Narcissism, self-promotion, and your wedding

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Thanks to Offbeat Bride Cay for sending me this recent BBC article, which asks the question “Has an atmosphere of narcissism and self-promotion worked its way into the idea of the modern wedding celebration?”

There's talk that we can all agree with about princess-y wedding culture and overpriced weddings. There are quotes that many of us can poo-poo from a Canon Chancellor about how weddings really should be solemn religious affairs. The article's most interesting question for me, however, is whether the reality of the “self-sacrifice” that's inherently a part of marriage “is lost when the ceremony is specifically designed to be all about me.”

Reading that, suddenly I went from being all “BOO, enforced princess culture!” and “PSHAW, dictated wedding solemnity!” to thinking, “…Well, yeah. That can be sort of true, just as much for offbeat weddings… in fact maybe even more.” Then I was like, “Holy shit, I think I just agreed with a clergyman.”

Because here's the thing: while I don't think weddings need to solemn or sacred, I actually do worry about the narcissism and self-promotion that I see in some weddings — even (or especially?) offbeat weddings.

In an environment where individuality and authenticity are tantamount, there can definitely be a gentle drift toward narcissism and self-promotion. Over and over again, the advice Offbeat Brides give each other is “This day should reflect YOU, not old traditions that don't fit you.”

I do believe that's true. I believe it to my very core — that not just weddings but your whole LIFE should feel like it fits you. Like you're not buying into someone else's vision of how happiness looks. Each of us should be able to craft a wedding and a lifestyle that feels like an honest reflection of our values. Of our specialness. Of our VERY SPECIAL I AM A SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE THERE IS NO ONE ELSE JUST LIKE ME LA LA LA LAAAA!!! AREN'T I SO VERY SPECIAL!?

…See where it goes if you take it too far? I'm laughing because it's funny because I see myself in that ridiculousness. And I'm guessing I'm not the only one. (Remember, Offbeat Bride is the brainchild of an only child — AND WE ARE THE SPECIALIST SNOWFLAKES OF ALLLLL!)

I really do believe that the world would be a better place if people felt freed to pursue their honest selves and their truest visions of their life. But I'm also aware that this freedom and truth comes with a price, and the price can be an overemphasis on the me and my specialness, at the cost of recognizing where you (in all your specialness) fit into the larger context.

That doesn't need to be the larger context of a solemn church wedding with the Canon Chancellor mumbling at the altar whinging about “dignity and moral seriousness.” (Because if your wedding is serious because you're not expecting your marriage to be fun – UR DOIN IT WRONG.)

Dr Fraser blames the “pervasive influence of the media” for driving people towards narcissism and lavish expenditure.

I'm not with him on anyone being forced into lavish expenditure (these days, even the luxury brides are pinching their pennies), but with the media and the narcissism? Dudes, he's not wrong. Here's an open secret: I AM THE MEDIA. On a certain level, Offbeat Bride is The Man WIC conspiracy theorists warned you about. By featuring Real Offbeat Weddings, I'm creating a culture where weddings become something to be shown off to the world. I've written about this before.

It would be disingenuous to deny that my favorite parts of my own wedding planning were the fun, superficial parts — the fashion, the reception, the socializing. The writing the vows were meaningful too, but I am who I am — and that's a lighthearted, gregarious agnostic who likes to dance and eat and talk with her beloved folks. So of course I wouldn't have a wedding full of “dignity and moral seriousness,” because I'm pretty undignified and goofy. I'm also narcissistic and used to work in marketing (read as: self-promotion).

This is all to say: I'm part of the problem.

I like to think that Offbeat Bride encourages each of you to pursue your most authentic wedding, and for those of you who are thoughtful, that should mean obsessing over your vows as much as you obsess over your shoes. For those of you who are like me, I guess that means planning one hell of a party and dorking out over independent fashion designers. I'd like to make sure I'm representing the more thoughtful side of things as well — please consider submitting! I know there are lots of awesome bloggers who do a lot of deep thoughtful writing about weddings.

…and I like fancy dresses? SAD FACE.

No, whatever: I think it's just important that each of us know ourselves well. Know your foibles and blind spots and weaknesses, in life and in wedding planning, and take a second to examine them and work on them. It's crucial for each of us to step back from the dizzying swirl of wedding details and color schemes and party plans and think about what it all means.

And so: what does it all mean to you?

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Comments on Narcissism, self-promotion, and your wedding

  1. For me, for my wedding, it was very important that all my friends and family felt comfortable, included, and treasured as a part of our lives and our relationship. My husband’s sister (a good friend of mine) is the one who introduced us, so how could this be anything else? So we arranged things that we important to us and left the rest as projects for friends and family to take on and do themselves. I was even surprised on the wedding day with how so many things turned out, because I never saw them or heard about them in production!

