Coffee Filters vs. Tissue Paper, or Weddings: Why all the Fuss?

I am, if you’re to believe the Single Bridezilla piece in the February 2012 issue of Marie Claire, essentially a wedding-obsessed powder-keg just waiting to explode.


Remember this craziness? Me, on Good Morning America, looking like a lunatic?

For the past year or so, I managed to channel (and thus repress) my inner wedding-planner tendencies through my friend Becky, who dances with the Lady Hoofers and got engaged to her longtime boyfriend Louis last summer.

I did this (the channeling/repressing) mainly by taking pictures of things I see while I was out shopping (museum gift shops, craft stores, thrift shops, florists, the Habitat for Humanity Restore and of course the clearance rack at Bed, Bath and Beyond) and sending them to her with helpful and tactfully-worded suggestions.

Because Becky is basically the epitome of a non-zilla (she does useful things with her time instead, like biking cross country to raise money for cancer research or studying for the GREs to go back to school for public health), I tried to restrain myself. For every three pictures I took, I sent, for example, only one, and even then, I was always careful to make it clear that I absolutely would not be offended if she didn’t take my suggestions.

It was, after all, her wedding.

This past winter, we got together with two other friends to start assembling decorations. Becky was on a paper flower kick at the time and because I’ve spent essentially my entire life on a paper flower kick, I was greatly looking forward to an afternoon of wine, cookies, the Justin Timberlake channel on Pandora and tissue paper. (Don’t judge.)

Only Becky didn’t want tissue paper flowers. She wanted coffee filter flowers.

Tissue paper flowers are SO yesterday. Coffee filter flowers are where it's at.

Tissue paper flowers are SO yesterday. Coffee filter flowers are where it’s at.

I missed the official Pinterest tutorial (which the others had watched while I was on my way from a networking event for travel writers) so I arrived just in time to ask, “Coffee filters? Why are we using coffee filters? And do you really have to stab the filters with the wire stems one at time? Isn’t there a faster way? Maybe we should set up an assembly line, Henry Ford style? And did you get my text about the popcorn ceiling glitter on sale at the Habitat ReStore? It would give these flowers some depth because white on white isn’t going to “pop” in photographs…”

I didn’t shut up until Becky tossed a pile of cream colored tissue paper onto the table. (She may or may not have been aiming for my head.)

“Here,” she instructed, in the same tone that exasperated mothers use with whining toddlers. “Use this.”

I could barely contain my excitement. Tissue paper, you see, offers infinitely more possibilities than coffee filters. And the addition of cream to the color palette? A godsend.

The possibilities are endless. Unless you run out tissue paper. Or it starts to snow...

The possibilities are endless. Unless you run out of tissue paper. Or the bride wants only white flowers…

“You can make then with pointy petals,” I demonstrated a few minutes later. “Or round ones, like this. And different sizes too. Small, or large. What do you think about this one? It’s a bit… avant-garde, because I combined the tissue paper with the coffee filters and used the scalloped scrapbooking scissors but I think it will go nicely with the others.”

After creating five or six prototypes (and holding up each one for Becky’s approval), she finally said, “Kat, how about you just make whatever you want to make and add them to pile?”


A moment later, being the supportive friend that I am, I assured her, once again, that I would not be offended if she chose not to use my “creations” at the wedding.

The truth of this statement was debated by all parties present, then there was a bit of a meltdown over floral tape (not, I’m proud to report, on my part), followed by a definite decrease in productivity when the chocolate chip cookies emerged from the oven.

The afternoon was saved by its abrupt conclusion, precipitated by an urgent phone call from PIC.

“Wherever you are,” he began, “stop what you are doing and come straight home. Please. The roads are terrible. Tell your friends to go home too.”

Pretty to look at, but not so much fun to drive through.

Pretty to look at, but not so much fun to drive through.

