• Sat, Jan 11 - 3:01 pm ET

Former Church Leader Condemns The Modern Wedding Industry Because It’s More Than A Party And White Dress

It’s no secret that I have a serious issue with how marriage is treated in the west. Personally, I’m not a huge believer in needing a piece of paper or a huge party with a white dress to solidify one’s relationship. But, if you’re going to get married, I think you should take it seriously.  I think this especially true for anyone looking to deny gay people the right to marry. You’re contemplating a life with this person, not just a fancy dress and a pair of expensive rings. Marriage is more than a party and jewelry, it’s supposed to be forever.Apparently the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williamsfeels so too.

According to Williams, who spoke at a debate hosted by a law firm, the trend of gigantic, celebrity-inspired weddings is part of the “short-term, unimaginative, emotionally unintelligent” culture of the modern world. While he was specifically talking about Great Britain, I think his words are true of most western countries. For many people, weddings are no longer a ceremony to celebrate and validate a lifetime of marriage, but rather a “day-long experience,” according to Williams. I couldn’t agree more.

Williams went on to say that he disagrees with the idea of prenuptial agreement, which he feels undermines the trust that should be at the heart of a marriage. I don’t know if I would go as far as to say people shouldn’t get a prenup, because they are an important protection for both parties but I do think it can undermine trust. Williams also said”

“We need to take a long hard look at the marketisation of marriage. That is the perfect relationship crystalised in the perfect wedding day – the immense economic, advertising investment in this massively fantastical experience which you go through on your wedding day, after which, of course, nothing is ever quite so good again.”

The average cost of a wedding in the US is $25,000. That seems like such a waste to me, especially since so many people go into debt to have a lavish ball. Wouldn’t that money be put to better use going towards building a life with your partner? Maybe put a down payment on a home, or put money aside for your children’s college fund. The wedding industry breeds feelings of competitiveness and inadequacy. If you don’t throw your friends and family a huge fete, many couples feel that their relationship isn’t being celebrated properly. Then after the wedding, plenty of people have a feeling of “what now.” Like Williams says, couples have stopped thinking of the long term and only think about that big day. I think it’s silly, and more than a little wasteful, especially if you don’t have the money handy, or still live at home with your parents.

 

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  • Gretta

    Yep. It’s dumb. I have been married 10 years and I had the obnoxious, expensive, giant wedding. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have had something small, meaningful, and elegant where the focus was the awesome commitment that my husband and I were making.
    Little did I know, the best was yet to come!

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      This sounds exactly like us. I actually had a nightmare the other night that we were still planning all that wedding stuff. When I told him about it, it scared him too :)

  • Kay_Sue

    I find it a little insane that, when most consumer-based industry has suffered to some extent, the wedding industry has not only stayed strong during the economic downturn, but grown.

    It does seem like (and I have only Bridezillas and my current experience as a matron of honor for my friend’s wedding to go on) that there’s a lot of emphasis on creating this “perfect” day, and not necessarily on the marriage itself. I do wonder if it drives young people (especially some young women) to jump in because they want the party. It seems like a ton of stress to put on yourself at a critical time.

    But there’s also value in celebrating with your friends and family. While I hate that this, like everything in our society, seems to have been tainted by massive consumerism, I can say, from experience, I wish we’d been able to celebrate with our family. Massive storms kept most of them from coming to the reception that we held. It would have been nice to have them all there.

    • SarahJesness

      I once heard someone say that middle-class women are the worst bridezillas, because they see their wedding day as the one day they get to have super-luxury and be treated like a princess. (high income women can live like that all the time, and low income women can’t usually afford these lavish weddings and certainly won’t go into debt for one) I’m not yet at the age when my friends all start marrying so I don’t know how valid that is. Anyone wanna weigh in?

    • Justme

      I had a friend who came from very low-middle-class status in the backwoods of North Carolina. She now lives in a major city in Texas and is a corporate accountant married to a banker living the life of a semi-socialite. She had a HUGE wedding back home in NC and I think a lot of it was because she felt like she had to prove how well she and her husband are doing. Like she was making up for years of not being wealthy enough or something. But this pattern stretched through all of her life, not just the wedding. When she posted a picture of her brand new Gucci purse (complete with price tag visible) on Facebook…that was the last straw for me. We are no longer friends.

