In author Jabari Asim's fictionalized St. Louis -- the 'Gateway City' first introduced in his short story collection 'A Taste of Honey' –- characters come to grips with the fallout of the civil rights era in surprising ways. We talk with Asim about the fictional world he created and examine the realities of how we deal with race in America today.
First comes love, then comes marriage, as the song goes, but in between comes the wedding. Whether it’s a simple ceremony for close relatives or an extravaganza for hundreds of guests, many couples find the process fraught with financial, emotional, and logistical challenges. We explore the ins and outs of the wedding industry, and consider what it takes to plan a trip down the aisle.
- Tara Melvin Owner, Perfect Planning; President, The Association of Wedding Professionals of Greater Washington, DC
- Meg Keene publisher and executive editor of APracticalWedding.com; author "A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration"
SmartMoney’s guide to planning a guerilla wedding.
A flash mob wedding at a shopping mall in Boston, Mass.
A wedding party dances down the aisle to Akon’s “Angel.”
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Whether you marry in a tux with tails and spats or jeans and sneakers, weddings are about ceremony, celebration and commitment. They're also big business, driving an industry worth $56 billion a year. It adds up quickly, a nice dinner for a few hundred of your closest friends, a band, flowers, officiate and, of course, the dress.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut the recession has slowed spending and some think change is in the air as more and more couples often footing the bill themselves, as to the bigger is better mentality, and create events that are intimate, unique and do-it yourself. Joining us to discuss weddings, in studio, is Tara Melvin. She is a wedding and event planner who owns Perfect Planning. She's also the President of the Association of Wedding Professionals of Greater Washington, D.C. Tara Melvin, thank you for joining us and welcome.
MS. TARA MELVINWelcome, good afternoon.
NNAMDIJoining us from studios in San Francisco is Meg Keene, creator, publisher and executive editor of the website apracticalwedding.com and author of a book of the same name, Meg Keene, thank you for joining us.
MS. MEG KEENESo happy to be here.
NNAMDIAnd I know there are others who will want to join this conversation. So let me invite you right now, 800-433-8850. Want to talk weddings, this is the place. Do you think some couples need more time and energy on their -- planning their wedding then on the marriage that will follow? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Meg, in the 1800s, the typical American wedding took place in a family member's front parlor. Today the average wedding is a $25,000 affair. How did we get from there to here?
KEENEIt's interesting. I looked a lot into wedding planning over the years as I was writing my book. And I think what we see, more than anything else, is there's this accumulation of tradition that happens. We have weddings that move from the front parlor when honestly most people didn't even have access to a church, then into the church, then into the social hall. The wedding industry, as we know it today, started in the 1920s, which was interesting because it's the time where there's all this social upheaval and your daughter's getting married in a short skirt and lipstick and maybe smoking.
KEENEAnd the wedding industry sort of appears and starts reassuring mothers that this can all be very traditional. And then, from the '20s, interestingly, including the '30s and the depression and then onward, it just sort of keeps building and every tradition that's added, nothing is subtracted. And as that happens, of course, it gets more complicated and more expensive. And $25,000, of course, is the United States average. If you're in a big city, that's half of what the average wedding cost is.
NNAMDIMeg, think about your parents' wedding and what you think it would cost if you were to recreate the wedding your parents had today?
KEENEYeah, so this is an interesting story. My parents married, here in San Francisco at Grace Cathedral and then they had their reception at the Marine's Memorial Club which is a beautiful club that my grandfather helped found. And their wedding cost $2,000 in 1974. And if you inflation adjust that, it's about $8,700. And so my Mom actually, when I was telling her what weddings cost, when we were getting, you know, when we were engaged, she kept saying like, well, that doesn't make any sense, why don't you look at the wedding we had, which was comical because we're Jewish so getting married in an Episcopal Cathedral is not going to happen.
KEENEBut I looked it up for her and at the time, and what I put in the book, I estimated the same wedding, identical wedding, would cost $40,000. I have since learned, from friends who are wedding planners who work in those venues, that that same wedding would actually cost $60,000, that I had underestimated it. So we've gone from...
NNAMDIReally. Are we talking about the wedding that costs $2,000 in 1974?
KEENE$2,000 which inflation ingested is about $8,700. So apples to apples, $8,700 to about $60,000, literally identical.
NNAMDITara Melvin, the wedding industry, while still robust, was not immune to the recession. How did it affect your business and is that now starting to change?
MELVINYes, the recession did change my business. When the recession hit, I saw that a lot of clients that were approaching me, they were wanting more of the day of coordination services. So the wedding planner, as you see her, was really no longer the planner, she was the one coming in at the last minute to kind of bring everything together for the client on the wedding day.
NNAMDIThe one herding the cats on the actual day...
NNAMDI...of the wedding?
