Are You Feeling the Pressure?

It’s not at all uncommon for wedding planning to include a little envy and a little oneupmanship. You want to wear a gown just like the one Gwen Stefani wore. Your sister had a sundae bar so you want a gelato station. And you just know everyone is going to love the favors you’ve chosen. There’s nothing wrong with thoughts and feelings of that ilk.

Nothing wrong, that is, until you start making decisions driven by the peer pressure that seems to be omnipresent in the world of weddings. When you stop thinking in terms of “I WANT to do this” and start thinking in terms of “I HAVE to do this,” there may very well be heartbreak on your horizon. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to keep up with the Mr. and Mrs. Joneses or trying to appease pushy relatives — bowing to nuptial peer pressure often means having the wedding other people want instead of the wedding you want.

Wedding peer pressure
They didn’t give in and look how happy they are!

Where does the pressure usually come from? There’s media pressure, for one. Magazines, television shows, and the ladies who love them will all be quick to share these “facts” with you.

  • Engagement rings should be worth two months of the giver’s salary
  • All weddings cost $30,000
  • Every bride wants to wear a pricey, poufy white gown
  • Reception menus must include hors d’ oeuvres and multiple courses
  • It’s not a wedding without a limo, a live band, engraved invitations, or top shelf liquor

The message is Do This And Buy This Or People Won’t Have Any Fun At Your Wedding, but that is a big load of you-know-what. I can say with confidence that no wedding in history has been deemed less fun or less meaningful because dinner was just dinner, not an endless array of carving stations and starters on silver trays.

Then there’s familial pressure, which can be so much more insidious because it’s all wrapped up in a hefty portion of guilt. A friend of mine used to say “When it comes to weddings, every mother is a Jewish mother.” Here are some “suggestions” with which you may be accosted.

  • Your father will walk you down the aisle and give you away
  • Siblings must be included in the wedding party
  • You are obligated to invite your mother’s tennis partner, boss, and chiropractor
  • Grandpa — the senile one — should be allowed to make a speech
  • You have to wear your late grandmother’s pearls/dress/veil

I could expand both lists ad infinitum, but you get the idea. Why is it so easy to fall into the wedding pressure trap? As soon as you identify yourself as a bride-to-be, people start saying things like “It’s the most important day of your life…don’t you want the best flatware and linens?” and “Oh honey, Aunt Ida will just be so disappointed if you don’t have a proper first dance.”

From there it’s a crazy downward spiral until you suddenly you find yourself sparing no expense for things that will only see the light of day once and acquiescing to the most absurd familial requests. Let pervy Cousin Jed take photos in the bridal chamber? Sure, whatever! Let hated Hairlip Harry do a reading? Why not! ::rips wedding binder in half and eats it::

I did my best not to bow to media pressures, but I felt plenty of familial pressure when it came to the guest list, which is why my modest 25-person dream wedding became a 100-person affair that included, among others, The Beard’s fifth grade teacher. I’m sad to say that in most cases I simply bowed to the pressure coming from relatives. Ultimately, the wedding didn’t put anyone into debt, so the continually expanding guest list didn’t cause anyone any harm. It could have been a lot worse.

Now you tell us, are you feeling the pressure? Where is it coming from? And how are you dealing with it?

11 Responses to “Are You Feeling the Pressure?”

  1. blablover5 says:

    We’ve done a lot of picking our battles and deciding what we didn’t really care about but was important to someone else and where we just said no.

    I refused to get an aisle runner or anything that people would throw at us. It just didn’t seem to matter.

    But it’s funny I haven’t really had the family against our wedding plans much and most people seem to be generally cool with it who know me, but those who don’t know me at all just seem floored that we’re having a halloween reception and my friends are gonna wear wedding dresses.

