tickets and make expensive hotel reservations – same goes for friends will families of their own (especially with multiple children!) It is hard enough to sneak away for a weekend without feeling like you are spending half the family vacation budget on a solo trip for a bach/bachlorette party! same goes for family too! and always ask yourself what you hope to remember about your wedding in 10 years – the expensive over the top table linens you “can’t live without” or your best friend being there and actually enjoying herself (not stressed because she just maxed out a credit card to get there! and on that note BY ALL MEANS DO NOT GO INTO DEBT TO PAY FOR A WEDDING! That. Is. Crazy.

  10. 10
    Molly Kendrick June 17, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I always say that I know it’s not for everyone, but my wedding of 28 people was perfect for us. It felt so low stress (both practically and financially)! I think what’s important is just staying true to yourself, and remembering that you are the one who is the most excited (hopefully) about getting married. Trying to get other people to spend huge amounts of money on your wedding is kind of a buzzkill…

  11. 11
    Kelly Colchin June 17, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I hear you sister. Our wedding was super small with good wine, great tunes and our closest friends. I am so glad we didn’t let it get too out of hand. This was also before Pinterest…. That being said, personally, I can’t wait until your wedding. I have just the dress. (wink, wink)

  12. 12
    Chanel Dror June 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Since I’ve only been in the wedding scene for a few years, I’ve never known any different than the current trends… and it’s truly insane to think about how much we’ve spent on weddings!

    I think a new rule of thumb should be that if you’re having a destination wedding (or most of your bridal party is traveling for the nuptials), then you shouldn’t have an out-of-town bachelorette party. And another: you shouldn’t be allowed to have more than two showers!

    • yp June 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      100% agreed! re: 2 Showers – oh my. That’s just unheard of.

  13. 13
    yp June 17, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    good article. I am in total agreement and I don’t have the beans to pay for all of this stuff!

  14. 14
    celine @aquahaus June 17, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Great conversation! Weddings have gotten nuts! I will say that when we had our destination wedding in France, we paid less for an entire week (and we hosted everyone) than my parents paid for a one-night engagement party in Houston. The wedding industry is such a racket in the US. Also, you can always do what we did- private civil ceremony in the US, then beautiful symbolic ceremony in France. xo

  15. 15
    Kristin @ Bridentity Crisis June 17, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    I couldn’t agree with this post any more…so much so, that I blog about it on the reg! What’s missing from all the perfectly styled weddings we see on blogs and various social media platforms are the not-so-perfect moments that happen behind the scenes of EVERY wedding: bad hair do’s, DJs who play the wrong first dance song, bridesmaids who don’t get along with one another, and any number of other totally realistic mishaps. That’s why I think it’s important to help brides before they walk down the aisle by letting them know that NO wedding is as flawless as the ones they see online, and that their wedding day will be fun, amazing, and full of love, even if there are a couple of missteps on their way to the altar. 🙂

  16. 16
    Lynn June 17, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    If people devoted more thought, time, effort, money, etc. to their marriages than to their weddings, there may be fewer divorces.

  17. 17
    Karissa June 18, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Ugh. yes, I’m over it. it becomes a comparison every time i’m at a wedding or in a wedding. i called off my own wedding (not my marriage) because i felt the stress was not worth it and I lost sight of what the whole wedding was supposed to be about – marrying my dear husband. we decided to get married at the courthouse, and as it turns out, our local courthouse (santa barbara) is incredibly gorgeous. we had a small wedding afterall, and it was AMAZING. no pressure to have all the details perfect, since they hardly were any details. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. both my best friend and my sister (other best friend ;)) had full blown magazine-like weddings, and it was so miserable trying to get everything ready on time (DIY for both, and a bunch of people who never do DIYs). a bunch of stuff didn’t go as planned or simply didn’t get done in time for both weddings, which just leads to people being disappointed. Anyway, I’m happy for both of them (both happily married, at the end of the day), but I’m strongly encouraging my brothers to have destination elopements!