    I took care of the cake (baking’s my thing) and Steve and I wrote the ceremony together. We included just enough religious-ness to make family comfortable, but it was largely non-religious, full of comic book references, and officiated by a judge. Everything else became a project for friends and family.

    One friend organized all the hors d’oeuvres to be made by selected friends and family. One friend did all the flowers for me. One friend made mix CDs for wedding favors. One cut up old comic books and made food labels. One let us borrow (and ran!) his sound equipment. One made a playlist of music for the reception. Many served the food and drinks at the reception. The list goes on, you get the idea.

    Weddings are about you and your partner, but they’re also about the community that supports you and makes your commitment possible. That’s why I was ultimately so thrilled with how our ceremony included everyone. Steve and I stood at the front and welcomed our wedding party with hugs as they walked down the aisle. Because it was really so much about all of them, too. I think that set the perfect tone for the whole shebang. And we really did have a rockin’ party (complete with conga line)!

  2. I’m so glad you posted this. I have been struggling hard lately with answering the question of what (and who) all this wedding stuff is really for. I am a pendulum swinging back and forth between “this is MY day and it needs to be perfect and beautiful and I don’t care how anyone else feels about it or if we can afford it (rawr!)” and “this is making me evil, let’s just elope.” Narcissism followed by guilt, rinse and repeat! Time to get a grip on reality. Thanks Ariel!

  3. Oh, portions of my wedding are absolute narcissism! But, really, this is one of the few (if only) times in my life where everyone I know and care about is looking at me, so I really want to bring it. I think as long as that narcissism doesn’t interfere with the important part of the wedding (first day of a marriage), then it’s all in good fun and just one day in one’s entire life to be garish.

    • Yes! I feel a bit like this too.
      I kind of feel like this is my one and only chance to show off my event designing skills which are otherwise going to complete waste in my life! haha!

  4. My FH and I both value the ability to laugh together as one of the best and most important parts of our relationship. Celebrating our wedding in a fun way is important to us. So too is creating a wedding that is a melding of both of us. There IS sacrifice inherent in the planning because we are going to compromise. In the end the wedding will be a mix of both of us, symbolizing that we have become one, that we will proceed together. Plus, it will be fun. And our life together should be fun and joyful. I think we will need to check in with eachother, though, through the process to remind one another that it is about publicly acknowledging what we already know, that it is about standing in public and saying we are in love, we want to get married, we want to give of ourselves to one another, and get through the bad times as well as the good.

    But I’m still excited about a pretty dress and making fun invitations.

  5. The best weddings I have been a part of managed to walk the line between uniquely reflecting the couple, and making the family and friends who love them happy as well.

    And oh, it’s such a fragile balance!

    Because, yes, your wedding should reflect who you and your fiance/e are (blue hair, tattoos, princess dress, whatevah).

    But it should also take into account the other folks who will be there–family, friends, community. A marriage is a uniting of lives, and that’s pretty damn serious.

    I guess it comes down to being thoughtful and gracious–for example, I won’t have booze at my wedding because my family would be very uncomfortable.

    Does that make me a leetle frustrated?
    Is it something I just need to deal with for the sake of what matters?

    Be excited about the PRETTIES, but remember that there are more folks involved in your wedding AND marriage than just you and your love…and that’s okay.

  6. I totally agree with this and I’m really glad you brought it up. I ate, slept and drank OBT during my wedding planning process (we got married in June) so I’m entirely grateful for this resource. But I sometimes felt a little weird about the constant obsession with showcasing “US” through our stuff and our colors and our pop culture preferences. Because the “serious” part of marriage is about no longer clinging fast to your little “special snowflake” identity. You are two, now, and you are both living beings who will definitely grow and change together — but probably not in the same ways at the same time.

    Neither I nor my husband is religious or theistic, but we are deeply spiritual and try to live that expression. Speaking for myself, I knew I would only marry someone if they felt, as I do, that you could only succeed at the odd business of loving another living being — living moment to moment with the mysteries of their psyches and twists and turns of their personal journeys – if you live it as a spiritual exercise, as a way of purification and getting in touch with the highest good.

    That’s a very ego-destroying position, of course. You need to be very grounded in love for yourself, but you no longer get to grasp tightly to every manifestation of your identity, know what I mean? There are going to be days when you don’t get to do “your” thing, because someone else’s needs conflict, or because you want to be with that person and they want to do “their” thing. Marriage is accepting the other, that which is not you.

    I take great pleasure in my hatred for golf and all it represents – but life is long, and for all I know my husband may decide it’s just the hobby for him! Then golf would be in my life and I’d have to deal with it, or else deprive him of his own self-expression. You never know.

