Men, Women, and the Enduring Fallacy of Fairy Tale Weddings

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About Dan Shewan

Dan Shewan is a fiction writer and essayist currently residing in New England. His nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Vol.1 Brooklyn , Sundog Lit, and Hippocampus Magazine, and he is a regular contributor to The Rumpus, Full Stop and LitReactor. He is currently working on a series of short stories and personal essays, in addition to a longer work of fiction. You can follow him on Twitter @danshewan.


  1. Interesting article. The whole time I was reading it, I could hear my grandfather in my ear complaining about fairytale weddings. I made the mistake of watching “Jumping the Broom” with him and he complained through the entire film. He and my grandmother got married at a local courthouse, grabbed White Castle burgers and saw a movie. They stayed married for 49 years. He thinks big weddings are pointless. I understand where he’s coming from due to his experience. But my brother and his wife had a huge wedding with eight groomsmen and bridesmaids, gold letters on their limousine, big cake, blah blah blah, and have been married for 13 years (high school sweethearts, too). My parents’ wedding was somewhere in the middle. My mother sewed her own wedding dress with the help of an aunt. They got married at their church and it wasn’t super fancy but very nice. Parents married 32 years. But the thing about all of these weddings was all of the couples were prepared for the after-wedding results. The fancy wedding is cool for showing off the couple but being able to keep the marriage going is where it all matters. I’ve seen the simple wedding with a bride’s dress from the closet, a homemade cake and the wedding in the backyard and the couple was divorced before the month was out. Whether simple or spectacular, it’s the couple that makes the wedding last.

  2. Cory Huff says:

    As a Mormon, our temple weddings are by definition small and intimate. They take place in temples with small sealing rooms, and only active members of the church attend the actual wedding. We often have more elaborate receptions afterward.

    I like it this way because it puts the focus of the wedding on the wedding, and not on the spectacle.

  3. Massive weddings are such a turnoff to marriage…

  4. Great article. So true. My husband and I also had a very small wedding in my mom and dad’s living room. We had 8 guests, a home-cooked meal, cheap dress and suit, 3 simple flower bouquets, no professional photographer, no reception, no honeymoon, and no big, diamond engagement ring, just a simple gold band for each of us. It was a wonderful day, and our marriage and love are strong.

  5. Jennifer J. says:

    Your ex-wife’s experience of post-wedding wedding planning isn’t unique. My husband and I got married in 1993, in what was probably an averagely expensive celebration for our demographic at the time. We had a nice candlelit ceremony at a church with a country-club reception for 125 guests, and we were pretty happy with the way things went.

    Still, after we’d been married a few years, I started having some regrets about some of our choices. I wished I’d chosen a less trendy dress. I wished we’d had a longer cocktail hour, and chosen a better photographer. I thought of a few key people we accidentally left of the guest list.

    I never got to the point of actually planning a second wedding, and after a while I stopped worrying about what I would do differently. I had chosen the right groom, and I decided that that was the important thing. I think my retroactive dissatisfaction with the wedding was based on a sense that my youth was slipping away, and on some minor frustrations in the marriage. Fantasizing about a second, better event was a way to escape from the reality of daily life.

    My husband and I have now been married almost nineteen years, and we’ve decided to renew our vows at our 25th wedding anniversary. It won’t be a huge blowout, but it will be a chance to gather those we love, including our two daughters, for a celebration of something wonderful that we’ve created together. A wedding is all about hope and potential, but there is something to be said for recognizing an enduring marriage that continues to provide joy, friendship, and pleasure.

  6. I had a similar take in an earlier essay you can read here:

  7. Why don’t men take more interest in the planning of their own wedding?

    Well, I for one think that if every contribution you try to make gets voted down, right to the point where you discover that one of the meals for the wedding dinner is something you actually don’t like, and repeatedly telling so, but it keep popping back up because it’s a significant local dish in the area of your bride-to-be’s origin. Then I guess you just know that you don’t have much of a place to fulfill or contribution to make neither in the planning process nor in the marriage itself…

  8. I have been to two weddings that were perfect. One was my sister’s in which she didn’t make us bridesmaids wear dresses , and it was in a small chapel with about 20 people total with a reception at a nice casino. Amazing! On the other end was a full-blown, traditional (but without mass) wedding of my best friend of 17 years. Unfortunately, I was in a dress (I hadn’t worn one since I was baptized!), full hair and make up, and according to everyone, I looked “stunning,” which still makes me laugh. This wedding was also truly amazing and yes, it all boiled down to the couples who were and still are absolutely in love with each other. Although I watched “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Snow White,” etc. as a child I didn’t pick up on the whole “prince charming will save you and award you with an over-the-top wedding” idea. I never wanted to get married as a child, teen, or young adult. Recently, I decided that someday I probably will get married, when the right man came along, but that man would have to deal with my idea of a “perfect wedding”: courthouse in jeans and t-shirts…and, if he really wanted to, dinner/drinks with close family/friends, and maybe a two day trip somewhere close, like a winery. As a female, I have what I’ll call “associates” who have every single detail of their wedding planned, and some of them aren’t even dating anyone! They so desperately long for a wedding it’s sickening. And I have seen women marry the first guy who asks JUST FOR THE WEDDING! It’s crazy!! I can understand the desire for the attention (not my thing but I get it) but shouldn’t the desire for the perfect partner be stronger, as in, worth the wait? Honestly, I don’t understand women most of the time. Ha ha.

  9. I come to this as a gay man who has been with my partner for 27 years. I’m also a church organist, and I have seen mostly women, hundreds of them, in the throes of wedding planning. Very rarely has the groom taken much interest in the proceedings. There have been women, a very great many, who have been completely sane and reasonable. They’re not the ones I remember. The ones I remember are the women totally out of control, unwilling and apparently incapable of respecting limits placed upon them by churches. At times they enlisted their equally out-of-control mothers. I’m glad I rarely have to play weddings now!

    For our twentieth anniversary we had a commitment ceremony at our Episcopal church. Our rector had been after us for quite a while to have a ceremony, and we decided that was the time. We found a service of commitment that we liked, and tweaked it together with our priest. We invited friends, family, and the whole congregation. We wore dress slacks, sport coats, and shirts and ties of matching styles but dissimilar colors. My in-laws made sure we had boutonnieres. Our choir director prepared a musical offering, with a quartet of friends from the choir. The organist offered a spectacular French toccata as her special offering. We sang hymns. We shared in the Eucharist. We exchanged vows, kissed in front of everybody, and beamed. Our reception was a simple stand-up affair in the parish hall, with wine and cheese and finger food and cake from the supermarket bakery. It was wonderful beyond our wildest imaginings, and it was because we shared it with family and friends, and allowed them to share with us.

    We went into it with few preconceptions about how we wanted it to go, and our only regret is that we didn’t think to arrange for video recording–I know the volunteer who does that at our church would have been glad to do it.

    That was seven years ago, and even though we live in a state where our marriage has no legal status, we know we are joined, and we know it’s for the long haul.

    Not, perhaps, a comment anyone was looking for, but I wanted to offer a different perspective.

  10. Okay. I will post this though. I think SOME dudes get into weddings…


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