Before I moved to Germany, I was a Financial Counselor at my alma mater. I did not go to school for finance, but previous jobs in the realm of retirement funds and a decent amount of on-the-job training mixed with my own personal experiences with college funding were all that I needed.
Receiving training in finance really rearranged the way I think about a lot of things that most people take for granted or don’t ever stop to question.
The first on that list was obviously the ridiculous cost of post-secondary education in the US. Ludicrous is too nice a word, seriously. We (most Americans) have been raised with the understanding that by the time we are 25, we’ll probably be really in debt. And hopefully out of college, paying it back.
The second on the list was weddings.
I’m 29, from divorced parents, and a professional photographer. Always the wedding photographer, never the bride. That’s the way things are. I’m in no rush to get married: I live with the love of my life. There’s all the time in the world for a new tax ID, I’d rather keep the romance that was missing in my parents’ relationship.
I mention that because my own personal feelings mixed with all of the weddings I’ve photographed/been a part of, plus the stupid pop-culture rage over everything bride/princess related has made me pretty sour on weddings as a whole. Yes, I’ve got lots of friends that had wonderful weddings. But why, why, WHY did they have to cost upwards of $20,000? Why buy a dress that you’ll only ever wear once? Why do you need to have an engagement party, a bridal shower, and then bachelor and bachelorette parties? Why do you need to register at 3 different stores for wedding gifts?
This whole wedding thing is a racket, as far as I’m concerned. And while I won’t go posting my own wedding ideas for the world to read, I will say that (as someone who has a degree in design) I won’t be spending a silly amount of money on wedding invitations and postage for a pretty piece of paper that (hopefully) gets recycled. I won’t even be mailing invitations, people are getting PDFs in their email inboxes from me. I won’t be registering for gifts at any stores, and my dress will most certainly be vintage.
This is looking like a rant, and it shouldn’t be. Let’s just settle with saying I’m not interested in being a ‘princess for a day’ and don’t understand why so many people submit to this grandiose idea of over-the-top.
I made the mistake once of buying a wedding gift for a couple from their online registry. I printed the list right in the store! Lo and behold, even though I printed the registry that day, the information was not up to date and someone had already purchased the thing that I bought. What is the use of a gift registry if it doesn’t update in realtime? yeah, exactly.
From then on, I’ve gone the somewhat cold/impersonal route and just given cash. Because as a designer-photographer-financial counselor that had previously spent a lot of time working in retail, I know that nothing sucks MORE than having to return shit at a store. It sucks on all ends, not just the customer’s. And the way I see it, maybe a lot of people need to pay some stuff off after their wedding and honeymoon, or maybe they just want to go to the movies. I’ve always preferred cash to presents. Do what you want! It’s cash!!! Go shopping! That’s totally fun. Be an adult, pay some bills. Welcome to married life.
Enter: my move to Germany. I’m thoroughly enjoying not having to buy expensive dresses that will only be worn once, going to 3 different parties, etc. It’s kind of nice to still be in the friend-making process. A welcome change.
We went to a wedding a few months ago (my first here) and I was totally shocked. In awe, really. It was beautiful. It was kind of small. It was practical.
In the news lately, the Germans and Germany as a whole have been criticized for not wanting to give their hard-earned money to other European countries in need. First of all, you can’t blame them, they’ve worked hard to stay mostly out of crisis and one should never reward the bad behavior of others. Second of all, it’s not really that the Germans don’t WANT to help the rest of the EU, but throwing away money doesn’t appear to be in their nature. This is the culture with a ridiculously low national debt. These are the people that actually save up to buy cars and build houses. The people with social (read: nearly free) education and health care, the country where credit cards are rarely accepted, but your check card is. They really do seem to think need vs. want. And if it isn’t a need, it’s not coming home most of the time.
At this wedding, there were no bridesmaids. No limo. No ‘color theme’. One witness (rather than bridesmaids and groomsmen) on each side. No overdone wedding dress. I think the groom just wore a suit. Not a tux. It was decidedly low-key. And from what natives, my friends and other wedding-goers told me, a pretty normal ‘German wedding’. Because you know I had to ask questions.
And my favorite part (finally, the subject of the blog): the ‘wedding table’. At Neubert. In our town. No bridal registry, no rabid couple running loose in the Target with a scan gun. Just a pile of things that the couple liked, sitting on a table with their photo and wedding date, in a furniture + housewares store. If something’s not on the table, it’s either already been bought or they didn’t want it.
How. Fricking. Practical.
The family and friends can swing by and grab something, have it wrapped, and go to the wedding. Done.
Later, I got this from the website HOWTOGERMANY:
Traditionally, gifts for most weddings in Germany are provided through a Hochzeitstisch (Wedding Table). A couple has their Hochzeitstisch at a particular German store and they literally set up a table with the chosen gifts placed on it. Friends and family visit the store in person and buy something from the table as a gift.
I know that I’m jaded. I know that after 29 years in Germany I might think less of this political and financial utopia that I live in, or at the very least see the flaws as equal to those I’ve found in the US system… But for now, I am really thankful and admirable of the levels of discretion, practicality and common sense around here. It’s nice to be in a place where responsibility in all its forms is still important.