    • Kay_Sue

      That’s an interesting point. It makes sense from a purely hypothetical standpoint. I think it has a lot to do with the woman in question. I’d also be interested to know if there are difference in the strata within the middle class itself–lower versus upper if you will. Would upper middle class women feel more of a need to match the perceived social status of the upper class, for instance?

  • aCongaLine

    There seems to be a directly proportional relationship between the validity of the couple’s feelings and intentions, and the price tag of the shindig, as well. Like “THey must be sooo in love, they’re having a band instead of a DJ., or custom, titanium, engraved wedding bands instead of plain gold ones from Macy’s.”

    My family was hurt, and angry that Hubby and I eloped. THey were absolutely raging that there was no big party, and that virtually no one was invited. (Big family- it was all or nothing, and we went with nothing). They didn’t think we were serious about getting married, since there was no bridal shower, no wedding party, no rehearsal dinner, and no reception.

    THe reality was that we were expecting a baby, and wanted to be married before the birth for various legal reasons, and for spousal rights should anything go awry. We chose to not have that fairytale wedding because diapers were in our very near future, and we needed to re-prioritize. 3 years later, they are still mad, but only because they wanted a paaaarrtttty. And we refused to have one.

    THere’s so much pressure on “the perfect wedding day” and no thought is given to maintaining a healthy, happy marriage after the party is over.

    Wouldn’t have ever done it differently, even if we weren’t expecting a surprise baby… sooo much less stress and fuss, and it was way easier on our bank accounts!

    • Emil

      Amazing that people think you owe them a wedding. One of my best friends recently eloped and I’m thrilled for her. Of course I would have liked to share the day with her but I am not so completely self absorbed that I would be angry at her for her choice.

    • Mel

      Agreed. It’s a shame when people make your life choices about them. I think eloping is a fantastic plan! I would so much rather see people use their money to have a nice life and home and children together instead of some huge party.

      In addition to the financial irresponsibility of blowing thousands of dollars on a party, there are also the insulting traditions associated with a ceremonial exchange of property, the property being the bride. I’ve personally never understood why so many women are so eager and desperate to wear an engagement ring to prove that they are spoken for, yet their fiancees does not do them the same honor, to be dressed in white (to prove their virginity), be handed off from one man to another (father to groom) and have her father pay for the whole thing b/c he’s so eager to be rid of her. Obviously, most people don’t see it that way anymore, but even though we don’t say it out loud, it’s still the procedure we go through.

    • aCongaLine

      We totally just looked at it as paperwork more than anything… we were already living a “married” life. Eloping was what fulfilled our legal needs, and what made financial sense. I think I’m hurt that they’re hurt… I’ve got to let it go lol.

    • aCongaLine

      I was MoH in my BFFs wedding 5 weeks postpartum… I was excited to help her with all the traditional wedding stuff, because we skipped over it, and every little girl pretends to get married doesn’t exactly also pretend to be giant pregnant, and take a nap when they get home… but all that stuff was totally not my bag. I was glad to assist her, but I am happy with our choices. She was the only one that wasn’t mad at me… and kept saying “Good Grief, I wish we did it your way!” Every time stressful wedding/reception stuff came up. Neither is better than the other, they both have the same outcome… they’re just different, and to each his/her own.

    • Andrea

      Everyone has the right to have the wedding they want. I applaud you for doing what you wanted and needed to do.
      I do however somewhat understand people being upset over it. We have some friends that were going through divorces (not to each other, but with their respective spouses). We spent years going through a lot of emotional turmoil and drama and offering support and crying with them and hugging them. Eventually it was over and they got together. And they eloped! I was pretty hurt, because if felt like after all that misery, I missed the happy ending! Of course, that’s my issue and I got over it and we are still close friends (even if I do jab them every once in a while).

    • aCongaLine

      Mine was the first wedding in my family for 20 years, and my older daughter (whom I was preggo with) is the first baby in 12. I think it was just a really, really big deal- and we’re an unusually close family. But we just couldn’t justify bankrolling a large wedding when we could be saving that money for our kid and her needs, and for when we transistioned from two incomes to one.

