Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why Planning A Wedding Is A Cruel Fate That Should Only Be Reserved As Torture In The Ninth Circle of Hell

I Want To Get Married

I want to get married.  I do.  To Rafael Ascencio.

The idea that I found anyone who wants to spend the rest of his life with me, and that that person happens to be someone with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, and that the state in which we live made gay marriage legal are three deeply unlikely events that have colluded to make me want to get married.  I never thought I'd want to get married.  But now I do.  And when you want to get married, you have to plan a wedding.

Planning The Wedding

My sister looked at me in undisguised horror when I told her I was going to have a wedding party (she had her best friend standing up at the ceremony with her, and that was it).  In fact, when she and her now-husband were getting serious, she informed him in no uncertain terms that she did not want to be proposed to.  She thought it was demeaning.  If/when they wanted to talk about marriage, they would do it in a civilized, equitable way.  The incredibly talented Leslie Kritzer and Vadim Feichtner had a small ceremony a few weeks ago and invited everyone to meet them at a bar in midtown after, where there were toasts and libations and some of the most delicious cake I've ever eaten in my life.  The event was beautiful and it captured them in all of their glory.

I proposed to Rafael on May 24, 2012, on one knee, with a ring.  We're having a wedding party of our nearest and dearest, that includes my brother (who also didn't have a wedding party) and my sister (who seemed flattered, confused and disturbed when I asked her to be in mine).  There are many conventions of a traditional wedding we're not following, but basically, we've signed up for the kit and caboodle.  The irony is not lost on me: gays rush to the conventions of wedding and institution of marriage that our straight brothers and sisters eschew as old-fashioned and antiquated.  When you've had to fight for something, you appreciate it differently.

I can't wait for my wedding.  But planning it has been unadulterated hell.

Why Planning A Wedding Is A Cruel Fate That Should Only Be Reserved As Torture In The Ninth Circle of Hell be fair, I don't think Rafael would describe the experience of planning a wedding in any way equivalent to getting your wisdom teeth pulled out.  But in the same way that my dentist didn't really explain to me that getting my wisdom teeth pulled would involve a big, sweaty Iranian dentist yanking on them with a wrench, no one really told me what the experience of wedding-planning would be like.  Or maybe they did, and I just didn't believe them.  I'm a theater director, after all.  I'm used to putting on shows.  How could this be so different?

Most Wedding Vendors Are Hateful People Who Try To Rob You

If a vendor is primarily in the wedding industry (a wedding photographer, for example, as opposed to just a photographer, or a wedding planner as opposed to say, an events planner), chances are they want to rob you.  They want to use your insecurities, fragility and vulnerability to charge you at least twice as what their service would go for in any other context. 

 Delphi Harrinton, the gorgeous actress whose equally beautiful husband Norm just passed away last week, described to me how people in the death industry tried to take advantage of her, and I couldn't help but think of the local Connecticut photographer whose starting price to shoot my wedding was more than I had been paid for my last directing job.  Now, I know it's a lot of work, and there's overhead, and lots of other expenses.  But still.  It takes me a month to a direct a play.  It would take this photographer one day to shoot my wedding.  And not one full day, either, because her starting package was only an eight-hour period.

One of the best pieces of advices that I got about wedding planning that, whenever possible, don't tell the vendor that you're contracting their service for a wedding.  The guy who runs the BBQ joint down the street in Waterford has no idea that the two lambs I want smoked on May 26th are for a wedding.  As far as he's concerned, they're just for an event at the O'Neill.  Female friends have performed similar experiments - hairdressers and florists are notorious for the "bridal special," which as far as I can tell, just means +50% cost.

Part of why robbing brides and grooms is so easy is because most of us have never been married before.  Think about how much more you knew about buying a car or apartment the second time you did it (I, of course, live in Manhattan so I don't know anything about either of those things).  Because most people only have one huge wedding in their life, our newbie status makes us vulnerable.

Money Money Money

Rafael told me it would be tacky for me to discuss how much we're spending on our wedding.  I told him that I'm tacky all the time.  He looked at me with a mixture of pity and sadness in his eyes, so I've decided not to reveal how much money our parents are spending on our wedding (and yes, our parents are paying for it because there's no way we'd be able to).  Let me put it like this - it's half of what some non-rich friends of mine spent on their wedding.  It's more than the budget of some off-off Broadway shows I've directed.  And it's certainly more money than I will ever spend in a single day.  The idea that I'm spending this much money on my wedding makes me re-examine my priorities in a fundamental way

Last month, I bought a Calvin Klein jacket for $100.  It was at an outlet store, and had been marked down from $350.  It's actually, three jackets in one - a warm, puffy snug thing that can be worn on its own, a water-proof shell that can also be worn on its own, and finally it serves as a heavy winter-jacket when the two pieces fit into each other.  My only rain jacket was a trench coat (Burberry, natch) that my uncle had given me a decade ago, which is still awesome, but can't be worn in any casual setting unless I want to look like a flasher.  My old winter jacket was easily twenty years old.  I really needed a new jacket, and this one was a steal.  And yet, my hand still trembled as I presented the credit card to the cashier.

I hate spending money.  And the idea that I'm spending this much on my wedding sickens me .  And the fact that it's still not even nearly enough for me to to throw the kind of bash that I want sickens me even more.

The Crux Of It

And this is really the crux of it - the reason that planning weddings are such hell.  We are forced to compromise every day of our life.  If you're a theater director, as I am, you're sometimes even forced to compromise two or three times a day, which is much more than I think can reasonably be expected of anyone.  And there's this myth that on our Special Day (it will be Special regardless of how much mula you fork out), the most Important Day Of Your Life (I find the idea that there is a "most important day of anyone's life" totally ridiculous, and even more so if that day is your wedding) you should have everything exactly the way you want it.    

But as anyone who has gotten married can tell you, it's not going to be like that.  Wedding vendors want you to believe this lie, so they can highway rob you sans the highway.  And if you buy into it, all you're doing is playing into their nefarious, exploitative, evil hands.

Don't do it.  Pretend you're a theater director.  Compromise in the good way.  And like in great theater, the limitations will free you, leading you to imaginative and beautiful and unique solutions that a bottomless well of money could never offer.


  1. Yes, the photographer is a big ticket item, and the single largest expense at our wedding. My advice is to encourage anyone coming to bring a camera, and to take lots of pics. Whether or not you use a pro, there will be some candid shots your friends will record that would otherwise be missed. Also, you would like to have at least one photo of everyone there. xoCz

  2. Man, you can WRITE! I love reading your stuff!
    When I got married, I didn't use a wedding planner. The wedding "industry workers" are for people who don't understand theatre. If you need someone to help you coordinate, hire an out of work stage manager and make his/her day!
    Re: photographers .... At my wedding, I handed out disposal cameras (it was 1986) and told people to shoot pix all day and leave the cameras as they departed. Got great shots! And I was so glad I had hired a wonderful photographer as well. If you are looking, I know a FABULOUS photographer: Justine Cooper, she's an artist and photographer who captures extraordinary action shots. She did my nieces wedding, pictures to die for.