31 August 2010

The Theme of the Wedding Is...

I just posted a vlog entry about our wedding theme and our reasons for picking it here. With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the different ways you can approach a theme for a wedding, and how to find which one is right for you.

While I’m not a big fan of either/or thinking, the way I see it, you have two options with executing a theme for your wedding.

1. Follow the theme exactly.

2. Reinterpret the theme.

Anything in between ends up looking like either you weren’t trying hard enough, or you didn’t have the resources. And let’s face it – a wedding, whether you like it or not, is about what you’re doing and how it looks to other people. If guest opinions didn’t matter, we’d all be eloping in sweatpants and Crocs, right?

One of the things I learned as a Media student was that parody has to go all the way in order for people to get it. If the right aesthetic details aren’t there – an iconic costume, a memorable prop, a specific line of dialogue – then the familiarity is lost, and with it, the joke. If you read the many definitions of parody, most mention mimicry or imitation as a means of ridicule. Whether or not the intention is to get laughs at your wedding, it essentially holds true – if you want your meaning (punchline) to come across, you gotta go all the way with it (the set-up).

There is something extremely satisfying about being able to recreate details. Paying close attention to the tiny accents and the big picture and how it all fits together can be immensely fun. There’s something to be said about the talent required to create replicas, you know? It’s like creativity for the inside-the-box, follow-the-rules type – like my Mom and her needlepoint, where you get to create but you still work with a blueprint. Why else do you think wedding inspiration boards are so addictive? They allow us to express ourselves within acceptable boundaries. But for those of us who like to defy those rules, reinterpreting a theme can be just as satisfying in a whole new way.

Taking the gist of a theme and reimagining it allows for a lot of personal style, and with it, a lot more risk. Tim Burton’s attempt at Alice in Wonderland is a perfect example: he took the gist - a blond little girl and a rabbit hole and indirect psychedelic metaphors blah blah blah - and pissed everyone off when he reimagined it as a bleak, post-apocalyptic, unmagical Underland. He made Alice a young woman, not a child. He had a little too much fun with CG, and introduced us to characters that weren’t in many of the other film versions (for good reason). He took a risk, and while it didn’t pay off in legions of Alice-obsessed fans, it did pay off at the box office. And even for all the backlash, there is something to be said about the fact that he dared to take on a classic and reinterpret it. Love it or hate it, Burton made it his own.

Using a theme as a launching point for your creativity is risky, but is such a home for expression. For our wedding reception, we took the elements of Alice that we like best – wonky sizes, mismatched d├ęcor, silly hats, and lots of color – and decided to build from there, in any way that strikes our fancy. Part of it is because I don’t know a person on Earth that is totally satisfied with following one theme and one theme alone – even a purple fanatic can appreciate a good goldenrod now and then, right? Budget constraints are another reason to look at a loose theme – you have more freedom to include stuff, and can repurpose items on the cheap without worrying that it won’t fit in. Reinterpreting your theme lets you relax a little and allows more of you to come through on the big day, which I am completely for!

27 August 2010

I Went to a Wedding Website and All I Got Was This Stupid Checklist.

I went to a major wedding website recently when it came to my attention that I only had nine months left to start planning this wedding. After printing off their checklist and subsequently ranting about it via video, I wanted to take a moment to specifically point out items that irked me on this list via my own checklist. Yes, I see the irony. One useless checklist deserves another.

[ For copyright purposes, I did not duplicate their checklist items but instead rephrased them to avoid violating any laws. Words they used specifically are in quotes. ]

5. Wherein brides are instructed to follow an exercise regime and eat well in order to get into "wedding day shape".

While I see the importance of good physical, mental, and emotional health, what is this “wedding day shape” standard? Was the shape I was in when we got engaged somehow not good enough? You mean he proposed with the hopes that I would eventually buckle down and achieve this bridal shape? And note that it says “wedding day shape”, not “marriage shape” or “lifelong good shape”. Further note that it says “shape”, not “health” – because let’s face it, the two are not always natural bedmates (as the daughter of an anorexic can tell you – a skinny figure does not a healthy mother make). Making positive life changes for a lifetime is one thing, but making these changes on the basis of a single day is not likely to last and more likely to deprive us of much needed confidence… and sleep…

8. Wherein brides are urged to find the "perfect" reception site.

I promised myself when I was attending a Liberal Arts college that I wouldn’t become one of those people that got all hung up on semantics, but here I am getting all bitchy and Birkenstocky and about to dissect use of the word “perfect”. The idea that there is a perfect reception location is as ludicrous as the notion of “the” dress, or “the” soulmate who was put on Earth just for you. The word “perfect” can be damaging, and it can add unnecessary pressure and imply an impossible, unachievable standard of flawlessness that threatens to overshadow the truly important aspects of your wedding day. What makes a perfect reception location, anyway? Who is to say what is perfect? Words like “ideal” or “suitable” would be more effective and empowering for brides, and just a wee bit less ulcer-inducing.

10. Wherein brides are told to plan for their engagement party by creating a guest list, setting a date, and ordering another set of invitations.

Wait, wait, wait… one set of invitations wasn’t enough? Now I have to think about two sets? And another location, menu, guest list, and kitschy favors or decorations? Where’s the checklist for this party? Maybe I should hire an engagement party planner… hmm…

16. Wherein brides are told to begin researching wedding dresses via magazines and websites.

There’s this psychological phenomenon known as “exposure effect” which suggests that people become fond of things they find familiar. In reference to advertising (such as you might find of wedding gowns in bridal magazines and on commercial wedding websites), the exposure effect tends to be most powerful when the product or company is unfamiliar and fresh. To a first-time bride, these images would be rather attractive, no? After all, these dresses are new to her - and once they stop being new, they become familiar by virtue of the fact that they are dominating print and online wedding media. The ads set the standard or the norm – the brides see it and love it for its newness and simultaneous familiarity – and a quest to find the perfect big white dress is born. Nevermind that white makes you look washed out, or a $500 gown isn’t in your budget. You’ve been shown the norm. You now must grapple with forcing yourself into the standard, or defying it at the risk of pissing off friends and family who want you to have a “real” wedding.

… and this is just the 9-11 month checklist. We have so many more to go! Weeeeeeeeee!