      I totally understand why they’re mad- but I just wish they’d let it go. At this point, they just sound sad that they weren’t able to take advantage of an open bar. Very uncharacteristic of them.

    • Andrea

      I understand. I was just telling a story. You did the right thing and I hope everyone gets over it too,

    • aCongaLine

      :)

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      Yeah, my family really wanted a wedding. I had one, and it was huge, but that was because they were paying for it and made all the financial decisions. I picked things like what the flowers would look like and what kind of cake I wanted, but my parents picked the vendors and stuff. They wanted a party, so I was like, “ok, cool. You can throw me a big party if you want to.” And it was great and I am super grateful. But if I had been paying for it, I would have just gotten myself a fancy dress and gone to city hall.

  • Tea

    We eloped, with an ” I do, I do, sign here” wedding in a JP’s sun room as she seemed afraid these two shady looking guys were going to rob her. We got starbucks and cake pops, and then sent out texts to family, which I know sounds very impersonal, but no one was really talking to us at the time due to the gay thing. The whole cost was about two hundred bucks.

    The part that mattered to us wasn’t the party, it was all of the big things that people don’t think about with marriage, like end of life decisions, insurance, rental issues, and safety. It was a legal safety net we needed, and one we moved a few hundred miles to have. We had had a small party and secret commitment ceremony back in our home state, but we sunk all of our funds into moving so that we could properly marry, and it was completely and utterly worth it.

    • Mel

      Sounds like you had a wonderful time! Congrats on your marriage :)

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    Our church made us complete a marriage course (which was great for us). Their motto was, “A wedding is a day; a marriage is a lifetime.”

    • Gangle

      My husband and I also did pre-marital counselling, and even though we had been living together and going through fertility treatments for years, it was by far the most important part of our marriage plans. Our actual wedding wasn’t super expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either. It was small, with only immediate friends and family, but we were happy to spend the money to have something nice that didn’t take up all my time planning. I basically handed over the money to the florist, caterer etc and told them to ‘make it nice’ within the budget given them. That was it. No stress, and we could concentrate on the important stuff. I know I was probably an odd bride, not wanting to be involved with the details, and I certainly wouldn’t bag someone out for wanting to have more control over their plans etc, but letting all that superfluous stuff go did mean that we focused on what was actually real instead of dwelling over what flavour the wedding cake was going to be.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I was just finishing college, so most of our choices were made by “what is the cheapest option?” Lower stress too…. :)

    • Gangle

      Yep, having a definite ‘I can’t afford that overpriced crap’ takes an awful lot of the stress when deciding! I also think that the industry really makes people feel like they have to have all of these unnecessary (and expensive) gimmicks and try to pass them off as ‘tradition’, despite there being no actual need or meaning behind it, and with the rest of society encouraging it, it would probably be really hard for many brides to not buy into that.

    • SusannahJoy

      We got married at a winery that had only just started doing weddings (I think we were the first wedding to be there that wasn’t family members of employees), and I did the same thing. I kept telling the guy to do what he thought would be good, and he was just like “I’ve never done this before! I don’t know!” It all worked out though, because winery. Kinda hard to go wrong there.

    • Muggle

      I wanted to take a marriage course/go to pre-marital counseling but my fiance and I don’t attend church and can’t afford to go to counselling. :/

      But still, I’ve been more focused on making sure we’re on the same page re: finances and babies and all that, rather than the wedding. Which my bridesmaids have been trying their hardest to hijack…

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      It was a requirement in our church, but it was also like 150 bucks for a weekend so it wasn’t crazy expensive, or we couldn’t have afforded it either. We didn’t really appreciate it at the time b/c we were busy and broke and it was a hassle, but are glad now that we did. Good luck to you and with the bridesmaids. :)

  • Romylove

    I have two friends who have been dating each other for 11 years next month. They are getting married in March (I am a bridesmaid). While both were in favor of eloping, they knew that their mothers would never let them live it down. They’re still keeping expenses down though.

    Their venue is costing $1200. That’s probably the largest expense. The wedding will be 75 people, so however much it costs to feed them too. The license is $60. The officiant is a friend. The dress cost $60. There is no set attire for the bridal party. We bridesmaids bought our dresses for $28 each (on sale!).