  18. 18
    Libbynan June 18, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Back in 1997 when my daughter got married, we borrowed an idea from some friends that worked great. We gave her a budget and told her that what she didn’t spend we would give her in cash. She wound up getting a $6000 check to start off their marriage. People still talk about how much fun and how gorgeous her reception was. By the way, the friends whose idea we borrowed? Their daughter married on their front porch with immediate family only and used the money for a whole summer in Europe with her new hubby. P.S. Both couples are still married.

  19. 19
    Maria @ Island Living Midwest June 18, 2015 at 9:41 am

    It definitely has gotten out of hand– as a bride who will be married next weekend, it is amazing what the expectations are for a wedding. Even a small affair will put you back a few thousands. I was very specific about budget and what I wanted. Half way through the affair went from a 15 people wedding/dinner to a 120 full blown wedding. And as bad as it sounds, of those 120, I only know 15. So I was very real with the groom that he would have to foot the bill because it was his family (whom I love by the way) idea to have a big wedding. And we are very blessed that they gave us the reception as a wedding gift. But I am pretty proud that I stood my ground on what the budget was and not deviating from it.

  20. 20
    Cher Vick June 18, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    YES especially considering the divorce rate! Why spend so much on a wedding? But that is everything nowadays with blogs, holidays, birthdays, babyshowers. They all have to be these shows that are blogworthy or instagram worthy. It takes away from the purpose, and most of all puts people in DEBT.

  21. 21
    The Office Stylist June 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I feel like the most important thing is balance. Yes, of course you want to make it a memorable affair that people will be talking about for weeks, even months after. But at the end of the day it is about having fun and enjoying the greatest day of your life with the people you love. I also definitely feel like people forget that simplicity is not a bad thing. Simple is beautiful, and much less stressful at that! Overall though, I say to each their own. I would say just never lose sight and forget what a wedding really celebrates- a union of two lovers. There is that one saying that years from now no one will remember what you wore or how you looked… but they will remember how you made them feel. That quote is definitely applicable to this topic as well. If the love and fun is there, THAT’s what people will remember no matter where the wedding was held, what the invitations looked like, or how many outfit changes the bride had. Great topic to discuss!

    -The Office Stylist

  22. 22
    Alia June 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    Yes. They are getting out of hand. With the money I have spent over the past few years on engagement parties and gifts, shower gifts, bachelorette transportation/entertainiment/food/lodging wedding gifts annndddd plane tickets to destination weddings…dont forget bridesmaids dresses and shoes; I could retire by now and I am only 35!! People have become so selfish around weddings and the whole thing has become about the parties and not about love and two people joining together. We have forgotten what it is all about. Make it a special day, but most importantly, make it about each other!

  23. 23
    Debra Hannah June 18, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    I think the big idea to keep in mind is to have a marriage more beautiful than your wedding.

  24. 24
    Molly McConn June 19, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I like Office Style’s point–so long as everyone feels the love, all the other details are great, but just extra. Don’t include so many that they distract from the love and joy at the heart of soul of this celebration! I always find the rehearsal dinner to be one of the highlights of the weekend as it’s typically a more understated, intimate gathering without all the fuss.

    I have grown up going to weddings with my large family and six older siblings. With that and paying close attention to the blog/Pinterest world for as long as I can remember, I have watched the wedding trends come and go and the craze grow–yes, somewhat out of control. It’s funny. As a teenager, I gave a lot of thought to all fun, frilly details but now that I’m at an age where that event resembles more of a reality than a far-off fantasy, I’m much more interested on who is there and the sacrament that is to be celebrated at the ceremony.

    My goal is to restrict myself to only including those “extras” if they hold a personal significance to me and my fiancee or other loved ones involved. I think I’d like to stick by that rule of thumb in many areas of my life–decorating my home, vacation planning, etcetera. I’m curious if these over-the-top celebrations are more common here in the South. I’ve never been to a wedding outside of Texas and have to wonder if up North, all of this is stuff is as expected or “the norm,” so to speak. Great topic!!

  25. 25
    Pamela July 1, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Yes, I agree it has totally gotten out of hand. I like what Debra Hanna said ” to have the marriage more beautiful than a wedding ” the whole point to a wedding ceremoney is the joining of two hearts.