Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Even though we’re doing it as simply and basically as possible (and we just started), this wedding-planning business is already beginning to erode my faith in humanity.

I was pretty excited that over the weekend we were able to nail down our far-and-away first choice for the ceremony, which is an extremely small historic chapel that has been relocated into a local park along with a few other historic buildings. But they won’t allow receptions there among the precious antique artifacts for some reason, so we have to find another spot for that.

Since we are hoping to do an olde-tyme “family-and-friends-provided buffet” (i.e. potluck), we need to find a place—any place!—that is basically a nice room (or dare I say “some kinda chamber”) where people may gather. (And have a bathroom. And alcohol.)

However, it seems that when it comes to just about any item or service, if you just add “wedding” to the beginning of it, it turns into a giant free-for-all extortion-fest with glaze-eyed merchants. (And just FYI, I have been looking into locations pretty fervently online over the past few days.)

What this means is that there is no such thing as a plain ol’ room anywhere, but only “Banquet Halls” and “Reception Sites”. And there is no banquet hall that comes without its own attendant caterer (or “lamprey”), who will be happy to provide fancified cheese and crackers with parsley for $2000, but you sure as heck aren’t allowed to have your own food. (No offense to hard-working caterers everywhere. I am a very DIY person; I want to do this myself; and I really dislike a monopoly.)

Oh, I know—I understand that there are insurance and liability issues. But it really seems to be something other than that. After all, I have found several locations where you can bring your own food, though most are not very pretty. Liability can’t only apply to the attractive sites, after all! Therefore, it must be something else.

It seems to be based on this whole formulaic pre-packaged wedding standard that corrals people into believing they have to do everything in a very particular fussy frilly formal way, and therefore they must pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to have someone else professionally develop this plasticized, pre-created package. (“Your Personalized Wedding Plan!”)

What you get to choose for the personalized plan is which color of plastic swan (“Bright White or Elegant Ivory!”) will be spewing the champagne out of its beak in the fountain centerpiece, or exactly how many layers of ruffles the eight bridesmaid/quinceañera gowns will have, and in which unflattering shade of puce. (Whereas we’re not even having attendants, for that matter.) And the average price for all this is now $19,000. Absolutely ridiculous! That’s the down payment on a house, if you ask me.

I get pretty ornery, stubborn, and contrary when I feel like I’m being force-fed something I don’t want, especially something so arbitrary. I just do not want to do something homogeneous and plastic and hyper-consumerized! ("Wedding 90210").

I think it boils down to the pattern of whenever someone has a creative idea (say, a medieval wedding--although granted, that's not my thing), we don't allow them to simply do it--instead, we rip it away, digest it, package it, and then sell it back to them for a huge wad of money. ("Castle Wedding Package!" --and I'm not even kidding about that.)


Gwen said...

You have my sympathy (it's all coming back to me, as I read your descriptions!)

Your quest reminds me of many of the questions we get on the reference desk, so if I may, here are my suggestions for finding some possible "big rooms":

* try to think of groups that get together and don't have a lot of money - where does the local Green Party have their functions? Where do groups of old hippies (people with ideals but little cash) have their get-togethers? They might be able to suggest a spot. Your local public library can likely get you the contact information for groups like this

* what about fraternal societies (here we have the Lions, the Elks, the Masons, etc.) - a lot of these groups have buildings of their own that they might rent out (I just remembered another potluck wedding supper inspired by ours that was held at the Elks Lodge)(It's amazing how nice a stark/70s-style room can look with low lighting, tiny Christmas lights, and a few strategic candles)

* do you have a local group of army veterans - they often have a hall that they get together in, and they often have a bar! They might even cater the booze for you

All of these groups are unlikely to have great websites, or even any websites at all, so phone research might be a better bet. That's all the librarian advice that I can give you. Good luck finding a venue - and don't let the wedding stuff take over your life, because it can, even for a sensible, capable person (like me).

And feel free to vent; I enjoy reading it.

liz said...

Good, well-researched suggestions as I have come to expect!