    The bride’s father makes good money and is chipping in, but she is not using this as an excuse to go to excess.

    • NeuroNerd

      Venue isn’t the largest expense; catering is. Catering can run as low as $30/person, but for your average evening dinner affair (whether buffet or sit-down), it’s in the range of $88-$150 per person (and sometimes that doesn’t include liquor). If you figure 75 people x $100, that’s $7,500 alone for catering, before tax, 20% gratuity, and any table/chair rentals they might have to do.

      Source: I’m planning a 50-75 person wedding in a major US city.

    • Romylove

      Hahahaha. That is completely ridiculous. That’s more per head than than my usual meal on our trips to the steak house. I would never let myself get ripped off so badly. As for my friends, the groom mentioned pizza. They will also be offering vegetarian/vegan, gluten free, and other options. No way in hell they are shelling out that kind of money.

    • candyvines

      Labor is the biggest expense in catering, not the food. Obviously steak will cost more than chicken salad, but you’re paying mostly for the people who are working your event. Waiters can make $15 and hour, cooks $20 and more.

  • Muggle

    I totally agree with you 100%, but…

    The “average” cost of a wedding is not $25,000. That’s so far out of most people’s means it’s laughable that the average would be $25,000. The problem is that when people say “average,” they mean the mean of all of the wedding budgets ever. So of course the ludicrously extravagant weddings drive the average up.

    A more accurate number would be the *mode*, or the most typical number given. I’d say about 5-10,000, but of course this depends on where you live because vendors might be more expensive in certain areas.

    Of course this is really expensive as well, and I can’t help but roll my eyes at hoe ridiculously overpriced some things are. And how expensive flowers are! And how much people will seriously spend on them, holy shit. You don’t need flower petals on every flat surface, you don’t need the little flower-balls on the end of every pew in the church, and you certainly don’t need huge peony arrangements on every table at the reception. I’m trying to go as flower-free as possible; I think my bouquet will wind up being the only flowers there.

    And of course, this is ONE DAY out of what’s supposed to be the rest of our lives. That one day should reflect that; it’s nice to have a formal ceremony and party if the couple likes, but it should be within their means. And it should not be the focus. So many couples don’t think past the wedding. They think that everything will stay the same, but the piece of paper from the state makes it official. And so much of it is based on showing off the bride in some way or another that I think a lot of fellow brides are more worried about the dress than anything else.

    And this isn’t going into the gag-worthy country songs about father-daughter dances that are all about the daughter growing up (why are these songs about weddings rather than, I don’t know, graduating college or something?) and the huge flame war over the bride’s last name.

    • arrow2010

      What it means is that a lot of people are spending well north of $25,000. There are weddings that cost $1 million. People should really be forced to study statistics. I’d be more interested in the median cost of weddings.

    • Muggle

      Yeah, but there doesn’t have to be THAT many weddings that cost more than $25,000 to drive the costs up. You add all the numbers up, then divide by the number of weddings to get the mean/average. That doesn’t tell us much when you include both $100 living room weddings and $1m destination weddings– that’s what happens when you don’t consider the outliers.

      I think the median and mode would be more accurate fiigures, because I suspect that the people gathering these stats in the first place never took a stats class themselves. They tend to come from wedding planning websites– these people are wedding planners and web designers, not statisticians (says the bride who did horribly on the AP Stats exam).

    • Kay_Sue

      This is a very good point. Also a nice reminder to consider statistics in context before I just glance over them and move on.

  • KB

    All the weddings I’ve been to in the last five years or so have cost $20,000-35,000. And they were definitely NOT worth anywhere close to that. Such a waste, in my opinion.

    My husband and I decided on a Wednesday to get married that Friday — and we did. Best decision we ever made. Most of our close family came to our sunrise ceremony on the beach and it was beautiful (and cost practically nothing). No stress planning some unattainable “perfect” day.

  • AP

    A huge part of the problem is how aggressive wedding vendors are. They prey on the fact that most people have no experience planning a wedding in the current climate, and they use that to upsell you by telling you that you have to buy today in order to get the date you want, or tell you that you have to pay what they’re charging to get what you want. They’re so effective at pressuring people, they crack and shell out the money rather than risk not having (a dress, flowers, cake) in time for the wedding.

