Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, in the midst of wedding planning, is how the very idea of the wedding itself (at least, in American culture) is contradictory to a lot of the values I’ve claimed I want to foster and maintain in my life. Right at the start of our planning, I knew I didn’t want an expensive wedding, but that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m 30, and covering some of the cost myself. Setting money aside for a minute, I thought I would hate every second, every detail, of wedding planning. I have always thought that. I’ve always, my entire life, dreaded the idea of planning a wedding.
And, to be perfectly honest with you, I have hated some of it. We haven’t been treated well by all the vendors we’ve contacted, and I can’t help but see dollar signs looming over every decision we are asked to make. I’ve worked hard over the last five years or so to try to embody a personal philosophy of living simply. I haven’t been as successful as some friends of mine who attempt to do the same thing, but I’ve done my best. I do own a house, which I will have owned for five years by the time our wedding rolls around. Funny thing about having more space than you need is that you tend to fill it up with things you think you need that you really don’t need. In truth, yes, my house is larger than Soren and I – by ourselves – needed. My reasons for buying it would encompass another post entirely. (Luckily, it’s going to be a perfect size for myself, a husband, and three dogs.)
But the point is, because I’m 30, and because I’ve lived in my house for five years already, I have accumulated everything I need to have a home that is decorated the way I want, enough furniture to entertain, proper kitchenware for cooking and eating, and appropriate bedding. Add to that the fact that I’m marrying a man who is in essentially the same position (minus maybe a few things here and there, given that he doesn’t own a house), and you get a weird combination in the end that adds up to a lot of duplicate stuff, a lot of stuff you don’t need, and, just in general, a lot of stuff.
To put it simply, “stuff” stresses me out. I see it as clutter. After moving in and out of a dorm room for four years, I then spent the next four years moving in and out of two apartments and two houses (the second house being the one I’m in now). I’ve moved a fair amount. It’s stressful and tedious, and it’s a good way to get rid of things you realize you don’t need. It’s also been the main conduit for my finding out that I don’t like “stuff.”
So, keeping all these factors in mind, I was ecstatic when I spoke to David about gifts and a registry and found that he thought along the same lines I do, which is: We don’t want gifts. We just don’t need anything, and the idea of asking for things we don’t need makes me feel a little sick to my stomach, not to mention greedy. I had a friend get married a few years ago, and she had all her own stuff already as well but still did a full registry, even asking for things she already had. When I asked why she was replacing items she already had that were still in excellent condition, she said, “Because. It’s fun to get new stuff. You’ll understand when it’s your turn.”
As condescending as that felt, I conceded that, yes, maybe I would understand when it was my turn. It’s been almost four years since that happened, though, and I still don’t understand. And I don’t have to understand. She can do what she wants. But I don’t have to do what she wants. The beauty of planning our own wedding, everyone has told us, is that we get to do what we want. And what we want happens to be very different from what other people want (which is, again, fine).
One of the things we do want, however, is help paying for our honeymoon. We have this epic, two-week, baseball-centered, west-coast trip planned, but baseball games and the west coast ain’t cheap. So, since we don’t need anything for our home, we decided to set up a honeymoon fund, where people can either give us general gifts, or contribute in specific ways to different portions of our trip (we’re also planning to go to Six Flags Magic Mountain!).
The thing about this is, some people think that it’s tacky for us to ask for money/vacation help, or they just think it’s tacky to give money in general, or something. I’m not sure, but there has been some resistance to our simple request for no gifts. I’ve been advised that plenty of people will ignore the request entirely, so we might as well create a registry because, if we’re going to get something, might as well get something we want. So I followed this advice, and we created a registry, and guess how many items it has on it? Nine. And they’re not really low-cost items either. They are all items we would have plans to purchase within the first two years of our marriage, probably, but we certainly can’t afford them now, or soon, given wedding costs.
Other voices have told me, “Screw what other people say. It’s your wedding. If you don’t want gifts, don’t be afraid to say that. If people ignore you, they’re being rude.”
And that is where I struggle. The idea that it’s rude for someone to go expressly against our wishes and give us a wedding gift has reigned supreme in my mind over the last several weeks. I understand the arguments of sentimentality, of contributing something that will last, of wanting a gift to mean something. I would argue that contributing to our honeymoon is sentimental to both David and myself, that our memories of it will last our entire lives (whereas a coffee pot will eventually break, or a quesadilla maker may never even get used), and that the knowledge that our friends and family want to help us have the best honeymoon we can dream up means a very great deal to us, even if they do not realize it or think so.
So it’s easy for me to get defensive about the gifts thing. I truly don’t want them. It’s not a pretense of humility. I cringe every time I imagine having to find space for something kitchen gadget-y, or having to write an insincere thank-you note for something I plan to give to Goodwill within a month. And I tell myself it’s okay to stand my ground on this because, as others have told me so many times, “It’s our wedding, not their wedding, and we can do what we want.”
But there’s a nudge. There’s a tickle. In the back of my mind, in the damp, dimly lit, cobwebby space where my conscience (or the Holy Spirit, based on your belief system) resides, there is a check that says, Is it?
Is it okay for me to be indignant about someone wanting to follow tradition, despite what I’ve specifically requested? Or is it my responsibility to accept whatever is given, which is given in love, graciously and thankfully, despite what I’ve specifically requested?
Though it’s okay for me to buck tradition, and I feel comfortable doing so, is it okay for me to expect others, who may be uncomfortable doing so, to follow suit, just because I’ve asked them to? Or should I allow our friends, family, and wedding guests to show their support for our union in whatever way they feel most comfortable, even if it goes against our express wishes?
Maybe I’m making too much of this. Maybe we’ll get more contributions to our honeymoon fund than I’m anticipating, and maybe we’ll only get one gravy boat in the mail from one great-great-great aunt neither of us has ever met (in which case we’ll just attend an ugly sweater white elephant Christmas party next year to take care of it!). Or, maybe we’ll get something we never thought of but that we desperately appreciate. I don’t know. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how the “no gifts” request is going to go over once the invitations get sent out (they’ve gone to the printer, though, so there’s no turning back now!).
What I do know is that David and I will smile on our wedding day, and we will be grateful for the many and varied ways that people have chosen to show their support and love for us.
(But I’m not going to feel guilty for re-gifting that gravy boat! I don’t even know how to make gravy! Doesn’t it have to do with the gross parts of a bird? No thank you.)