Let’s Play Wedding Planning Game
Months ago, a friend of mine warned me that, like the Money Making Game from The Legend of Zelda, the only way to win the Wedding Planning Game was not to play.

“Go to Disney World,” he said. “Hop on a plane, just the two of you, and go.”

After more than nine months, those Mickey Mouse ears are starting to look damn good right about now.

The Wedding Planning Game, he said, is a never-ending fetch quest; a months-long hunt for vendors, reservations, orders and contracts, culminating either in a successful ceremony or your premature death. It’s like Pokémon: the perfect photographer, florist, caterer, DJ, officiant, jeweler and bridesmaids – gotta catch ’em all.

But what he failed to mention was how carnivorous the wedding industry can be – how hunted you’ll feel, how small and commodified, so much a pathetic creature of meat and bone. How bridal consultants will not smile so much as bare their teeth, salivating as you swim through rows of satin and crinoline. How caterers will stealthily fatten your bill, sneaking in uncorking fees and linen rentals. How the saleswoman at the stationery store will sound exactly like GLaDOS as she discusses engraving and cotton paper, and will not be able to stop licking her lips.

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It’s like the Money Making Game, alright. Or even worse. The wedding industry is a $70 billion behemoth, predicated on superstition, ignorance and blatant emotional manipulation. The Old Man of the Cave only wished he’d thought of a scam this good.

Yet I’ve stuck to my guns, managing the demands and the constant swirl of activity as best I can. Because even though my friend’s modest proposal sounds good on paper, I know I could never pull it off.

For starters, I’m Jewish. And Southern. And the youngest child. And the only daughter. If I were to elope, it wouldn’t just kill my parents. They would explode in a hypernova, destroying all life on Earth before sucking the planet into a mini-black hole.

But guilt isn’t my only motivation. Part of me really does believe in the ceremony of weddings. I don’t mean the altar flowers or the cathedral trains or the stupid little jellybean favors. The actual ceremony itself.

Anyone can get married. But a wedding is an event – a common celebration to be shared and discussed and laughed about. It’s part of your collaborative identity, both to your family and your community. And to shape that, I’m willing to play the Wedding Planning Game for as long as it takes.

Still, I have to admit: When faced with the choice between thermography and engraving, the temptation to ride into the sunset on Mr. Toad’s teacup gets stronger by the day.

Dream Day Chainsaw
The most telling sign: I haven’t played a game in months. I’ve been too busy with house-hunting, building a new business and, of course, dealing with impossible choices like “chicken or fish?” to fire up the Xbox. My poor DS, once the mainstay of my evening entertainment, is coated in thick, gauzy dust, and I can’t remember the last time I touched Guitar Hero. My living room is a graveyard of PS2 games and abandoned Wiimotes. It’s depressing.

So, out of desperation and the fear that I might be losing touch with my favorite pastime, I tracked down demos for a few new videogames. Wedding ones, of course.

Why not? I reasoned. Maybe they’ll help me get into the spirit of things. (As if this were Christmas, and I were Ebenezer Scrooge.)

What a mistake.

Take Dream Day Wedding, a flouncy, cartoonish seek-and-find game. As the player, you’re stuck planning the big day for your friend Jenny, who is, presumably, like any sane person, too busy screwing her husband-to-be to worry about the finer details of silk organza.

The gameplay is essentially Where’s Waldo, except instead of striped-shirt hobos, you’re on the hunt for bouquets and stationery – as well as other, more bizarre items. (Why anyone would want – much less expect – to find a pitchfork or a steering wheel at a florist’s shop is probably a mystery best left unexplained.)

Frankly, Dream Day Wedding puzzles me. I already spend my free time combing over-stuffed boutiques and bakeries. Just last weekend, I spent three hours in a stationery store cornered by a bird-like Ukrainian who insisted “Newport Blue” and “Light Blue” were, in fact, completely different colors while I crossed my eyes at the samples in her hand as if they were Magic Eye paintings. Why would I want to do that again in a game?

On the other hand, Wedding Dash outright frightens me. This title has you scurry around the reception site a la Diner Dash, dodging drunk guests and stuffing bitchy bridesmaids full of cake – all while avoiding toppling pastry, catfights, and roving packs of bees.

