Small Wedding vs. Big Wedding

Posted By David Buchta

Six years ago on December 2nd, a younger, plumper-faced version of myself took the redeye from Phoenix, Arizona to Norfolk, Virginia, where an alluring redhead waited for me at the airport. It would be the first time we met in person, but I was already in love. And lust. But love, too.

During the final descent above Virginia, with the rising sun illuminating the golden tops of countless trees, I realized I didn’t have any flowers to give her. Exhaustion and excitement gave me the courage to be cheesy. I scrawled a simple flower on a sheet of notebook paper and carefully tore out the shape. She still has it.

During the six years we’ve been together, this DIY, bohemian-style romance has been a repeating pattern, almost out of necessity. We’ve been low-income much of that time. (Read: Broke. Like, family-members-springing-for-rent-and-food broke.) Which can be great, because it forces us to be creative.

So when whatever the fuck happened that caused Kasey to want to get married, we synchronistically decided against a big-ass, expensive, complicated, stressful wedding.

Financials aside, it’s just not our thing. We don’t plan, and we don’t like waiting for things. Kasey shuns public attention, and big groups of people–especially family–put us on edge. As she said on her blog, marking the occasion: “The thought of having a wedding for myself makes me very uncomfortable. Being the center of attention amongst a large group of people, having to speak and share my emotions/feelings in front of everyone. All of that adds up to basically my nightmare situation.”

Speaking of family, my grandma cornered me during Thanksgiving and asked me (read: guilt-tripped) to wait until we could have a big wedding. “Why so soon?” she asked, face all a-pucker. “Because it’s our six-year anniversary, Grandma.” “Well, just wait,” she said in a tone of finality I use on my son when he wants something ridiculous, “there will be another anniversary.”

I got where she was coming from. But I’d waited long enough.

Photo Credit: Kasey Height

Big weddings are a big pain in the ass. They are expensive, overly-complex, and lousy with drama. They take too long to coordinate, even when your family isn’t spread across five states and can’t afford travel.

The wedding day is supposed to belong to the bride as her “special day.” Everyone has that in mind, but more often than not it becomes about the family. Everyone wants to be there, which is sweet, but causes grief. Mo’ people, mo’ money, mo’ problems.

Prefer a small wedding? Great, now decide whom to offend by withholding an invitation. People out of state, can’t make the trip? Sucks to be them. You can try to find a time and place that will work for everyone, but that could defer your wedding indefinitely while you try to cater to everyone but yourself. No thanks. (Read: Fuck that.)

We decided to get married less than a month ago. The Internet and expedited shipping took care of the rings. A work buddy contacted a friend who’d performed his wedding, and he was able to do ours with less than a week’s notice. On Saturday we braved the mall and spent a couple hours getting our outfits together.

Finding a location was harder, as we are non-religious and it’s December in Portland. (Read: Guaranteed rain.) Bookstore? Library? Too cliche for this city. I contacted Saint Cupcake, a local bakery we love, and they were more than happy to host us. Two grinning, female bakers acted as our witnesses, and the manager gave us pastry on the house. They even helped us find the best place for pictures and got behind the camera for a group shot.

Bing bang boom.

Total cost: Less than $300 (not including rings)
Planning time: Two weeks
Time from “engagement” to marriage: Three weeks
Stress: Sleight to none
Contentment: 100%

We’ll have a get-together next year, when people are in better places as far as money and travel are involved. A reception sounds nice, but only because I love dressing up and eating and gifts.

But the wedding belonged to us, exclusively. It’s ours. No one sullied it by getting drunk and/or being an asshole. No one diminished our happiness by pouting or causing drama. The thought of money never once entered my mind and robbed my bride of my misty-eyed attention. We were free to focus on us, without noise. Clean. Simple. Serene.

Photo Credit: Kasey Height

Because if I’m going to go through any trouble for something, I’m damn well going to enjoy it. My way. (Read: Stress-free, cheap, and surrounded by pastry.)

Posted By Wendy

I used to always say that if I could go back and do it again, I’d get married in a very small ceremony. I’d have a handful of friends and family at a vineyard in California somewhere, and we’d just sit down to a casual dinner while I streamed favorite songs from my iTunes playlist. Easy peasy.