MELVINYes, yes. And so I would say, within the past year, most of my clients that are seeking me now, they are looking for that full service planner, someone to help them to plan everything from start to finish. And they are seeking me out, I would say, a year or more in advance now.
NNAMDISo you are now the bellwether on how the economy is improving?
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Men, we'd like to hear from you. Do you feel ignored? Do you feel marginalized by the wedding industry? Call us, 800-433-8850. Let your voice be heard. Meg, some couples are saving money by exchanging vows in unexpected places, public parks, museums, even on the Metro. What is a Gorilla wedding?
KEENESo this is something we actually just started writing about on the site. And it turns out all these stories started flooding in about people that got married in really unexpected places, sometimes without exactly getting the permits. And my favorite of these stories is a photographer that I work with who the couple was going to get married in Central Park, they had all the permits. It was going to be very, very tiny. It was in October, last October. And there was a snow storm in October.
KEENESo Central Park was out and it was noon and they were supposed to get married at 2:00 and they had to figure out what to do. And their options became the conference room at their hotel or to go to the Museum of Natural History in New York and just make it happen. So they picked the prettier location and literally just showed up in their wedding dress with a very small handful of close family and got married in front of some dinosaur bones.
KEENEThe interesting thing is, you know, yeah you're not technically supposed to do it but in -- we keep hearing these stories where, you know, the security guards, if it's quick and no one's making a nuisance, the security guards are far more likely to sort of feel excited and like they're in on something really neat and take a picture (unintelligible) .
NNAMDIYeah, security guards are romantic -- yeah, security guards are romantics...
NNAMDI...too, but there are some risks associated, isn't there, with pulling off a stealth wedding if someone is...
NNAMDI...considering it? What should that person keep in mind?
KEENEWell, you know, it might not work out or you might have to move the location. It is a not...
NNAMDIIt's true, you got to have a sense of humor, right?
KEENEYeah, correct. It is not the thing to do if you are a type A planner and you need to know exactly how everything is going to roll out. But, you know, if you're planning a wedding and it's very short notice and you just want to go to the -- your local park, as long as you are very kind to everybody and you don't bring a lot of people with you, chances are it may work out for you.
NNAMDIMeg Keene, she is the creator, publisher and executive editor of the website, apracticalwedding.com, author of a book of the same name. She joins us from studios in San Francisco. Here with us in our Washington studio is Tara Melvin. She is a wedding and event planner who owns Perfect Planning. She's also the President of the Association of Wedding Professionals of Greater Washington, D.C. Perfect Planning, I like to say that. She's -- she's got Perfect Planning. Here is Brian in Alexandria, Va. Brian, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANThank you, Kojo, for taking my call. Well, this kind of fits in with what you were just talking about. It's sort of the non-traditional, somewhat, stealth weddings. And this has been going on for a while because my wedding was -- we're coming up on our 20 year anniversary. But in 1992, I spent a couple of months and planned a completely surprised wedding for my wife. I got the location, I figured out, I got a judge, I got a limo, flowers, I had everything planned and this was out of state. We were planning to take a cruise and I had it all planned.
BRIANSo the first stop, when we got off, when everybody else was just in their shorts and shirts going off in the things, different things, I proposed to my wife and when we got off there was a limo waiting and it took us -- we had to get some of the papers and we went, you know, took us to this great historic location where we got married. We had a private tour, all around this location and got back on the boat. None of our family or friends or anybody knew we were married until we got home. And my wife, between the time I proposed and time I got married, was about an hour and a half. And that's how much time she had.
NNAMDIWell, I'm still stuck in that hour and a half because I'm wondering what Brian -- if she had said no.
BRIANNo, well, yeah, that's true and when we first -- when the first stop, when we got in the limo, was to the court house. We had to get the -- she had to find -- sign the papers. And in addition to the ring that I'd given her, actually before the ring, I'd given her this very decorative pen. And I said, you never know -- and I had this little thing written up in life's travels and things. You never know what you might -- you want to write down, you'll need a pen for. But that was kind of symbolic, because the first thing she had to do was sign the papers when we showed up.
BRIANAgain, I'd been planning this for months and the people in the office, the news had gotten kind of around that this -- I'd been planning this surprise wedding. And I told everybody, there's obviously the chance that she could say no. But when we got there to show up and she was in a nice dress and I was in my suit and everything. And so, yeah, we're here to sign and they said are you, Mary? And she said, yeah. And she turned and she said yes. And everybody in the office went -- it sort of worked its way around the office.
BRIANShe said, yes, they'd sort of been -- had a bet going whether or not she would've said yes or not. So it was quite exciting to the people in the court house where we got --and then where we had to sign in this little town. And so, yeah, we had a -- it was a completely surprise wedding. I've not talked to anybody -- I know people have done -- gone and eloped, but I hadn't talked to anybody...
NNAMDII've heard of Gorilla weddings, but I haven't heard of a what-if wedding before.
