It takes a lot of money to look this casual

Jessa's Improptu secret wedding from HBO's <i>Girls</>.

Jessa's Improptu secret wedding from HBO's Girls.

It takes a lot of money to look this cheap, said the glorious Dolly Parton. 

Whether it's boobs or bunting, the lady has a point. 

I’m talking about those so-called simple, indie, non-traditional weddings. You know, the ones where you’re not sure whether you’re at a wedding or an unsettlingly perfect backyard picnic straight out of Trendy Bride 101. 


It starts innocuously enough, the bride says she is going to be laid back and the ceremony and reception will be even more so. 


Then she finds herself at 2am on a Saturday night going through the bin, washing out old ginger beer bottles and jam jars (just the mismatched ones, they can’t look to samey-same) to create the perfect - but imperfect - props for centrepieces. 

And those invitations, you know, the bespoke ones that were created on a turn-of-the-century letterpress and that double as drink coasters with pictures of moustached gentlemen from the 1890s clinking their mugs of beer, can’t look like she’s put three months of stressing into it. 


The DIY crafternoon she put aside to make paper lanterns, a photobooth backdrop, a homemade thumbprint wedding tree ‘guestbook’ and those tissue paper puff ball things has ended up a hipster, tear-stained mess of Martha Stewart lies. 

And the chairs. The chairs! Can we not have those amazing wooden picnic pew-style benches with cushions made from a 1950s Rosella tomato sauce tea-towel print? I’m not hiring them, are you bananas? We’ll buy them and resell them on Gumtree. What do you mean we have to COMPROMISE?? 

All these examples may or may not be real examples from my own experience. 

Ironically, these homely, backyardish, grass-roots weddings can end up costing more in time, cash and hassle to organise than the wedding package deal at their local function centre. 

However the determination of some brides to make their wedding not a look like a wedding can be just as taxing. 

Umm, say what now? 

These brides don’t shout from the rooftops. They don’t squeal at white tulle and at baby ducks being held by flowergirls, you won’t see her update Facebook with a daily countdown of ‘OMG 268 days until I’m Mrs Nicholas Brody!’ You won’t see her trolling the Bridal Mile on Leederville’s Oxford Street with her pack of ‘maids and she rolls her eyes at the traditional brides that single-mindedly walk down the aisle on the arm of her father to Pachelbel’s Canon in D major.

These examples may or may not be what I did. 

Outwardly, there is a general air of nonchalance about her impending nups. Like the joke goes – how to you know if someone is a vegan, oh don’t worry, they’ll tell you – this bride will reply to any question of her excitedness and anticipation of the Big Day with a droll, almost apathetic ‘I guess…’ or a ‘I suppose so…’ in an effort to disassociate from being labelled as traditional. 

Inwardly, this effort to distance themselves from their giddy counterparts, whether it be real or performed, can grind. 

So what’s wrong with being a Traditional Bride? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it: nothing. It’s just that there are a lot of women who resist buying into the Big Fat Wedding Machine. And this defiance is expensive. 

Consider a function centre-style reception. One price, all inclusive. Like the name says – it does the job, it’s functional with the seats with big bows on the back, the parquet dance floor, the cake table, the gift table, the long bridal table and the MC that the venue provides. Hey, and the atmosphere? It’s amazing what a few fairy lights can achieve. And the bride that chooses this is more likely to be the bride that also thinks that Bridal Expos are like Disneyland. 

Consider the other. The effort that goes into finding the right park, lakeside, backyard, or art gallery can be excruciating. You’re looking for meaning, but not too much meaning. It needs to look spur of the moment, but not too much. That bunting that looks like you found it at a quaint yard sale or made it yourself while bingeing on episodes of GIRLS? Nope, spent $200 (not including the deposit) hiring it. And you needed three as two looked too ‘perfect’. The cute little mismatched bottles, stacks of books and terrariums containing vignettes of succulents and tiny deer figurines… this kind of detail will send you over the edge. 

But you know what the one common thing these brides have? They exchange vows, they say they 'I do' and there is a certificate that makes it all legal. In the end it slides all the way back into traditionalism. 

And the bunting, Mason jars, the moustaches on sticks, the photo booth, the cheese ‘cake’ stack and the vintage props that made your wedding look like it was all homemade and thrown together in the last week? 

Dolly was right.


Pip Doyle blogs at The Wry Bride