Jewish World Review April 29, 2002/ 17 Iyar, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

The irritation of the modern wedding | Open a wedding invitation these days and tiny wisps flutter. These are not gossamer wings of love or even those irritating Hallmark sprinkles. Nay, these are your gift instructions, perhaps involving "Club Wed," Target's retailing coup of weddings. Brides once registered sublime day and formal patterns for 8. Now they register right down to the Rubbermaid swing-open forest green garbage cans and the Coleman cooler on Aisle 16.

These crass inserts in wedding invitations have crossed into Osbourne territory. Last week brought a printed insert card of demands: 3 retail stores including phone number and Web site for Bed, Bath & Beyond, and, "for more information about gifts go to" Names changed to protect the tacky.

Another invitation with a ransom card had not just gift sources, but one additional instruction, "Please include gift receipt." Emily Post, where art thou? Towels and mattress pads have staged a coup d'etat over romance. Christmas commercialization pales in comparison to the materialism of the modern wedding.

Young lovers wherever you are: Have smaller weddings and invite people who know you or your family well enough to pick up the phone to find out which Rival crock pot you prefer. Don't invite more people than you can thank. All this computerized gift organization and brides skip the gratitude. Couldn't Club Wed issue a form thank you letter, with the bride springing for a hand-penned smiley face and postage?

Were gift demands my only bone to pick with modern brides, I would remain sullen, but mute. However, wedding irritants abound.

Staged proposals set the tone for these outrageous affairs, as it were. A Phoenix newspaper columnist proposed to his girlfriend via his column. In 2000, the valedictorian at Princeton finished his graduation speech with a proposal to his also graduating, although not as high in class rank, girlfriend. She stood on a chair with a "Yes!" sign. The academic dean at Princeton should have revoked their degrees. Keep the proposals to yourselves. Get down on your knees in a quiet place and tell us when it's over, not during.

Weddings are too expensive, with the national average being $20,000, not including he honeymoon. Even a Vegas deal will hit the credit card max, sans the Elvis impersonator witness option. Why spend this much when you've sent your guests gift shopping at Target?

Ceremonies are not about location, location, location. Avoid the hobby or we-met-here ceremonies. No skydiving, scuba-diving, or mountain-climbing weddings. Christie Brinkley was married on the slopes of Aspen because she met her third husband in a helicopter crash there. The marriage lasted a year because his après ski marriage activity was embezzling from her.

Don't demand travel from guests. No Tom Hanks' "Castaway" islands. The 86-year-old grandmother of the groom will curse as she is hauled onto the beach in compression hose and orthopedic shoes. Your guests just sprung for a $17.99 waffle iron with $3.50 for deluxe wrapping. Give them a break and keep your wedding in the states, preferably a chapel.

Outdoor weddings should be a felony. I've seen a smiling bride ride up to the ceremony in a water-ski boat as we dripped sweat on the shore. Mosquitoes, lightening, heat everywhere except St. Louis where there is simply steam, diving birds, bees, overhead planes, rain, and grass stains are outdoor wedding risks. Weddings at brides' homes anger neighbors. At one wedding an uninvited neighbor let his goats loose during the ceremony. Add goats to your list of hazards.

Leave the ceremony to the pros. Don't write vows. You have to pay the minister anyway and St. Paul and the Corinthians do wax eloquent on love.

Have the bride put on some clothes. Modern Bride, a $10 door stop complete with, oddly, VD tips, has gowns for streetwalkers. We don't want to see backs, navels, tattoos, or cleavage. Of course, Catherine Zeta-Jones couldn't help her cleavage when she married Michael Douglas because she was nursing their child, during the reception. First comes love, then comes baby, then comes the prenup, and then the marriage.

Therein lies the problem. The modern wedding is anticlimactic because the couple has already coupled. In fact, most have already moved in together. Gen X and Gen Y have coined the term "starter marriage," the one you intend to blow. Weddings have become a fairly futile exercise, a chance to cash in while meeting your prerequisite for divorce.

I asked a young man, married but a few days, how married life was. He replied, "About the same, just more jewelry." Couples who are already living together throw expensive parties to add a ring and bring in those dictated gifts.

The designer dresses, the schmaltzy vows, and locations so outrageous that they make the B section of the newspaper are no guarantees. Extravaganzas seal fates, not marriages. Do a sanity and tact check on your wedding. Then put the time and effort into the marriage and thank you notes for whatever gifts your dear friends decide to give, all on their own.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings