Big Wedding, Small Budget

The Aspiration Effect

on May 17, 2012

Have you been on Pinterest? It’s pretty addicting, and fun to look at pages and pages of pretty things. It’s a great resource for recipes, design, housewares, and, of course, weddings. I spend as much time looking at beautiful weddings on Pinterest as I do looking at beautiful wedding blogs. I mean, both qualify as “wedding inspiration,” right? That’s the prevailing wisdom, anyway. Except, I disagree. I think the recent boom of “lifestyle” websites, especially wedding sites, have much more to do with aspiration than inspiration. And lately, it has really been making me uncomfortable.

Back in the olden days (you know, like a couple of years ago), I think that brides looked mainly to magazines for inspiration. And with magazines, you pretty much know what you’re getting. We all understand that models, already having won the genetic lottery, are then photoshopped to a level of completely unattainable perfection. We know that the pretty pictures of tablescapes, catering, and flowers were taken at photo shoots, made for the express purpose of looking perfect. Those brides in the photos with perfect hair, perfect makeup, and the perfect outfit? Well, it’s easy to be perfect when you haven’t spent hours crying, laughing, and dancing with your friends and family.

Now we look to the internet for inspiration, mostly from blogs and Pinterest. And here, the lines blur. Thankfully, there are some sites like A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride that only feature real weddings, not photo shoots. But most wedding blogs include both, and it’s not always easy to tell what you’re seeing. So, especially on “indie” blogs, we’re presented with rustic chic, crafty, weddings that are perfect, and clearly expensive while pretending they’re not. The result for lots of people (I think) is not simple inspiration. It’s not even simple admiration. It’s aspiration. It’s feeling like your wedding has be beautiful and crafty and full of meaningful, quirky, personal details. And if it’s not, if it’s just a wedding, than it is not good enough.

I believe that the “aspiration effect” comes into play all over the “lifestyle” sphere on the web. I know Pinterest is full of home projects, cute food, and perfect hairstyles. There are definitely times where I have to take a step back from it, usually when I start to wonder who the people are that pull those things off and why can’t I be one of them? But I think those of us planning weddings are particularly vulnerable.

Weddings are, and have been for a while and across many cultures, a chance for the family to display their wealth, their social standing, and their daughter (historically). Even in this age of brides and grooms paying for weddings themselves, or of both families chipping in, the desire to show off remains. Sometimes, it’s about showing off how wealthy you are. Sometimes, it’s about showing off how talented and crafty you are. Sometimes, it’s about showing off how offbeat and quirky you are. As a bride (or as a couple), you are on display at your wedding more than probably at any other time in your adult life. It’s easy to feel like you have control of what people think.

The truth is, though, we don’t have control. And I think it’s important to really examine what we want people to think and why. If I’m having a “budget” wedding, why don’t I want people to know that? Why should my biggest worry be people thinking I’m cheap or can’t afford all of the trappings of a traditional wedding? Why can’t I just be honest and have an honest wedding, with two imperfect people getting married and creating an imperfect family? I don’t want to put on a show at my wedding. I don’t want to present us as any different than we really are. We’re not rich. I’m a tightwad thrifty. We’re an informal, friendly, casual couple. We don’t stand for a lot of ceremony.

Let me give you an example. I bought a wedding dress. And I’m about to break one of the core wedding rules (big surprise) and tell you something about it: it was cheap. It really didn’t cost that much, for a wedding dress at least. And as I tried it on, I thought to myself, “It definitely looks like it cost more. No one will know it was so cheap.”

But what if they did? Why shouldn’t everyone know? I’m not saying I need to broadcast it from the rooftops, but I also don’t need to pretend it was more expensive. Because a $3000 wedding gown wouldn’t be me. A black tie wedding wouldn’t be me. A $50,000 reception wouldn’t be me. Not only do I not care if everyone knows that, but I really hope they do. I try to live my life honestly, and I wouldn’t want my wedding to be any different.

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One response to “The Aspiration Effect

  1. Becca says:

    🙂 Well said!

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