Today while staring at my bargain-basement wall calendar of the majestic Rocky Mountains, I made a thrilling realization. In the summer of 2016, for the first time in over a decade, I am not invited to a single wedding. Not one. The weddings—they are finally over.
It was my own wedding, in 2005, that opened the floodgates. It was a year after I’d graduated from college, and I was the first of my friends to get married. In fact, for many of my friends, my wedding was the first they’d attended as “adults.” Many of us behaved accordingly. My father-in-law, possessing a very subtle understanding of the importance of a scene “being lit,” bought 12 cases of New Mexican sparkling wine (Gruet—it’s legit) for a guest list of about 130 people. We backed my mom’s boyfriend’s old pickup truck next to the rent-a-tent and filled its bed with ice. That was the bar.
I realize that this sounds very Pinteresting in 2016, but in July of 2005, Facebook was still just for college kids, and none of our phones had cameras on them. I don’t own digital copies of my wedding photos. In fact, in a move that was heralded for its coolness, we had put a disposable camera on each table during the reception so that people could take their own “candid” shots for us. Some of those photos are indeed very candid, and they will never incriminate anyone, because they live in a box at the back of my closet.
Now, the summer of ‘05 seems like Eden before the fall. The cute DIY stuff, the thoughtful touches that we came up with—that was child’s play compared to what came later. Over the past decade, we’ve borne witness to a wedding arms race, and you all know it, because you’ve been on the battlefield. You’ve sipped cucumber water before the ceremony; grinned at the beloved family dog leading the processional down the aisle; scanned the tables for the photograph that cleverly matches the hand-written place card with your name on it; gratefully sipped a delicious cocktail that, according to a chalkboard sign, is the groom’s favorite; mugged in photo booths wearing funny hats and holding cardboard mustaches up to your faces; chatted over the flickering light of DIY candle holders that look like birch trees. You’ve seen it all. You were all such good sports.
But I’m here to tell you that it’s peaked. It’s fucking over. I’m sorry to those of you who are getting married this summer, who read this and think, “This bitter hag has no idea how beautiful my wedding is going to be.” I’m sorry to my friends and family who might invite me to their future weddings. And I mean no offense to all the wonderful loving friends whose weddings I have happily attended over the past decade. I love you all. I don’t mean to piss on your love, your good taste, and your generosity. But guys: It’s DONE.
I hesitate to offer evidence of the peak because that might constitute an insult to your intelligence. But allow me to present some nonetheless. Two summers ago, my friend James and his fiancée Beth (names have been changed) were setting up a website for their upcoming wedding. They discovered that their first-choice webpage, bethandjames.com, had already been taken—by another couple named Beth and James, who were also getting married soon. They even looked vaguely alike, the Beths and the Jameses. James checked recently, and bethandjames.com now belongs to a third couple, who are getting married this coming October. In a year, the domain will probably belong to Beth and James IV.
It’s as if love itself had become more special over the last decade. How else can we make sense of this? “Reception dresses” as a genre of dress? Three feet of shiny ribbon sold for $60 on BHLDN as a “sash”? There’s a reason for the whole “something borrowed” thing, dawg—you’re supposed to borrow something! Elaborate signage involving expensive hand-lettering on pallets stolen from the back lot of Home Depot (please reassure me that people don’t actually pay for these things)? Forcing your bridesmaids to all buy blue shoes that differ slightly from one another, for the sole purpose of having them produce the perfect pop of color against the distressed barn floor during the photo shoot? Spending $180 on a hand-beaded clutch for your—well, what, your phone and lipstick? If there’s one day you can prevail upon your friends to carry your shit for you, it’s on your damn wedding day. I realize that rich people will spend their money on any old thing that makes them feel better and more rose-smellingly bionic than other people, but this stuff is not just being sold to rich people!