    I held firm on my budget and timeline and wouldn’t be upsold, and I got a ton of incredibly rude and hostile responses from vendors. I was fine with shopping around until I found someone who was selling what I wanted, but the pressure and abuse you receive from dishonest vendors when you’re already planning a stressful event is tough for a lot of people to stand up to. They make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, almost illegal, for not wanting to buy what THEY want to sell you.

    • Kay_Sue

      They really are. I was shocked at the first bridal expo we went to. I kept reminding my friend that my husband and I spent about $500 total on ours, and we’re no less married…and probably a lot better off financially than if we’d gone for the photo booth and the monogrammed dance floor and everything else they were hawking…

    • Sara610

      One of the best pieces of advice that I got when planning my wedding was
      to run screaming from any and all bridal magazines. Their business
      model is predicated on convincing naive (mostly) brides-to-be to
      overspend money that they usually don’t have on crap that they don’t
      need.

    • Kay_Sue

      This is really good advice. One of the reasons I quasi-eloped was because after a year of looking at magazines, I was so overwhelmed. I finally said screw it all, and while we do intend to do a vow renewal sometime because most of our family couldn’t join us, we’re both happy with how it turned out. Not that we’d be less happy with a bigger wedding, I think, but I would probably have needed a wig at the end of it, because I would have pulled all my hair out.

    • Sara610

      When we got engaged, my parents set aside a certain amount of money–I won’t say exactly how much, but it was a pretty sizeable gift, at least by my standards–and told us we could either spend it all on a huge wedding, or do the wedding on a budget and take the rest to make a down payment on a home.

      We had a lovely wedding at a country club–I originally balked at a country club wedding, but we were able to get a really good deal by having the ceremony out on the patio and the reception in their upstairs dining room, as opposed to what most people do, which is to rent out the entire main floor of the club. All we had to do was keep our guest list under 110 people, which was admittedly a little tricky because we both come from large families. That translated to about a 50% savings, and the package included a wedding planner and the cake. We ended up having a very nice, although not huge or ostentatious, wedding and enough left over to put a down payment on a house.

      I don’t think the problem is simply when people have large weddings. Rather, I think it’s when couples prioritize the splashy wedding OVER things like building a solid foundation for the future (going into debt or taking the money out of retirement savings to pay for the wedding) or making sure that they have a solid relationship to build on in the first place. Plenty of couples who have large, beautiful weddings are still happily married decades later, but they tend to be the ones who had their priorities straight in general.

  • steampunk

    Including rings, what we wore, photos and our three day “honeymoon” (husband is military and had to leave five days after we got married) we spent $1500. Going on 4 1/2 years and still so happy we kept everything so cheap.

  • Drea

    And the pressure to have a huge wedding is unreal. I got married a few months ago in a small ceremony at the courthouse. Only close family and the wedding party were invited. Our photographer was a friend who loves taking pictures and did it as a gift. I bought the impractical dress (my only huge splurge) and my husband bought a suit to use for job interviews and presentations. After the ceremony and pictures, we had dinner at a pizza place with a pizza buffet. My grandma brought a cake from my favorite bakery from back home. After dinner, we did a pub crawl where any of our friends and family could attend. I bought fake flowers for all the bouquets from the Dollar Tree.

    I had a lot of fun with it. We didn’t need to spend a lot of money, since we were both in college at the time. Planning a “normal” wedding was stressing me out so much that we stripped it down and moved up the date. So much better!

  • pixie

    I have a British friend who decided with her boyfriend that they were going to fly to Vegas and get married. They wanted to visit the US anyways, especially NYC and LV, so they followed through with it back in December and are married now. Though they didn’t tell their families until they got back to the UK. I applaud them for it, because they didn’t want the whole giant shindig, and did what they wanted as a couple.

    Personally, when I get married, I’m going to try to spend as little money as possible. I might splurge on having an open bar, but other than that, I don’t want to spend a ton of money on one day when I can save for something better. Hell, I might ask my riding coach to have the ceremony at the farm, so I can have the princess-style riding in on a pony, but also it be cost effective (and add amusement for the guests, because the horses I like tend to be on the stubborn side). Then have the reception somewhere nearby. If I get really cheap, it’ll be byob, and no expectation of gifts (because people are already spending time and gas money by showing up).