BRIANThe surprise -- yes.
BRIANNone of her family or friends knew. It wasn't until we got home that anybody in our family -- in fact, I sent out special little surprise invitations that had kind of a believe-it-or-not-theme and I sent those around and that's how our family found out and people found out.
NNAMDIYeah, thank you for sharing that story, Brian. What if she said no wedding? Tara, for a while, videos of wild first dances seemed to be taking over the internet. What new trends have you been noticing?
MELVINWell, I myself have not had the opportunity to have a wild first dance at any of my events. But I will say, since we just had a gentleman on the phone, that men are more involved in the process now.
MELVINThey are making the decisions, they're coming to all of the meetings, they're having more input and more involvement. Another trend that I've been seeing is that my clients, they want everything in one location. They don't want to move from a church, then travel about 30 minutes, getting in traffic and going to the reception site. So they're doing everything in one location. Where food is concerned, stations are very popular. It's just a more popular form of a buffet. However, they can signature it by having different cultures of food where guests can have the opportunity to mingle and to go around to grab their food and to communicate and talk with each other. And the popular candy and dessert stations are more popular now.
KEENEAnd if I can jump in, sorry.
NNAMDIPlease do, Meg.
KEENEAbout the sort of surprise wedding in the gender -- the gender divide or...
NNAMDIOnce they started -- once I got my first invitation to a baby shower, I knew that the walls were down. And that we could be involved...
KEENEThey are down.
NNAMDIBut go ahead.
KEENEMy favorite line from a reader was that the wedding is not a surprise party for the groom. He doesn't get to just show up. And we put that on the site and then in the comments, someone said, actually, I was at a wedding that was a surprise party for the groom. It was the reverse of the caller's story.
NNAMDIThe Brian story.
KEENEBut apparently, it was a little bit horrifying. The bride just stood up in the middle of what the groom thought was his birthday party and announced they were getting married. And it was very unclear if the groom was happy about this. So...
NNAMDII like this story better.
KEENE...that is what not to do. That's a little risky.
NNAMDIYeah, I like the riskys. But Meg, our collective expectations for gender roles within marriage have changed significantly in the last few decades. As I said, I was invited to -- now get invited to baby showers. But it seems that there's a persistent gender divide within the wedding industry. Why is that?
KEENEThe wedding industry historically catered to women and weddings have historically been planned by women. And I think we're still all -- even those of us that are very focused on egalitarian partnerships are still -- it's still a bit of a struggle. Certainly with our wedding planning my husband was very involved. We used to produce theater as a team before we got together so there was never a question that he was going to get involved.
KEENEBut I had to learn that we cared about the wedding differently. And that doesn't mean that he just got to do the fun stuff. 'Cause the advice you tend to hear in mainstream wedding circles is, well the way to get your groom involved, if you have a groom, is to have them just do the things they're interested in, which I always feel like that sets you up for a lifetime of problems. If wedding planning is anything useful it's practice for all the other things you're going to do together in your life. And, you know, your husband doesn't just get to do the fun things, taking care of kids, right? He has to do everything.
KEENESo I think narrowing this gender divide often is about just good communication. And my husband explaining to me that, you know, he didn't -- he cared about flowers in general, but he didn't care about looking at a hundred pictures of flowers. So learning sort of how we both worked and then meeting in the middle was what was really valuable for us.
NNAMDITara, you mentioned earlier about men getting more involved in the planning themselves now, but go ahead.
MELVINRight. And I would, just to piggyback on that, last year we did a panel, the Association of Wedding Professionals where we bring in previous clients to discuss their wedding experience. And all the men on the panel said that they would love to be more involved but there are no avenues as far as things that are catered to them or being marketed to them to draw them into the process.
MELVINSo they are looking for that communication to see how is it that they can be more involved. I think that whenever they see on television or the marketing ads, it's all about the female. It's all about the bride down from the dress to the ring to the whole wedding experience. So I think that if there was more out there to market towards them I think they would be a little bit more proactive as far as getting into the process.
NNAMDIDown to how magazines are laid out in Union Station, our producer Tayla Burney stopped by the Barnes and Noble there yesterday, counted at least 17 different wedding magazines overall in the store, all in the women interest section. They need to put some of those in the general sections of the bookstore. Here is Carl in Baltimore, Md. Carl, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CARLGood afternoon. I'd like to just weigh in on the nontraditional versus traditional aspect that we've been talking about. I'm a disc jockey in Baltimore, Md. area and I do events in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Delaware, anywhere I'm needed. And I've definitely seen a trend where men in general seem to be very happy to have input in the music for the wedding. That is one area where, in fact, I will even go so far as to say that I've actually dealt primarily with men, the grooms in, you know, say maybe 30 percent of the time where they'll initiate the contact with me. They will kind of set up the meetings and the bride will come along obviously and have input as well.
