Monday, September 14, 2009

Why Wedding Planning is Like Grocery Shopping

We were each curled up with our respective books this past weekend - he with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and me with Rebecca Mead's One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding.  I made it to page 6 before I had to interrupt J in amazement.
"Um, did you know that someone has bred rice grains so that they're both heart-shaped and crush underfoot (so they can be safely thrown at weddings and not harm birds' digestive tracts)?  This is insane.  I can't believe people make and buy this stuff!!!"  
J gave me a long hard look.  He obviously agrees that genetically-engineered wedding rice is silly, but he pointed out that if someone's buying it, then presumably they want it and think it adds a special touch to their wedding. He was then wise in pointing out that there's a fine line between disgust with the WIC for its insidious overwhelming pressure on brides and with looking down on the brides themselves who are making active decisions to buy details I may think are silly.  In other  words - their wedding, their choices, no judgment.

He's right, of course.  But the issue is more that I feel many brides don't have a real choice.  They get engaged and jump into planning a wedding that's only a year away, complete with extreme emotional excitement, family pressure, societal expectations and logistical panic attacks being thrust on them all at once.  Most aren't event planners, so they turn to resources that provide information on wedding checklists for "the way things are done." So no, while we're all certainly free to make choices about our own weddings, many of us are pushed immediately into a world where the important decisions are all about the look and stuff associated with the big day - the dress, the flowers, the favors, the candy buffet, and yes, heart-shaped grains of rice.

After letting me rant on a bit about free will and marketing, J turned to me and said,
"It seems to me that wedding planning is a bit like going to the supermarket without a list. If you haven't planned and thought about what you really want from the market beforehand, you'll end up with a basket full of junk food or produce that will go bad before you figure out what to do with it.  The sensible thing for your budget (and waistline) would be to plan your meals ahead of time and stick with your shopping list when you're at the market (making sure to include an occasional a bottle of wine and ice cream, of course).  With wedding planning, if you haven't thought about the marriage or what you want from your wedding day before jumping into venue/catering/decor/guest list battles, you're liable to end up with heart-shaped rice, staring at your credit card bill three months after the party, wondering what on earth happened."
And yes.  That's it exactly.  (Although I'd add that an immediate post-engagement jump into wedding planning is more like shopping without a list, when you're ravenously hungry at 7pm and just want to get home already, and then realizing you've been locked inside Costco for the next nine months. )

Oh how I love my wise partner.  And oh how happy I am that we have a long engagement to do some serious thinking about our own wedding list. 


  1. Great post! While I liked Mead's book, I did find the tone a bit sneering, making it too easy to just mock people who buy heart-shaped rice instead of thinking about why women make the choices (or are coerced to make the choices) that they do. It's scary stuff this wedding planning and the only people willing to tell you how to do it/i.e. help you write your grocery list to extend your analogy, are usually the ones invested in making you spend as much as possible! It's like if you'd never written a grocery list before and Unilever offered to help. And Costco is terrifying at the best of times.

  2. I have not read Mead's book, but plan to pick it up now.

    This is a wonderful analogy! However, I do like Costco. I like the free samples and bulk toilet paper.

    Love the comment above too "Unilever offered to help." Brilliant.

  3. Great post. (tangent: I once saw a show on Food Network that profiled Disney World's agriculture, and they had managed to make Mickey-shaped broccoli. Uh-huh.)
    Good for you for taking the time to plan and figure out what you truly want, heart-shaped rice or not. We're 9 months away from our wedding, and I am continuously bombarded with questions from friends and relatives about our scandalous nontraditional decisions. But I'm so glad we're taking the time to think about what we want as opposed to just ripping the checklist page out of Brides Magazine. I like to think we're a lot smarter than that page.
    Just found your blog, will be back!

  4. This is so true. Our wedding is currently just under a year and a half away and people keep telling me not to think or worry about things as it's too far off. But this seems daft - I'm not worried, just browsing.

    So I am researching - and making an actual list of things I like. That way, in five months when I genuinely have to start booking and buying things and laying out cash then I can look again at the list, work out what is good and what is frivolous and have it all budgeted out with no nasty surprises and hopefully no stress.


I love active conversations, including (civil) disagreement. I don't love spam or people who use internet anonymity to be rude and disparaging. Spam and rudeness will be deleted.