Tag Archives: money

Re-envisioning Engagement (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

In addition to understanding engagement as a dynamic state of being increasingly “almost married” (notably, lodged between two other dynamic states), I think we would benefit from changing at least two other elements of our view of engagement.

First, I want to contest the common view that the purpose of engagement is to plan a wedding. I think a wedding at its best is a celebration of a good thing in community. However, it seems that both the time and money required to have a wedding–or at least one that that competes with the contents of bridal magazines or our childhood fantasies–delay most marriages.

I find it telling that in a different time and culture engagement and marriage were often done quite differently. My grandparents married in the early 50s, when they were in their 20s. Mimi and Granddad met in June and started a relationship nearly immediately. They soon started talking about marriage, declared their plans more officially in December, and were married in a pastor’s home in February, with only my granddad’s family attending. (Hers lived in Chicago at the time and couldn’t make a trip to Kentucky.

While many people at the time had weddings, they did not. And according to my grandmother, this was not at all uncommon. I suppose we don’t know when most people today would get married without so much hoopla, but I find it telling that a year-long engagement is “standard” primarily because of the time needed to plan a wedding (just Google “engagement length” and check out the forums where women are comparing timelines) and that some people even opt to wait multiple years to marry to gather sufficient funds for the ceremony of their dreams.

When I asked Mimi if she thinks the rising popularity of cohabitation has contributed significantly to the lengthening of engagement, she replies with a hearty yes. People had shorter engagements and simpler ceremonies in the past, she believes, because it was culturally unacceptable to move in together or have sex without a marriage license.

I think it’s legitimate to have opinions about what you want your wedding to be like, and I don’t think it’s bad to spend time and money on some of the elements that are more important to you. However, I find it unfortunate that we put such a focus on weddings that few people feel they can get married without one of sufficient granduer. This not only creates a culture of weddings which marginalizes the have-nots (something we as Christians should avoid), but also encourages people to wait longer to get married for questionable reasons. Is a fancier ceremony really worth delaying your marriage for several more months? For some, perhaps, it is–and it’s not my place to judge them–but I feel shorter engagements would be better for many couples.

Weddings are a cultural practice, so they will undoubtedly be influenced by our cultures. We feel societal pressure to do our weddings in certain ways, and it’s not an evil thing to take part in this part of culture by following many of these norms. But we don’t need to follow every cultural convention, especially as we, as Christians, seek to do life in a way that aligns with kingdom values. And since these values include things such as chastity, commitment, generosity, and giving up status, I see a lot of pros with creating a culture of simpler, sooner weddings.

In my opinion, if you’re committed to each other and want to be married, it makes sense to go ahead and be married–and I believe we as Christians should do a better job supporting that.

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Filed under Engagement, Relationships, Social Justice, Weddings

My wack wedding

At risk of totally guaranteeing a total guilt trip from myself down the road, I’m inspired today to write about the very weird ways in which I hope to do my wedding (if I do indeed eventually marry in the next 1-152 yr).  What inspired this?  Did I watch Four Weddings and a Funeral?  Was I checking out bridal gown magazines?  Am I just one of those ring-obsessed women?  It actually came to me quite unexpectedly (in the last five minutes), browsing the World Vision web site, of all things.  There was an article about one couple’s honeymoon with the poor of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it took me back to a recent conversation with my roomie Tiffany that essentially amounted to, “I want a weird wedding.”  This is my first time making a lot of this public (and nothing’s set in stone), but prepare to feel inspired… or sorry for me because there probably aren’t a lot of men that will get into this.  (Even more difficult: convincing his mom.)

Let the fun begin!

Idea #1: A Service-Learning Honeymoon
Since the article is what inspired this, If one of us happens to be a social worker or environmental activist, this might not be the best idea.  I definitely want some quality sabbath.  However, hours at the beach, quite frankly, really bore me.  I’d love to go somewhere–anywhere–and really take time to see both touristy and non-touristy places and learn about the history, the culture, the problems, the delights, etc. of that area.  Whether or not we actually “do” something to serve the people there, I’d be sure we go as people and not just consumers.

Alternatively, we could save the money and take some time off from work and stay home–if being married is so exciting the first few weeks anyway, why do you need to add extra fireworks by going to an exotic location?  Let’s save that for when we’re sick of each other and some extra spice.  Or save it for the kids’ college (or an extra degree down the road… or the next time our economy collapses…) or give the money to something worthwhile.  And why have special memories in the Dominican Republic that we could have in the space we live and breath every day?  Who knows.  I’m open.  I don’t think we’re bad people if we decide to go to France, but I’m open to considering non-traditional options.

