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Friday, July 8, 2011

The story of stuff and our wedding

I have editorialized (on and off this blog) before on my dislike of the wedding industry; how elements of it are insane (buying a super expensive new dress to wear once?), unnecessary (spending a thousand dollars on a cake?), and unnecessary (registering for stuff you will never use --- Chip N Dip anyone?).

So when we got married last Sunday (YES! We got married!), we decided to look at all of the wedding "norms" through a fresh lens and decide what to take and what to leave.

We had been to a few friends' weddings where they requested donations to several non-profits instead of gifts, and thought that was a great idea. This wasn't an entirely unselfish decision, but largely came out of the fact that we don't need anything. We are both 30 years old, and have enough stuff already. It wasn't as if we didn't do anything in our house before we decided to get married. We have all of the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom items we could need. And when we do need something, we do what most people do: budget for that item and buy it getting full satisfaction after working toward that financial goal. A wedding registry may make sense for people who don't have a lot of the things they want, but we weren't in that situation.

So, instead of registering for a new coffee maker (we have one), a gravy boat (while we don't have a "gravy boat" per say, we do have other vessels that could serve as one, should we ever eat gravy), new wine glasses (
Freecycle or Craigslist, anyone?) or even a Chip N Dip, we decided to ask guests to donate to causes that we care strongly about:

DC Vote: As tax-paying residents of Washington, DC, we are not afforded the rights that every other U.S. citizen enjoys: voting representation in the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and local control of how our tax dollars are spent. DC Vote is working to help us, and our neighbors, become full citizens.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC): Just by luck, we are allowed to get married. We also live in Washington, DC which recently legalized gay marriage. HRC is working toward equality for all across the U.S., and we support their efforts so every person, no matter their sexual orientation, can enjoy equal protection under the law.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): HSUS works tirelessly to advocate for those that do not a voice -- whether they are in factory farms, dog fighting rings, or killed for their fur. We support the great work they do in communities across the U.S. and on Capitol Hill to improve the lives of our furry friends.

Mentoring Today: Mentoring Today provides mentors for teenage boys in DC who will be transitioning from incarceration back into the community. Mentors meet with the teenagers in the months before they are released, and continue their friendship when they are back in the community, helping them access services and fulfill their goals.

In addition to our commitment to these causes, we essentially have enough.

There is a
great story about Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughter House Five, talking to Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, at a wealthy hedge-fund manager's house. The story goes that Vonnegut asked Heller if he was bothered that the hedge-fund manager made more than he did, even though he wrote one of the great novels of our time? And Heller responded that he had something the hedge-fund manager will never have: Enough.

But our thought process goes beyond what we need and don't need. The truth is that Americans have
too much stuff. We buy new stuff, discard it way too soon, and buy newer stuff. And where does this stuff go? In our land, oceans and air. Check out this great video about The Story of Stuff:

This video changed my way of thinking about my consumerism. And I am hopeful that a lot of these most-important causes on our wedding registry will benefit from that!

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