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Judith Timson

Everyone's going over the top - why shouldn't Chelsea? Add to ...

The handsome young couple are getting married Saturday in an exquisite setting. The guests will no doubt be glamorous - several have had their pictures in the paper. The bride's dress is spectacular and here's an intriguing detail: Stepping outside her own culture, she's having her hands hennaed, an ancient Indian wedding custom.

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What? You think I'm dropping tidbits about the wedding, the one the world is supposedly abuzz over - Chelsea Clinton's lavish blowout, reputed to cost $3-million, unfolding this weekend, apparently in Rhinebeck, N.Y., no doubt under the whirr of paparazzi helicopters?

No, silly, I'm talking about my niece. She is also getting married on Saturday and it's the only wedding I'm truly abuzz over.



...it's not just the Chelsea Clintons, it's ordinary mortals who get sucked into the white lace vortex and won't scale back their dreams


The rest of you will have to settle for sparse gossipy news of Chelsea's shindig, which has been orchestrated under more secrecy than a covert CIA operation approved by her mom, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Or if you're in the mood to be mean about the so-called Wedding of the Century, log on to CanDoBetter.com.

There, based solely on looks, Chelsea and her groom Marc Mezvinsky scored a dismal 16-per-cent rating as a perfect match.

As for the alleged nuptial price tag, the New York Daily News floated that bloated and obscene sum, enough to rebuild more than a few earthquake ravaged houses in Haiti, along with a breakdown of costs by people who seem to have no connection to the wedding.

The costs included $600,000 for a glass-walled tent, half a million for flowers, $200,000 for security and I don't know what else - maybe a special velvet chair for Oprah who, natch, is one of the 400-500 guests. The mind reels.

This summer I've had a crash course in weddings, 21st-century style. My nephew and his gorgeous bride tied the knot in Quebec City at one of the most romantic weddings I've ever attended. Next up was a splendid large wedding of the daughter of a friend, at which the tables were decked in pale peonies and the band was spectacular.

No one even bothers to be outraged about the cost any more - the average Canadian wedding is now worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30,000. Extravagant weddings are like the government: Everybody complains but no one does anything about it.

These days, the bride and groom's family often both kick in big money - we're talking $20,000 apiece in some instances, and for what? Six to eight hours of revelry before the flowers wilt. Or as one genial father of the bride and I calculated, sitting exhausted on a sofa at his daughter's gala, "about $10,000 an hour." He was laughing hysterically.

What's more, as television shows like Say Yes to the Dress attest, it's not just the Chelsea Clintons, it's ordinary mortals who get sucked into the white lace vortex and won't scale back their dreams. My eyes popped when several families told me that the standard cost of a wedding cake is now in the $1,000 range. People don't always eat the wedding cake, so this is quite the gratuitous gouge.

I know one budget-conscious couple who debated between a wedding cake and putting on a shuttle bus for their guests and they sweetly decided their guests' comfort was more important. The first bus broke down on the way to the church, but what's a wedding without a glitch?

Of course brave couples buck the trend - I heard of one getting married at a marina where the guests are being encouraged to wear flip flops; and another enterprising bride and groom got a city block permit that let them marry on their front porch with the guests seated out on the street.

But mainly it's the same old over-the-top industry, as I despairingly wrote some 27 years ago about my own wedding, just waiting for you and your Visa card to say "I do." Only more so today.

And the guests? I've forked out more than $2,000 in related wedding costs this summer and been happy to do so. But what about strapped twentysomethings, who tell me that when they get a wedding invitation they have to triage. They can't afford to go to all of them. And yet they still want that "big day" for themselves.

By now we've heard about bridezillas and groomzillas, but guestzillas are bound to be there by the busload at Chelsea's affair - seat me here, let me speak - and even at ordinary weddings, as a friend of mine in the business attests - their demands are escalating.

The reply cards today are filled with ridiculous food demands: "I am allergic to cucumbers and celery and mushrooms."

Chill! The whole point of a wedding is what it always has been - to joyfully gather as a community of loved ones to celebrate and support a couple setting out on what my great Uncle Tom once called "life's greatest adventure."

Oh, and if you're young, to apparently down as many shots as possible. Hence the skyrocketing bar bills.

While it would have been nice to see the Clintons set a trend in more affordable weddings, if ordinary folks can't restrain themselves, why should they? And so, as New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote: "Let her have her day. She's due. Chelsea has been a national public figure against her will since she was 12, and in all that time she has never embarrassed her family - or us."

I'll think of Chelsea - very briefly - on Saturday and hope her wedding means as much to those assembled as my niece's infinitely more modest, intimate wedding means to me, and be grateful - for now -that it's not my Visa card that's taking the hit.

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