Monday, July 06, 2009

It's a nice day for a white wedding

A friend recently nicknamed me "The Wedding Scrooge."

Now, even though I'm amused by the moniker, it isn't entirely fair. I love attending friends' weddings, and selecting a nice gift for the new couple. In fact, my husband and I attended a wedding just two weekends ago.

(Tangent: In some weddings the officiating pastor, after leading the couple through their vows, turns to the congregation and leads them through a different set of vows. The congregation's vows have to do with encouraging and praying for the newlywed couple, thereby emphasizing family and friends' role as a supportive community, rather than as mere spectators at an event. It's a great idea that gives those in attendance a better understanding of their purpose for being there.)

So I like weddings. However, I'm not a fan of huge, fancy weddings — those overdone, overblown, overspent extravaganzas that leave the couple (or their parents) tens of thousands of dollars poorer, or in debt, or both.

Last week, Time Magazine ran an article asking Is There Hope for the American Marriage?, which focused on several recently-failed celebrity marriages whose dissolution is traceable to infidelity. More broadly, the article looks at marriage's purpose in our era.

The entire article is worth reading, but this quote jumped out at me:
...the middle class has spent the past 2½ decades — during which the divorce culture became a fact of life — turning weddings into overwrought exercises in consumer spending, as if by just plunking down enough cash for the flower girls' dresses and tissue-lined envelopes for the RSVP cards, we can somehow improve our chance of going the distance.
I saw the beginnings of this trend when we got married nearly 26 years ago. I remember leafing through a bakery's wedding cake portfolio, and as we'd turn the page and gasp at some enormous multitiered number — the kind with fountains and bridges and tiny plastic staircases leading from section to section, and every member of the large wedding party represented by a little doll posed on the steps — the baker would tell us "they're not together anymore."

That memory is fused in my mind, along with the image of a young Marie Osmond posed in her wedding gown at the entrance of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, her train cascading sixteen feet down the steps behind her. Osmond's first marriage ended less than three years later.

A few years after my own wedding, I attended the extremely elaborate wedding of a college friend. Sadly, that marriage lasted under a year.

Ever the opinionated cynic, I developed a theory: the size of the wedding is inversely related to the length of the marriage. (In other words, lavish wedding = short marriage; simple wedding = long marriage.)

Obviously this isn't always the case, but I think there's a pretty strong correlation.

Being friends with many college students, I sometimes find myself in a position to offer advice to a newly-engaged couple. When that happens, I try to get in two things:

First, when setting your budget, jettison whatever you need to in order to afford a good photographer. Your memories will last far longer than the fancy dinner you're thinking of serving.

Second, stay away from bride's magazines. Just back away. Their pages are full of storybook weddings designed to foster unrealistic fantasies. They will eat your budget for breakfast.

(Notice these two things have something in common? Set a realistic budget... and stick to it.)

Since money is a common source of marital conflict, I figure being in debt up to your eyeballs — for a party — just isn't a good way to begin married life.

And that's why they call me The Wedding Scrooge.



  1. I think your post is brilliant. The best weddings I have been to are simple, and they reflect the couple perfectly. The big elaborate weddings are impersonal, and really don't reflect the couple at all. Thanks for writing this :)


  2. Thanks, Melissa. I agree! Unfortunately, it's easy to go overboard.

    I wish you well with your wedding photography business!

  3. Anonymous11:56 PM

    Pam, I really liked your post. I think it definitely brought me back down to earth a bit! (not that I was too far out in the atmosphere! lol) Most girls have dreamed of their wedding since they were playing dress up... and never stopped! (thats me!) In the future I hope to keep things elegant and yet reflective of who my fiance and I are as a couple, as friends, and as children of our heavenly Father! Thanks again for the pointers!


  4. Thanks, Kelly. Maybe it's easier for me to think this way because I didn't grow up dreaming of my wedding. (Too much of a tomboy... busy climbing trees and playing football and hockey with my brothers in the front yard...)

    So maybe I need to shift my target for this little lecture to parents of little girls?

  5. I completely agree with the "good photographer" idea. That was what we did and I still love those photos 11 years later.

    Oh and we had paper plates and (the BEST) food from a local Polish resturant. Not the 7 course meal but it was great food and great memories.

    It was hard to have a modestly priced wedding in the late 90s but I'm so glad we stuck to a budget we could afford. It was good ground work for starting a life together.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Sunday!

    We learned the hard way about the photographer. We asked a friend to take our pictures, based on the facts that 1) he had a 35mm camera, and 2) he was willing to do it for the cost of the film. BIG mistake.

  7. This post was listed on the sidebar and caught my eye as my husband and I are wedding musicians. Weddings have become very much a status symbol, and often swallow up the more important subject of marriage, the day-to-day commitment--which is why I think your rule of opposite proportion (the more expensive the wedding, the less likely the marriage is to succeed) holds some merit.

  8. Thanks for your comment on this, Kathleen! And I think your observations are on target.


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