Money talk still taboo despite saying "I do"
The couples interviewed in the new documentary "112 Weddings," which premiered on HBO in late June, don't talk openly about money. There are sideways glances and pained looks, but as they reminisce about their weddings and talk about how their marriages have gone, they simply do not go there.
"It's the thing that people are least eager to talk about," says documentary filmmaker Doug Block, who has freelanced for the past 20 years as a wedding videographer. Block reconnected with some of his clients for the film.
Block's other major works are also highly personal — "51 Birch Street" and "The Kids Grow Up" both feature his family — and he is a character in this one, too. Married for 28 years, he says he is something of a confidante and comforting presence to the bride and groom while he is filming, and they are always asking him questions about marriage.
Here are some of his answers:
Q: Did you notice any correlation between the way the couples are during their weddings, or what they spend, and their happiness later on?
A: A few told me they wished they hadn't spent as much on the wedding — they could use the money now. But I don't think you can extrapolate anything from what people look like on their wedding day. Some people may be shy or others used to public displays of attention.
Even when I felt like I got a really good vibe from them at the wedding, you never know. There was one couple that seemed so solid, and four years later they were divorced. I know in that case it was a money issue.
Q: What over-the-top touches did you see as you filmed?
A: I want to come back in the next life as a florist for weddings. The amount of extravagant bouquets! I'd shoot church weddings where flower arrangements were down the entire long aisle.
People were getting the Rolls-Royces and carriages for the transportation to and fro. And the wedding cakes, oh my God. I saw some wedding cakes that were the equivalent of a first year of college education.
Q: When you went back to find couples to interview among the 112, how many didn't make it?
A: I got in touch with about half, and of those, less than 10 percent were divorced. I attribute that to my great karma.
Q: Among the ones who are having trouble, what did you interpret as the reasons?
A: What they are not saying is more revealing than what they are.
When one woman who was laid off brings up, "We're not doing quite as well as we used to," you see the look. And another couple (where the wife doesn't work and they have a daughter with learning issues) it's so clear that stuff is not being said, and they are being evasive. What's revealing is the silence, and the expression they have when they are not talking.
Q: As an award-winning filmmaker, how much did shooting wedding videos contribute to your finances?
A: Documentary income is so inconsistent. If I'm in production, I'm getting salary for the editing period. For those years, weddings were maybe a quarter of my income; other years it's a half or more. I've tried to limit it to between six-nine weddings a year.
One June, when I was editing "51 Birch Street" to get it ready to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival that September, I got in seven weddings — I double dipped doing Saturdays and Sundays. You can't turn these things down.
Q: Do you like weddings?
A: Weddings are so sociologically interesting. Often, it's done as much to impress as it is to have a good time. And I get caught up in them — if the emotion is there.
The only problem I have is when the couple decides they're not going to get emotional. I don't get that at all. Of all the days in your life when you can express your feelings and love, hey, it's your wedding day.
Q: What's your best wedding advice?
A: Rather than fall into the trap of going the traditional route, do what would be fun for you. I'm surprised more people don't turn it into a weekend retreat or play volleyball at a lake. Some weddings I shot are like that, and everyone seems to be having a wonderful time. Others, people can't wait to have a drink and get out of there.
Q: Do you plan to keep shooting wedding videos?
A: Oh yeah, and my price is going up.