Your Wedding Day: 'It's Your Day' — or Is It?

Your Wedding Day: 'It's Your Day' — or Is It?

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Guess how much the average wedding in the United States cost in 2012. More than $28,000. To be more precise, $28,427. And that is, to repeat, an average. Considering how many people couldn't afford that, or wouldn't think of spending so much, you can only imagine how much more lots of other people must be spending.

That's one of many interesting things I ran across in a Daily Beast article, "The 'Me,Me,Me Wedding: How America Is Exporting Its Bridezilla Culture." (HT: Get Religion.) The part that interested me most was author Hannah Seligson's explanation of the causes. Part of it's sheer consumerism and materialism, of course — pandering to princess fantasies. But that's not all there is to it.

"Peggy Olson or Don Draper couldn’t have conceived a better marketing slogan than 'This is your day' — the kind of tagline that so deeply, and reliably, influences consumer behavior. ... But the slick marketing by the wedding industry explains only part of it. The rise of the 'me wedding' has as much to do with waning religious affiliation. After all, it’s religious elements that have tempered individualism for centuries. In Judaism, the wedding ceremony talks about 'being consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel'; in other words, joining a 3,000-year tradition. Jews, of course, aren’t the only ones. 'The core of the Indian wedding is that you are marrying the family, not just the person. It’s not just about us; it’s about giving every relation something to do,' explains Sunny Uppal, 28, who was married in a traditional Indian wedding ceremony in Toronto last month."

A bit later, she writes:

"The bride- (and groom-) focused insanity is certainly a byproduct of our increasingly individualistic society. Young people are becoming less tied to religious institutions — Pew Research found that today one in four millennials claims no religious affiliation, a record high — introducing a whole new set of values and social mores when it comes to marriage. Nothing signals this more than the wedding officiated by a friend who was ordained as a Universal Life Minister on the Internet a week before, or by couples writing their own vows, another hallmark of the 'I need to express myself' wedding. But in deviating from an organized, shared tradition, 'the vows people write on their own have become a little odd to listen to,' says Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of Till Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America. 'They’ll list all the things they’ll promise they’ll do, like you’ll promise to listen without judging. These people aren’t being realistic about marriage.'”

Seligson, who's Jewish and implies at one point that she's not religious at all, regrets the trend. She'd like to see people rediscover a sense of extended family, community and tradition — a spirit of not "It's about me" or even "It's about you and me," but "It's about us: our whole families and everyone who's come before us." While that would be an improvement on one level, Christians should know that it still misses the mark. The right way to look at it is: "It's about Him." Extended family, community and tradition all are important, but the Lord matters far more.

What I wonder is how many people get this even among Christians — how many really get that it's not "your day," but "His day." Christians can get sucked in by the materialism and showiness of the culture around them, or by their own vision of how everything in their wedding must suit their tastes and/or long-treasured fantasies. And Christians who might have humbler aspirations still can succumb to a subtler temptation. They can regard the wedding as primarily personaltheir favorite songs, their favorite poems or quotes, their closest friends, their self-expression, their chosen words. They may forget that while those things have their place, the wedding is a service of the church, conducted under the authority of the church and in accordance with its procedures. Any variations should come within that framework, which might or might not allow for some of the couple's preferences. If they approach the service thinking it should be tailored to their desires, they're approaching it in the wrong spirit. The church is not a rental facility, and its ministers aren't blessers-for-hire. Some things, perhaps — some songs, some words — should wait for another venue, like the reception.

I'd like to know your attitudes toward the wedding you hope to have some day (or, in the case of a few of you, already had). I'd also like to know what attitudes you see among the people you know, especially the Christians. Are they — and you — approaching it the right way? Or is some attitude adjustment in order?

