I’ve been to countless weddings, one of which was my own. This is what I’ve learned about them over the years:
- Family will try to take over. If you’re lucky, you might get away from it; “lucky” meaning that you have enough money to pay for it yourself, aren’t that close to your family, have few surviving family members, or are just so rebellious you don’t care what your family members think. For the rest of us, the event easily gets co-opted to be a family affair, not a couple’s affair. As the head of the math department at my last school said, “The wedding is for your family. The marriage is for you.” That’s not how it should be, but for a lot of couples, that’s how it is. Somewhere in the mix, you try to find special parts for just the two of you… or you just elope and go to Vegas!
- The people who care about you don’t get offended. Generally I’ve found that the people who get offended (because you didn’t invite them, or didn’t invite their spouses or children) are people who really don’t care about you. Your real friends are happy for you no matter what. That’s why, when I don’t get invited to a friend’s wedding, I’m cool with that. I still wish the couple well. I know half the seats probably got taken by some second cousin twice removed that neither the bride nor groom has met before.
- Not attending can be a good thing. Before I had my own wedding, I used to feel guilty about not attending people’s weddings. I used to think the bride or groom would be sad I wasn’t there. I’m sure, in some vague way, they probably were. Now I know that it’s actually doing them a favor. Fewer mouths to feed, a more intimate setting. Even at our relatively small wedding (about 100 guests), my wife and I barely had time to spend thirty seconds with each guest. If you want to make the bride and groom feel special, send them a gift off their registry and, when they’ve returned from their honeymoon, take them out for a nice dinner some time or do some fun things with them.
- The marriage is more important than the wedding. My wife and I will be celebrating our fifth anniversary pretty soon, and we do have some fond memories of our wedding. But no matter how much money and time you pour into making your special day… special, it’s still just one day. The whole point of a wedding is to celebrate the many years you hope to spend together afterwards—it’s about the marriage.