  • Justme

    My co-workers and I had this conversation the other day – they were all going on and on about how people spend way too much money on a wedding only to end up divorced within a few years. They speculated that the more expensive the wedding, the less chance a couple has in lasting, before going on to brag about how cheap their own weddings were.

    Enter me. Someone who is about to celebrate my 4th anniversary with my husband…the fourth anniversary of a wedding where 250 people attended to watch us tie the knot and then party our asses off. When I was asked how much money I spent on my wedding, I politely declined to answer and just said that we had a really lovely ceremony with all our friends and family. And that’s the truth. It was big and it was expensive…but it was filled with people who have known us through all our different trials in life. There were my parents friends who brought my mother flowers after I was born. There were our mutual friends who had speculated on our undercover relationship for months. There were childhood, high school, college and real world friends that came together and told stories, drank good beer and danced all night.

    What I’m trying to say is that you CAN have the big wedding and still make it about the MARRIAGE and not the day if your heart and focus are in the right place. My wedding wasn’t about getting to wear a white dress and be the princess. My wedding was about starting a family with the man I love while surrounded by people who we love and who love us. If the heart of the couple is in the right place, who cares what another person spent on their wedding?

    • CMJ

      This. Thanks. Exactly what I was trying to say but couldn’t quite put it into words.

    • pixie

      If that’s what a couple wants, there’s nothing wrong with that at all! And I don’t see any reason why a couple with a big wedding wouldn’t last as long (unless they’re assuming the couple is marrying for money and not for love? Or that the bride would be a huge bitch to want a big wedding and therefore the husband would leave her? Neither of which are remotely true in all cases). My problem comes in when the couple has a large wedding because they feel pressured to, either by family or by society. When it’s done for bragging rights and to be the “wedding of the year”. When it costs way outside of someone’s means because the glitz and glam is the most important and it becomes more about being an occasion to be envied rather than the coming together of two people who love each other.
      You had all your friends and family surrounding you, you had a great time, and maybe it was expensive, but the way you describe it doesn’t make it sound like you had a huge expensive wedding for materialistic reasons. For me, I have less people who I would want to invite to my own wedding and I’m pretty frugal with my money, so I wouldn’t go for the giant wedding, but neither is wrong, it just depends on the couple’s wants and financial means.

    • Justme

      I think the thought process is that if a couple (usually the woman) spends all this time thinking about what it takes to make a wedding and not a marriage, then they are headed for trouble when the wedding planning is over. And to a certain extent, I definitely agree with that premise.

      My husband is just the “go big or go home” kind of guy. Birthdays, Christmas and all other celebrations for me and my daughter are huge. Not because he wants to flaunt money or gain prestige, but because he wants us to be happy (even though I tell him that all we really need is HIM). He knew that we were only going to get married once, so he wanted it big and fun – he didn’t want to leave any of our friends and family out of the celebration.

      And I agreed with him – I wanted all our friends and family there, but I must admit that I absolutely LOATHED the wedding planning. Loved my wedding, my husband, my marriage and our honeymoon but hated the planning.

    • SarahJesness

      I’ve heard some people suggest that the focus on having big, lavish weddings makes the actual marriage seem less exciting. The wedding is this amazing, luxurious party, so how do you top that? Everything is downhill from there, especially if you blew all your money/went into debt for it and can’t really do much afterward.

    • Justme

      But it still depends on the mindset of the person – if they think a marriage is truly a magical fairytale, then they are going to have trouble regardless of the size of the size of the wedding. I had a big wedding, but I understood from the very beginning that it wasn’t about THE DAY, it was about the years to come after that big day. The wedding for us was just a formality – a means to an end.

    • ChickenKira

      That doesn’t make any sense to me.
      Sure, our wedding was an awesome party. We like awesome parties, but life isn’t a party and many things have topped our wedding, we went overseas and saw amazing things, we went through IVF, we had a little girl, we’re about to build a house and I predict that will top a party too.
      Our lives aren’t any less exciting because of the reason we had a party.

