I want to marry my current boyfriend. I knew this for sure the day he lovingly plucked a stubborn ingrown hair from my leg, and then dropped the tweezers to fuck my brains out.
But I’m completely uninterested in the white dress, the walk down the aisle, the slurred toasts, the giant cake, or the sight of my best friend teaching my 93-year-old grandma how to Dougie. Most of all, I’m uninterested in the ring.
It’s not that I’m skeptical of conflict free jewelry, or that I want to put the money toward a down payment on a house. It’s that my boyfriend is a divorcé. He has experienced these traditions already, so they’re unappealing.
What didn’t occur to me until recently is that my willingness to dodge the conventional engagement routine—and the costs that go along with it—might prompt my boyfriend to pop the question sooner. “Keep emphasizing that you don’t want the big ring or the fancy wedding,” my girlfriend advised over a boozy lunch after confessing she’d followed this approach in convincing her “commitment-phobic partner” to elope.
Long-term commitment and short-term costs are two of the biggest concerns for couples considering marriage. But while the former is highly subjective, the latter is within our control. My friend and I may be outliers in our readiness to jettison tradition, but I wonder: Would more women sacrifice a pricey ring if it meant getting married faster?
According to a survey conducted by XO Group Inc., the company behind TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com, the average wedding budget in 2012 (excluding the cost of a honeymoon) was $28,427, and the average engagement ring costs $5,431. To put this in perspective, the U.S. Social Security Administration lists the average national annual wage index at $42,979.61 in 2011.
Given the numbers, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of hardcore “wedding-heads” out there. What may be more surprising is that many seem prepared to abandon their fantasies to expedite wedlock.
At 20, Christin Aswad is certain she will marry the guy she’s been dating for a year. When I ask her what her ideal wedding would look like, Aswad is unabashedly giddy. “Do you have an hour?” she jokes, then describes the exact diamond ring she covets.
But once she takes a moment to breathe and to consider that her boyfriend will be in veterinary school for four more years, Aswad’s seemingly set-in-stone vision disintegrates. “If I want to get engaged sooner rather than later, the ring will be less than impressive. But I love him and I’ll be fine with whatever he gets me.”
Within the TheKnot.com’s NEY (Not Engaged Yet) forum, I discovered many wedding day diehards who are busy adjusting their expectations because they want the wedding to, well, actually happen.
And these are people who, prior to any questions being popped, have created profiles on a website specifically designed for wedding planning.
Still, when it came to addressing cost, many on the forum were strikingly reasonable.
User lyndsay782 said she’d be “happy with a ring pop on my finger,” as long as it came from her boyfriend. And danser55 asserted that she wouldn’t care if her boyfriend proposed “with a twist tie or a ring from a cracker jack box.”
Three years into his relationship, 25-year-old Daniel Parker feels suffocated by his girlfriend’s nuptial assumptions. Parker fears that the cost of the “Kardashian style wedding” his girlfriend discusses regularly will create “a financial hole” in their relationship for at least two years. “If weddings were cheaper, it would be easier to get married,” he says.
Feeding the problem is that too many would-be brides fail to recognize that their obsession — and their tendency to speak freely about it — fuels these crippling expectations. Forty percent of the brides questioned in a 2011 survey by TheKnot.com reported visiting the site before they were engaged, whether or not they were in a relationship.
Unlike a porn habit, wedding planning isn’t something society sneers at. So women such as Kate Owens, a recently married 34-year-old, don’t feel ashamed broadcasting that they began planning their Big Day a decade in advance of meeting their future husband. Owens told the New York Times, “The big joke at our wedding was that I had booked the band nine years in advance.” How many guys did Owens accidentally terrify before she finally met her groom?.
So if you’re a woman in a serious relationship, and you would like it to lead to marriage sooner rather than later (and you would like to keep your fiancé from having a nervous breakdown, declaring bankruptcy, or all of the above) then consider downgrading your expectations, and then letting him know.
“It’s easy for a person swept up in wedding mania to forget to clarify that they know the difference between fantasy and reality at heart” says relationship expert Rachel Sussman, LCSW. Sussman encourages couples to talk about their respective wedding/ring expectations with restraint rather than fixating on dreams.
Our suggestion: Treat a nuptial fantasy like a sexual one. Communicate your desires gently, without scaring your partner away, display willingness to adapt, and make him feel as though he has a say. Oh, and try keeping your online wedding planning habit a secret, just like you would a porn addiction.
Mélanie Berliet is a New York City based writer and producer. Her work has appeared in Vanity Fair, New York, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Self among other publications. For more of her work, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.