I've been thinking a lot about weddings lately, partly because I have an anniversary coming up on August 18 and have also been invited to co-officiate at a family wedding on the same date. Weddings have become a giant industry in my lifetime; the average American wedding now costs $30,000. TV shows like "Bridezillas" (a documentary-style show on the Women's Entertainment network that features out-of-control brides in the last few frantic weeks before the wedding up through the reception) only seem to increase America's appetite for bloated nuptials. The divorce rate seems to have stablilized, but the rising cost of weddings seems to be having little effect on whether the marriages that weddings are supposed to be about ultimately go the distance.
Churches and other houses of worship are increasingly moving out of the wedding loop. Millions of people have weddings performed by Justices of the Peace or by friends who have gotten ordained online for free through organizations like The Universal Life Church (word to the wise--weddings performed by such ad hoc clergy are not valid in several states and jurisdictions, including Connecticut, where I live). Reception venues, eager to cater to couples, make it easy for them to have weddings on site, eliminating the trouble of commuting from a house of worship. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I would like to feel that the counseling and support clergy provide to couples help them to make stronger marriages, but the research about divorce prevention is new, and new counseling techniques coming from the research is not common and doesn't yet have a proven track record. Churches could have a positive effect in encouraging couples not to over-spend on weddings, but most have been reluctant to venture into that territory. In fact, I don't know of a church that has a ministry to would-be couples in this way.
I can only speak for myself and my own wedding and marriage. We spent way below the national average at the time (then the average was $20,000) and six years and two kids later, we still like each other and feel madly in love. I would have done some things differently if I had it to do over, but nothing that would have increased the total expenses. One thing that I think was different for us was how much both of us planned the wedding together. We designed the invitations and a wedding website together. I did most of the heavy lifting but my husband more than pulled his weight.
The site that does the most to help would-be brides remain sane in the face of enormous pressure to be model-gorgeous and have a perfect wedding is indiebride.com. The articles there don't generally address spirituality directly, but helping people not fall into a commercialized trap has a spiritual dimension to it. It includes articles about the very latest books that dissect wedding-related craziness. It also helps women connect with a community of others thinking deeply about weddings and marriages.
Ecomall offers ideas for "green" weddings, and the whole idea behind green weddings is to limit conspicious consumption, so that is a good place to look for ideas to keep weddings less crazy and less expensive as well.
My favorite book for helping plan a wedding that prepares you for marriage is Becoming Married by Herbert Anderson and Robert Cotton Fite. It is available through Amazon.com. It comes from a Christian viewpoint but the wisdom in it is universal.
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