Attending a wedding is not what it used to be. As New Zealand Weddings editor Melissa Gardi says, “Gone are the days when the people will show up and just be there for the day”.
Because weddings frequently serve as reunions for scattered friends and family, there are often night-before dinners and morning-after brunches that guests are expected to attend.
Hen and stag parties can stretch over entire weekends and involve guests shelling out hundreds of dollars on accommodation, travel and activities. Then there’s the engagement party (gifts a given) and the newly imported “tradition” of the bridal shower – another party, the entire point of which is that guests bring gifts, and which Gardi observes is now becoming the norm in New Zealand.
US wedding writer Meg Keene says “the bridal shower has gotten so all-consuming that if you don’t put a lid on it, it’s not unusual for people to end up having four showers – one at work, one with their mum’s friends, one with their in-laws’ friends …”
Maybe it made sense decades ago when couples were marrying before moving in together. But now, Keene says, “The bridal shower is like the appendix – there’s no need for it. It has become totally commercialised, so you have the ‘stock the bar shower’ or the ‘lingerie shower’, because there’s nothing to do any more.”
She notes that a few years ago couples were “asking/telling” guests to wear certain colours to weddings, and that it’s become normal to request they give gifts in a certain way: to buy from a registry, or make contributions to a house deposit, mortgage or honeymoon. Gardi says this makes life easier for guests. “Any pressure anyone feels in terms of gifts is only pressure that they’re putting on themselves.”
But Keene says it can all get a bit much. “One of the things we say over and over again is that your guests are adults, they’ve been to a lot of weddings in the past and they usually know how they want to behave. People know how they like to go to weddings, they usually have an outfit or two that they wear, they often have a gift that they like to give and when you start telling them that, ‘No, you have to wear purple, and you have to give me a honeymoon to see the turtles’, people often get really resistant and sort of angry and frustrated.”
But at the same time, brides in particular are bending over backwards to be the uber-hostess they’re told they should be. Many now print maps and directions, arrange group deals for accommodation, hire transport to get everyone from A to B and, on the day, provide baskets of blankets, jandals, sunscreen and Band-Aids. The subtext, says sociologist Vivienne Elizabeth, is heavily linked to our norms around femininity. “The good woman – the good bride – looks after people, cares for people … It’s just another burden for the bride.”
Tips for “gracious brides” in a recent New Zealand Weddings included ordering a “groom’s cake” decorated to reflect his personality, having a handkerchief embroidered with a note to the new in-laws and hiring a magician to entertain children.
“Or set up a petting zoo with miniature ponies, a kunekune pig, pet lambs and a couple of big fluffy rabbits.”
For more on the crazy new costs of getting hitched and how to avoid them, read this week’s Listener cover story: Bridezilla to bridechilla?Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content