It’s no secret that weddings have gotten out of control. Just ask any 29-year-old who’s spent hours every Sunday this summer performing the ritual wedding hashtag stalk. It’s also no secret that the number of millennials currently in debt thanks to their wedding—or worse, other people’s weddings—is not zero.
Asked why, the obvious answer is that people are motivated to do it for the ‘gram. According to Wedding Wire’s Newlyweds Report, 28 percent of couples cited “succumbing to Instagram pressure” as a reason for their increased wedding costs. I mean…that photo of the donut wall cake-cutting that never seems to f*cking leave my explore page may be pretty, but I’d rather not make interest payments on it, and I feel like most people would agree. So can Instagram really be the main reason for increased wedding costs when the average bride has like 500 followers and 10 photos on their hashtag page? (I completely made that statistic up.)
This is the donut wall Instagram that’s everywhere:
View this post on Instagram
Who needs wedding cake when you have a donut wall ??? . . Follow [email protected] Follow [email protected] Follow [email protected] . . . . //Photo by @lukeandmallory //Dress @bellalilybridal //Bride @allyscalf //Groom @ryanscalf •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ • ⠀ #soloverly #weddings #bride #bridetobe #truelove #thebest #pursuepretty #weddingfun #iloveyou #weddinginspiration #instawedding #blushgown #weddingideas #weddingphoto #weddingtime #instabride #gettingmarried #weddingblog #valentino #michaelkors #marriage #perfect #weddingcake #dessert #relationshipgoals #donuts #cuteideas
We spoke to Jamie Lipman, the founder of the event-planning company absolute. Wedding & Event Planning to get her take on what she sees as brides’ main motivations for spending more money, and the answer was a tale as old as time: brides are actually spending to compete with their close friends.
According to Lipman, “As a planner, we’re privy to getting super intimate with our clients, and it’s kind of like therapy. They can just flat-out say, ‘my friend got married last week, it’s gotta be bigger and better.’” And as it goes with friend groups, when one gets engaged, there are usually more to follow. The result is that brides are going to numerous weddings around the time they’re getting married, which creates opportunity for comparison. “I had a girl who was kind of like 27 Dresses—went to a wedding every weekend—so every weekend was something incredibly extravagant. The place card wall was floor to ceiling, they had fire-based entertainment, neon LED lights—she compiled all this stuff and gave me a list of everything she’s seen lately and that she has to do more and have a bigger wow factor. She hit every single possible thing of miscellaneous entertainment that we do in our industry. What she neglected to do was focus on the details.”
“The things people try to one-up are the dresses, outfit changes, the gifts they’re giving their bridesmaids, even the way they thank their vendors on Instagram. Honestly, I see a lot of resemblance in photos after.”
There seems to be no aspect of the wedding—no matter how sentimental or meaningful—that is exempt from competition. “I have had brides who demand to read speeches and toasts ahead of time and critique them because they know how well their best friend’s father did reciting his speech and now she is demanding her dad ‘be more sentimental’ about her,” Lipman says.
Apparently this pattern encompasses more than the wedding itself, and includes pretty much every event a bride could conceive of to celebrate herself, from engagement to honeymoon. “There is an element of status that goes along with the bachelorette,” Lipman explains. “Where are you traveling? How many girls? To see a lot of girls on a trip in your honor makes a statement. So it becomes so much about what will the attire be, as in ‘what will look the best in photos.’ It all looks better in their mind because the actuality of it is that no matter how much you love each other, no girl wants to travel with so many other girls. Intimate environments are what it’s all about.”
At the same time, there’s pressure to do things differently from one’s closest friends, basically for the sake of being different. “We also get brides who don’t want something because their friend had it. I’ve definitely had friends or sisters also tell someone that they can’t have something. Especially if it’s the same venue. Sometimes a bride will want to do something, but their friend got married first and took the idea so now they won’t or feel like they can’t.” She even says, “I’ve definitely heard brides say their friends can’t use the same dress designer.”
Lipman says the real way to stand out is through personalization. “There’s nothing more exciting than the subtle references and details that are specific to the bride and groom, that usually have some humor to it, that make people go ‘wait what? This is great.’” But it’s important to keep it subtle. “Over personalization is something that, when not done right, copied off of social media, or not guided in the right direction by a planner, can be tacky and obnoxious. For example, monograms are pretty basic. I don’t know how important it is to put names of the couples on a logo at the top of the wedding menu anymore. Everyone knows who they came to see.” So make it just a little more interesting.
When it comes to Instagram, she thinks brides use it more for inspiration than for competition. “People gather information from Instagram, but it usually stems from a good place because they don’t know the person whose wedding they’re looking at. It’s usually an influencer and you don’t have a direct connection to them. So you can still appreciate it. None of the other human emotions—jealousy, competitiveness—get in the way. The bride can still take from their idea and truly feel that it is their own because they don’t have friends or family in common with this social media stranger. It won’t trace back in her own world, so she gets to hear ‘wow…that was so creative, I can’t believe you did that.’”
We asked her how stressful this must be to deal with and she assures us that, “it’s not always so catty. I think everybody prides themselves on at least trying to be original.” You know what that means: say no to neon signs and donut walls in 2020.
Images: Alasdair Elmes / Unsplash