    • LiteBrite

      “When it costs way outside of someone’s means because the glitz and glam
      is the most important and it becomes more about being an occasion to be
      envied rather than the coming together of two people who love each
      other.”

      YES. That’s what I was thinking as I read this article. Like JustMe, I had a decent-sized wedding (150-200 peeps), nice dress, dinner, etc. It was large, but we kept it within our means. Frankly, I would’ve married that man in a burlap sack and ate beans for dinner after if that’s what it took to marry him. Our 10th anniversary is this year, and we’re still going strong.

      So I have to wonder if it’s less about the pricetag and more about how much people are willing to go into debt for this one day. I don’t think wanting to celebrate in the way that makes you happy is the problem, but if you’re willing to start off your marriage with crushing debt, all for this one day, then yeah, that may in fact be a problem.

    • Justme

      I’m not going to lie. Both our parents were very generous in paying for significant parts of our wedding (flowers, dress, cakes, reception). I’m the only girl in my family and my husband was 36 when we got married so both our families were super eager (and able) to help us out.

      And we are in debt, but not due to the wedding…unfortunately my husband has had about seven surgeries in the five years we’ve been together. Medical bills are a bitch.

    • LiteBrite

      By the time we got married, we were both in our 30s and relatively financially stable. If we had got married 10 years earlier, our wedding would have been on a much smaller scale.

      (My MIL offered to give us a nice sum for our wedding, but we turned her down. She tends to use her financial contributions as a way to control the process, so we politely declined.)

      I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s surgeries. I hope he is doing much better. Still it’s one thing to be in debt due to medical issues; it’s quite another to be in debt because you had to have a $10k wedding dress you couldn’t afford.

    • Kay_Sue

      I don’t think it has anything to do statistically by itself. I do wonder if there is a higher correlation between people that go into debt to pay for the wedding, sometimes significantly, and those that don’t, and the future health of their relationship. Not because the big wedding has to do with it, but because financial issues are so divisive, especially when you are trying to figure them out initially.

      You can have a big wedding and still be perfectly committed and ready for marriage. It’s silly that people automatically suggest otherwise. By that measurement, this couple I know that got married behind her mother’s singe-wide, in an open field, with a garden arch they already had, decorated with flowers from Kmart, and with a pot luck reception should have been rock solid, and the young couple I know that spent 10,000–that they had saved up for several years–should be divorced and/or on the way there. And yet, the first couple has been divorced longer than they were married, and the other is still happily married five years later…

      The important part is spending it with the people you care about. The size of the party should be ancillary to having and celebrating with who you want, and how you want. I totally agree with your ending sentiment.

  • doodlebug2

    My hubby and I got married in Aruba and no one else was invited! We were lucky that our family and friends were supportive of our decision to not have a wedding. We saved so much money and had a blast. And there was no stress! We chilled on the beach that day, drank margaritas, then went up to our room to get dressed, then got hitched on the beach. It was freaking awesome and I’ve never once regretted not having a big wedding like some people said I would.

  • Abeth

    The best advice my mother ever gave me (well, the only advice I ever really listened to, anyway) was “You have to be married to get married.” She explained that the wedding isn’t the start of your journey or relationship – it’s a celebration to mark your achieving that level of intimacy and commitment. That stuck with me, I married the man I already felt married to, and I plan on teaching my own daughter the same philosophy.

    • EmmaFromÉire

      That’s such a wonderful piece of advice!

  • CrazyFor Kate

    As an Anglican I’m not overly fond of Williams, but he’s 100% right here. I’ve seen so many friends construct perfect fairytale weddings and then forget there was supposed to be a marriage afterward. My mom’s cousin even paid $200,000 for EACH of his three kids’ weddings! For what, I ask?

  • Ddaisy

    For some people, it’s the opposite. My best friend just got married, and she was forced, by family/cultural expectations, to have a huge lavish wedding. She hated every minute of the planning and just got through it by looking forward to the actual marriage waiting at the other end.

    Me, I’m very private and have severe anxiety about the idea of saying mushy things to a guy in front of a bunch of people. I, too, would be much more focused on the end result than the wedding. Then again, I’m the kind of girl who owns exactly two pairs of jeans but a whole closet full of fancy dresses. If I don’t have a reason to wear them, well, I invent one.

