The dark side of being a wedding planner comes, of course, when the romance falls apart. The white cotton gloves come off, and all parties involved come out swinging. How many times did I answer the phone to find a sobbing ex-bride-to-be wailing that there would be no wedding? How many times did a fiancé call trying to collect a deposit that was in the name of his one-time significant other? More times than I'd like to count. Our contract stated that deposits wouldn't be returned within 30 days of the event, but there is nothing in this world that evokes so much pathos as a dumped bride on the other end of the line.
In the opening of the film, one wedding guest remarks that a wedding planner's life must be so romantic. There's nothing remotely romantic about planning weddings. Nothing. A wedding is just one contract after the other: the space, the band, the flowers, and the fancy duds (not to mention the prenups) all require someone signing on the dotted line. From the planner's perspective, it becomes apparent that the frills themselves are designed to distract from the none-too-romantic reality that the point of the wedding isn't love, but legality. Vicarious Vows
The first lesson of wedding planning comes in the first minutes of "The Wedding Planner," when the mother-of-the-bride immediately demands that there be a mike so she can sing. The modern wedding isn't for the bride and groom -- it's for everyone but. If the wedding gets out of control, it's usually because of the parents. It's the perfect opportunity for the father-of-the-bride to show off his wealth and the mother-of-the-bride her fabulous taste. The parents also often try to create the perfect romantic day that they never had. Many middle-aged folks had comparatively spartan affairs. My own parents got married at my mother's church and went to the country club for cake and punch. That wasn't considered out of the ordinary back then. Oftentimes couples insist on paying the bill simply to keep the decision-making in their hands, not their mom and dads'. Which brings us to....
It's the Money, Stupid
Weddings are a modern potlatch, a ceremonial feast the Pacific Northwest Indians celebrated, marked by the host's lavish distribution -- and sometimes destruction -- of his property to demonstrate his wealth.
Toward the end of "The Wedding Planner," Matthew McConaughy's character laments he really wanted a simple, small wedding, not the behemoth event his fiancé has planned. Lopez' character wistfully agrees that smaller is better. I couldn't agree more. One of the most moving moments in my short career came when a gentleman called to ask if any time was available for a ceremony that evening. He went on to explain that he wasn't a love-struck teen looking to hitch up quick. At age 45, he had finally met the woman of his dreams. No guest list. No flowers. No cross-stitched commemorative name tags. No drunk best man slurring through a toast -- none of the accoutrement considered the validation of a couple's union.
As luck would have it, I could get the couple 30 minutes in the chapel (the usual length of a Protestant wedding), and our "go to" chaplain was more than happy to perform the service. Go figure. This wedding planner's favorite wedding was one that took no planning at all.