    He and I base a lot of our identity on being active and in great shape, but one of us may get injured or somehow not be able to go trucking up hills like we used to. And so we’ll have to deal with things outside our identity becoming part of our identity. By choosing to love someone and let someone in, you are opening yourself up to the universe. You have to be prepared to let go of your identity when it doesn’t serve, to let the life force take you somewhere else.

    And so, gather ye “OMG-these-are-the-perfect-representation-of-me” origami rosebuds while ye may.

  7. In planning my wedding, I’ve heard a few people say “This is all about YOU!”. But it’s not. Because my fiance and I get on with our families really well, the wedding is entirely about THEM. In fact, if the wedding was about US, then we wouldn’t have one at all.

    This isn’t to say that we will necessarily be pressured into doing everything only to please everyone else, because we are certainly skipping things that people would doubtlessly love us to include (like, for instance, a ceremony). But what we are doing, we are doing for the sake of the 400+ people that we love and adore and want to include in the receptions that we are holding in two parts of the world.

    I think what I am saying is, “HAHAHAHA, I’m not a narcissist in this PARTICULAR part of my life.”

  8. I don’t quite know how to take this. While I agree wholeheartedly with an enormous part of it, and I am struggling with this recently due to a family member’s upcoming nuptials…I’ll admit it also kind of makes me feel bad.

    I did everything in my wedding planning process (We were married in July) to reflect both me and hubby’s unique outlook on life. We did do a religious ceremony, but we wrote enormous parts of it, picking prayers, readings, music, and even our own vows were written to reflect us. I felt that it was the first time in our entire existence that we could truly be the people we are without judgement, without discontent, etc. etc.

    But…leads me to wonder what happens to those that have $50 and can only go to the justice of the peace and we’re lucky enough to get the cutsey dress?

    Me…maybe it’s just me…I think part of the self-promotion isn’t a bad thing. It’s just one day. One thing. I’m not sayin’ blow up and go from being a mild-mannered scientist to a full on public relations expert.

    • No need to feel bad — I hope I made it clear in this article that I’m a total narcissist and self-promoter. I’m ALL for self-promotion. I just don’t want to lose sight of the other stuff, and I don’t want my personal “GO INDIVIDUALITY!” angle to distract brides from the bigger picture issues.

      • well I almost take the spreading of the gospel of “GO INDIVIDUALITY” as a good thing.

        So many people have “suggested” things to me, and always say “don’t forget it’s your day” but I’m almost intimidated. The only time I really feel grounded is when my fiance and I talk about what we hope could be our wedding.

        I’ve seen friends of mine, married, and have to compromise on certain things for family, but in the end, the day is about them (the couple), I would hope that families can respect the couple’s individuality.

  9. This makes me want to write that update in my head about lurking on OBT post-wedding and feeling not as special snowflake as other OBTers. However, while if I manage to write a post such as that I wouldn’t want to tag it OMGOBT because I don’t want to feel like I’m calling out for attention. It is a very strange dynamic.

    So I guess it comes down to being ok with wanting attention and owning that. Rather than feeling shame for giving into the narcissism.

  10. I’d rather a couple have a wedding that expresses and fits them (financially, spiritually, socially) rather than hear two years down the line that the couple is in debt and now breaking up. If getting married in front of a Mayor or Justice of the Peace helps solidify that commitment with none of the hoopla (photos,cake,video,family,dancing) , then I’m for that. If photos, family, church, dancing & cake provide a tangible reminder of the fun and commitment you share, then I support that too.

    I hate, hate, hate to hear about couples that I photographed breaking up. I hope this has nothing to do with narcissism and fairy tale weddings. I hope that our photos some how contribute to couples staying and loving…

    Okay I will get off my moral idealistic soap box.

  11. Indeed. When you got asked about this at the SF reading, I was thinking something like, “The stories I feel most comfortable sharing are the stories written by women who just want to pay it forward. They want to share their wedding and what they learned to help you, because other women helped them, but they are not even sure about how they feel about sharing it on line. The ones that scare me (and I try to stay away from) are the things written in a very self promoting way.”

    Wow. I just quoted my thought process.

    But still. I worry about this a LOT. The web has made getting your wedding “published” available to all of us, and I worry about when what people will think becomes more important than the experience of it.

  12. I love that you used the photo! It was taken by my brilliant friend Stephanie (La Photographie Nashville).

    You have got to focus on yourself as much as you can when you’re planning a wedding. My husband simply encouraged me in the beginning by saying, “throw the party YOU want, who cares about what other people expect.”

    I made it all about me (and him) and I’ve had folks tell me they’ve never been to a wedding with more personality.

    Don’t do pomp and circumstance for the sake of it. Keep your values in mind, pay respect to those you need to, but most of all spoil yourself and your desires. This is the day for self-indulgence.

