“The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas.” –Chesterton, Heretics
I recently bought a charcoal-colored suit for my wedding. The sales associate insisted that I should not wear black shoes with this suit. After I pressed him, he reiterated more strongly: “It is my personal and professional opinion that you should not wear black shoes with a charcoal suit.” Taken aback by his certitude, I risked a few other questions about men’s fashion. He dutifully rattled off the canonical answer to each, leaving me the unmistakable impression that I would be considered a lunatic for daring to mismatch my belt and shoes, or for wearing black shoes with a non-black suit. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard so many baseless dogmatic proclamations in such a short time, recited without trace of accommodation or justification!
But of course this is not restricted to fashion. My fiancée and I have found this simultaneous sense of surprised indignation and unfounded certitude throughout wedding planning. We discovered that we are required to send paper invitations. Electronic invitations are simply out of the question. When asked, wedding forum commenters refuse to provide any advice on how one might send out electronic invitations, because they wish to avoid lending even the slightest shred of respectability to such an outrageous idea. One commenter even compared the request to a person asking: “What’s the most efficient way to burn down my house?” No joke.
Similar dogmas were found relating to honeyfunds (don’t do them), addressing envelopes by hand or using printed mailing labels (obviously by hand), wording on invitations (subtle yet reliable distinctions depending on whether the ceremony is at a place of worship), balancing DIY and professionally-prepared wedding accoutrement to avoid a cookie-cutter wedding while also avoiding inordinate originality (a balance that seems unattainable by design, thereby considerately providing everyone with something to complain about), the necessity of centerpieces (I can’t seem to find anyone sympathetic to my No Centerpieces idea), and nearly any detail involving registries.
Surely this is all just good manners and good party planning, right?
I wish it were that simple. The cost of a wedding can delay marriage and childbearing. The cost is not just monetary. And not just time. There are all sorts of stress costs: dealing with the expectations of family members, limiting the guest list, making a thousand unimportant decisions (what color board should the cake be placed on?), and reading hundreds of Yelp reviews to choose vendors.
But back to my title. Delaying marriage leads to delaying childbearing, decreasing overall fertility rates. Many are concerned about overpopulation. But the projections also show a real possibility of population collapse in the coming centuries (see the “low fertility” model here). Your facebook feed might be overflowing with new babies, but consider that if each reproductively-able person in the world has only two children, we will go extinct.
I’m doing my part. My bravest act of rebellion so far was to add protein bars to our registry. Wedding dogmas be damned.