Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Pastoral Concern -- The Cost of a Wedding

I have had many thoughts ruminating about weddings, but have not taken the time to jot them down.  Then I saw someone post a link to this article on Facebook 19 Wedding Traditions To Seriously Ditch (And Replace With These Trendy Alternatives), and I thought I would respond to it.

I agree with some of the advice, and I whole-heartedly disagree with others--e.g., to ditch the traditional wedding vows.  The Church has those vows for theological reasons.  Husbands and wives are vowing to serve each other in marriage as God has designed marriage to be.  They should not be put aside for your own personal "what marriage means to me" vows.  God designed marriage to be a blessing for husband and wife.  He knows what he's doing with his design.

There are lots of concerns that I could express regarding the Christian wedding, but I will try to limit myself to just this point: The wedding industry is making weddings so cost prohibitive that men and women are in no hurry to get married.  (I know, there are other reasons they prefer to cohabitate, but the cost of the wedding is a common excuse.)

Ask anyone how much a wedding costs and you will get answers in the thousands of dollars.  Sometimes, that is just the cost of the dress!  Then there is the reception (hall, caterer, drinks, DJ, etc...).  Plus the party favors and gifts for the bridal party.  The photographer, the wedding album, and whatever other photo package you want.  Don't forget the appointments at the hair salon.  Why not a bus for the bridal party?  What about a photo booth?  Gifts for all the guests?  Maybe a destination wedding?  Also factor in the cost of the church, a pastor, the organist and/or other musicians.  Good grief!  No wonder people take forever to get married!  The cost is extravagant.

Or is it?

Do you know how much it costs to get married in Michigan?  $20.  (I looked it up.)  If any couple insists that it is too costly to get married, they are wrong.  A marriage license costs $20.  There is really no reason for a man and a woman who claim they want to get married to put it off.  In fact, it used to be pretty common for a marriage ceremony to be conducted in conjunction with the Divine Service on Sunday morning.  The bride and groom present themselves before the congregation to vow themselves to each other, to receive God's blessings, and the prayers of the Church.  Do you know what that would cost?  $20.

I can actually hear sighs of incredulity and eye rolls from here.  People are expressing displeasure (if not outrage) that a wedding would be done with so little fanfare and revelry.  But here is the point: It is not that people can't afford to get married; it is that people can't afford the giant party and the limitless extras that come along with it.  If you can afford that and want to do that, good for you!  I'm sure your guests will love it.  But it is not necessary.  The problem is that we all think it is.  And thus, you end up with a bill that is equivalent to a year of college tuition, room, and board.

Here is a thought, and you may want to give it some serious thought: Keep the wedding simple.  Do you really need to invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in dresses and tuxes that you will never wear again?  Do you really need a $30/plate dinner to follow?  Or the $1,000 DJ who blares the music which kills any conversation among family members who rarely get to see each other?  Will your wedding party really despise you if they don't get lavish gifts?

Rather than invest thousands of dollars into your special day, perhaps you can scale back significantly and use that money toward a down-payment on a house or pay off college loans.  That way, you will not enter married life so deeply in debt.  Once again, if you can afford to do all this stuff, go for it.  No one is stopping you.  The reality is, most people can't afford it.  But we believe we have to do it.  

The point of the wedding day is for the bride and groom to make their marriage vows to each other, to declare to the world that they are husband and wife, and to receive God's blessing and the prayers of the people.  Everything beyond that is extra.  And while you are free to do all the extras you want, it should be obvious that they are not free.  They can end up being very expensive.  They could even result in massive debt.  I contend that the fanfare and the party dominate the day far more than the wedding vows and God's blessing. These costs have consequences.  Brides and groom should give serious consideration if they are worth the expense.