Last year when Kate Middleton walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey to marry Prince William Duke of Cambridge, it marked the apex of one of the most expensive weddings in history. The price tag on the royal nuptials was more than $30 million dollars. That was a deal compared to the ceremony of William’s parents. When adjusted for inflation, the cost of Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding reached the rarified air of nine figures, surpassing a hundred million dollars.
Though monarchs are rarely involved, every young couple seems willing to pay a royal ransom for their wedding these days. Flowers, dresses, tuxedoes, pictures, DJs, cakes, catering services, coordinators, and venue rentals: It all adds up to an average cost of more than $25,000.
I perform several weddings a year; especially in the month of June. I see this matrimonial extravagance up close and personal, even with couples and families that I know can’t afford it. This escalating trend – for bigger, better, more elaborate weddings – troubles me.
It’s not just the money (although the $25,000 might be better utilized by making the down payment on that first home or by investing it with compounding interest for the next 30 years). It’s more the cavalier attitude about getting married that makes me dread the gold-embossed invitations to June nuptials.
Young, dreamy-eyed lovers come to the altar with their pockets now empty (or their parents’ pockets is more often the case), but with their hearts and heads filled with idealistic hope, love, and romance for the future. This is all good, for these wistful feelings are the necessary fuel that will first propel them forward together.
“I promise to love, honor, cherish and protect,” they say to each other, “and forsaking all others until death do us part,” the familiar vows continue. I think they mean it, mostly. But I don’t think many couples really know what they are getting themselves into when they speak those words – not a clue – they are simply unprepared for what lies ahead.
See, here is the rub: Countless couples will invest more money, energy, time, and planning into this single day of their lives than they will their lives together. They fail to see that an extravagant, black-tie ritual that impresses the neighbors does not a “happily-ever-after” make. And if the actual commitment of the bride and groom to each other is about as substantial as the icing on their wedding cake – sweet and buttery but hardly enduring – then it is no wonder that some ceremonies are still on the Visa card when the divorce attorneys are put on retainer.
Now, I’m no pessimist when it comes to love and marriage. I’m a hopeless, romantic believer. That’s why I keep showing up on Saturday afternoons “in the presence of God and these witnesses to join this couple in holy matrimony.” There are still couples who speak their vows with holy commitment to and faith in one another.
These couples know that marriage vows will not insulate them from the trials of life, their in-laws, or job lay-offs. They know a fancy ceremony will not pay the mortgage, keep the electricity on, or ensure that the effects of economic recession will not invade their home. Their words will not mean the end of sickness, disagreements, poverty, or any variegated means of gut-wrenching suffering.
They enter their joined-together-life prepared; not for every possible contingency. That’s impossible. They are prepared to stick together for much longer than the billing cycle on their wedding bills. Thus, these are couples who have a real chance to experience the best wedding possible – a wedding that becomes a marriage.
Yes, the “big day” is important, but the future is even more so. Yes, the ceremony should be memorable (it will be even if you only spend 200 bucks), but the decades that will follow are where the real memories can be made. Yes, a wedding is special and takes some commitment to pull off, but a marriage is even more special, and it takes some commitment as well.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.