As a person who is currently engaged to be married, I spend a lot of time thinking about beef. Specifically, the cut of beef to be served at our wedding reception. It has to be beef, you see, since that’s all my family eats. Plus, it has to be served medium, can’t have any sort of sauce, and must be accompanied by a dry potato. No seafood, spices, ethnic foods, or anything my fiancé and I would personally like to eat will be served. Because when it comes to our wedding, it doesn’t really matter what we want.
The funniest thing about planning a wedding is that everyone constantly asks you, “What do you want?” But it’s never about what you, the bride and groom, want. It’s about what your guests want. What your grandparents want. What your cousin’s vegan husband wants. What your mom’s hairdresser wants. In the past year I’ve been asked what I want about a thousand times, and so far the only thing that has come to fruition is a promise from the DJ that he won’t play “Love Shack.” Every other personal flourish we’ve suggested has been sacrificed to the greater good of guest happiness. My fiancé and I embarked on this project to try to throw a fun party that reflected our tastes and sensibilities, but the closer we get to the big day, the farther away from our tastes and sensibilities this event seems to get. If our needs and wants rank so far below everyone else’s, who’s the wedding really for, anyway?
My Day, Your Way
“A wedding is really for the couple getting married,” says my friend Kate. “Everyone who comes to the wedding wants it to be a day that is all about the couple … the bride and groom should seek to host a wedding that focuses on things that are important to them.” But what if the bride and groom’s version of a good time is Indian food followed by a night of techno music? Something tells me that the guests who coo at the couple’s adorable bulldog acting as the ring bearer wouldn’t be quite so complacent if they were faced with a buffet full of food they could neither eat nor pronounce, or if it was uncomfortably hot and sunny at the couple’s dream beachside ceremony. “That said,” she added, “a wedding is often the first time a young couple has a chance to present themselves as hosts. The couple should be very considerate of the guests who are invited and strive to make their guests comfortable.” My cousin Jen agreed. “Everyone has time and money invested in the big day. As the hosts, you do have a responsibility to your guests.”
So it really is all about the guests. I asked my friend Samantha, whose wedding I attended, and she granted that these days, a wedding is more for the guests and family than for the marrying couple. “People don’t come to weddings only to witness the bride and groom vowing to love each other forever, in front of God and everyone,” she said. “People come for the party, and the bride and groom are required to throw a big, fun [one] for everyone.”
Who but the most self-indulgent couple wouldn’t take their guests’ needs into account when planning a wedding? I’ve spent so much time making seating charts that separated feuding relatives, considering whether the menu accommodated vegetarians, and arranging rides to and from the airport that I haven’t even begun to write my actual vows, which some might consider a pretty important part of the night.
Does Father Know Best?
“It’s about the parents,” says my friend Benjie. “Especially the bride’s parents. They usually care more that their friends and family are happy.” If the bride’s parents are footing the bill for all or part of the wedding, then it’s right and natural that they’ll want input on the plans. But I think most brides would agree with me that if the opinions of their parents’ country-club friends are really so important, then those friends are more than welcome to spend a year of their lives stuffing and licking envelopes, attending menu tastings and flower consultations, and deciding on the evening’s musical playlist. Really, be my guest. We can’t serve soup because one of Dad’s golf buddies prefers crunchy foods? Well, would that buddy like to come approve my dress, too?
Sorry, I think the envelope glue affected my brain and made me a little stabby for a minute there. The disappointing reality for any bride or groom is that your wedding really isn’t so much about the two of you. If you’re lucky, you can throw in some personal touches here and there, but simple math dictates that there are two of you and one hundred of everyone else—it’s only fair to please the majority. And if the goal is to throw a party that the guests will enjoy or remember, who wouldn’t compromise a bit on that Indian buffet? “Most couples want their guests to enjoy the wedding,” says my friend Kate. “Otherwise they wouldn’t invite any guests!” But there’s no need to completely capitulate to the crowd and lose the elements that make you unique. Most brides and grooms recommend sticking to your guns in a few important areas, and letting go of just about everything else. “You want to show your guests you appreciate the fact that they made the trip to come and see your big day,” says my friend Kimi, “but it’s important that it’s a reflection of you and your partner.”
Brides (and grooms) would do well to let go of the “It’s my day!” mentality that permeates modern weddings. After all, it’s true that if the guests were totally unimportant, you’d be getting married at City Hall. Give up the ghost of that perfectly personalized wedding that celebrates your individual quirks and that simultaneously makes each guest deliriously happy, because it probably ain’t gonna happen. Accommodate your guests’ tastes the best you can, but don’t make yourself crazy trying to please everyone, because that’s a losing battle, too. No matter how carefully you plan the menu, someone will wish you had included a different entrée. Someone will be allergic to the flowers or the dog groomsman. Someone will take offense to the language in your favorite song. It happens. All you can do is do your best and hope that in the end, everyone’s drunk enough to enjoy what you’ve chosen.
And to the guests who’ll be celebrating at my wedding this fall: We have tried our best to accommodate your allergies, your food requests, your musical tastes, and your transportation needs. We’re even putting dental floss and hair spray in the restrooms for your convenience, and we’re happy to do all of this for the privilege of having you there to celebrate with us. So don’t even THINK about asking the DJ to play “Love Shack.”