Monday, January 13, 2014

Mazel tov! Wedding Show Fun (Just add 50%)

Well, my son proposed to his girlfriend after four years together. He's 21 and she's 24, so I suppose it's to be expected, and his bride is wonderful...but that my youngest child should be the first of my three to wed is as bizarre to me as the fact that I can no longer claim to be 25.

So today my son and I went to our first Wedding Show.

If you believe the entrepreneurial spirit is clipped by this slow economy, you're wrong; economic malaise heightens competition. And in our state of Washington, same-sex marriage has been legal for a year, bringing a new market of locals and customers from out of state to a burgeoning crop of vendors seeking their share.

In addition, weddings entice families to splurge, with the justification that it's a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Two studies found that vendors charge significantly more when the same event is called a "wedding" versus a "family party." Photographers, party gear rental companies, caterers and musicians all add a surreptitious surcharge just because they can. Potential profit drew all sorts of businesses to rent booths at the Seattle Convention Center, and their presence spurred brides and their emotional moms to shell out $17 each to enter.

Which my son and I did today. What did we find? Long rows of colorfully-decorated booths with brochure-thrusting attendants. Tables of samples of cakes. Performers plucking harps or repeating soppy standards on violins. A fashion show of wedding gowns and tuxedos, punctuated by choreographed jazzy interludes of groomsmen cavorting with brides in matching black fedoras. A section filled with wedding dresses to try on. None of the gowns I saw, in the entire showroom floor and hundreds of feet of racks, had any type of sleeve, and the vast majority were low cut and strapless.

The chaos was oppressive, like sitting in traffic while everyone's honking. The cacophony of musicians and boom boxes blaring from booths, the voices of hustling vendors, the squeals of delight and disgust melded to a headache-inducing mélange, visually amplified by ubiquitous bouquets of orange, magenta and lime. Each product played into the romantic ideal with its own twist. One invitation company imbued its papers with seeds so its recycling would flower. One decorator created an arch of old books, rentable for about $900. A party goods company offered rustic cedar tables, mismatched tableware and mason jar glasses. Travel agents peddled Eco-honeymoons and photo-booth purveyors snapped freebie samples of passersby borrowing feather boas.

I discovered my son likes purple and white floral arrangements. That he doesn't want a
photo booth, and he'd like a friend to take pictures. Being kosher, all the caterers with their fake hors d'oeurve platters couldn't lure us, and venues like an old castle, an inn on Hood Canal and a barn won't be replacing our synagogue. What we learned is that too many unnecessary options distort the focus of weddings from the spiritual toward the material, and that false requirements can cause couples to spend on accoutrements ultimately forgotten except when paying off credit cards.

One's definition of a "perfect wedding" can be elastic. I recall my own wedding planning, so entranced by my future husband that I didn't assert any preferences, borrowing a dress I'd never seen and letting him choose our wedding rings, simply because nothing really mattered at the time, except that I marry him. In about two weeks, we will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. I remember many aspects of our wedding, but not the menu, not the table decorations (generously executed entirely by friends) and certainly not the honeymoon, which we skipped in favor of the Jewish tradition of "sheva bruchos," seven nights of celebrations hosted by friends and family. The most costly wedding expenses were the most forgettable, and the most important were irreplaceable and come without price.

The Wedding Show was fun and informative, but my son and I agree we've been there,
done that, and his gentle-spirited bride has been spared its chaos. My son and his fiancee have plenty of decisions to make, but religious precedence removes much of that pressure, and keeps them focused on the centerpiece of their life together.


  1. Mazel Tov May you have many more smachot

  2. Congratulations to Daniel and his fiancée! May you both live and be well all your days.