  2. That sounds awesome, blablover5! I hope you’re going to show us the photos when all is said and done!

  3. La Petite Acadienne says:

    I didnt’ feel much pressure from the in-laws, but did feel a bit from my mom and my sister, especially once they found out we were going away to get married and that nobody was invited. Sometimes it was tough, but we just kept telling them that we had to celebrate our relationship in a way that was right for us, and kept reminding them that we’re both very private people so to have all these people looking at us as we said some very meaningful things to each other would feel strange. (I know, we’re weird.)

    Oftentimes, people can be mollified if you come up with a creative solution. In my case, I helped Mom organize a big family party a couple of months after we got back from our honeymoon. We had the wedding photos running all evening on a slide show on my laptop so that people could look at them at their leisure, and I even got into my wedding dress for an hour so we could take some photos and have a champagne toast.

    So, there are ways around some things. If you’re getting demands for this one or that one to make a speech, you could instead maybe have a younger relative go around with a camcorder during the reception or during the cocktail hour, asking people to say a few words to the bride and groom. You can edit certain people for brevity afterwards, and you wind up with a lovely memento instead of embarassing memories of Great-Aunt Agatha and her 20-minute-long gin-soaked ruminations on how you were just the sweetest little girl ever.

  4. Melissa B. says:

    Oh yes, we are familiar with The Pressure. My parents are divorced, and my dad is making a very generous contribution to our budget. My mom, however, thinks he should be paying more so we can have “nice things” — e.g. chair covers, multiple entree options, a live band, etc. My fiance and I are more than OK with not having those things, but I can tell my mom thinks my dad is being cheap, and part of me feels like I need to come up with the money for the “nice things” my mom likes myself so my parents won’t fight. But that’s just not realistic — I’m a grad student, I don’t have an extra $3000 laying around to hire a live band. And we didn’t even care about the stupid chair covers in the first place! ::sigh::

  5. AmazonPrincess says:

    I am in the process of helping many of my wonderful engaged friends plan their weddings, so many wonderful engaged couples that from March-June I will have at least one wedding a month. As much as I love weddings being around it all the time is making my brain go all paranoid on me as to why I’m not engaged yet. And that has just been a little odd. It’s peer pressure marriage I guess… “All my friends are doing it, why not me?”

  6. Evie says:

    Oh my, yes. My in laws are the source of most of our pressure. Suddenly–out of nowhere–there are so many “family traditions” that MUST be incorporated that I’m beginning to suspect I’m actually marrying in to royalty. One of these days I am just going to snap and tell my future mother in law that if no one else does this “tradition” and no one else even knows about this “tradition” then it’s not a “tradition” at all, it’s just something she personally likes to do. Which means I’m not obligated to do it in the name of respecting time honored family traditions. Gah.

    In all other matters, though, we’ve been able to keep away from peer pressure. It helps that both of us have a long tradition of being the weird kid, so no one really expected us to have a Martha Stewart wedding 🙂

  7. Redblur63 says:

    The only pressure I’ve had was from a co-worker who told me we were being rude for not inviting the entire office (our team is about 20 people) to our wedding, when we’d made it public knowledge we are having a very small, family and extremely special friends only wedding (fewer than 70 people). She specifically suggested a couple of people who have been difficult and downright unpleasant (including one guy who was sexually harrassing me last year) to us, who were going to be “hurt” if we didn’t include them. We finally ended up explaining to her in no uncertain terms that our wedding is a religious and personal commitment to each other and not an after-hours get together at the neighborhood bar, and we certainly don’t feel any obligation to include our entire office, especially people who have been particularly specious and unkind.

    The nice thing about finding love at 40-and-50 something is that you really and truly get to finally have the wedding of your dreams! We love the venue (HOME!), we love the cakes (I am baking them both) and the florist is perfect (dear friends are arranging farmers’ market bouquets for us). My daughter/MOH’s dress came from a yard sale and it’s divine on her. The Norwegian is going to be dashing in his Navy uniform. We’re going to dance to music we like and eat a delightful menu created for us by people who know us well. We’re not going into debt for this wedding and there hasn’t be a moment’s difficulty in the planning and preparation. Only eight days left to go!