  13. Everyone has to strike the balance between expressing oneself and creating the life you want with respect to the wants/needs of others. It is a daily struggle, perhaps exacerbated by momentous life events like weddings.
    Of course, some people may get swept away in the moment; but I’d like to think when it comes down to the final minutes that most people try to remember they are standing there to honor a respect for commitment in front of the people they love most.

    I think you can have solemnity and reverence for your wedding vows AND have fun! You can make traditions your own or explain why they don’t suit your ceremony while caring for other’s feelings. When it comes down to it, a wedding is suppose to be a celebration of the love you and your partner share. I don’t think there is anything wrong with people trying to make the celebration as big as their love. Even if you have $5 in your wedding budget, go find the tallest building in town to throw confetti from and shout your joy from the roof top! I love weddings and I love how they make everyone feel. So I say celebrate your ass off and have a day you’ll be thrilled to reminisce about for the rest of your life!

  14. Great article, and I’m so glad that OBB does articles like these.

    Re: the BBC article that this article references – yeah, pretty sure “the wedding” does not contribute to divorces. What contributes to divorces is lack of respect for one another, selfishness, sure, but these are probably personality traits which were in place BEFORE the wedding as well….

    Like so many “alarmist” articles, this BBC one focuses on the tip of the iceberg (“the WEDDING!”), instead of the real issues (couples today are having communication issues, or whatever). The tip of the iceberg is only the top 10%, the other 90% is hidden underwater….

    Or who knows, maybe the vicar was trying to re-do an old joke:
    Q: What’s the #1 cause of divorce?
    *ba-dum ching* sorry, sorry….*dodges tomatoes being thrown…am an old vaudevillian at heart 😉 *

  15. I love this post!

    I can honestly say that my hackles rise when religious figures preach about the solemnity of marriage as if they own exclusive rights to the concept. I don’t view marriage as a holy bond blessed by a god (but then I think religion is bunk). Anyway…about the narcissism and self promotion….where is the line between knowing yourself and having healthy self esteem to being a narcissist and shameless self promoter? I think it’s a blurry and gray line that moves around a lot.

    I have been with my FH for almost 9 years. Our wedding will be almost 10 years to the day we met. We have already melded out lives together (including genetically with our little spawnette). When we announced to everyone that we were getting married I almost broke out into hives. Why you ask? Because of the questions about what I was going to do on ‘my special fucking day’. (This was, of course after they picked themselves up off the floor since marriage was never on the top of my list.) Everyday is a special day with this man I’ve built a life with. The wedding isn’t the important part – in the end it is just a lot of pictures of people having fun on your dime.

    Make the day what you and your future spouse want – enjoy the day and make it special for the two of you. Include your family as much or as little as you want because only you know what the right amount is. There is nothing wrong with making it your special day. And if you get to wear a pretty dress even better.

  16. Um, Ariel, quick question. Is that supposed to be OBGOBT or OMG? Just want to double check (especially since I have a lot to say about my ceremony concept, which is love as freedom).

  17. Once weddings stop about being “I will increase my wealth by marrying this girl and taking fifteen goats” or “I will marry this man and unite our people” then they are absolutely about self-involved spectacle. Why get married in a fancy dress, say fancy vows, and then celebrate? Why not just show up in sweats, sign a few papers and say “yup, gonna stay with this person for always” in front of family?

    And that’s not a bad thing. “Narcissism” is the problem du jour. Twitter and facebook make us narcissists. Now weddings are making us narcissists. And narcissisim is bad so it must be the cause of all these various bad things. It’s all just horseshit. (The narcisism thing. Not your article Ariel. Your article was very good)

  18. It’s amazing how much that stereotype of this being the BRIDES day gets re-enforced, even in a community like this!
    I personally have heard it so much… that well.. I think I rather believe it now! Every now and then I catch myself saying “noooo it has to be THIS way” and then wondering whether I’m just being Bridezilla.

  19. This may not be a popular comment, but I’ve found Offbeat bride a little Ariel-light of late. Not to say that the other contributors aren’t doing a lovely job, but the vast majority of what made me fall for this blog in the first place was Ariel’s insight into the cultural landscape of the ‘alternative wedding’. Not to say that isn’t what OBB is still about, but I’ve been missing the philosophy and would take posts like this over a ‘monday montage’ any day of the week… Perhaps because I’m in the middle of a long-ish engagement, and six months into my explorations of wedding-blog-land the ‘OMG adorable post-card STD’ posts are getting less palatable, while the real nitty-gritty ‘how do we deal with the wedding beast as mature, intelligent, and not-too-egocentric grown ups?’ gets me every time.
    Thanks for the thoughts Ariel.

  20. I love this debate so much.

    I am a wedding planner so I of course partake in the commercial side of weddings (sourcing sometimes quite ridiculous things, ensuring that every whim is met etc) but I definitely agree that weddings are, for some, an exercise in complete narcissm.