There was, I forgot to mention, a bit of a blizzard bearing down on the City of Brotherly love and even though we had considered postponing the flower making, who honestly cares about personal safety when there is a wedding to be had???

It took me 90 minutes to make what should have been a 20 minute drive, but that hour and a half of white-knuckled inching my way down Broad Street gave me plenty of time to think, Carrie Bradshaw style:

Why is it that we go so crazy about weddings?

Those of you who truly know me recognize (I hope) that all of that Single Bridezilla business was just a thing, and as a relatively new blogger looking to gain exposure, I went along with it. It is both who I am and not who I am.

As a professor of anthropology, I have plenty of theories about just why weddings turn even the most sane amongst into Pinterest addicts (which I will share with you all some other time once they’re a bit more coherent) but in the meantime, I want to hear yours. Why all the hullaballoo over what should be such a simple rite of passage?

19 Responses to “Coffee Filters vs. Tissue Paper, or Weddings: Why all the Fuss?”

  1. AllCreativeAspirations

    Great post! I love the coffee filter flower idea. It sounds like your friend was a pretty easy bride to work with, too. And the question? It’s loaded. Seriously–I don’t understand the big to-do with weddings. Then again, I’m pretty cheap when it comes to celebrations.

    • Kat Richter

      Yeah, I hear ya. It used to bug me that I’ve never been a bridesmaid but then when I realized how all of the costs add up, I didn’t mind so much anymore. Shower gift, wedding gift, dress, etc.

  2. Lunar

    It’s sort of a Catch-22. There’s an industry for them because people are obsessed, but people become obsessed because of the industry.

    You could also look at it as a display of wealth. Historically weddings were smaller and less “to do” because most people couldn’t afford them. But now that the middle class is larger, more people want what the upper class has always had, aka. big deal celebrations and weddings.

    • Kat Richter

      Yes, good points. And display of wealth is an issue for sure. Although if it you take it a few steps further, you end up with crazy things like bride burning and female infanticide. Good ol’ wedding industrial complex 😦

  3. sarahnsh

    I haven’t commented in forever so I thought I’d weigh in on your question even though I absolutely have no experience into ‘bridezilla’ tendencies. As women I feel like we are prepped all of our lives for that ‘perfect’ wedding. We are conditioned to care greatly for that day we get married with Pinterest, magazines, TV, etc pushing us for what it should be like. I know many women who have told me exactly what that ‘perfect’ day is and how they want it.

    Now, for the reality I had for my wedding. There weren’t any bridesmaids, maids of honor, and it consisted of six people. Immediate family was there and the wedding lasted about 2-5 minutes since it was at a courthouse. I have also never really been invited to any weddings throughout my whole life (I was a flower girl when I was very young) but for me I’m kept out of the wedding circle. I say I’m just highly unusual and part man maybe. 🙂

    • Kat Richter

      Wow! 2-5 minutes? Way to get it done 🙂 As for the conditioning you are totally right. And Pinterest makes everything so much worse. It’s like crack. I like going to weddings as long as there’s good food and good music but if not, they get kind of boring.

  4. Mary M

    I wonder if its because there are no other major events like a wedding. Like, back in the day, if you were rich enough, you’d probably host an annual ball, and you could be thinking about decorations all year round as you prepare for it. Judging from movies, there seemed to be a lot more fancy events to channel this energy, than we do now. Now we just have weddings.

    • Kat Richter

      Ah! Good point! I guess weddings really are amongst the only dress-up events we have left (unless you’re like a debutante or something…)