CARLSo I think that goes along with the whole idea of the traditional wedding. I think things are done less traditional per say but I do think there are some things that, you know, do remain favorable. And it changes from one bride to the next where they will choose to do some things that are traditional. But on the whole I think things are swinging away from more traditional to less traditional. As a matter of fact, the wedding I did this past Saturday, the bride actually wore a purple wedding dress and it was her very first wedding. So, you know, a very different take on the traditional white wedding dress.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. The extent to which men like to be involved in the music, Tara Melvin, have you noticed that?
MELVINThey do. They definitely take control of the music.
NNAMDI'Cause we know music.
MELVINYes, they definitely take control of the music. They love when it's time to go do food tastings, cake tastings. And the other part that they are financially involved in, which I think the bride probably would not like for them to be involved in is the financial part. So when I'm meeting with them they're always asking, well how much is that and how is that going to affect my budget? But I do feel again it's all a part of the communication.
MELVINAnd when they do come to meetings with the bride I try to keep them involved, even if it's with flowers, getting their opinions as far as what do they feel and how does this affect them and what it is that they want out of this and just letting them know it's their day, too.
NNAMDIA lot of men on the phone who'd like to join this conversation, but we have to take a short break. When we come back, we will get to your calls if you've called, 800-433-8850. If the number's busy, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. When it comes to planning a big event, are you a DIY aficionado or more inclined to bring in a pro? 800-433-8850. Send us a Tweet at kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join our wedding conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about weddings with Meg Keene, creator, publisher and executive editor of the website APracticalWedding.com and author of a book of the same name and Tara Melvin, wedding and event planner who owns Perfect Planning. She's also the president of the Association of Wedding Professionals of Greater Washington, D.C. We got a Tweet from C.B. who says, "I think people are putting more energy into their weddings and not enough into their marriage. And part of it is owed, I believe, to the glamorization of weddings." And I'd extend that hypothesis to family planning as well.
NNAMDIAnd we got this email from Nick. "I am actually driving to my wedding in Granville, Ohio right now. The total cost is $35,000. I'm going to enjoy it, but if I could do it again I would have eloped and used that money as a down payment for a home. My fiancé was okay with eloping, but I insisted on a full wedding. Little did I know how much it would end up costing. I'm still excited, though, and only $1,000 in debt and that should be made up this weekend." What are you doing this weekend? Going gambling?
NNAMDI"It's all very stressful, though," said Nick. I'd be interested in hearing both of your comments on that. First you, Tara Melvin.
MELVINAs far as him spending $35,000.
NNAMDIHim spending 35 -- 'cause he didn't really expect to be spending, yes.
MELVINAnd most of the men, they do not. Whenever you tell them how much something costs, they kinda like gasp and it's just like, really and how can I get that cheaper. And once you kinda like lay things out and do the research for them, they'll sigh, but they'll move on to the next step. But they are overwhelmed as far as how much it does cost.
NNAMDIWell, a wedding is all about love, but many planning find that it soon comes down to dollars. How important is it to set and stick to a budget, Meg?
KEENEYou know, it's interesting. On my site, I certainly see a lot of couples running the budget completely together. And I think that that may be the most important thing if you're working on egalitarian planning and figuring out together what compromises you can make and what you can do to become comfortable. And that said, I tend to advise that in general going into debt for a wedding is a very bad idea. Though, you know, if you decide you really need a specific thing like tents in case it's going to rain on you, I know people who have said, we charged it and we paid it off and it was fine.
KEENEBut in general, if you don't go into debt and you set a budget that you're comfortable with, then it hurts to spend, and I'm not going to lie. But I think for me I realized that afterwards I was like, well, it's spent and it's done and we're moving forward. But that said, we set a budget that we were comfortable with and we actually specifically did not listen to what the wedding industry said we needed to spend because we didn't have the money. So our budget was under half of the average in San Francisco Bay area and we had a really lovely wedding.
KEENEWe just cut huge parts of the budget, just completely slashed them. No DJ, no flowers. Well, we did our own flowers. We did our own DJing and it was a really wonderful day.
NNAMDIHow often do you have to counsel people on budgetary matters, Tara Melvin, when they come to you?
MELVINConstantly. Constantly. I will say that 90 percent of all -- I'll say 100 percent of all my clients, they always go over the budget that we have stated. As -- no matter how much I try to stress or try to keep them in line, if he or she decides that they see something that they really want they will spend that extra money and go over budget. And it's basically just educating them as far as how much things cost.
MELVINAnd one of the key things that they do initially, one, they don't know how much things cost and then two, based on the pressure of mom and dad or stepmom, they want to invite all family members, all friends to the wedding, which therefore increases their guest list, which therefore increases the amount of their budget. So it's just having that talk with them and asking them do you really need 175 people at your wedding. Because this is what is going to basically drive down the cost of what it is you're going to spend on your wedding because 75 percent of your budget is basically spent on the food that you're feeding your guests at your wedding.
