Are you a person who is either getting married or who has ever gotten married via a ritual we call a wedding? Then I have a suggestion for how you might go about it that covers thinking about your wedding, planning it, participating in it, asking others to participate in it, or reflecting on it for the duration of your entire life: Calm the Fuck Down.
Sound familiar? You may have heard of this method as applied to parenting, courtesy of David Vienna, who argues that the single most effective form of parenting involves 1) not abusing your children and 2) not getting all worked up about every little thing.
Let's take a move from the CTFD Parenting Method playbook and apply it to any betrothed person, past or future. Because this shit has gotten way the fuck out of hand. Every last single little bit of it.
Seriously: Stop abusing the people in your wedding or your significant other in the name of your wedding or the people who are attending your wedding. And stop getting worked up over every little thing.
It's that simple!
You are getting married! Congratulations. It's your party! Cry if you want to! But the people who attend this event completely constructed by you are not your foot servants.
- They are not throngs of admirers, desperate to touch the hem of your overpriced garment.
- You are not a supermodel and this is not your Vogue spread.
- You are not Stephanie Seymour in the first half of the GNR "November Rain" video.
- You're not Slash playing that cool solo in front of that little simple one room church in the middle of the desert, either.
- You and your day are not more important than the lives of all the people and families who have moved plans and driven all this way and agreed to show up and offer some support, which may or may not include a gift.
In fact, this is just a press conference for your romantic life. It's an announcement, maybe with some refreshments. It's a party. It's the merging of two communities. It's the merging of families and traditions. (If you don't think you are marrying the entire family of the person, you should interview some family therapists.) It's supposed to be fun. Calm the fuck down. Please.
Now that you are calm, acknowledge that what you are actually allowed to ask of your guests is minimal. You can ask that they show up. You can ask that they not bring a guest, or children. You can ask that they not get drunk. You can ask that they be as quiet as possible while the wedding ceremony part is happening. You can ask that they come with a positive, supportive vibe and not an interrupting, combatant one. You can ask them to give you a gift and you can even specify what you hope it will be.
But you cannot demand:
- Unspoken assumptions about what your guests or wedding party are supposed to "know" to do because it is "obvious" to you. Doesn't everyone know you hate the smell of perfume and should have known not to wear it? Calm the fuck down.
- Fascist observance of some etiquette handbook that exists only in your head. Calm the fuck down.
- Guesswork, such as whether or not it's OK for them to bring kids or not. Calm the fuck down.
- Indentured servitude, especially the kind that is not even communicated but somehow assumed, i.e., later on you bitch that so-and-so didn't even pitch in or offer to pitch in! Calm the fuck down.
- It should also not involve on the part of your guests: mind reading, lavish praise, weight loss, stringent standards of appearance or the handing over of anything they cannot or will not give you. Calm the fuck down.
For the love of all that is not remotely holy about your wedding: Calm the fuck down.
You're just a person who is getting married. It's totally OK to want it to be nice or fun or themed or serious or small or big or extravagant or simple. But it's not OK to rope any other person into your nightmarish anxieties, secret undisclosed demands, openly spoken outrageous demands, bitter revenge plots, deep-seated narcissism, desperate bid for attention, perfectionist disorder.
And furthermore, unless you're Kate Middleton, people are not lucky to attend your wedding. You are lucky anyone gives a shit about you to attend yours. And if you perpetuate the kind of meltdowns, feuds, unreal demands, horrible bridesmaid dresses — the stuff that not only drives the reality shows, TV news segments, etiquette columns, and trolly style pieces, but results in real-world terrible fallouts, mangled relationships, and bitter rancor — then you are doing it so wrong that your marriage license should be revoked and handed for free to an actual grown-up. I'm this short of advocating for people planning weddings to submit their plans and demands of close friends and family members to an oversight committee.
But that just wraps up the event itself. Finally, and ESPECIALLY, if you are still mad about who didn't or didn't get you a gift at your wedding, and decades have passed, you are a terrible, terrible gargoyle who needs a fucking hobby.
Case in point: piece in the New York Times called "When You Can't Forget the Gifts You Didn't Get," which rounds up for your hate-reading a veritable zoo of gargoyles who are so gargoyliffic that they fail to even realize the gargoylic proportions of their gargoylosity.
Translation: The entire story is about people who have dwelled for DECADES on how so-and-so didn't actually give them a gift at their wedding. Yes, no one is above a petty grudge, but since when did people not know their grudges were petty? I thought everyone lugging around their petty grudge about how so-and-so didn't know to sit in the right seat at the wedding actually knew it was petty and very much their own individual hangup, and had an entire inner monologue about how petty it was inside, felt shame, and knew it was wrong to actually hold it against the other person! But noooooo!
I can't stop thinking about how cool it must be for the derelict gift-givers who are getting called out publicly in the single most-read news source in America for not getting the right gift FIFTY FUCKING YEARS AGO WTF I CAN'T TAKE THIS WEDDING SHIT ANYMORE.
Seriously. I'll leave it to you to indulge yourself of ALL the details of the story. But some highlights:
- A woman who got married 19 years ago is still mad some rich people who came to her wedding didn't give her a gift.
- A wedding planner quoted basically says 98-year-old women are the pettiest bitches around in case you didn't know:
“You could talk to a 98-year-old woman and she won’t be able to tell you what song she danced to at her wedding, but she can tell you who didn’t give her a gift,” said Jodi R. R. Smith, an etiquette expert in Marblehead, Mass., and consultant for the wedding industry.
- A 28-year-old is "lacking three gifts from her October 2012 wedding," as if they might still show up.
- Some other lady who bought someone getting married something from BERGDORF FUCKING GOODMAN was shocked to not receive a gift of equal value from those fucks when she got married.
But the logic these petty grudge-holders espouse in this piece really takes the shitty wedding cake:
- You can still hate a Poor for not giving you a gift, but only a smidge less than a Rich.
- Men get a pass. Not women, the bitches.
- A 22-year-old guy who can't support himself gets a pass, but only for a gift. He STILL has to write a note.
- Millionaires who drink their faces off at weddings but don't give gifts are NOT ACCEPTABLE.
- The wedding industry consultant person thinks it's OK to goat the person who didn't give you a gift into admitting it:
The way Ms. Smith sees it, it’s acceptable to confront those guests who have failed to send even a token. The best way to do so is with a delicate, in-person conversation. “You tell them that you’ve been writing your thank-you notes and realized that you haven’t written one to them: it’s an ‘I’ statement,” she said. “Then you let the other person talk. Either they’ll say: ‘What are you talking about? I gave you the serving platter off your registry.’ Computer glitches happen. You can then say, ‘I’m happy to follow up.’ If they look at you like deer in the headlights, count to the beat of three and move the conversation along to a totally different topic. Then you wait and see if the gift card shows up.”
Great idea. Then find the closest journalist for a major newspaper and tell them all about it, so they can write a book called The Rules According to Gargoyles.
Or, you know, just Calm the Fuck Down. Please.
But seriously, a good look at the shifting values that have led to this crazy phenomenon can be found here in a Daily Beast piece from January, which examines how the marketing industry, a waning religious affiliation (replaced by the "cult of me"), America's rugged individualism fetish, and possibly, a "childhood last hurrah" are all factors in our batshit wedding mania. Luckily, there is a growing movement away from this sort of self-obsessed spectacle wedding, people who just want their weddings to be a place for friends and families to witness a public affirmation of love. At this point, that seems almost quaint.
Image by Jim Cooke.