    This is particularly true within this OK/HELLO culture of showing off your big day in the media/on a blog (which I also partake in as I get my weddings featured from time to time as it is good for business).

    However, that doesn’t mean that I believe in the OTT way that many brides approach their wedding day. Anyone who knows me or regularly reads my blog will know that I always keep in mind the bottom line – the commitment that two people are about to make to each other.

    I think it all comes down to perspective. There isn’t anything wrong with the ‘princess for a day’ idea as long as, alongside the dress, colour co-ordinated favour boxes or whatever, you also keep in mind the comfort of your guests (who you are inviting to bear witness to something special – not to show off your style/wealth etc) and that the day marks the first day of your married life together!

  21. Thank you so much for this article! We were just married in July and, after all the millions of photos, have felt conflicted about this very issue. As anyone who’s gone to an arts college knows :-), pursuing authenticity often leads to extreme navel-gazing because that’s what the process of figuring out who you are and what you want and why is all about. I think it’s incredibly important to pursue an authentic wedding not only for yourself but so that your guests – who’ve just spent time and money to spend the day with you – walk away with a sense of who you are as a couple. At the same time, it’s very important to be aware of the narcissism that comes along with all the effort it takes to pull this off. Because even if you’re pursuing authenticity instead of attention, you’re still getting and giving yourself loads of attention.

  22. First I want to say: great article!

    Secondly I want to say I think part of the problem is it can be very hard for anyone except the individual in question to say what is narcissism and what is not, but in spite of this a lot of people (on both sides of the divide) are very quick to judge. No one here I hasten to add (I’m mostly thinking of the BBC article and it’s comments).

    Are Couple A having a big, fancy wedding because they’re narcissists who want as many people as possible to see them get married and how much money they spent on it? Or are they having it because they gave in to familial pressure having decided as long as they were married at the end of the day they didn’t care where it happened or how many people attended?

    Are Couple B running off to the registry office because they’re prioritising the vows they make to each other and don’t want the importance of their marriage to be clouded by the wedding? Or do they want everyone talking about them and how crazy and different they were? Were they going to be in the same position as Couple A and decided they were going to get THEIR wedding done THEIR way, regardless of what that was?

    And so on. Every couple is different, every wedding is different. Unless you’re there for every aspect of the process you’re not in a position to say for sure why any decision was made.

    I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that there are people who get married for the wrong reasons, or for whom the wedding was more important than the marriage. But they can just as easily be the ones rushing off to the registry office or having a super-traditional, formal wedding. There are also plenty of people who keep it all perfectly in perspective, no matter how dramatic their wedding, and most people fall into the huge grey area in between where it’s impossible to sort them into one category or another. And yet that’s what outsiders keep trying to do.

  23. Thank you for this article. Very thought-provoking.

    For me, it brings up the tension between what we want vs. what our families want, and how on earth do we cultivate honor and respect when our ideas are so different? Where’s the line between “It’s all about US and expressing US” and taking into consideration the ideas of family, some of whom remember a time where weddings were not about self-expression but rather about family? We’re starting to figure out where that line is, e.g. making the negotiable/non-negotiable lists, but for a while there I was toeing the line of “Shouldn’t I have a strong opinion about everything, since everything will be an expression of our relationship?” It’s the space between “It’s our day” and “it’s not just our day,” and damn is that a hard line to suss out.

    (I might add, a bit off topic, that while I recognize it’s easy to categorize people as “religious” and “non-religious” and make assumptions based on those binaries, FH and I are having one heck of a time reckoning with his parents’ traditions, and we’re all devout Christians. Even within the same faith, there are struggles and debates about the application of principle and tradition, not to mention the “solemnity” of the occasion.)

  24. I have been pondering narcissism being the crypt keeper of modern marriage for some time now (sociology nerd.) When I take into account both my grandparents 45 year marriage and my parents 2 year marriage, the difference that jumps out the most to me is the level of narcissism and self promotion.

    My grandparents lived in a time where people weren’t worried about psychologically damaging you by giving critique. There were more children per family, less money to go around, and no energy to spend on selfish endeavors. My mom on the other hand was an only child. Doted on, praised, and encourage to be whoever she wanted. Now I’m not saying these things are bad. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t do these things with my children.

    The only issue was this was one of the first generations through time to get this level of admiration and attention and noone realized the repercussions. We have to remember in relationships (marriage especially) that it’s not all about us. We need to lose the self entitlement, suck it up, and work through the hard times….instead of fleeing because you know we deserve so much better!

    There are a ton of broken people out there searching for this flawless person to worship them because they never got the memo that they don’t exist. We have to have forgiveness, humility, selflessness, humbleness, and unbridled compassion for a marriage to truly work. As far as the wedding day goes….to me its all poppycock. As long as you have the rest of your days in check and know how to give the most of yourself to you partner, then do what you want. It is only ONE day correct? Focus on your ever after.