NNAMDIMeg, the off-sided statistic is that about half of all marriages fail. But optimistic couples still invest a lot in weddings. Do you worry that they sometimes fail to really think about the marriage that's going to follow this wedding?
KEENEWell, it's interesting. Half of my site is focused on marriage actually because after I got married I realized there just was not a lot of conversation going on about what being married means. And while the off-sided statistic of 50 percent is actually too high for people getting married now, we're also seeing marriage rates for people getting married now dropping fairly drastically. So I think there's a balance.
KEENEFirst, as I sort of mentioned before, I think wedding planning can be this very valuable period where you learn how to take on a major project together. And at the same time I think it's also very important to do things like premarital counseling. That was absolutely...
KEENE...the most valuable thing that we did in our planning because it takes you away from worrying about whatever you're worrying about, the flowers, and focuses you on building a foundation for your marriage.
KEENEAnd even if you don't do that I think it's important to sit down and have some real conversations. The issue is that culturally we view weddings as sort of the be all, end all, the happiest day of your life. And if weddings are the happiest day of your life, we're saying something fairly grim about marriage. So hopefully weddings are the beginning of something that is going to be very good, but very challenging.
NNAMDIOnto the -- oh, I'm sorry, Tara.
MELVINThe marriage counseling is definitely key. And then also again with the men being more involved in the process I think kind of helps to see where the marriage is kind of setting the stage and where it will continue to grow. Because seeing them go through this process together is also a counseling part as far as how they're going to handle things. Because we are dealing with money at that time so the best way for them to get through this is to do it together.
NNAMDIHere we go to Daniel in Great Falls, Va. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELHi Kojo, how are you?
DANIELSo this is probably a simple question, but it's pertinent for what you're talking about. When you look at the growing statistic of divorces in this country, is it a little bit surprising that it isn't driving down the cost of marriage or the very least driving down the budgets that some people have considering that statistically they may be having more than one of them?
NNAMDIYou're saying that it should be driving down the cost of it because they're likely...
DANIELWell, you would think that people would be looking for cheaper alternatives or at the very least -- well, maybe that's a little too cynical, but be a bit more pragmatic considering that, you know, you might think of it as being the happiest day of your life, but it's really just sort of day one, when you think about it.
NNAMDII can just see it right now. Honey, I'm proposing to you and if you say yes, we're going to get married in September. But since, according to statistics, marriages only last ten years, then maybe we should limit the amount we spend on this because we don't -- I don't think that's the way it works, is it, Tara?
MELVINNo. I think, if anything, the -- my clients are more mature. And when I say more mature, as far as the age level that people are getting married at now. When my mom got married, she was 22. These days, more clients are at 35 and older that are getting married, sometimes for the first time. And there are a few that are, you know, getting married for the second time. But I do think that the maturity level is a lot more these days because they're taking that time to think about that mate that they're getting involved with.
NNAMDIMeg, care to comment on that?
KEENEWell, I think that the thing I want to bring up is sort of the shame of the second wedding...
KEENE...that always comes up in these conversations. The one thing that I've seen on the site is that there is more shame around second weddings than any other sort of single element of wedding planning. And we ran a beautiful post years ago from someone who had gotten married for the second time, is very happily married and now has a very adorable kid. And her friend was getting married for the second time and she said, you know, I feel like we just need to go to the courthouse. I feel like we need to do this where no one can see us. You know, I'm embarrassed. My family is ashamed.
KEENEAnd she told her, you're not getting married for the second time. You're getting married for the last time. And I will be there with bells on and love deserves to be celebrated. Just because you had a relationship that didn't work out doesn't mean that you should be stripped of the privileges of rejoicing with your community. And that doesn't necessarily mean, you know, $25,000 plus an enormous dress and a ton of flowers. But that doesn't necessarily mean that for the first time around either so...
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Daniel, thank you very much for your call. How did you budget for your wedding if you're married? Any tips for saving money that you'd like to share? 800-433-8850. Go to our website kojoshow.org. You'll see some interesting videos there also concerning weddings, kojoshow.org. Or send us a Tweet at kojoshow.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Amber in Columbia, Md. who said, "My husband and I had a very small intimate wedding with only 18 guests including ourselves. While our mothers went along with it and were very nice about it, neither was very happy about our plans and both organized separate parties for extended families because they wanted to celebrate with all of the family members who did not make our guest list. What advice do you have for couples who want weddings that do not align with their parents' wishes?" Tara.
MELVINI've had a couple times where the parents do want to take control of the wedding. And that's the part where I come in as far as the counseling also. You have to counsel the parents to let them aware that it is, you know, their child's day. It is -- you know, respect their wishes. But then you also have to counsel the bride and groom to say, you know, this -- you know, even though you say this is your day, it's also a family affair. But what it boils down to, that everyone has to kind of agree and come to a middle ground as far as what it is that you're going to do for this particular day.
