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Love, Actualized

My fiance and I can't seem to agree about our wedding plans. Beyond the fact that we can't afford a big wedding, it's not what I want. I may be the only bride-to-be on the planet who feels this way, but I'd like our wedding to be simple, intimate, and inexpensive. My fiance wants just the opposite, yet offers me no help in making it happen. I've tried reasoning with him, but he's convinced we can have a big event stress-free and at low cost. I'm only two weeks into the planning, and I'm pulling my hair out! I'm tempted to call the whole thing off! What can I do?

--His Debtor Half


Will your marriage be happier if you defoliate the rain forest for your centerpieces, recite your vows under a man-made waterfall of Dom Perignon, and have Elvis brought back from the dead to play your wedding?

You've got a groom-to-be with a rich financial fantasy life: "Why can't we give each guest a Bentley as a party favor?" You, on the other hand, see hard, cold reality -- the hard, cold cement floor of his parents' garage. Stick to his vision and you and he could spend the next 20 years sleeping on it, and sharing candlelit dinners of Hamburger Helper without the hamburger.

What really needs planning is the marriage, not the wedding. Your conflict over throwing the nuptial equivalent of the Super Bowl half-time show is probably just the tip of the ice sculpture. What are his expectations about sex, pets, early retirement, personal hygiene, having children, household chores? (Just a guess on that last one, but he expects the house to be really, really clean, and you get to be Cinderella?) Is one of you a tree-hugger and the other more of a "back to pavement" type? Will he inform you during your final stretch of labor that he wants to raise the kid in the Hare Krishna tradition, and he hopes that's cool with you?

Oops, you've been so busy trying to book the Taj Mahal that you forgot to notice whether you're actually compatible. If figuring that out on your own seems daunting, you might take the RELATE (relate-institute. org) or PREPARE (prepare-enrich.com) compatibility surveys. For help turning your current dictatorship into more of a partnership, invest in one of John Gottman's weekend workshops for couples, (gottman.com). Sure, they'll cost you -- about what you'll pay for two and a half hours with a good divorce lawyer after pawning gold-plated garlic presses to pay for groceries starts getting old.

You probably can't make your fiance stop pining for a three-story wedding cake with a sunken koi pond, but maybe you can eventually come to the agreement that "something borrowed" for your wedding shouldn't be $100,000. One of the happiest couples I know borrowed only a house for their wedding -- for a potluck dinner after they got married on the beach, surrounded by 40 of their closest friends. Their un-extravaganza took three weeks of planning and cost several hundred dollars -- if you add the cost of their clothes, several cases of Prosecco they picked up at a wine warehouse, and "a really nice chocolate cake."

Maybe there's something to be said for the simple wedding you want -- one that's more a reflection of love than liens for years to come. It will free you up to focus on what really matters...which, maybe, just maybe, isn't whether the doves fly around on cue or just hop on the bride and groom statuette and do the number they usually do on your windshield.


Copyright ©2005, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.