The Green Wedding Chronicles: Remembering the Real Investment



“What if, as a society, we celebrated other milestones instead? Wouldn’t it be amazing if college graduations were given the wedding treatment? If the commencement ceremony included a $3,000 dress and a $70-a-plate dinner for friends and family who came in from all over the country? Photographers, flowers, dancing, a band? “You’ve got to see my graduation video. It was so beautiful!” What would be the outcome if little girls had 32 television shows to watch about that? Would that give them something else to aspire to? To dream about?” ~ Valerie Alexander (from her article in the Huffington Post)

As I’ve mentioned before, our wedding is intentionally green both in how we respect the earth AND how we choose not to buy into the media and societal frenzy about what makes a wedding (AKA, spending tens of thousands of dollars). I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about weddings lately, and most are the same story – traditional wedding obsession, massive spending, and making it less about the two of them and more about spending six months’ income for a few hours of partying and a whole lot of waste left behind at the end. Some even express feeling conflicted about it, yet don’t seem to dare veer away from the status quo.

Calling Out the Overspending

Some say you shouldn’t say anything if others choose to spend tens of thousands on their wedding. Being this is me, I call bullshit on that. Your parents fronting the bill so you think it’s no big deal if you spend all that money? You have so much money on your own that you say it’s your prerogative? See, to me that’s still a problem. Just because they will doesn’t mean they should. Just because you can doesn’t mean you must. If your parents or you have $30K lying around and you choose to spend that all on that one occasion? It just is a bit too telling about what’s so, so wrong with our society. I’m not trying to take away anyone’s right to do what they want, just trying to get people to stop for a serious reality check about following what others say your wedding should include.

If you don’t have to worry about retirement, a rainy day fund, kids, or other plans for your future that requires financial means, at least think about how many people you could help with thirty thousand bucks.

And trust me, I get it. I have a Pinterest board. I had dreams as a little girl, playing MASH as I was taught by society to think of boys as the top priority of growing up, while none of my the boy friends had anything even remotely similar to play or look to. They were looking at careers and adventures.

So first, I’m not talking about not having a special day, I’m just saying, is your day not special if you only paid a couple thousand bucks for everything rather than twenty or thirty times that?? Will you regret in ten years that you didn’t spend more on fancy invitations or floral centerpieces?

Food for Thought

Here’s some food for thought from this CNN article, Don’t Waste Money on Your Wedding

  1. “On one hand, it’s a once in a lifetime occasion. On the other, it’s just that — once — that you’ll only be wearing your wedding dress, so do you really want to spend a couple of mortgage payments on it?”

  2. “Your guests’ presence is a present, indeed, but you don’t have to pay them back with custom-printed tchotchkes that you might end up lugging home or tossing in the trash.”

  3. “It’s bubbly, elegant and oh so festive, but truth be told, champagne is a lousy pairing with cake, and half-filled glasses and barely eaten slices end up littering the tables.”

It’s pretty amazing at how much cleanup happens after a wedding. We thought about all the leftovers that might occur just from our simple small dinner we have planned, and the fact that with so much dinner that folks may not have room for dessert! And with that, I contacted the restaurant and cut our food order by a third. (Dude, the pies that Gretchen makes? Worth saving room for.)

Priorities, Priorities!

A great piece of advice I have seen out there was to pick three things when making a big decision, which for this would be the top three priorities for the wedding for the two of us – then not worry about the rest. For us, it was to say our vows at our favorite little spot on the coast (where we have beautiful memories), have a good photographer document our special day (neither of us have had a professional photographer since senior pictures in high school and as a photographer myself, it’s been kind of a dream), and take a honeymoon trip right here in the Northwest (a chance to explore our surroundings in a way we normally don’t afford ourselves).

Our venue cost nothing, our photographer’s fee was reasonable (we paid cash), and our honeymoon is set for autumn when less tourists are about, fall colors are kicking in, and so we can use a portion of an upcoming inheritance to finance a bit nicer hotel selection. (Nope, not spending the entire inheritance on the honeymoon – the majority is being used to pay down our mortgage). Who said you need to rush off on a trip the day after the wedding? After all the traveling we have done, we’re looking forward to a quiet summer enjoying each others’ company, working on the house and in the garden, and growing my business while Dan volunteers at local nonprofits until his employment authorization is processed.

But What About the Dress?

Yes, yes, I want to look pretty for my sweetheart when we exchange vows, yet the longer I looked at dresses, the more I realized how simple I wanted this to be and how awkward I would feel in a big fancy gown.  Not to mention how silly it was that most dresses are made in sweatshop conditions, and the fancy boutiques usually require a minimum of 6-12 months. To me, that’s crazy! I can’t imagine getting engaged then not getting married fairly soon thereafter – never would we allow a vendor to determine when we say “I Do”. A friend here in town is making my dress, honoring my love of vintage fabrics and eco-style, and refuses to charge me an arm and a leg for it.

Rethinking Gift Giving Traditions

The quote at the top that I included really hit home with me. When I got my degree at age 31, I didn’t receive any cards or gifts or parties. I got a piece of paper in the mail and a mountain of student loan debt that no one offered to chip in on. Imagine if I had created a gift registry for student loan payments – would anyone take that seriously? Kinda doubt it. Yet I received so many inquiries about if I had created a registry for my wedding that I finally did, but made it explicit that we are not expecting gifts.  And the stuff we did put on the list? Gift cards. We couldn’t think of anything and felt kind of silly making a list of specific things out. Maybe it’s getting married in our 40’s, but all we are looking for from our friends is their presence in our lives.

It comes down to this: we are making an investment in each other. Our marriage is more important of a focus than any one day. Our life we have built and will continue to build is the investment. So with that, we choose simplicity.

“Try to make the life decisions your 37-year-old self would want you to make, not the ones the seven-year-old you fantasized about. Want the marriage, knowing all that it will demand of you. Want the child, realizing that her needs will come first for the next 20 years. Choose the man who will take care of the laundry and change the baby’s diapers when you’ve got the flu, rather than the one who spent a month choreographing his proposal so that the video of it would go viral. Understand what you’re getting into and put your energy into planning your union, not planning your wedding. That’s the key to a happy marriage and a happy life.” ~ Valerie Alexander (from her article in the Huffington Post)

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