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  • --An attitude adjustment was in order for me. If I marry my boyfriend, I will marry overseas in a different culture. I will not have a bridal shower, bride's maids, bachelorette party, flowergirls, ring-bearer, photographer, or cute DIY decorations...a reception and honeymoon also are still up in the air. Basically, I will just have the white dress, a ceremony in our church by our pastor, and my groom standing opposite me^^ I realized I took it for granted that my wedding one day would just automatically include all the trappings of a typical white American wedding...but I chose to do the wedding here instead of back home in the U.S., because if we do it here, more of my boyfriend's family can come, and the majority of them are not Christian. In this godless culture, non-Christians don't have many chances to go to church or hear the Gospel. I really want to show them a Christian wedding. I think it will be a good chance to witness to a good amount of people. So for me I had to do a paradigm shift. Our wedding won't be about "us" really, but about showing people what a Christian marriage represents. Though I know a Christian wedding is only the starting point...we have to witness to them throughout our marriage as we demonstrate Christ's love to each other and those around us, over the years together.

  • --Also, the food has been suffering at receptions lately. What's up with that? I don't expect a sit-down dinner at every reception (and actually prefer not to have one), but I at least need some substantial snacks. Weddings and their receptions are long, and I get hungry!

  • --I'm not saying it isn't, but I'd like to see an explanation of why a wedding is more "God's day" than any other day? Yes the vows themselves are made before God, but does every element have to be an act of worship? Why should anything non-churchy wait for the reception? Why should all personal touches be regarded with suspicion?

    I do agree that the 'me me me' culture of weddings is a bad thing, but I don't think it necessarily has to be all overtly God focused - it is, obviously, about the couple, and about the community as well.

  • --I'm not engaged, or even dating for that matter, so I actually try to avoid planning out my wedding...or even thinking about it too much.  No point in making a bunch of hypothetical plans for a wedding that may not ever take place.  That said, my idea of the "perfect wedding" has changed over the years.  When I was in my early 20s, I had visions of a fairy tale wedding, a handsome groom, beautiful flowers and dresses, a grand receptions, etc.  The older I get, though, the less I want a big, fancy wedding.  Somehow it just doesn't seem to matter anymore.  Now that I'm 30, I think that I would prefer a simple, inexpensive wedding that focuses more on our commitment to God, each other, and our families, than it does on how big and fancy the ceremony and reception is.  I neither envision nor want that fairy tale wedding, and my vision of the handsome groom has changed to that of an average guy.  Give it another few years, and I might just settle for a justice of the peace and a groom that is still breathing.  :p  (Kidding, I'm kidding.  About the justice of the peace, that is.)        

  • --GrinAndBarrett, maybe the solution to that problem is to have short ceremony, not take forever with pictures between the ceremony and reception, and then have a short reception!  I'm thinking that 90 minutes max from the time the processional starts to the time the bride and groom leave for the honeymoon sounds like plenty of time to me!  

  • --@MissC1, I think the solution lies in some creative catering. Qdoba will cater an event for $8-$10/person, while wedding caterers can run anywhere from $50-$200/person, and who doesn't love fajitas or burritos? That's certainly better than the dry roast beef, canned green beans, instant potatoes, and instant gravy that half these caterers would be bringing anyways, and it's way more filling than some chips, pretzels, and peanuts.

  • --"Yes the vows themselves are made before God, but does every element have to be an act of worship? Why should anything non-churchy wait for the reception? Why should all personal touches be regarded with suspicion?"

    THIS. Finding acceptable music for the ceremony was MUCH harder than it should have been. Is God REALLY more glorfied by Trumpet Voluntary than by a nice, acoustic adaptation of a love song?

    Plus also, I think this is obscenely overstated. Not everyone is Bridezilla, and "averages" include everyone from Kim Kardashian to that couple down the street who eloped on the beach for $200 and the cost of the marriage license. Further, not every "compromise" is about secular excess:

    I had a sad moment in my wedding where our chaplain wouldn't allow us to do first communion together as a husband and wife because that conflicted with his own religious convictions (He was with a denomination that believed that all present belivers should partake, that whole sacrement v. symbolism controversy). I understood, but I still cried. :P I was planning a wedding, by myself while my fiance was in another state and I WAS trying to make everyone else happy too. This was something I wanted just for us, to honor God and I couldn't even have that after a long list of things that I wanted and was denied out of conflicting religious observance and personal preference of other people, I was sad. It's way too easy to hate on "materialistic" or "worldly" brides without sympathising with them.

