Princess for the day?

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.

3 Comments On This Topic
  1. Peter P
    on Aug 13th at 7:44 pm

    I think that a lot of the over-extravagance of weddings these days is driven by the media, the wedding industry and our increasing desire to live ‘snapshot lives’.

    By snapshot lives, I mean the desire to have the ‘perfect picture’. We want our memories to be of moments in our lives of absolute perfection. Perfect settings, perfect clothes, perfect smiles. My belief is that this is because we are becoming increasingly disillusioned with life and the media’s message that our lives should be ‘perfect’.

    On the other hand, the push in the homosexual community to be able to ‘marry’ is quite possibly an indication that people do, indeed, want to make a solemn, lifelong commitment to their partner – and maybe the institution of marriage is not on the way out as much as some would have us believe.

  2. Simona
    on Aug 16th at 1:45 pm

    This is a great article. Another point why people are on this race for the perfect wedding might be competitiveness. “My best friend spend £££ on her wedding and it was great. I want my day to be even greater so it has to cost at least ££££”…

    I know some couples who spend a lot of money and time on their “perfect” day and on their wedding day itself they were not able to eat (and enjoy their very expensive meal) as they were anxiously waiting for the moment where all their planning went wrong and something unexpected happens.
    Why’s that? This is supposed to be a great day for the couple and they should be very aware of their celebration. The happiness the couple is living is transforming people and they love weddings anyway. And if you have to impress your aunt/mum/best friend then this is not your wedding anyway.

    I myself had an unperfect but perfect wedding. I loved the people that were there, I loved the location, the food, the wine and of course my husband. I just enjoyed every single bit of it. I even enjoyed driving to the church and not being able to remember the vow – and recognising I had forgotten the paper where we wrote it down… In my opinion those are the memories you’ll never forget. All the perfect things are fading after a while.

  3. newsong40
    on Aug 16th at 1:59 pm

    Thanks Simona, It’s great to have first-hand evidence that less stressful is actually better! Yes, those memories of how it all went ‘wrong’ (yet somehow you survived!) are the ones you can laugh about in years to come.

    Thanks for sharing, and may God continue to bless and strengthen your marriage!


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