Last week, there was a lot of really great discussion about the WIC, or the Wedding Industrial Complex, and the ways in which consumerism has staked a big ugly claim on our personal rituals such as marriage and on the ways in which so many of us are both pulled in and repulsed by the wanting. If you haven't read both the posts yet, I highly recommend diving in.
As Jason and I have started to interview vendors and weigh our options against our values, budget, friend-helper alternatives, and wantwantwant desires, these posts were particularly resonant. Because the truth is that I want something to rail against when this gets hard. I want to be able to scream at the damn WIC for how expensive this is and for pressuring me with all the cultural expectations that I simultaneously want (pretty dress! amazing photography! fabulous shoes!) and yet know are entirely besides the point at a wedding. These desires and decisions are fraught with import, silliness, and the emotional weight of marriage, and I find myself wanting an easy scapegoat, and the effing WIC fits that need pretty d*mn well.
However, in my more thoughtful moments, I know that there is no easy target for my frustration because there is no single Evil Wedding Beast. I think the recent Classic APW post about the WIC over at A Practical Wedding captured the true complexities and my feelings on the matter. Meg's definition of the WIC is one of the best I've seen, as she explains how the WIC encompasses the Wedding Industry, the societal expectations about The Way Things Are Done (and therefore, usually, the way we are not necessarily doing things and therefore Ruining Everything), and our own complicit desires in wanting all the pretty things that we're being sold by the Wedding Industry.
As I get deeper into the decision-making process, I'm finding it even more difficult to get riled up by Wedding Industry hatred, and therefore even more confused about my frustrations. I've never been anti-business or anti-profit: Jason and I both work in the private sector and I, in particular, am dedicated to reforming public policy outcomes via critical buy-in and involvement by business entities. However, I'd heard so many horror stories and frustrations about wedding markup and ripoffs that I was wary about embarking on this vendor search. And I've been genuinely horrified by the insidious ways in which the Wedding Industry (as a whole, not necessarily it's individual players) have given us "must have" guidelines that warp our perceptions of need versus want on everything related to weddings.
Given my wariness, it's been a genuine pleasure to recently meet so many lovely, dedicated, hardworking, caring, artists and smart scrupulous businesspeople who happen to tailor their work to meet the wedding market and needs. Yes, artists. And yes, businesspeople I would love to work with (again and again and again), if money were no object. In particular, the artists we're meeting with (musicians, DJs, photographers, caterers/chefs) during this process challenge these false demarcations between Indie and WIC weddings. It's true that there are wedding professionals who simply identified a market and provide a service, but it's also true that there are incredible artists out here who appreciate the emotion and importance of a wedding and have directed their artistry towards serving the wedding market niche out of joy and business principles. Our own DJ search has been really illustrative of the difference. Once we admitted that yes, a DJ was important to us, we started emailing around and getting references. We received some quotes from people who seemed passable and like they provided reasonable music services without the cheeseball overtones. Professional, matter-of-fact service providers. And then, we emailed the Flashdance DJ, on the remotest offchance it was in our budget. The experience of meeting Michael in person showed us that his DJ services have very little to do with the standard wedding expectations. Aside from getting us geekily excited about his musical transitions, mixing and choices on his sample CD, monthly mixes, and the recent in-person experience at the Kick Ass Cake Bash, Michael just got it: music, weddings, business, and everything we were aiming for in our day. Talking to him got us excited. Talking to him about the entire Flashdance wedding artist collective with Max Wanger, Our Labor of Love and other expanding options got us excited about their entire approach to weddings as an important emotional experience that they want to serve artistically.
It may be out of our price range to hire high end artists for all our wedding needs, but it feels good and right to be searching out and working with people who I like, respect, and admire as people and artists. It doesn't feel WIC-like at all, in the railing-against-it way I've been thinking about it. I don't feel the need to rail against anyone or anything. It simply feels right, albeit understandably expensive. In refusing to work with vendors I don't respect and adore, I've found there's a lot less to rail against at all. My wedding doesn't feel crass or commercial or like a process of exploitation by vendors. I've ended up simply wishing I had a lot more money to support all the artists I've found and adore via this wedding research process.
I think, perhaps, those of us who rail against the expectations for weddings and who want to focus on the honesty and emotion of the day while not breaking the bank or DIYing everything have it rough. We want to scream about the WIC because this whole process is so effing expensive. So we turn away from the Knot and Martha etc and towards websites that promote independent artists and handcrafted options that better meet our aesthetic and ethical values. And then we're furious that we get sucked into the "alternative" vintage-type, sunburst photography, impossible DIY paper decor insanity and aspirations. "Eff you and your d*amn inspiration boards!" we cry, confused about where WIC and Indie begin and end, because we've ended up coveting stuff and getting further away from the meaning of the day when we really thought that's what we were avoiding. While my ethics support the trend towards quality, handcrafted (if possible), service-driven, local business, entrepreneurship by artists who really value the music, photography, food, desserts, flowers, and other wedding-related options out there, hanging around the so-called Indie blogs is really just a shift in the aesthetic and type of sales and manipulation inherent in this negotiation with the WIC.
I stepped away from the photo/planning centric blogs around the holidays, when I had overdosed on "inspiration" and needed time to focus on my family and what's truly important about the holiday season. But now, as we hit the year-out mark from our April 2011 wedding, I've had to jump back in. I'm researching vendors and those sites have a tremendous amount of resources for the sort of artists I value. Yes, we're also reaching out for referrals, we've been inspired by many of you, and we have a ton of creative independent-minded ideas of our own. But, if you're starting to research DJs and photographers and invitation options (because you've already deemed these things important to you and not because you need them), there's a real benefit to a centralized location that largely aligns with your aesthetics and possibly even your values. But there's also a real chance you'll either overdose on bullshit details or you'll crawl away licking your budgetary wounds because you can't afford the amazing artist photographers you found. We're running smack up against the Wedding Industry, but it's hard to rail against the WIC when I'm really just against my own budget limitations and honest desires for beauty, art, and joy.