Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tying the knot

It has been some time since a typical wedding involved the groom in a good suit, the bride in a new dress, and a simple reception in the church social hall after the ceremony. Even before Father of the Bride middle-class parents felt pressure to marry off a daughter in style, imitating a society wedding. According to CNN/, the average cost of a wedding is today approaching $30,000:
A total of $125 billion - about the size of Ireland's GDP - will be spent on 2.1 million weddings in 2005, according to the "American Weddings" study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group. Fairchild surveyed more than 1,000 brides.

Tying the knot used to involve a trip to the altar and a simple reception, but low-cost affairs are increasingly a thing of the past as brides and grooms flex their consumer power and buck tradition. The average price tag that is fast approaching $30,000 represents a 73 percent increase during the past 15 years, according the study.
And comparatively normal people give in to this absurd extravagance:
About a dozen years ago, an old friend of mine was told by his daughter that she was going to get married. This suited him fine, but he balked at pouring untold thousands of dollars down the drain of a full-dress wedding. "I'll tell you what," he said to her. "I'll give you a choice: You can have a wedding, or you can have $30,000 to help you get started on your new life." Without a moment's hesitation, she astonished him - and me, too, when he told me the story - by replying, "I'll take the wedding." ....

...[T]his was a young woman of reason and moderation, a sensible person who nonetheless had been caught up in an early wave of the phenomenon that - all unknown to her father and me - was beginning to sweep across America: the rise of the wedding industry ....
We are all creatures of our time and culture, and it can be very difficult to upset the expectations of family and friends, but why has this come to pass? Rebecca Mead believes that an expensive and stressful event meets a need:
I think that people need the wedding and the planning to be in some way a traumatic experience. It used to be that a wedding was a definitive break in your life, and the new traumas of married life were real. Suddenly, you were waking up next to somebody with whom you’d never spent the night before. We don’t have that anymore—marriage is not the beginning of your independent life, it’s probably not the beginning of your sexual life, and it’s not your entry into adulthood, as it once was. So there’s a sense in which what used to be the trauma of newly married life has been transferred to the trauma of planning a wedding, because we need a wedding to feel momentous, and one way to make it feel momentous is to make the planning of it complicated and difficult and an enormous production.
Reflecting on all of this, Douglas LeBlanc, at Get Religion, found an example of someone who bucked the trend:

After reading through People Extra, my new heroine is Mary Beth Baptiste, who wrote recently in Newsweek about how she and her husband began their new life together for a total of $150.

All of this, of course, having very little to do with what a Christian wedding is really about.

CNN/ Ka-ching, Washington Post: Jonathan Yardley, The New Yorker: Do We Ever, Wedding Bell Blues, Newsweek: Love on a shoestring