Of course I am compelled to say something on behalf of the bridesmaids. Being a bridesmaid is not an honor. In 2016, the age of the bridesmaid-handmaiden, it’s a favor. For a while there, having bridesmaids choose their own dresses to suit their own style—within very particular color-and-length guidelines, of course—seemed like a commonsensical innovation. It was so silly back in the 80s, when all the bridesmaids had to wear the same dress, like a poufy, evil-spirit-deceiving brigade! But now that bridesmaids are expected to drop at least a hundo on something that they will certainly not be wearing again no matter what your optimistic friends say about alterations or dying—not to mention another $50 or so on one of those cute robes for the getting-ready sesh—the bridesmaid-uniform starts making sense again. I am even starting to find something subversively interesting about a group of women all wearing the same dress, which is further proof that weddings are over.
The fact that weddings are over is perhaps most cleanly encapsulated in the “wreck the dress” shoot. Have you ever witnessed someone doing one of these monstrosities, in which a bride rolls around in the mud (or the water, if it’s a beach wedding) to ritualistically “ruin” the very symbol of her bride status? When your wedding-narcissism has reached the point where it is now collapsing back in on itself—i.e., you’ve created a black-hole of commodification wherein your critique of an event’s commodification is itself commodified—at that point, it is time to apply the brakes, collectively. Like, slam them. Hard.
The astounding decision to incorporate the “fuck weddings” ethos as part of the consumptive ritual of a wedding is already well in place. Stone Fox Bride, which calls itself a “laid back, high fashion, punk-bohemian bridal showroom in downtown New York City” and whose gowns run no cheaper than a very punk-bohemian couple-thousand bones, sells T-shirts printed with the words “fuck weddings,” presumably to be worn by over-it brides who want to communicate their over-it-ness in a sexy way. (They used to sell yoga pants with “fuck weddings” printed across the butt, but either they sold out or, more likely, didn’t catch on.)
Late-stage American capitalism has a way of taking otherwise nice things and jacking them up until they’re a grotesque, barely recognizable caricature. (For examples, see: organic food, yoga, Christianity, salad.) Is there anything sweeter and more deserving of celebration than love between two people? And yet, here we are, trudging along, complicit in this half-joking knowingness about how weddings are out of control now. Why can’t we just… stop? Why can’t people just have a big party with food and a band, people can get dressed up if they want to, the couple says they love each other, and… that’s pretty much it?
There’s nothing wrong with vows, with rings, with dresses and tuxes. Taken individually, they are all fine. The ritual parts of weddings are moving and beautiful and maintain an improbable hope about the redemptive quality of love that is pretty hard to resist. But once you’ve run the gauntlet—through the engagement photoshoot, bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, pre-wedding day-of hang, getting-ready ritual, actual wedding, rigorous photo session, outfit-change, toast session, manic dancefloor experience, and whatever else you have the energy for—a lot of the magic is vacuumed out.
My attitude reflects my personal life trajectory, somewhat, as you might expect. (It was certainly prompted by the searing spiritual relief that came from gazing upon my first wedding-free summer in a decade.) I had my first kid in 2010, and so for a couple of years I attended weddings pretty much sober. Those were heady years for weddings, and I saw a lot during that time, including a wedding with food trucks. Then I went through the kid’s-with-my-mom-for-the-night period, during which I partied too hard for my age and felt kind of horrible afterward. Today I have reached the clear-eyed noonday of life as a woman who has to pick her parties wisely, and I resent having to waste my opportunities on mandatory events that are very expensive and often not that fun. I’ve decided that the time has come for eloping, a beautiful act of discretion, to really have its day. (In the hierarchy of Acts of Discretion Worthy of Respect, eloping is #1, with #2 is volunteering for a Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign and not sharing a word about it on social media.) Eloping will save you money, and you can still have a party later with your friends, if you want.
But I get it; you want to do it all at once, the betrothal and the party, and the wedding itself must be saved, rehabilitated, too. Can we agree that instead of trying to escalate past our collective wedding exhaustion by hand-crafting ever-quainter tablescapes —or buying a “fuck weddings” tote bag and trashing the dress to show that you were always already over it—why not plan a wedding that doesn’t resemble what we’ve all come to recognize as too much? The great thing about weddings is that they can be anything, anywhere. It’s a form ready to be remade. Who among us is ready to try?
Kathryn Jezer-Morton lives in Montreal with her husband and two sons. She’s 33, her kids are 2 and 5, and she writes a semi-regular parenting column called Hey Ma here on Jezebel.
Illustration by Bobby Finger, source image via Shutterstock