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Posted on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

Say no to the show: Learning to love your cheap wedding

By Sarah Smallwood

As some of you know, I recently got engaged. And it's wonderful. I love the giggly, first-date feelings when I put the ring on, I love my fiance, and I love our life together.

It took about two days of that before my brain got the better of me.

The minute there’s a ring on the finger, people want to know your wedding date. I get that; it’s exciting, thinking about the dresses and the ceremony and the pomp and foofaraw that a wedding entails. So I dutifully (and stupidly) gave in to buying wedding magazines and watching copious episodes of Say Yes to the Dress on Netflix.

If I said I was watching Say Yes to the Dress solely to get an idea of which dresses I liked and didn’t like, no one would believe me. It's reality television, edited for maximum drama and 15-minute villains that will ruin the wedding day by preferring a mermaid dress to a ball gown.

And you will know these terms; yes, you will. And you will develop your own at-home drinking game that includes the words "wow factor," "princess" and "unique," downing your glass whenever a bride under 25 buys a dress that costs more than your car.

Now, I've been to weddings. I know what they're like: dress, hair, dinner, toasts, dancing. But when you ask, brides are just a little cagey about how much things actually cost — which is probably why I had sticker shock just trying to nail down a reception venue. Is it because we're ashamed we spent so much? That we allowed our pragmatic, sneaker-wearing selves to be duped into dropping a small fortune merely because it's a wedding?

If we take SYTTD as evidence, then the answer is yes. You should not have a cap on how much you want to spend, because it's your wedding dress — and by extrapolation, your wedding day. Money is no object, because weddings are fantasy. How can you possibly put a price on (down it!) the best day of your life?

And right about now, in the middle of this whirlwind of tulle and dramz, TLC makes a fatal mistake: they have a wonderful, loving, adorable couple on the show. He loves her; it's obvious. Every dress she tries on, she worries it won't be "the one," (drink!) — and he’s telling the interviewer how lucky he is.

They see each other for the first time at the wedding, crying, hugging each other with happiness. It's not the best day of their lives, because they're going to have so many more.

We're so wrapped up in the love that we can't see that here's where it all falls down: if you’ve got the right partner, the dress is immaterial (ha! sorry). She can gain 10 pounds, come home from a sweaty gym session, or spend the night throwing up bad take-out — he'll still think she's the most beautiful woman in the world. I sigh with relief, because my fiance is just the same: it doesn't matter if I walk down the aisle in a paper bag, as long as I'm the one in it.

I still occasionally get wrapped up in the wedding mythos, because it's fun — in the same way eating a five-pound bag of Skittles is fun. Great at the start, but then you start to feel nauseated and malnourished after the sugar high wears off. It's not a meal; it's cotton candy, and by no means should you take it seriously.

Sarah Smallwood is a freelance writer living and working in Ann Arbor. She can be found rewriting her first novel, Googling "elopement," and by email at heybeedoo at gmail dot com.


Sarah Rigg

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 10:42 a.m.

Amen! We had an inexpensive wedding out of necessity, and a lot of people told us our reception (staffed largely by friends and volunteers) was one they'd ever had the most fun at.


Wed, Apr 18, 2012 : 1:01 a.m.

Me too! I have the same kind of guy. We got married at ABC - check them out as a venue. The banquet room is exposed brick, really lovely, and didn't cost much. For 85 people, we spent about $2,500 on a full open bar and food. Congrats and good luck!