    I think very few people realize how much other people (other than the bride) have to be gently stroked and placated when planning a church wedding. There is the pastor, his staff, any wedding planner the church apoints, both your mothers and that's just the start of the list. I wanted to get married in my church, but they were booked every single week the month of our wedding and required a six month premarital couseling curriculum we never would have been able to complete in our six month engagement in two different states. My pastor couldn't marry us because he was managing a church wide-retreat on that day (which had been scheduled in advance but I didn't know about until after I asked him to officiate). I wanted my best friend's little girl to be a flower girl in our wedding and my Mom nearly caused WWIII because she deeply dislikes said friend and was "compromising" by even allowing her to be invited. Any dancing at the reception had to be relegated until after my grandparents left. My Dad refused to do a father-daughter dance with me because "We don't dance." My family in NO uncertain terms, let the O-Club know (quite rudely at times) that there would be NO alcohol of any kind at the reception.

    In the end, everything was beautiful, and I was able to enjoy many of the things I wanted and still be in harmony with my family and all represented clergy. And at the end of the day, I got to wear a pretty dress, eat yummy cake and marry my best friend. I call that a win.

    So what I'm saying is: Are there women out there who get stuck in blinged out princess all about me mode? Yes, sure. But those girls likely don't subscribe to this blog.

  • --G&B: You would be totally suprised. Finding an affordable place to eat was a NIGHTMARE. Every reception hall wants you to use THEIR caterer. No one will just rent you the space, they all get kick backs from their caterers. Even if you rent a ballroom at a hotel or a conference room at a golf club, you HAVE to use their in-house kitchen. The only way you're going to be able to get somwhere like Qdoba (which we actually *wanted* and who did, indeed, cater our rehersal dinner) or Chic-fil-a is if you have your reception (a) at the church (which usually means no dancing) or (b) at a banquet hall in a shady part of town a million miles from your church or (c) where you "know somebody" who has an in and will let you out of the usual catering contract or (d) you just happen to know somebody who has a massive area they can host a huge event like a wedding reception and they make it available to you. Seriously. Food will beggar you. We ended up going with the O Club because we were already dealing with getting people on-base for the chapel wedding and they were BY FAR the least expensive option, but they STILL cost $5,000 for a three entree buffet for about 130 people. some hotels wouldn't even let you book their ballroom for less than $7,500 in food and drink. Food was THE most expensive part of our wedding, bar none and we had a dry reception!

  • --Mrs. Ashley said: "So what I'm saying is: Are there women out there who get stuck in blinged out princess all about me mode? Yes, sure. But those girls likely don't subscribe to this blog."

    Agreed. I would venture to guess most girls reading this blog probably wouldn't fall into that category either.

    I honestly don't really think/plan mine anymore--not because I'm not trusting God, but because it's not even remotely here and I see no need to go there till it is. I know I want it simple and inexpensive, but other than that, I'm not really thinking much about it because I have no reason to. Better things to occupy my time with in the here and now, than what may come in the future :-)

  • --Oh and MissC1: I think that's totally wise. What you want at 22 will NOT be what you want at 27. ;) Dress shopping with my Mom put that in perspective as well. She kept wanting to put me in froofy blingy dresses for 20 year olds and I was just like "Mom. *elegant* plus also, I'm a big girl, *ruching* *structure*" :P "nonono, romantic lace! it's so pretty! Just try it!" "sigh" When I finally put the dress I ended up wearing on (ruched. no lace. very elegant. ;) ) and then immediately put on the froofiest ball gown in the whole bridal shop for funsies she was like "o.o Oh. I *get* it now." ;P

    Plus it also keeps you from getting overly emotionally invested in your relationships too soon. If you're planning a wedding in your mind, it's easy, when you start seeing someone, to start planning *them* into your wedding, which destroys you in a whole different way when you break up than simply leaving a boyfriend behind. By waiting to plan you are saving yourself double work AND a lot of heartbreak.