It’s my worst fears realized in digital form: that my wedding will disintegrate into a frat party for gluttonous alcoholics, who’ll get wasted on my dime, stung by pissed off wasps and then try to sue me for the hospital bill.

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The truth is, after a long day of wedding planning, the last thing I want to do is curl up in front of the PC and play hunt-the-pixel. I want to blow stuff up.

Give me a Half-Life mod set in an abandoned party hall where my only weapon is a three-inch stiletto heel. Or a Resident Evil clone where I can carve a fiery swath through zombie photographers and florists with my flame-throwing bouquet. At least let me Omnislash my parents.

The basic flaw in these wedding-themed games is the assumption that their subject matter should inherently appeal to a bride knee-deep in the planning process. And I’m sure some women buy it, especially those who watch shows like Say Yes to The Dress and Food Network’s Wedding Cake Challenge.

But just because I’m a bride doesn’t necessarily mean you can slap cakes and flowers on Root Beer Tapper and get my $19.95. Why would I escape from wedding planning by playing a game that subjects me to even more planning? How about something a little more escapist – maybe some Nazis or vampires, digital therapy for my organza-sick soul? We girls have aggression to let out too, you know.

Dream Day Wedding? Please. Give me a chainsaw and some Ukrainian “stationery consultants.” I’ll show them the difference between “Newport Blue” and “Light Blue.”

Oh My Hero…
But it hasn’t all been hassle and fuss. Of all the to-dos on our list, planning the ceremony itself has actually been the easy part.

We’re not particularly religious, so we don’t have to find a priest or a rabbi. And we both hate long speeches and poetry, so we can skip the sermonizing. We’ve even agreed on the music: Instead of “Canon in D Major,” we’re using a processional of “Aria di Mezza Carattere.” Yes, the Opera House song from Final Fantasy VI.

Because it just wouldn’t be our wedding without that song.

My relationship with G. can be measured out in the games we’ve played together. In some sense, we are the games we’ve played. Those memory cards and save states capture so many shared memories, and each game on our shelf evokes old sounds, familiar aromas and common smiles.

For example, Resident Evil 0 takes me back to hot and sticky summer nights, which we spent making burritos and shouting at his neighbors from the balcony, lounging in fold-up chairs as the evenings grew heavy and low. Katamari Damacy reminds me of an ice storm from 2003, and the many ways we stayed warm. And Jak and Daxter brings me back to my first apartment, where I had no couch, no table, not even chairs – just a 13-inch TV and a purple bean bag in which we snuggled and kissed, and together hunted for Precursor orbs.

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And then there’s Final Fantasy VI. The first game we ever played together. The game to which I fell in love.

I even remember the exact moment: the Opera House. The play within a play. The tinny, synthetic voices; the warbling MIDI orchestra. Celes in a white gown, snaking through the pillars, stretching her arms wide as she sang and waltzed on the flagstones with a ghost. The romance within a romance, the bleeding of fiction and reality – and then that final bouquet toss, and the silent wink of the star behind her. It was such tender, beautiful moment.

As I cuddled next to G., inhaling his warm, grassy scent, wiping away a few stray tears, I remember finally understanding why he’d been begging me to play the game for months. I felt entranced, impressed that he so highly treasured something so unabashedly romantic, just for its own sake and deeply touched that he’d wanted to share it with me. That’s when I began to suspect that there was something more to him, something more to this – something that might take a lifetime to figure out.

That’s why I want to include “Aria di Mezza Carattere” in our wedding. If a wedding is a public declaration of your common identity, then we’d be remiss not to include what brought us together in the first place.

It comes down to this: A wedding is more than the sum of its bouquets and chapel trains. It’s an expression of who we are and who we want to become. And this is the identity that I want to forge together. One of happy memories and continued surprises; of waking up everyday impressed by the person laying next to me; of continuous discovery, collaboration and shared adventure.

If I can remember all that, then Mr. Toad can keep his teacup. We won’t need it. The wedding planning will remain just another fetch quest, and I’ve been doing those in my videogames since I was 8 years old.

And maybe, once this wedding is over with, I’ll have the time to do it again.

Lara Crigger is a freelance science, tech and gaming journalist and frequent contributor to The Escapist. Her email is lcrigger[at]gmail[dot]com.

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