MELVINIf the parents want to throw their separate party, let them. If they're funding it, that's fine too. But for the most part, you know, just do what's going to make everyone happy. Come to a consensus.
NNAMDIMeg, care to comment on that, parents who think that well, you're my child. You still do what I say.
KEENEYeah, so weddings are tough because they're this transition between your being part of your parents' family too, you're creating your own family. And I think parents know that in a way that children don't. I always talk about wedding as being this invisible door that you walk through and you can't see until you look back because you think, oh it's just I'm making this commitment. But you're actually shifting the family structure. So what I always say is that weddings are -- it's your wedding, but it's everyone's day.
KEENEWeddings are really important to the people you love and the people that are around you. Your parents may have been thinking about your wedding since before you had thought. So it's important to meet whatever your foundational emotional requirements are. If that's eloping, that's eloping. If it's having a small wedding, it's a small wedding. If it's having a nonreligious wedding, that's that. But then you need to bring in your parents and figure out how you can best meet their emotional needs as well. And the elegant solution of eloping with a party afterwards often works beautifully.
MELVINAnd just to add to that, a lot of the clients that I do receive, they are paying for the wedding themselves just to kind of eliminate the parents to be in control so that they can't say, I'm paying for this so it's my way. So a lot of the brides and grooms these days, they are paying for their own weddings just to have the total control.
NNAMDINicole in Olney, Md. You're on the air, Nicole. Go ahead, please.
NICOLEHi. I have taken the approach, me and my significant other have been together, we have children together, we live together, and as a result of seeing all these kind of circus-like weddings, I really don't want one at all, and I've gotten so much scrutiny from it. He wants one. I feel like I get more from his family when we had a child. I really didn't want a baby shower until -- maybe something small afterwards. That raised all sorts of issues.
NICOLEI got evil text messages while I was pregnant. I mean, I really feel like the pressure that's around these weddings, especially when they fail half of the time, it seems so ridiculous to me, and I've even asked my parents, well, how about if we didn't have a wedding, and we were to use that money to buy a house or do something else, and my stepmother is adamant that she'd much rather pay for the wedding, and I don't want to spend 10, $20,000.
NNAMDISo what you're saying Nicole is that you are not against the institution of marriage, you are against the institution of weddings, and if so, what -- why would a small private ceremony not appeal to you?
NICOLEWell, I kind of think it's turned me against the institution of weddings as well. I don't feel like it's necessary.
NNAMDIYou mean it's turned you against the...
NICOLEI don't think it always started that way.
NNAMDINo. I'm saying...
NICOLEI don't think I always was like that, but I believe that when I watch this and I see these couples, I'm like, are they even in love? They're about to spend $50,000, and it looks like they hate each other. It's gonna fail half the time, and then I'm just like I don't think I want to do that. I think I'd rather just love you forever and stay with you like we were already going to do.
NNAMDIYou've been OD'ing on "Bridezillas" here I can see that.
MELVINYes, definitely. Definitely.
NNAMDIBut how does that affect your view of the institution of marriage I guess is what I'm asking, Nicole?
NICOLEI guess I just feel like it seems to be a lot of -- like I use the word circus for lack of a better word right now, but it seems to be a lot of that sort of situation when I don't think that's necessary to say I love someone and I'm gonna be with you forever.
NICOLEI don't think that's necessary. A lot of times, like for instance, I've got friends that have these very large church weddings, and I grew up in a church until, you know, I was 16. I had to go every Sunday. I still believe in God. And then it's funny that I see that well, we're gonna do it in a church. I'm like, when have you ever been in a church before this? Why is that necessary, you know.
NNAMDINo. I was just think of a small civil ceremony since you say your husband would like to get married.
NICOLEI'd consider it.
NICOLEI'd consider it for him, and I still am not that excited about doing it.
NICOLELike we just came back from a Niagara Falls vacation with our family, and he said, well, should I bring my tux with me, and I said, well, I don't know because that would outrage them as well. Like, we could never elope. That -- they'd have a heart attack.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
NNAMDII think you have the kind of dilemma that we cannot solve in this short period of time, but thank you so much for sharing that with us. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we will talk about same-sex marriages and civil unions and what kinds of wedding planning one can do for that. If you've called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your calls, but if the lines are busy, go to our website kojoshow.org, or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org., or send us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about weddings with Tara Melvin. She is a wedding and event planner who owns Perfect Planning. She's also the president of the Association of Wedding Professionals of Greater Washington D.C. Also with us from studios in San Francisco is Meg Keene, creator, publisher, and executive editor of the website APracticalWedding.com, and author of a book of the same name. Meg, eleven states and the District of Columbia allows same-sex marriages or civil unions. How well is the wedding industry doing when it comes to serving the LGBT community?