  25. I just want everyone to have a good time. I want everyone to be able to say, “Gosh, that was a fun wedding.”

  26. It took me some time to digest this article. I did reflect on how I’d grown as a person in the last year and 3 months. I’ve become much more self aware while planning the wedding and in general. I’ve also been able to separate myself from situations around me. I believe that I can contribute this personal growth to wedding planning in part.
    I don’t feel “narcissism and self-promotion” in our wedding; we may be too early in the stages. However, wedding planning is a two person job and this person loves her pretties. But, and this is an important but, I’ve always seen the value and power of vows. I’ve always been that little girl who saw vows-promises as things with real power. (Pinky swears still matter to me!) Our wedding will have to reflect my respect for vows power for it to be meaningful.

  27. I really can honestly say I don’t feel like this article pertains to me. We’re having a wedding for everyone else because to us it doesn’t matter. I mean, we are designing everything how we’d like it, but it’s just not that big of a deal. I’ve not had a freak out or an “OMG MUST HAVE THAT” moment (yet!). To me, this wedding just isn’t all that important. Having lived with FH for a while, it just doesn’t feel like that big of a deal. We just wanted to do something with our friends and family to celebrate love, both our love for each other and for our friends.

  28. This reminds me of Ariel’s post on authenticity v. attention. It also reminds me of when wedding magazines (scarily) talk about “branding” your wedding. I want my wedding to reflect us as a couple, not attempt to sell our “brand” of taste.

  29. At a recent rehearsal, the mother of the bride began to take control of the rehearsal. It was apparent that the daughter was not going to speak up so I leaned over to her mother and whispered in her ear, “This is not your wedding! It is your daughter’s wedding. You already had yours. She has already decided what she wants, so please let her have it.” She was visibly pissed! Her daughter asked, “What did you say to my mom?” When I told her, she said, “YES!”

    At the reception the mother came over to me, gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “I am so sorry I made such a scene at the rehearsal. My daughter’s wedding was perfect. Thank you for standing up for my daughter.”

    Every bride and groom should make their own choices about what is in their ceremony and how it is performed without any influence from their parents, friends or family! Let’s face it, narcissism is in. The bride and groom’s wedding IS about them.

  30. The question becomes who the wedding is for–is it for the couple, or for the community?

    I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, where she related that she and her now-husband had gone to the courthouse to pick up their marriage license and she’d tried to convince him to just marry her and have done with it right there. Her opinion was that they were already committed to each other in their hearts–they knew it, their families knew it, and God knew it, so they didn’t need a big ceremony. They could just sign the license for legal purposes and call it good.

    Her now-husband’s opinion, which I share, was that the wedding was also for their friends and family–that the community they had chosen to include themselves in deserved to participate in a community-oriented ritual.
    Her argument was that the marriage was for them, his argument was that the marriage was for everyone. The commitment was for them.

    Is it narcissistic to focus on yourself and your partner during a wedding? Yes, but it’s a good kind of narcissism–the same kind that has you checking yourself out in the mirror because you look hot today. 🙂 What’s bad is when you focus on yourself and your wedding to the exclusion of everything else. You need to appreciate the contributions of your friends and family, and not just fret that they’re arranging the flowers wrong or dropped off the cake 5 minutes late. Remember to say thank you. Remember that your wedding is about you and your partner, but it’s a group effort, even if the only thing your guests do to help is show up! 🙂

  31. I really feel like this conversation isn’t just about weddings; what you’re describing is the atmosphere of the internet world, and how we are constantly trying to prove how unique we are, and how worthy of attention we are. We blog about everything from our cats to our businesses, we post videos of ourselves talking about politics or how to do make-up, we post a thousand pictures of ourselves in our most hipster outfits and rad hair. We have to be “FIRST” on forum posts, we have to prove how much funnier we are than the rest of the people on the internet. So why would we treat our weddings any differently? We blog about anything from our dress to our self-written vows, we post videos of how to make a paper flower bouquet, and we post a thousand pictures of our wedding hair-do. We have to be more unique than any other bride on the internet.
    Within OBB, though, I feel this has become a safe space, and our narcissism, so be it, has bloomed if only because we are safe, and we are accepted. But, we are all supporting each other. It would be ugly narcissism if we bragged and then put down another couple for their choices, but I never see that on OBB/OBBT. I think we are about the safest place to be on the internet. <3

  32. To me, narcissism becomes a problem when you start pulling other people into it. When friendships start to fray because they’re expected to attend an engagement party, a bridal shower, a lingerie shower, a “stock the bar” party, a couples shower, a bachelor/ette party and the wedding and reception, and, by the way, bring a gift to all of those–any bride should be able to see she’s expecting too much. Especially when added on top of the $260 bridesmaid’s dress, the $75 shoes the bride has her heart set on, all the underpinnings, plus travel to the wedding and accommodations. When the couple snubs family and friends who can’t come to their destination wedding or who can’t afford anything off their registry, they’re way too self-focused.

