How I ended up with a $400 dress that feels like a bargain.

I’m getting married in about seven weeks.

I’m also having a wedding. That wasn’t obvious to me at first.

I pushed for the courthouse, but my fiancé wanted “more ceremony,” and I have to admit that it felt more right to me to involve our families in some way.

He pushed for a destination wedding. But a lot of people in our families already had vacations planned for the coming year and I felt uneasy about asking them to fit in another. Once we accounted for paying for the members of our family who couldn’t afford it, it looked more expensive than having a regular wedding. Plus, who wants to spend a week in a resort in Mexico or Hawaii? Okay, probably many people. But not me.

So we decided to get married where we live,  in Seattle. And then, why not invite friends and extended family too?

We are trying to keep it really simple. There will be no wedding parties, no bridesmaid dresses, no photographer, no wedding cake, no walking down the aisle, and no florists. Our engagement will have been less than four months long.

But it’s still expensive. Feeding 100 people just is, unless, I guess, you have some kind of backyard barbecue. But we don’t have a backyard; we live in Seattle, where an outdoor event won’t work for most of the year; and anyway, it really isn’t us. We love the outdoors and camping but we also love living in the city and eating at nice restaurants. We weren’t going to make everyone hike up a mountain or camp or anything–most of our friends and family, especially our parents, would not enjoy that. So the wedding is indoors, in an urban loft-type space, with a nice caterer, and a still-to-be-hired DJ.

And I’m excited about it. It will be great to have so many friends and family in one place, and I’m incredibly touched that people are flying all the way across the country to attend my wedding.

But it’s still a crazy amount of money and time. We’re lucky, because it isn’t a financial hardship for us. But that’s not true for everyone. What if we had to choose between having a wedding and paying off high-interest loans or moving out of a parent’s house?

It’s also confusing. I’m doing things that don’t totally make sense to me despite my best efforts.  For instance, I bought a long white dress. It’s the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever owned and I know I could have found a non-wedding dress I’d like more, feel better in, and get more use out of. But it didn’t seem worth the hassle of bucking expectations and explaining to people why I’m not wearing a long white dress. Especially since I didn’t have a particularly compelling explanation: “I, uh, just liked this better.”

I also made an appointment to get my hair and makeup done. I’m inept at doing it myself and I’ll look better this way. But does it matter if people think I look extra pretty or just regular? Not really.

And I spent $100 on printed invitations last night, even though everyone we are inviting uses a computer daily. I was worried that if I didn’t mail printed invitations people would feel like I didn’t really want them to come. I’m going to address those suckers by hand, even though we are ignoring the vast majority of wedding “etiquette.”

Is there really not a simpler way? How did escaping to another country on a vacation that no one really wants to go on become the simpler alternative to a traditional wedding? Grrr. I’m off to the (digital) library to look for a good book on the wedding industry.

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