Dating and Relationship Advice

I’ve never been someone who looks forward to her wedding. I don’t have a Pinterest board devoted to the aesthetics of flower bouquets and cake designs. I haven’t been planning the day since girlhood. Sure, I tried to picture it after I watched 27 Dresses for the first time, but I never devoted much time to imagining the details. Why would I plan something that felt so far off?

My parents got married right after they graduated from college, as did some of my close friends. This made sense for them; they knew who they wanted to be with, so why wait? But this was never something that I could see myself doing. At 22, I’d been in two failed relationships. I had debt and limited job prospects. I didn't know who I wanted to be with, let alone what my wedding would look like. At 22, my wedding felt just as far off as it had when I was 12.

In truth, I didn’t look forward to a ritual that demanded I be the center of attention. The thought of everyone I know resting their eyes on me carried with it a promise of discomfort and intense anxiety, if not outright panic. On the day, the bride must look beautiful. She must talk to everyone. The bride carries a responsibility to ensure the guests get their money’s worth, so to speak. I can’t imagine asking a hundred people to take an entire day off and buy a present for me without even providing them with an open bar.

As I’ve reached my mid-twenties, it’s started to feel like every month brings news of more engagements, more wedding invitations. Sometimes, these weddings are fun; a big celebratory party in which everyone dresses up, drinks, and dances. Other times, though, even attending a wedding feels like a lot of work. Guests are expected to buy a gift, buy a dress, and rent a hotel room. If I can’t afford to attend others' weddings, how could I ever fund one on my own?

Even though the thought of a hundred people watching me walk down the aisle no longer induces severe heart palpitations, my cynicism around weddings has grown. I resent buying in (quite literally) to the idea that I have to spend 40 thousand dollars to “correctly” start a life with the person I love. While I like the idea of dressing up for a bacchian celebration, I don't want to tie myself to a man. Weddings, after all, are a remnant of the days when women couldn’t own property, had to be bargained over, and wore white to demonstrate their angelic purity. I’m not too taken with the idea of everyone I’ve ever known watching my dad hand me off to the poor sucker I end up marrying. Then of course, I take his last name, become absorbed into his personhood, and dispose of my own.

I know I don’t need to be married to feel fulfilled. And of course, I know that I can change my wedding ceremony to better suit my non-patriarchal needs. But ultimately, there’s no way to throw a wedding that completely abandons the sexist history or the industry that I find to be so overly indulgent.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best weddings feel like big party. A good party needs good music, good guests, and usually, liquor. I won’t label my wedding “the biggest day of my life.” It will just be the biggest, most expensive party that I ever throw. Parties are about more than the hosts. By the time I get married, my friends will hopefully be able to afford gifts off the registry, but ideally by then I won’t need a registry. Waiting later into adulthood will better equip me to afford the occasion that I hope for. If I had married in my early twenties, I would have joined a partnership without learning about myself first. Not only have the years I’ve stayed unmarried taught me more about myself and what I want in a partner, but they’ve given me the time to learn what I’d need to make a wedding worth it to me.