    (still take mental notes of clever things you see at other weddings though. You'll be glad you tucked those helpful hints away!)

  • --@MrsAshleyTOF, I guess I'm just lucky to know a number of churches that don't have a problem with dancing, even in the deep South. The "mother ship" church for my denomination has a beautiful chapel, and there is a space downstairs for a reception.

    Outdoor weddings are definitely cheaper, but every single one has been one kind of nightmare or another with the weather.

  • --GrinAndBarrett

    I'm getting married in 11 or 12 days and I nearly just exploded at you. But by the time I remembered my password and managed to sign in I am a little calmer.

    Until you plan a wedding you can't imagine how complicated and expensive things get. We have a very modest budget and I'm very sensible and things still went crazy. The girls are right, just finding a reception venue that will let you exsist in their space for a few hours will run you several thousand in my small town and then you are roped into their caterer and don't forget cake cutting fees which run between $1.50-$3 per slice (and no they won't let your friend do it). I wanted to have a simple cake and coffee and light hors duerve affair at my church but was told NO! Even a "simple backyard/park" wedding will run you thousands in rentals and several grey hairs while praying for the weather. (besides it's going to be at least 100 degrees on my wedding day.)

    And since I planned my ceremony and reception to take place between meals and the invitation explained we weren't serving a meal, I don't care if you are hungry. Too bad.

    My groom is super traditional so we can't do pictures before and will be stuck doing them between the ceremony and the reception and that adds time. Given that many people will be driving 5 hours each way to get to my wedding, I really couldn't have the whole thing take 90 minutes. I plan on speaking to everyone at the reception and that alone will take about an hour (plus speaches cake cutting and eating).

    We spent a lot of time planning our ceremony. We refused to write our own vows, because while our love is unique, marraige is the first ordinance God gave humanity and is representative of Christ's love of the church. Way bigger than us and we wanted to use vows that have traditionally been used by the Christian tradtion to honor all of that.  We were also careful to write into the ceremony ways to honor our parents who have made us the people we are today and to pick some solid congregational songs.

    I kind of feel sorry for the women who get stuck in "blinged-out Princess mode" becuase unless you are 22 it looks silly, IMO. And it's expensive. When I went dress shopping, I fell in love with a dress that was a 9.5 out of 10 and the prettiest dress I'd ever worn. BUT it was over budget. So I bought the dress that was half it's price and looked nice enough. The shop ladies didn't know what to do with me, but I've never regretted that decision.

  • --"I don't care if you are hungry. Too bad."

    But *I* care if I'm hungry.

  • GandB

    --In my case, I've actually made an effort for you not to be hungry (some on the things I'm serving are protein based, and you'll get a slice of really good cake.) But it's always better to eat a big lunch if the couple isn't serving a meal. Either that or generously offer to gift them enough to cover catering. Most people put a lot of effort into providing the best food their budget allows and so maybe grab a hamburger on the drive from the church to the reception.

  • --Big expensive weddings have always given me the creeps. It's not supposed to be about THAT. But as time has gone on, they've given me the creepiers. One guy I knew had a special online package of his wedding pictures and video put together. THAT alone must have cost thousands. The wedding, who knows. Huge Jewish affair. Maybe a month later I asked him about his wife and he said they were no longer together. Too, this reflects my own wedding. I thought "till death do us part" was to be interpreted LITERALLY. She felt otherwise. So did her family, turns out. Constant churning of spouses. Meanwhile, I'm no longer friends with 90 percent of the people who attended the wedding. (But my best man, initials M.K., remains my best friend!) Almost all of our gifts have since been stolen part by part. Dishes at one time, silverware another. Nothing left of the wedding but the photos themselves, taken by a cheap photographer and individuals.

    But unfortunately that's the US for you. Rated number one in divorce. And yet, aside from places like Monaco, probably number one in wedding expenses. Just turns my stomach. Keep it beautiful but simple. And don't do it at all unless you mean it.

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