  5. 321jami

    Reality is, we’ve lost sense of what the actual moment is about. And shouldn’t it be a celebration of unity? Let’s invite everyone we have ever met to share in this very personal ritual to witness our commitment to each other, sort of thing. No? Hmmm. Could be we all really like a good party and what better reason than a wedding. No? Okay,,, I’m so in love with this man I want to share my nuptials with everyone. No? We want everyone we know to witness our union as husband and wife. No?
    Personally, I like the dresses,,,, and the shoes… I like to get dressed up. I love going to weddings now. Not going down the isle, but being part of that romantic notion that there really is the possibility of happily ever after. I have hope for every one of you. Just clarify your roles, and yes, roles. Make sure you both understand what each of you expect from the other. And that you both have the same intended outcome. I believe in you. I will support you, and let you support me. I respect our differences, and admire our strengths. I can’t imagine anyone who has ever been married, ever wanting to be alone. We all need our own space and at different times. Marriage shouldn’t be so hard if you understand the significance of what it means. And sometimes, it’s not so romantic. Sometimes you have to smile while you are thinking you really want to punch this man in the face.
    Smile, support, cheerlead, fight, argue, love, laugh, cry ,,, the entire emotional gammitt. You’ve got this.
    All else fails, I heard woodchippers are a good buy. Lol! Or wine. They come in 3 colors. But I might be old school on that.
    Marriage is meant to be your “forever”. Not what makes you feel good right now.
    Going back to the wine.. Wow, what was that? 😉

    • Kat Richter

      Ok I don’t know what is cracking me up the most: the smile even when you want to punch, the woodchippers or the wine “it comes in three colors” (I would also add that you get it in a bottle OR a box!) but back to the wedding issues: you are so right. I don’t get people who invite everyone they’ve ever laid eyes upon. As for the actual marriage: yes. The thought of it is both scary and exciting, especially the respecting one another’s different and the need to give/have space once in a while. It’s so hard sometimes- I constantly want to fix things and am always like “What’s wrong? What do you need?” But I realizing (and trying to remember) that sometimes you need to just let folks be.

  6. chocoholicandcat

    Great post, i love tissue flowers, we used them strung up high on the ceilings for my mothers 70th birthday in all shades of pastels, she wanted a summer dance themed birthday like it was in her youth. Weddings? well I’m guilty of pinning a few wedding ideas, cakes, shoes, you name it on my board, but the crazy I’m not sure what that’s all about. Maybe its the whole its my day and I’ve spent ex amount of money so it will be done the way I want it. Makes some sense without a bridezilla hopefully not around.

    • Kat Richter

      What a cute idea for your moms birthday! I will admit that I did start a board with a few ideas (even though I swore I wouldn’t until the ring had materialized) and confessed to a friend recently that I had started pinning. Her response was “I know! I follow you on Pinterest.” I’m such a Pinterest newbie (and general tech-phobe) that I didn’t realize said board was public 🙂 I suppose some folks probably do think that spending a certain amount will guarantee perfection… Control issues much? Then again I am a pretty ridiculous perfectionist. The next year or so ought to be interesting!

  7. landlord no longer

    As part of the “wedding industrial complex” off and on for many years, I do have to say it was NOT always this way. I have seen an explosion of “over the top” weddings from your generation, the same generation that had “over the top” Sweet 16/Quinceaneras/Bat Mitzvahs, etc. Part of the blame has to fall on MY generation, because we usually pay for and encourage the craziness.

    I believe some of this stems from the “Mommy Wars,” beginning with birthday parties held at “venues” instead of at home with a few friends and family members, to 8th grade dances that look like proms, to proms that look like weddings.

    My generation probably had more working moms in stressful corporate/business/finance careers than previous generations (except for the women who took over for men during WW II) Mothers that were able to acquire more discretionary/disposable income. I’m not an anthropologist, but I do know that Mothers from my generation competed all the time, it was and is, a cold war, no weapons are drawn, but it is THERE, and what better way to subtly tell the world what a great mom you are, what a great family you have DESPITE whatever choice you made (full time stay home to work or full time work elsewhere) then to throw these lavish parties. Birthday party? sure invite the WHOLE CLASS, coming of age parties? create the “best friend” table (the precursor to the bridal party), to even further encourage female cold wars, and on and on.