Except when I really think about it, that’s how I’d get married if I could do it again and not if I was getting married for the first time. You see, as stressful as planning a big wedding can be, the payoff is huge. I got to have all of the people Alex and I cared about in one room as we celebrated starting a family together. It’s something that will likely never happen again in our lives, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Leatherwood

You see, I don’t just see a wedding as being all about the bride. To be honest, that’s just marketing-speak. Some clever PR guy realized he could cash in on a giant wedding industrial complex by creating Bridezilla archetypes that Type-A women would aspire to. This day is all about me! So I have to look absolutely perfect. I need a perfect gown and accessories and facials and manicured nails and perfect wedding undergarments and a perfect cake and perfect party favors because they all reflect me and my perfectness. And oh yes, I will be committing the rest of my life to some dude.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Leatherwood

There was a moment during my admittedly perfectly-orchestrated wedding when I stepped back and looked at all the faces of my cousins, aunts, uncles, family friends, and new family members, and I was just overwhelmed with happiness. I could see them all dancing and laughing together, toasting their drinks and slinging arms around one another as they sang along to the amazing live band. (If there’s one thing my parents know how to do, it’s throw a damn good party.) Right at that very moment, I had a realization: getting married isn’t just about joining two people together. It’s about combining their families, their friends, and their entire histories into one. I didn’t just marry Alex and he didn’t just marry me. We married each other’s whole existence.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Leatherwood

Maybe that sounds too schmaltzy, so let’s step back and talk logistics. Yes, a big wedding costs a lot of money. A ridiculous amount of money. I was lucky that my parents could afford to throw us that kind of wedding. When you have a big Italian wedding, though, you get back a lot of what you put in. (Read: cash) Alex and I were able to put a decent down payment on our first home because of generous family members who attended our wedding. We were given a really big jump-start for our life together, and it was incredibly helpful, especially since we were staring down the barrel of some pretty intimidating student loans. After an incredibly exhilarating evening of dancing, dining, and drinking, we went back up to our hotel room and opened up dozens and dozens of cards with warm wishes and, yup, money. We felt like Scrooge McDuck swimming in a tank full of gold!

At the end of the day, the way in which you get married is a personal choice. I don’t begrudge anyone their small wedding, and it sounds like this intimate, quaint ceremony that Dave and Kasey had was completely perfect for them. (And congratulations to you both!) But I do think it’s worth it for any couple to consider the feelings of their families when they decide to say “I do.” Because, if four years of marriage and one child have taught me anything, it’s that your families won’t ever go away. They are just as much a part of your family as you are of theirs.

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20 Responses to “Small Wedding vs. Big Wedding”

  1. David Buchta

    Those pictures of you guys are great. I think Wendy’s whole argument could have been just those pics and people would be convinced.

  2. Amanda

    Kept it small. Had only 35 people at my wedding. And only 8 of them were my friends and family. Loved it!

  3. Kasey

    I also do not fall into the thought process of “It’s the bride’s day”. Homestly I find that line of thinking insulting on many different levels. A wedding ceremony (or lack thereof) should be about the couple, not just “the bride”. And in our particular case, David is the more sentimental one. We could have officiated our marriage in our living room for all I cared, but that would have made for crappy photos; and I’m all about good photos.

    I actually like weddings, and I was looking forward to going to you guys’s. It’s a shame that we were too poor at the time to make it out there. But as Wendy said, it is indeed a personal choice and there is no right or wrong. David and I will probably get a lot of shit from his side of the family, but I would never change that day.

    • alex

      We wish you guys could have made it to ours as well. Being poor sucks so I completely understood where you guys were coming from.

  4. Gaby

    We couldn’t keep ours small because of our giant families. Still, it felt intimate and personal and we did our best to keep it on the lower end of expenses. I think I did my best not to have any Bridezilla moments, except for when I yelled at Eric for ordering the wrong tux even though I had specifically told him minutes before not to order that tux. Anyway, I think small weddings are great, but for my family, I just couldn’t have it that way. Just like Wendy, every person there had some connection, memory and special place in Eric and/or my life so it would’ve been tough to leave some people out. Maybe in another life a small wedding would make sense.

    Congratulations David! The photos of your wedding were beautiful.

    Wendy: I’m glad you had a big ol Italian wedding. We had a blast, got to meet your awesome family and were truly touched to be part of your and Alex’s wedding :)

  5. tHIsOrTHaT

    Big weddings are always amazing and fun (as a guest).
    I would have loved a “Big-Fat-Mexican Wedding”! But the reality for many is that its just way too expensive and time consuming. That’s what it really boils down to: stress and money. Even with the upside of receiving some serious “ cash-gifts” it wouldn’t off-set how much we would pay for a wedding where we invite 200+ people and spend countless hours organizing it. Accompanied, with starting the next step in our lives with a massive wedding-debt is not what I envisioned (especially since we have school loans, cars and credit cards to pay off.)
    So we opted out for having a tiny little thing this year and it was.. well small…think civil ceremony, burger joint eats and chillin at bars after. It definitely won’t be the topic of conversation when “epic weddings” come up, but it was special. Maybe we can do something a bit bigger in the future? Only time-and money- will tell.

    • Ozzy

      I agree with you. I mean, ideally I would want a reception where we can invite close family and friends that we couldn’t have for our civil ceremony but at the same time the money and the time spent planning really turns me off from it. I think something small with no more than 50 people would be ok but I guess I wouldn’t be upset if we didnt’ end up having anything.


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