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?

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.

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