    So I think my actual future hypothetical wedding is going to be super-small and low-key (I’m praying I end up with a guy who’s cool with eloping), but we’ll just throw other, non-marriage related fancy parties for the fun of it.

  • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

    “this massively fantastical experience which you go through on your wedding day, after which, of course, nothing is ever quite so good again”

    This. Also – I think it’s totally possible for some people to have huge weddings and stay together – I just think those people would also be content to get married without all the hoopla. A lot of people just have the resources to have a fantastic day.
    BUT whenever I hear someone obsessing over their wedding day more than they ever did over their love – I know it’s doomed.

  • candyvines

    I think anyone planning a wedding should remember that while it seems like you’re throwing a party for yourselves, you’re really throwing a party for your friends and loved ones to celebrate your union. It should really be less about “MY DAY” and more about what actually makes a fun and memorable event for the people attending.

  • Cee

    Marriage is a serious commitment to me. If it were up to me, I would get married to my girlfriend right now, but because she is in school and I would like her to receive all the benefits of financial aid without my information hindering her, we will wait. To me, her ability to get an education that will ensure her, and ultimately us , a better future is paramount. I feel it shows a stronger commitment because I am willing to sacrifice certain things to ensure her/our future.

    When my girlfriend and I think of our wedding, we do want “something nice.” For that, we think of a really yummy place to eat that will allow us to have a reception for like 20 people. Eff flavorless chicken with questionable orange gravy, asparagus and mashed potatoes for 300 unknowns. Since my relationship has not been widely supported by my family, I will invite only the people that truly have supported my girlfriend and I, get them all in a room and thank them with all my heart and just hang out with them while eating something yummy. The only vain purchase I will probably make is my dress, because I am that type of girl. Sorry.

  • SusannahJoy

    My husband and I got legally married in Sep, but didn’t have a wedding until April. We consider the wedding day to be the start of the marriage. For us, it wasn’t about the party, it wasn’t about the dress (which was a sample dress I got on clearance), it was about standing up in front of all our friends and family and everyone important to us and pledging to be with one another. I know some people think that the wedding was pointless, as legally we were already married, but to us, that’s what mattered. The piece of paper just meant that I’d be on his orders (he’s Air Force) and would get insurance and an ID, the wedding meant we were married.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    We had what felt like a big expensive wedding, though by most people’s standards it was absolutely neither (70ish people and I think it cost us somewhere around $7,000-8,000, mostly for food/drinks…to us it was big and costly, but compared to most I guess it’s pretty paltry).

    We had a “big” wedding for many reasons, most of which we talked about during our ceremony (wanting to stand in front of our community of loved ones and feel supported)….we got married a year or so after same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, and we wanted to have a wedding that had some aspects of regular straight people weddings, because we wanted our families to understand that our marriage is as valid/etc as straight people’s marriages. We had a lot of family members comment after that they were surprised at how “normal” it was and how they “didn’t know what to expect” because it was the first gay wedding they’d ever been to. Funny thing – mine was the first gay wedding I’d ever been to!

    And there was something really special (I hate that word but it WAS) about being in front of all the people we love, having our officiant talk about social justice and activism and the importance of community and blahblah….it was a pretty amazing day actually.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      That got rambly. I get a bit defensive I think. I’ve had some (straight) friends tell me how they would never have a big dumb wedding, they just want to go to an island in the gulf and get married barefoot on the beach. Which sounds nice but that comment tends to rub me the wrong way when it’s directed at me – I think they forget that that truly isn’t an option for us…someone do correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of those islands have same-sex marriage.

  • AE Vorro

    Personally, I find weddings to be both wasteful and about the most egotistical thing a person can do. But I’m not sure the correlation between lavish weddings and marriage failures is fair. People shouldn’t enter into marriage lightly, generally-speaking, but I don’t know if expensive weddings have any impact whatsoever on relationship problems. If people aren’t sure how to be a couple after they’re married, they clearly didn’t know how to be in an adult relationship before they dropped a ton of cash – the problem is the relationship, not the party they threw. A couple with the same issues could have a courthouse marriage and still face the same issues. As much as I personally look down upon the marriage industry, I’m not sure it’s to blame for interpersonal issues.