Idea #2: No engagement ring
I don’t think they’re sexist, per se, but as a feminist, I’m just not into them.  And there are all those conflict diamond issues.  If anyone ever buys me a diamond, it had better be one of those super-certified-conflict-free types.  But I don’t need a diamond ring.  I just don’t.  (And given that I so strongly don’t want one, I would actually probably turn down a man that offered me one, because he obviously doesn’t know me well enough to marry me!)

Idea #3: A Green Reception
I just don’t feel good about having all kinds of paper and plastic being used once and thrown away.  I’m all in favors of green picnics, potlucks, etc., so why should I be hypocritical when it comes to my wedding?  What will this mean?  At its most normal, it would mean we use a caterer that uses all real dishes, glasses, etc.  At its most extreme, it might mean we ask people to bring their own dishes–regular, casual, whatever dishes–and also commit to “sponsoring” out-of-towners that won’t have their own easily accessible.  I actually really like that idea, not only for the environmental reason, but also because it forces people to depend on each other rather than our just doing what’s convenient.  It makes the wedding more of a real community-building event.

Idea #3: Not-so-expensive clothes
As I’ve watched friends be bridesmaids, I’ve wondered, why the heck do we spend so much (and make our friends spend so much) on weddings?  I’m not judging anyone that wants a more traditional wedding, but I just feel there are so many important things in the world that need our money.  So there are several options: cheap stuff (relatively speaking).  Or even more interesting, why does everyone need to match?  Why can’t people wear things they already have?  Why can’t I just wear something from our first date or a special night?  Not only does wearing things you already have save money, resources, etc., but it also means your wedding is connected with you, your memories as a couple, as a community.  And there’s no trouble trying to find bridesmaid dresses that fit everyone’s bodies and budget.

Idea #4: Really yummy food
So everyone wants yummy food–that’s not so countercultural.  But I guess I figure my food choices are a bit less traditional for your average white American…  I would much rather have nammura or mango with sticky rice than traditional wedding cake.  And I’m much rather have lemongrass tofu and chicken curry and quiche and baked brie with figs than whatever most people eat at weddings.  I know I need to consider that Kate Jessups of the world (so maybe we’ll also have bagels with Munster cheese), but at my wedding, I want to have the kind of food that I actually make a habit of eating, the kind of food that feels like home.  Soymilk and coconut-something are both musts.  Yes, soymilk at a wedding.  We’ll have something for everyone, though.  (Though I don’t know that we’ll serve any kind of soda–I think I’m morally opposed.  Unless it’s Mexican soda.  And Diet Coke for Kate so she doesn’t go through withdrawal.)

Idea #5: Gifts to others
If there are things we need, great.  Let’s ask for them.  But there are certain things people just don’t need that they receive at weddings, even things they’ve put on their registry.  The fact is, we were both living before we got married.  Don’t we already have a few towels?  Don’t we have anything for the kitchen?  Maybe we could use a bit of help, but where we already own something, there’s no need to get something new and “better.”  Instead, it’d be nice to essentially have a “registry”-type system for giving to one of a few meaningful causes.  I’d love to use orgs that one of us has a special connection with (ex: InterVarsity) or something that relates to marriage in some vague way (Christians for Biblical Equality, a domestic violence shelter, or perhaps the option of buying someone out of sex slavery through International Justice Mission or World Vision–because as weird and unrelated as it sounds, if you think about it, being able to have sex when you want with the person you want is a blessing not everyone has, even in the U.S., where rape, abuse, and trafficking definitely happen).  I don’t want a wedding that’s all roses, and I’m not really afraid of bringing these things up.

Idea #6: Multiculturalism
This is not to say that various traditions must be integrated in cheesey ways.  I just don’t want it to feel so exclusively white.  Because that would make me sad.  And I shouldn’t be sad on my wedding day, right?  We’ll see what this actually ends up meaning.  If nothing else, music for the reception has got to be pretty eclectic.

I could make up some more if I were trying to be really radical.  I could also live without doing all of these.  The important thing to me is to take nothing for granted.  Again, we have such privilege.  Culture isn’t bad; it’s good.  Our wedding expectations are just a part of culture.  But sometimes opting out of culture is ok, too.  We can create new ways of doing things that do a better job honoring the humanity in ourselves and others.

I also need to have the right wedding pictures to convince my kids that I’m a true liberal.  :-P  Even if they think I’m a just crazy hippie, they gotta respect that, right?

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Filed under Marriage, Random Thoughts, Weddings