  8. Mary says:

    We didn’t have a lot of pressure to deal with. Most of it was anticipated, so we had decided what to do ahead of time. Some wasn’t, but it wasn’t huge. We had decided to have our siblings as the only members of the wedding party. I have two brothers and a sister. DH has a sister. MIL was upset that her family didn’t have more representation, and tried to get DH to have either his father or his sister’s husband as best man. DH said no.

    I am reminded of something we overheard in a restaurant. We’d gone someplace nice for my birthday, and at the next table was a newly engaged couple with their respective parents. The bride’s mother started talking loudly about a friend of hers, whose daughter hated her. The daughter insisted on a small wedding, and why would anyone do that, except out of hatred for her mother. This woman couldn’t imagine how any daughter could hate her mother so much. I kind of hope the couple at the dinner decided to elope.

  9. Dent says:

    I think there was a fine line between demanding to have the uncompromising wedding we wanted and relaxing our expectations so that our “daaaay” wasn’t ruined when our family wanted something specific in our wedding. For example, the Mr. and I wanted only three attendants each. He chose three friends, and asked his two brothers to be ushers. Neither of us have been great at social tact, and in hindsight we realize that it wasn’t the best role to offer them. The eldest brother (who is 31!!) threw a fit at the thought of not being a groomsmen and said he’d refuse to do anything beyond attending the wedding. His father later pressured us about it. He wanted DH to explain the situation to his groomsmen he already picked, and tell them they couldn’t be in the wedding just so we’d be able to fit his brothers in!! We ended up having no ushers and five groomsmen instead.

    Ultimately, if by the end of the day we were married, mission accomplished. Anything else is extra.

    Although I do admit my mother and I had some serious arguments about stationery for several months…

  10. Nicola says:

    Too true! Media pressure is huge when it comes to weddings. I think couples these days believe that they have to do these things or their guests won’t have a good time – rubbish! The wedding is about you, not about your guests, so do what you want, spend what you want (or as little as you want) and enjoy your day – stress free!

  11. Twistie says:

    I think the event does to some extent need to be about the guests, too, Nicola, or why invite them at all? On the other hand, I completely understand what you’re trying to say.

    The simple fact is most guests don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive things in order to have a good time at your wedding. What do they need? Enough places to sit, some refreshments, adequate bathroom facilities, and enough of the happy couple’s time to feel that it really was the ‘pleasure of their company’ that was wanted rather than the ‘honor of their presents.’

    Yes, there is all too often someone who doesn’t feel this is anything like enough, but most people are more reasonable than that. Most of your nearest and dearest have a good enough idea of your financial situation and ideas of fun that they won’t throw hissey fits if you don’t try to spend the Gross National Product of Brazil on your festivities when your paycheck can’t cover it.

    Alas! The Wedding Industrial Complex works overtime to convince young couples and their parents that no wedding is complete without three ice luges of ‘signature’ cocktails, large flower arrangements entirely composed of flowers that don’t grow in your hemisphere or during your wedding month, Swarovski-crystal-enhanced Swarovski crystals, three live bands and a celebrity DJ.

    Okay, I’ve been to a couple of the swanky weddings with all the trimmings. I had a great time at them…just as I had a great time with the couple who were married under an oak tree in a national park and then took all fifteen of us guests up to a picnic table where we shared a simple picnic meal and sparkling apple cider (the groom was in recovery), and just as I had a great time with the couple that married in a friend’s back yard with the home sound system rigged to provide a touch of dance music. About fifty of us shared homemade lasagna and a few laughs with the couple.

    Ultimately, the thing that has always spelled a good wedding for me isn’t what food is served, whether or not there’s alcohol, what sort of flowers – if any – were used, or how big the band was. What makes a good wedding for me is a happy, relaxed bridal couple who share their happiness with whomever they invite. You can’t buy that.