Church – check!
Reception venue – check!
Bridesmaids, page boys, best man, maid of honour, mother of the bride, flowers, dresses, hairdos, makeup, limo, going away car, going away outfit, honeymoon, gift list, oh yes, rings… check, check, check!
Weddings today are a big deal. People spend thousands on their big day – the sort of money that not so long ago would have been a significant percentage of the cost of a little starter home, now gets blown on one day.
Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral recently reflected that weddings are nowadays more about a narcissistic bride being princess for a day than they are about a solemn, life-long commitment undertaken in the sight of God and some trusted witnesses.
Yes, weddings should be a celebration of finding your one true love, but is bankruptcy really the best way to start your married life?
The ‘teaser’ for an article in The Guardian on Saturday suggested that the writer was going to examine whether is really
…brides [who are] to blame or the industry that has turned getting married into a mega shopping trip
Seeing that, I thought this post was going to be [another one] about taking responsibility for your own actions, but the writer, Rebecca Mead, actually dealt with that angle quickly, moving on to a much more interesting analysis.
Mead has recently written a book about the wedding industry, and in the course of her research, she says:
I came to believe that the trauma of planning a wedding under such commercial pressure is, in some sense, a stand-in for the experience of real nuptial trauma that was experienced by earlier generations. No longer do most newlyweds have to negotiate the shock of the transition from the parental home to the marital one nor, in most cases, do they face the intimidations of a virginal marriage bed. Nor are they likely to be coping for the first time with the responsibilities of housekeeping or breadwinning.
In other words, people are aware, somewhere deep down, that getting married is a significant thing. At some deep, psychological level, she seems to think, people need to create a sense of importance in this event, and if it can’t be in the marriage itself, it has to be in the celebration of it.
It’s an interesting theory. In an era when cohabitation is considered perfectly acceptable, and even logical, why would couples with no religious beliefs choose to make a solemn commitment and vows to each other?
For some, I’m sure, it is simply an excuse for a huge party, a chance to be the centre of attention and an opportunity to get piles of presents, but I imagine that accounts for a vanishingly small number of weddings.
For most, it seems that there comes a point when they decide to make their commitment public and more concrete. They expect and intend it to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, so they are willing to splash out a bit here and there…and there… and there…
Weddings are getting ridiculously over-expensive and over-elaborate these days (and with hen and stag parties tending to become weekend-long affairs, often held overseas of in some expensive country hotel, the expense for close friends is mounting, too!). It would be good to release people from the burden of expectation which seems to hang over them, but if the lavishness is an indication that marriage is still being respected, honoured and taken seriously, then there is a silver lining to the cloud.