    Weddings should absolutely be about the couple, but that’s no excuse for extorting friends or alienating family. Of course, I also think wedding should have at least some dignity and solemnity. These are serious vows you’re taking. Not to say you can’t laugh or have fun, but recognize what it is you’re doing–and mean what you say in your vows.

  33. Even assuming that narcissism can be awesome, I still have a problem with wedding narcissism specifically. It’s awesome to self-promote and be proud (and even brag sometimes) about your skills. I’m not ashamed to enjoy being the center of attention when I’m singing onstage. What bugs me is that getting married isn’t a skill or anything, I just got lucky. I can’t feel right about being narcissistic that way just because I found a man.

    Plus, I’m OK with being a big diva at a concert because I am giving people something (a performance). But at a wedding I’m asking something from them – to support my marriage and to remind me of these vows when I need it. How can I be a big diva when they’re giving me so much more than a party can ever repay?

  34. I love so many of these comments. I want to add a bit to Danikat’s earlier comment, that we can’t always know what made a couple decide this or that about their wedding. Weddings, lest we forget, used to be (and still are, in lots of cases) simply a way for the bride’s family to showcase their wealth and status in front of the groom’s family so the groom’s parents wouldn’t feel they were getting a bargain basement bride. That’s it. Dowry, hope chest, blah blah blah. Today’s brides (myself included) may feel we need to decouple ourselves (pun intended) from that chauvinist history, which is fine. But if we FORGET that weddings were originally all about money and conspicuous consumption, I think we run the risk of repeating the essential mistake of those earlier weddings, which was placing focus on the form, not the content, of the event. I’m just re-stating what’s been said eleventy hundred times on this site already–that a radical re-thinking of weddings has GOT to place the couple’s–or polyfamily’s–love & commitment at the center, or at least prioritize it over the birdcage veils. End of sermon. 😉

  35. A lot of these comments make me sad in a sort of accidental way. See, we don’t have a loving and supportive community. At all. So the whole crisis of narcissism vs. including all the wonderful people who love you and how marriage is all about those outside of the couple who support them, how it’s a union of more than two people? That doesn’t apply. and that hurts.

    Our wedding will be just the two of us. Because it has to be. Because we’re the only two people who fully love and support each other. What might appear to be narcissism is actually emotional self preservation.

    I wish I could wring my hands and distress over whether all my loving, supportive family members will be comfortable and fully included in the ceremony. Instead we have to do this ourselves or risk filling the day, risk filling our lives, with hatred and poison. It sucks. a lot. But I’m not trying to complain. My point is…

    I don’t know. My point is just that it makes me sad, I guess.

    • For what my non-bride opinion is worth, you raise a good point. I think in a lot of cases, it’s actually the people telling the couple in question what they should or shouldn’t do for their own wedding who are the real narcissists.

      Look at it this way – a person isn’t a narcissist if she chooses to wear her favorite color even though everyone in her life hates that color. (I’m theorizing in a day-to-day context here, not a wedding.) Why is it anyone’s business whether she wears that color or not? On the other hand, a person *is* a narcissist if he dictates that everyone in his life has to wear his favorite color whether or not they like it. Why is it his business what color anyone else wears?

  36. Very thought provoking.

    What I think – it’s not about me, it’s not about him, it’s not about our family, and friends – it’s about ALL of that. It’s celebrating who you were before, who you are now, who got you there, etc.

    If we wanna play dress-up while celebrating all that mushy stuff…. why not? :3 We’re all 5 year olds at heart, trying on our mother’s dresses (not that mine had any, lol), right? Might as well embrace it and have fun. Or if we’re the sweats and t-shirt kind of people, why not do that?

  37. I have a cousin who just got married. I am very happy for her. I wasn’t able to go to the wedding because she lives too far away. At first I was very disappointed at not being able to go and share in her special day. That faded quickly after reading her constant Facebook updates about her, her fabulousness as the bride etc. It didn’t end there, she is now on her honeymoon and is commenting on how fabulous she is, how beautiful her husband thinks she is etc. etc. I believe in celebrating life’s special moments, but you are not having a coronation when you get married, you are just celebrating your love with family and friends. You are not a real princess, so brides, don’t act like one. Feel happy, lucky and special, but don’t feel like you are THE CHOSEN ONE. You haven’t been anointed you just got engaged and now you are getting married.