KEENEThat's an interesting question. My site in particular is very focused on being not a straight site or a gay site, but a site for everyone, and because of that, we screen all of our advertisers, and everyone has to agree that they are gay-friendly before they are allowed to advertise. And what's interesting is we turn down -- the bulk of advertisers we turn down, we turn down for using very gendered language on their site.
KEENESo there are things that we don't think about that are very exclusionary, and you hear a lot of people saying that the wedding industry is starting to adapt, but there are ways that it feels like they're just trying to take the gay wedding money and they don't actually believe in any of it. So we turn down advertisers if they use bride and groom exclusively on their site. For example, we won't use that language on our site. We use bride and groom if it is bride and groom and we use partner if it's general, and we use bride and bride if it's a bride and bridge. So it's an evolving process. I think it's better in sort of, frankly, liberal enclaves and on the coast, but it's not great yet.
NNAMDIWell, we got a treat from Katherine who says, "My experience is that gay and lesbian couples are helping to break down antiquated notions of gender in wedding planning."
NNAMDIHave you experience that at all, Meg?
KEENEYeah. I think that's happening. I think it's happening in really big ways. The last caller who was talking about how she wasn't sure that she believed in the institution of marriage is something that I certainly have a lot of readers that came from that camp originally, and one of the things that shifted things for people is having friends and loved ones who don't have access to the institution of marriage gives you a very clear picture of why it's important, and not in a romantic lovey-dovey way, or in a big white dress kind of way, but in a rights kind of way.
KEENESo I think that it's moving sort of what the institution of marriage can be, and it certainly moving the dialogue on planning a wedding, because as much as a lot of what we've been talking about on this show is about, you know, if you have a male partner and a female partner how do you bridge that gap, many of my readers have two female partners or two male partners, and they are able to model something for the rest of us that is -- certainly we can all learn from.
KEENEWe had a great post a couple years ago called "Remember the Lesbians," that was written by two lesbian comic artists who had a whole graphic about it, but they were saying, look, if we can learn to divide household chores, if we can learn to divide chores in our wedding, all of the rest of you can learn too, you just need to remember us.
NNAMDITara, it's my understanding that you have been approached by same-sex couples, but you haven't actually worked with any as yet.
MELVINThat is true. That is true. I currently started advertising on a gay and lesbian website. I haven't the opportunity to work with any at this time. I do know that just working with other wedding professionals in the Washington D.C. area, it is still somewhat of an ethical issue with them as far as trying to find out who would, you know, come together me as far as if I needed to seek out other vendors to help bring something like this together. So it is somewhat a battle within the -- with wedding professionals as far as being a part of that culture.
NNAMDIBecause some people have beliefs that...
NNAMDI...that do not approve of same-sex marriage.
NNAMDIOkay. Here is Anna in Annapolis, Md. Anna, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANNAGood afternoon, Kojo. Thank you. I have been making what's known in Hebrew as a ketubot. It's a traditional Jewish wedding contract. It's actually a contract that the man gives the woman, and -- which is a long story I won't go into for sake of time, but more and more I have been having -- I've been -- I have clients that aren't Jewish, or only one of the couple is Jewish, and there was actually an article in the Washington Post and in the New York Times about how this is a growing trend which ties in beautifully with this discussion because people are adapting rituals from other cultures.
ANNAAnd I've done second marriages, and I've done for two women, and the only reason I haven't made one for two men yet is because none of them have asked me. But can I -- am I allowed to give my website for people to look at them?
NNAMDINo. Go -- go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Please give your website.
ANNAI never remember what you answer when people ask you that. It's www.annafineart.com and there's a page for ketubot, and just to add quickly, they're made out of map collage that are landscaped, that are biographical. It goes back to where the couples ancestors come from and where the couple is from and where they're going, and it can even be fictitious locations, and recently I've had people that are very interested because first of all, I had someone recently in Annapolis who said she only wanted to use local vendors and then I just had somebody inquire the other day who liked the idea because it's sustainable because I use old maps.
ANNASo it keeps adding more and more interest. So thank you very much for...
NNAMDIAnd thank you for your call, Anna. We got an -- from Alicia who says, "I want to give a big thank you to Meg and the rest of the wonderful people at A Practical Wedding for providing some well-needed logic, rationality, and practicality in a frighteningly consumer-oriented wedding culture. I found the website shortly after becoming engaged and it helped me and my now husband navigate some of the ridiculous questions, stress, and faux must-haves during the wedding planning process. Our wedding was everything we could have wanted it to be with 80 of our closest friends and family, and we spent less than half of the cost of a normal wedding with a five-hour open bar."
