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Over the past seven years I have attended more than 50 weddings. I have spent thousands of dollars on travel, clothes, gifts, alcohol and food to celebrate my friends' happiness. I have been to so many weddings that they tend to blur together.
Trust me, I understand people's need to express their love publicly. They have chosen to share their life with someone and to make that commitment legal, and I'm glad for them. It's nice to have a party and have your friends and families celebrating with you.
But I've noticed a disturbing trend in wedding ceremonies lately: Couples are asking a lot from their guests. It sometimes seems to me that the entire day has become a vanity project focused entirely on the bride, who behaves as though she is a princess to whom everyone must sacrifice their own comfort for her special day.
Gay weddings have fared even worse, by my estimation. Last year, I had to turn down an invitation because it required a plane trip to British Columbia, where guests were asked to camp outdoors at a clothing-optional resort, and to provide their own food and drinks. Even worse, the guests were responsible for getting themselves to and from the wedding location, not to mention the airport.
It's okay to organize and plan your wedding the way you want, but when you are asking guests to make expensive trips around the country, and then making no effort to feed them, don't be surprised when they decline the invitation.
When did it become appropriate to ask guests to make sacrifices for the wedding couple's special day? Not too long ago, the prevailing thought was that if you were going to invite guests to your wedding, you would go above and beyond to treat them. If you couldn't afford to do that, you had a more intimate ceremony with only a handful of your closest friends and relatives.
I once drove five hours to a wedding outside Ottawa where I was forced to sit through a 1 1/2-hour Catholic mass (I am not religious and had no idea the couple was either), and when I arrived at the reception I realized there would be no food served to the 200 guests. Sure, there were cheese and crackers, but they ran out after 30 minutes. It was a shameless cash grab. The couple used their guests to obtain the down payment for a home.
I was appalled. To make matters worse, the wedding was on a Friday and I had taken an unpaid day off work. The only positive thing that derived from that wedding was the realization that the special couple didn't share my values. I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to have them in my life any more. I don't.
Then there was the wedding of a couple of old university friends. When I arrived at the outdoor reception it became painfully obvious the tables had not been set. There they were, in their naked glory, begging to be clothed. A visibly flustered bridesmaid pleaded with me to help with the seating arrangements. How could I refuse? She was clearly a casualty of another bridezilla's rage, and I tried my best to avert catastrophe.
Afterward, when dinner was served to understandably annoyed guests, I took the money I was intending to give the newlyweds out of the card and sealed the envelope. I know it was low, but I couldn't help myself. I never spoke to either of them again.
The conventional idea that a bride's wedding day is her one and only special day is something I cannot relate to – or sometimes even tolerate. What grown woman wants to be a princess for a day? Talk about entitlement. Or maybe I'm just jealous.
Having grown up Italian, I understand the concept of large weddings. You invite as many friends and relatives as possible, and they shower the bride and groom with money so that they can be free to begin their lives together.
In return, the couple ensure that their guests are treated like kings and queens. There is no shortage of food or alcohol, and that's the way it should be. You honour your guests for celebrating your life with you.
What I have learned from all the weddings I have attended is what not to do for mine. And if that was the purpose of encountering so many bridezillas in action, perhaps it was all worth it.
My wedding will be a far simpler affair. I am going to get married in Toronto at a private ceremony of only my closest friends (no more than 10 people) at 6 p.m. The ceremony will last no more than 15 minutes.
Afterward, my guests will be treated to a wonderful vegetarian meal that I have selected and tasted for quality in advance, and they can drink and dance merrily on my tab. Then we will all go home and resume our normal lives.
I don't want to be prince for a day. I don't want to be the centre of attention. I want to be normal because that's who I am. Normal. Simple. And I'm okay with that.
Franco Cignelli lives in Toronto.