The reception for the wedding that b&c and I went to this weekend was held at the St. Regis hotel in D.C. You really couldn't call the hotel ostentatious, but you certainly could call it expensive. B&c told me, yet again, how happy he was that his daughter had eloped when she got married because "for what they spent on this wedding, they could have made a downpayment on a house." I didn't want to disagree with him, but I have, I think, a better idea of how much these things cost and the current state of the real estate market, so I reckon they probably could have purchased outright at least a Baltimore row house for what they spent on the wedding.
While I believe that, in general, the wedding industry in this country is right out of hand, I know the bride's parents well enough to know that the expense of the wedding was almost certainly not driven by either a desire to impress anyone or an overly persuasive wedding planner. If I had to guess, I'd say that the mother of the bride had inherited some money that she'd decided might as well go to her daughter's wedding. (The bride's parents are both long-term government employees, so they have generous defined-benefit pension plans that will see them comfortably to the ends of their lives, but they wouldn't have easily been able to finance the wedding out of nothing but their salaries, I think.) And if I'm not mistaken, the bride and groom already own a residence, so it's not like they really need that Baltimore row house.
There's no significant chance that I'll inherit or otherwise acquire the sort of wealth that would allow me to spend that much on a wedding, and, if I were to acquire that sort of wealth, it's a dead certainty that EFU would tell me that she'd rather have the money than the wedding. (Unlike me, she would likely have been outraged by the level of expense that went into the wedding.) In fact, she's likely to say that at any price point. I take seriously Miss Manners' dictum that it's entirely proper to have a wedding reception where one serves nothing more than cake and punch, and as I'm entirely capable of making a wedding cake (and punch), I figure I'm pretty much set if and when the need arises.
But other people can do what they want with their own money, and this particular reception was as tasteful as it was expensive, so the only moment of conspicuous-consumption-related eye rolling had nothing to do with the wedding and happened in the hotel lobby. We'd finished our drinks in the hotel bar and were waiting for the reception room and terrace to open, and I had just finished admiring a very old but still functioning grandfather clock, when I walked to the other side of the room and saw a tall display case containing a pedestal upon which sat a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII Black Pearl:
Black Pearl is a limited edition cognac from Rémy Martin's stock of Louis XIII. Only one tiercon (a type of oak barrel) will be used, meaning only 786 bottles are available for purchase. The custom decanter, hand-crafted by artisans at Baccarat, is black crystal with platinum accents. The Louis XIII cognac inside contains a blend of more than 1,200 lots up to 100 years old. Purchase will be by invitation (initially at least) at a price of $8,000. After two months on the market, Rémy Martin reports all the bottles have been sold.
So I was standing there, reading the little plaque on the display case, and a hotel employee walked up to me, and we had a brief conversation.
Hotel Employee: I see that you're admiring our cognac.
HE: It's actually just a display copy.
TED: Ah. I rather wondered whether, when it arrived, someone didn't chug the whole thing and refill it with colored water.
HE: Uh, no. We still have the original. You can buy a glass of the real stuff, if you like. It goes for $1,936.
TED: Oh, you know, that's very tempting, but I'm pretty sure that I can go down the street and find a pretty good glass of cognac for $1,926, and I'm just not sure that yours is really ten dollars better.
And then he seemed to lose interest in talking to me. I guess some people just aren't comfortable talking about money. Anyway, just then, another hotel employee appeared, and he was holding a magnum of Champagne and a Champagne saber and looking inordinately pleased with himself. I'd always thought that it would be cool to watch someone open a bottle of bubbly that way, but when it happened, all I really thought about was whether there were bits of broken glass spraying over the lobby. They began to pour the Champagne and pass it around, but I figured there'd be plenty at the reception, and I was pacing myself. I thought about telling the hotel employee that a) handling a big sword wasn't going to make his penis any larger, and b) most people really don't care that he's not well hung anyway, but I suspected that it might not make him feel any better. Besides, he was walking around with a sword and a broken bottle, so it was probably best to keep my distance.