NNAMDIFive-hour open bar, and they didn't invite me? "I recommend A Practical Wedding to all of my engaged friends." That from Alicia. Here is Gary in Silver Spring, Md. Gary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GARYHi Kojo. I work for the schools, and I work around many women, and I'm amazed at how enamored they are over the concept of getting married, and engagement rings and finding someone. Among my male friends I don't see that happening so much. Also, I wanted to comment that I've been married 27 years to my wonderful bride, and our wedding only cost $3,000.
NNAMDIAnd that was how many years ago, 22 years ago?
GARYTwenty-seven years ago.
NNAMDITwenty-seven years ago. And I wanted to get back -- I'm glad you got back to the issue of men for a second, Gary, because as you pointed out earlier, Tara Melvin, with men becoming more involved in the planning process, and especially concerned about budgetary issues, have you found that men now feel more comfortable being involved in the wedding process then I guess Gary was suggesting they felt a while ago, because they don't necessarily have to be into rings and flowers to be involved in the process.
MELVINNo, they don't. They are definitely more involved. It's not about them getting excited about the flowers. Of course we know that men have a different reaction than women do about certain things. It's about them just being a part of this big experience that's getting ready to change the rest of their life. So they just want to feel like they have a say in what is going to happen, instead of they're just sitting to wait for that day and just showing up. It's no longer just showing up on the day of the wedding for the guys.
NNAMDIYou know, given the caller we just had, Meg, weddings are in many ways about tradition and many couples incorporate different religious, cultural, and family traditions into their ceremonies. How tough can it be for couples to balance their beliefs and their family wishes?
KEENEIt is tricky. My husband and I are -- well, we say we're interfaith. I converted to Judaism before our wedding, but we have interfaith families, and we spent actually years before the wedding working on these issues and figuring out what we wanted to create as a family together, and what our common ground was, and where the places we disagreed were. And even with that, the wedding planning process was not particularly smooth, but I think it's really valuable because it's easier to have a conversation or heck, a fight about your ketubot than it is to not have conversation or fight and have that conversation about how you're going to raise your child and what faith they're going to be in.
KEENESo I think it is this valuable, if sometimes painful, place where we can sort of iron out who we are and what we believe and what we're creating in our new family.
NNAMDIHere now is Frank in Arlington, Va. Hi Frank.
FRANKHi Kojo, can you hear me?
FRANKOkay. Kojo, I'm from the west coast, and so all my family's on the west coast.
FRANKMy wife is from the east coast, and her family is here.
FRANKAnd to have a large wedding here was gonna be very expensive to bring all the people in. So we decided that we would fly to the Seychelles Islands and get married there, and have a two-week safari in Tanzania.
FRANKSo we spent a week in the Seychelles Islands, two weeks in Tanzania on a luxury safari, came back here, had a big party for all of our friends and family on the East Coast, and then went to the west coast and had a party for my family on the west coast. The total cost of everything that we spent, was right about $25,000, and it was like the time that we -- I'll never forget, and we'd always go back to both of those places.
NNAMDIWell, $25,000 seems to be about the average cost around the country, but it looks like they got in a quite a little bit for their $25,000, Tara, didn't they?
MELVINThey did. They definitely did.
MELVINThey got a vacation of out it, and plus had the opportunity to celebrate their wedding.
NNAMDIYes, indeed. After all the plans are put in place, you come to the day itself. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, recently issued a wedding day survival guide. What's your advice for enjoying the fruit of all of this advance work, starting with you, Meg?
KEENEStay present and protect your own experience. It's very easy to get sucked into whatever drama might be going on, and I think that you are actually a bride for a groom for a very, very short period in your life. It's an eight-hour transitional moment, and your job is to be as present as you can, and to not deal with other people's problems. You can always deal with them tomorrow.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Tara?
MELVINI always tell my clients the day before the wedding is just to relax. Again, do not think about the other elements around that could possibly happen or to destroy your day. If you're hired a wedding planner, things will definitely go much smoother, but just remember why you're here and why tomorrow is going to happen. It is about the love that you share for each other. And if you concentrate on that, then everything else will run smoothly.
NNAMDIThe Internet has changed many aspects of our lives, weddings, no exceptions. Any sites you recommend people check out, besides APracticalWedding.com, Tara?
MELVINAs far as resources for brides?
MELVINI would say definitely Wedding Wire. I love Wedding Wire myself. It's easy to navigate. For those bridges that do want to do a DIY, do it yourself, it helps you to find those vendor resources within your area, and then it also has -- provides the opportunity for you to read about what other brides and grooms have said about these particular vendors so that you can kind of see if they're gonna fit within your wedding process.
KEENEI tend to send people to Offbeat Bride, which deals with the whole gamut of egalitarian and progressive and purple wedding dresses, and So You're Engaged, which is a gay wedding site, but I think it's great for everybody.
NNAMDIMeg Keene is the creator, publisher, and executive editor of the website APracticalWedding.com, and author of the book of the same name. Tara Melvin is a wedding and event planner who owns Perfect Planning. Thank you both for joining us, and thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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