  38. Hmm, what was the question? I lost track in the comments but here are my thoughts.

    I was having dinner with another bride-to-be recently and realized a stark contrast in our almost identical weddings. She turned to me and said, “its ridiculous how much thought and effort we put into the party aspect and almost none into the marriage part”. I turned to her and said honestly, “that’s not true for us. We have spent hours and hours, weekends on top of weekends preparing our marriage. Our priest led us through pre-cana, sure, but each of us took it especially seriously and had a lot of talks and a lot of disagreements so when we get to the altar, we know what we are promising”.

    This sounds harsh but I have been encouraging some sort of wedding prep for them, some discussion of the vows and she was largely ignoring me and so I had some concern. I feel for atheists/agnostics because so much of the marriage prep is largely cloaked in religion. Its so much harder for those peeps to find meaningful marriage discussion that doesn’t cram a certain belief down their throats…which was the problem my friend was having. SO, its easy to just cruise along on planning the wedding part cuz seriously, as complicated as f-ing seating charts are, at least its not scary. Marriage discussions are scary…but sometimes, sometimes its great too. I mean, the pre-cana put a question in the book: I think you would leave me if this happened:__________ I mean HOLY CRAP – that was scary. but it turned out great.

    Anyhow – I left that conversation thinking that it was just like college. I’m looking around at all the kids making A’s and partying and wondering when the hell they study. And then I go to the library and see the same kids. On the surface, the weddings may look the same – but the people in them are different – some are narcisstic and a show and some are thoughtful, heartfelt and real- and looking at where they take place, how traditional or offbeat, or what religion they believe, gives you no clue to which is which. IT just depends on the people (haha thats individualism isn’t it?)(and my friend is not narcissitic by the way – Im just using it as an example of you can’t always see the forest through the trees)
    Offbeat bride is meaningful to me because yes, its individualistic, but that doesn’t make it narcissitic. Supporting brides in creating their vision often shows their willingness to compromise for their families – their partnership with the love they are committing to. lots of examples of this here. Satan worshipping brides that try to limit the satan speak for their mother’s sake is not narcissitic – its quite sensitive and loving. Vegetarians serving meat for their guests, heteros making a pro-LBGTQ statement in their prayers, a partner acquiesing to the black dress because his wife is not a white dress kinda girl…or a dress girl for that matter. Thats the opposite of narcissistic –

    In my case, I’m offbeat lite…and having a wedding thats true to my core but its lavish and its traditional on the surface – you have to dig to find the offbeat parts. I watch offbeat bride because watching people on the happiest day of their life reminds me that even though I’m dealing with a crapload of reception details I don’t care about, its going to be great. I don’t have to do anything – I could do nothing but make sure the priest, fiance and me are there and it would be great.
    (AND before the internets go crazy – I support all of the people I named above – your marriage is not doomed if you didn’t do marriage prep, I just think it makes the post-wedding journey an itsy-bitsy bit easier).

  39. I think having any wedding where there is guests in excess of what you’d need in terms of legal witnesses, etc, is narcissistic. AND I THINK THAT’S FINE. I’ve been with my FH for 13 years. Our wedding is a celebration of our relationship for us and not a signifier of anything new or a big change. And part of the celebration is having a really, really awesome day as a reflection of our really, really awesome relationship. We’re exciting about it all, and if that’s selfish or narcissistic, I honestly don’t care.

  40. When my spouse and I planned our wedding, we kept coming back to what works best for us AND the guests. We started with whether or not children should be invited, and because I have a son, we automatically decided it should. I have been to just a few weddings where I felt so isolated and lonely because so little attention was given to seating, accessibility of the site, and even food that it just made an impression on me. Even with “bachelorette parties,” I wanted it to be low key and cheaper so everyone could have a good time and not feel like they’d break the bank. Too often in this day and age, between social media and “individualizing,” it is easy to become the “it’s all about me” bride. In the end, it’s all about celebrating your day WITH family and friends not with them watching from the sidelines. The best compliment I got from the wedding was hearing how much fun the guests had as well as us. Isn’t that what life comes down to anyway? Celebrating with those you love

  41. Surely if you have the choice then anything other than going off alone, getting married and not making a big deal of it is narcissistic?
    I love my partner more than I could ever put in to words. Our wedding day will not/does not define our relationship. Yes we are having fun planning and because we are fortunate enough being able to splash out on things we wouldn’t usually in order to treat our family and friends to hopefully a great day. And I know that for the majority if we had just disappeared off there would have been quite a lot of dissapointment.
    Essentially I don’t want to get married in order for everyone to fawn over us, in fact honestly as the process has gone I realise havng people put the spotlight on me makes me (Have to correct and resist the urge to punch people who wheel out the “It’s YOUR special day” or “It’s the brides day” but that is a whole other post!) feel rather uncomfortable. But I love the chance to hang with my friends, see family that other than weddings, births or funerals we don’t get to see often and generally be able to tell everyone how grateful we are that they are there to support us and the relationship.
    If that makes us narcissitic then so be it.

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