    Of course this generation has access to a level of instant and continuous media that has become the shill for business enterprises. Your interview on Good Morning America proves this perfectly. I have to constantly caution brides, that Pinterest is NOT REAL!!!! Pictures are often photo shopped and/or enhanced in some way, flowers are not perfect, the day will NOT be perfect (Even the most obsessive bride doesn’t realize when small things go awry on the day, even though they spent hours worrying about it during the planning stages). However it will be WONDERFUL, if they realize that they are marrying the person they have decided to spend the rest of their lives with, and if they can enjoy a party with the people they care about to celebrate, BONUS 😉

    And yes, bottom line, people enjoy going to weddings for that exact reason, as mentioned previously, a chance to dress up, dine and dance. Just keep it all in perspective. We are NOT royalty and need to remember that most people just like, food, drink and music at a party, no need to break the bank or make yourself and the ones around you crazy, it is ONE DAY.

    Now of course, I LOVE weddings, and enjoy all of the planning and choosing, for me it is about being creative, but I temper this with economic feasibility and practicality. This has been the missing link for your generation of brides and my generation of moms…we are not “stars” in reality TV. (thank god)

    • Kat Richter

      Oh gawd… I remember encountering the “best friends” table at one of the first bat mitzvahs I went to and thinking “wtf?” (I was not at said table.) I hadn’t considered the mommy wars angle. You might be onto something there. As for perfection, yes, I know I’m gonna obsess and then won’t actually notice the inevitable screw ups- it’s always the way 🙂

  8. petitepaumee

    I just posted a super-long comment and it got deleted :/ let me try to rephrase…

    So two points:

    1. I just followed you on pinterest. I have a pseudonym (or whatever its called on pinterest), but I’m sure you can figure out it’s me 🙂

    2. Why are we all crazy about weddings?? Actually, I’m not sure that we are. I think we are meant to feel like we should be and that there is something wrong with us if we aren’t. I think that for people who have a strong creative desire and love decorating, arranging, planning, and coordinating beautiful ensembles – like yourself -, a wedding is the best place to let loose all that creativity in what is essentially a big, fancy party. And that’s great! It is, however, the part that creates abject terror in the heart of decidedly not-artistically-inclined me. I have no interest in centerpieces, wedding menu boards and whatever else you could put together for a wedding (I’m not even sure what that would be.) and since I’ve organized so many events for work, the thought of bringing project management spreadsheets and minute-by-minute event timelines into something that will be an intensely personal event just terrifies me.

    We’ll see if I change my mind in the next year 🙂

    On a cultural note, I do think that there are certain expectations of the bride that society – usually expressed in the comments of the bride’s family and friends – has. And those expectations add onto a princess-like tale parents tell their daughter – or the daughters spin on their own. I’m sure the desire to feel special isn’t unique to the American wedding culture – but I get a sense that everyone expects the bride to feel entitled. I imagine a century ago such self-focused behavior was not as widely accepted.

    Speaking of other cultures… My grandparents got married almost 61 (!) years ago in a simple church ceremony followed by a dinner for their closest family. It was the Stalinist 1950s in Poland and even if you had money, you didn’t have anything to spend it on at the stores. Some distant relatives from my grandma’s hometown sneaked about 20 chickens into the capital, and that was their wedding feast. They both wore 2-piece suits that I imagine they used later in their jobs. They never had a first dance and actually still (as of today!) have never danced together. But they are the most loving marriage that I have been privileged to witness.

    • Kat Richter

      Goodness! This requires a much longer response than I have time for at the moment but in the meantime… lucky for you, your junior high BFF has more decorative ideas than she knows what do with 🙂 We shall have to coordinate our dates accordingly once, you know, these men-of-ours-who-have-purchased-rings get around to popping to question!

      • petitepaumee

        Yes! We definitely MUST coordinate those dates 🙂 looking forward to a more lengthy reply. In general, the so-called wedding industry is a fascinating topic for me – especially the socio-cultural forces behind it.


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