Rethink wedding to make it easier on the majority of guests
Q: My girlfriend of four years and I are in the preliminary stages of planning our wedding. We want a unique wedding, but not large or showy; we want our important family members there; and we want to make the decisions when it comes to most details.
We both have always dreamed of having our wedding on the beach. We moved to Florida one year ago so I could attend graduate school. We both come from a town in Michigan where all of her family and most of mine still live.
I would love to have family and friends come down for several days. Why have an ordinary wedding when we can really be creative and make this an especially memorable wedding for everyone involved?
There are problems, though. Her grandparents would not be able to attend (lack of mobility), and mine probably wouldn't, either. It would be a financial strain on my girlfriend's family to come. Also, they would (strongly) prefer us to get married by a priest, to which I say "No way." We are both atheists.
To the money concerns, I have two potential antidotes: (1) Encourage people not to give a gift, and to treat themselves to a little vacation in Florida instead; and (2) Pay for the wedding ourselves, meaning the only costs for everyone would be the flight, hotel and miscellaneous costs.
I see an opportunity to have an extraordinary wedding. Is that selfish? What do you think we should do?
A: Here's what your guests hope you'll do, even if they don't know it yet themselves: Add up flights, hotels, ground transportation, meals and every other cost that triples when you're away from home, and then compare that to the 50 bucks most cost-conscious people would (rather generously) spend on your wedding gift.
Then do some role-playing, and imagine you're allotted two weeks of paid vacation from work. Now imagine you're inclined to spend those weeks, I don't know, puttering around your garden, or skiing, or lolling at Paris cafes.
Now imagine a relative asking you to spend half your annual allotment in Florida on his idea of your dream vacation — a "unique, creative and memorable" celebration of himself.
I say this without bitterness; no close family member has asked me to choose between missing a milestone, or ponying up extra savings and personal time. But these two commodities are as precious as rubies, especially at this cultural moment, and people don't appreciate being asked to part with these rubies just because a Midwestern backyard wedding doesn't seem as special as the couple fancy themselves.
If you want to wed on the beach, wed on the beach; it is your home now, after all, and your money. And, certainly, your atheism makes the priest issue a non-issue.
Just know that your dream will hurt some important family members, no matter how you rationalize it. Not just grandparents, but also those who resent being asked to choose between paying dearly or missing out.
If the backdrop matters more than family, then elope and have a Michigan reception. If family matters more, then save the beach for the honeymoon. And if you want it all, either be prepared to pay for everyone's travel expenses — or learn this most valuable skill: how to say no to yourself.