Lukewarm on Marriage But Love Free Stuff? Go to a Wedding Expo!

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

Like a lot of people, I have complicated feelings surrounding marriage. Like everybody, I really like free stuff. Where better to explore and indulge all of these emotions than at New York Magazine’s annual New York Weddings Event?

The New York Weddings Event, which costs $25 per ticket and sells out very quickly every year, exists as an easy way of connecting New York-area brides and eager vendors, thus playing an important role in the bridal ecosystem. Are you someone who wants to get married at the zoo? There’s a man here to set that up for you. What if you want to get married at the public library? NYPL has someone there, as well. Or perhaps you want a steampunk-themed photo booth named after the man who murdered President Abraham Lincoln? Why, the Wilkes Booth is right this way! The event provides everything a betrothed person could be looking for, including the growing sense of dread that comes with becoming yet another cog in the constantly expanding wedding industrial complex.

Exactly two years ago, my colleagues Julianne and Kate attended the same event. My main takeaway from their experience had nothing to do with weddings, but that both of them got a lot of SWAG—cake, booze, and even jewelry—even though they are, just like I am, two unengaged hags. This year, I decided that it was this hag’s turn, and I thought that, if I was lucky, it could help me sort out some of my own ambivalent feelings about weddings and marriage as a whole.


Among the women I know, two groups with blurred boundaries tend to emerge: those who’ve always assumed they’d get married and host a beautiful wedding and those who never really had the desire to get married at all, particularly not in public and with expensive floral arrangements. Personally, I fall somewhere in between: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my future wedding, even though I’ve all but decided to never have one... or a husband.

There’s an appeal to throwing a party, to openly celebrating the love between you and your partner, wearing a beautiful dress, stringing up Christmas lights on the beams of a barn (or at the zoo...or the library), making your guests drink alcoholic lemonade out of antique soda bottles because you saw the idea on Pinterest and thought it was cute. Even as a guest, I love weddings and have cried (joyfully) at every one that I’ve ever attended.

But, when thinking of my own future marriage, there’s that hitch, a comically loud record scratch, that reminds me of marriage’s rather despicable history, one that represents centuries of women being treated as property, passively being handed from father to groom to seal business deals and solidify alliances—just so long as the bride is fertile and a virgin. That we still wear white even though it represents both purity (boring) and classism (Queen Victoria famously wore a white wedding dresses in 1840 and the trend was soon adopted by the rich, as white signified that the families were wealthy enough to keep the fabric clean) grosses me out, even when the color looks nice. And now that we live in a time when marriage, more than ever, feels irrelevant, what is even the point of—ooh, free manicures!

Yes, Paintbox, one of the most well-appointed and trendy nail art salons in New York City was offering free manicures—WITH AN ACCENT NAIL—at the wedding event and who could be bothered to think about the politics and ethics of marriage when there was no line at the booth yet? (If you think I’m being shallow, fine, but that’s a $45 manicure for zero dollars and I am willing to live with that.) If this is the way it always goes, perhaps I’m wrong and maybe planning a wedding actually rules? The mountains of free donuts, endless bites of wedding cake, treats from Momofuko Milk Bar, and temporary tattoo salons would certainly suggest so, as would the glasses of rosé being constantly passed around as though a boat carrying crates of Whispering Angel had crashed on the banks of the East River and everyone was told to take what they could carry.

Jezebel’s Aimée Lutkin and me, two blushing brides, in the photo booth. They were insistent we use props.
Jezebel’s Aimée Lutkin and me, two blushing brides, in the photo booth. They were insistent we use props.

High on sugar and a little tipsy, I could see more and more how easy and fun it could be to throw yourself into this, especially when jewelers are literally begging you to try on diamonds and another vendor is turning out fresh and delicious waffles for the taking. (To the man who wouldn’t let me try a matcha-flavored donut because it was “display only,” you will never be invited to cater desserts at my imaginary wedding. To the women from Murray’s Cheese who let me come back to their cheese board repeatedly, you’re hired!) But as the sugar buzz transformed into a sugar crash, it once again became hard to escape the fact that, despite all this free stuff, weddings are far from free. (My manicure looks great, by the way.)


In the U.S., weddings are a reported $80 billion industry that is projected to grow at a rate of 1.8% per year over the next decade. (And that’s not including costs accumulated by guests, like travel and, as Aimée Lutkin reminded us yesterday, gifts.) Vendors would not be at the New York Weddings Event and giving away free shit if they didn’t know that the returns will ultimately be far greater. And what part do we, as consumers and women, want to play in that? If we’re not particularly religious, why are we still so hungry to dump money into a party, be given away by our dads, and spend thousands on a dress that we don’t get to wear more than once when we could, I don’t know, invest in property? Travel? Put your cash into a Roth IRA.

Those who decide to get married and host weddings likely all have answers (some more legitimate than others) to these questions and, honestly, what business is it of mine if you want to have a wedding? It is slightly ironic, though, that attending a wedding event turned me, slowly but surely, even more against the idea getting married than ever before. (My love for free stuff, however, remains at an all-time high.) I will—with joy and without reservation—still attend my friends’ weddings. I still have all the enthusiasm in the world to travel across the country to watch my best friend marry her wonderful groom later this summer and doubt that I will ever once mutter or even think the phrase “problematic.” But as for my own nuptials, I think I will pass and instead spend my hard-earned money on necessities (like Real Housewives fan art), while scamming off of wedding expos. (Please invite me back next year, New York. I had a lovely time.)


...Or I’ll change my mind and get married (probably to a cardboard cut-out of Robert Pattinson in Twilight) in a lavish wedding because as much as I’m a scammer with conflicting thoughts on marriage, I am also a hypocrite.

You may now kiss the blog.

Managing Editor, Jezebel

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Dating myself, but I won a full set of Revere pots and pans (which I still use) and French White Corning Wear at the only wedding expo I attended.