This may step all over the ideals of the wedding shows and the whispers of your friends, but I believe there is something wrong–bordering on lunacy–with having an expensive wedding. I speak as one who has officiated at 378 weddings (yes, I have kept track) and because I notice patterns, I have seen the real nature of an expensive wedding.
To give perspective, I can declare that the most expensive wedding I was ever part of was also in the top three greatest wedding disasters I know. This wedding took place in 1984 and cost $70,000. This woman, who had been planning the wedding since she was a little girl, had live swans, trumpeters, silk aisle runners, a rented church which was an historical landmark, three limos, 18 bridesmaids, 12 flower girls, 4 candle lighters, a $10,000 wedding dress (in today’s money it would be $30,000) designed exclusively for her. I could go on, but you get the picture.
The ceremony had over 50 parts to it and the rehearsal took us 4.5 hours. None of us had any idea that the smallest detail would derail the entire thing. But it did.
At one point, one of the groomsmen was supposed to signal the first limo to bring the bridesmaids up to the door. He forgot to do this, but all of us assumed he had done it. So the limo sat there, thus delaying the start of the ceremony–for 3/4s of an hour. Because the finely honed details of the wedding ceremony could not proceed until the bridesmaids arrived, we were stuck–in an old church with no air conditioning. It was over 100 degrees inside. At one point, the groom passed out, the bride broke down in tears–twice–and all was chaos at the end when four of the flower girls got into a fight.
From that day, I began formulating some ideas and reasons why elaborate “royal” weddings are both unhealthy and unnecessary. During the 1990s, I actually convinced a number of couples to jettison their plans and go simple. But the advent of wedding shows on television has buried my good advice.
So I turn once again to my blog in order to put a monkey wrench into the Wedding Industry. And it is a lucrative business. According to the International Business Times, Americans spend 55 BILLION DOLLARS every year on weddings. This is a ceremony to commemorate wedding vows. And it is the third largest industry in America after computers and cars.
Here are five reasons why couples are better off not spending much on a wedding:
1. Stress Level: Almost every couple who spends inordinate amounts of money and time getting ready for a wedding ceremony is so stressed out that the first few months of their marriage they are emotionally worn out. At the same time, this is actually one of the hardest seasons of a newly married couple’s life, even if they did have the energy to care. I believe that the greatest contributor to early divorces (under three years of marriage) is the elaborate wedding ceremony.
2. Taking Focus Away from the Vows: The more elements you have to plan and execute in a wedding, the less important the vows become. And to be fair, there are only two critical elements in a wedding ceremony: The presence of friends and loved ones, and the vows. Couples who spend their time planning their vows instead of calling photographers and venues, say they can remember every idea they expressed to each other. I just talked to a couple I married last Fall and they cannot remember one element about their vows. They spent their emotional load on the planning and not enough on the real meaning of the wedding.
3. Venues: The more elaborate and larger the wedding the less options you have. Therefore, instead of planning a wedding when most of the people can come, it is often at times when many important people are not available or have to juggle many things to make the time. And the more you spend on the ceremony, the less likely you are to adjust it to realities like illness, job changes and last minute decisions. Which leads to #4…
4. Second Thoughts: The more you spend on a wedding, the more committed you are to going through with it. Maybe to some of you this sounds like a great reason to spend more. It is not. There are many couples who have had second thoughts leading up to the wedding who would have pulled out except for the $30,000 they have spent. And don’t believe this silly idea that everyone has second thoughts. Most couples don’t. But the ones who do reconsider getting married, really ought to put it off until they’re sure. I believe the marriage vows are to be taken seriously, and if you aren’t entirely sure this relationship will last, don’t go through with it. A simple, inexpensive wedding affords that opportunity.
5. Big Weddings Lack Real Intimacy. The more you spend on a wedding, the less that individual guests participate in it. The more elaborate the reception, the less time the bride and groom really spend relaxing with friends. By contrast, in most older cultures, a wedding was hosted and planned by the family and friends. The bride and groom didn’t have to do much (think of the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” minus the part where the Russian soldiers came in). When you have a wedding that focuses on simple things, the guests are close friends and family. Everyone pitches in. I remember one wedding where we decorated the hall between the wedding and the reception. And everyone pitched in. I used to go to wedding receptions all the time which were potlucks. Better that a couple spend very little for the wedding and more on the honeymoon and first year of marriage. Better that parents give them a check for $10,000 to help them through the first year than spend that much on a venue. Better you buy a gorgeous dress that you can wear many times than a fortune on a dress you will wear once. Why is it that brides who do it for the second or third time never bother buying a wedding dress? Because they saw that silly dress hanging there every day after the first wedding like a mocker saying “you will never wear me again”. And let’s not even get started with engagement rings. A simple gold band or an understated diamond that costs $200 is fine. It will last just as long. It is a symbol after all, not proof of anything.
Next article, I will give several ideas about how to make a great wedding much more affordable.