Now I'm working on One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, which even though I'm not very far into it, I think probably should be required for anyone who wants to be sensible about weddings. I'm going to get Dan to read it after I'm done, as one of the interesting points she makes in the beginning is how part of the purpose of the hype from the wedding industry is to overwhelm engaged women to the point of feeling like they absolutely have to rely on wedding professionals to stage the kind of event that's up to people's expectations--expectations that are conveniently also set by the wedding industrial complex.
An anecdote from this weekend:
on the drive to a Chinese supermarket Saturday morningAs hard as I have worked in my adult life to convince my mom that I am sensible about money, still it's feasible enough in her head that she didn't question a deviance from that immediately. I'm going to choose to believe it's the WIC's fault and not her faith in me.
mom: so have you guys picked out a venue yet?
me: yeah, we've got this place in Princeton.
mom: how much is the site rental fee?
mom: oh...that's rather expensive...
me: yeah, well.
on the drive back
mom: so, are you guys really settled on that place? that really seems pretty expensive (actually I can't quite remember how she brought it up again, but sufficiently close to this anyway)
me: yeah, well, the cheapest place we found that would be large enough was twelve hundred.
mom: wait, twelve hundred??
mom: how much is your place?
me: twenty-four hundred.
mom: OH. Oh god, I thought you had said twenty-four thousand!
me: mom! I'm so surprised you were that restrained if you thought I was spending that much! if I had that much I would totally buy a house instead.
mom: yeah! well I just thought, maybe she's changed somehow.
Even with that, my mom was a little uneasy that serving just dessert and sandwiches would be too simple. After I outlined some initial full hot meal catering estimates for her, she came around a bit more, and then I confirmed that Dan and I would be paying for everything ourselves. The main thing really is just that food is not good value; you have to spend a lot to get decent food.
She's going to look into whether there might be Chinese restaurants that do off-site catering but probably what they'll go with is that my parents will take out all the Chinese guests to a Chinese restaurant afterwards and pay for that themselves, which she estimates would cost about $1000. I think it's partly that she does want to be able to spend some more time with family friend guests from out-of-town, but also an idea about the minimum that they'd have to do to pass muster for the Chinese guests' expectations. Since my mom is a fair and sensible woman, though, she doesn't expect us to shoulder the burden of that expectation, for which I am grateful.
More good reading on class and weddings:
I'm trying to develop more bravery against the deep aversion to more openly say, "I can't afford this," without any ensuing feelings of guilt about not making more money so that I wouldn't be in that situation, because money earned is tied to effort which is tied to your character--American culture just can't escape its Puritan roots.
Even still, I feel defensive and have the urge to qualify it by saying, "It's not that I can't afford it, it's that I choose to be prudent and save money and with what's left I can't justify purchasing this item." But that's still silly, in the end. Not being rich shouldn't cause feelings of shame (and conversely, just like not wanting to go to med school or to grad school just yet shouldn't make me feel inadequate either, as much as my father tries).