My Big, Fat Problem With Weddings

My guess is around this holiday season your Facebook feed will be inundated with “I SAID YES” photos complete with ten different glamor shots of “the ring”. Maybe I am just getting older, but from TV to reality, for the first time in my life, I feel as if I can’t escape the world of weddings.

I checked the cost this week, and according to ABC, the average cost of a wedding in 2014 was $31,213–a record high. I could pay for over a year of education with that money. Why are wedding bills so high and does the cost have anything to do with the success of the marriage?

So first a disclaimer before the wedding gurus come running.

I completely understand that weddings aren’t a one size fits all type of deal. Some people are better suited to more modest weddings and others are more extravagant—either of these are obviously a wonderful celebration of love, but I simply think that it is important to analyze the real motives behind the big day and make sure it’s the marriage, and not the wedding that comes first.

Divorce is an ever-growing statistic in this country, and some people, myself included, are asking why.

Megan Walsh recently wrote a provocative article for PBS Newshour based on a study done by Emory University economics professors Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon on the cost of weddings/rings in comparison to the success of a marriage.

The results were startling. “Guys, dropping $2,000 to $4,000 on an engagement ring means you’re 1.3 times more likely to get divorced compared with more frugal fellows who only allocate $500 to $2,000.

For both sexes, spending more than $20,000 on the wedding ups the odds of divorce by 3.5 times compared with couples who keep it between $5,000 and $10,000,” Walsh reports.

And if you want the best odds for a successful marriage, keep the wedding under $1,000.

Sure, there are other factors impacting marriages, but what can these particular statistics and studies tell us? According to Walsh, there are two trains of thought.

1. Overspending on a lavish wedding causes financial stress and more fighting after the big day

2. Couples who overspend may not be focused on cultivating a long-lasting marriage, but more on all of the fuss surrounding the big day.

The bottom line: Wedding advertisers have cracked the code, and there seems to be the assumption that we can show our commitment through the perfect wedding.

It should be more about the marriage and not the wedding. Your wedding is a stepping stone to what will hopefully be a long and happy marriage, not the big event. What if we told every bride that she had to get married on a budget of $1,000. Maybe, even elope. How many people would still be rushing to get married?

I know plenty of people who have had fancy weddings and are still happily married. But when I talk to long-married couples, nearly every single one of them tells me that an expensive wedding just isn’t worth it in the long term.

I have to ask myself, is there anything else going on here?

Weddings are celebrated as a milestone and brides are applauded for “settling down and snagging a good one.” Girls whine about how jealous they are and how much they want to get married. When we are little, we are socialized to dream of the perfect guy, the perfect dress, the perfect day. It is the shimmering, white, puffy dream of our futures. Why do we often celebrate the girls who are walking down the aisle more than the girls who are graduating college? Why can I find a wedding Barbie, but no “graduate” Barbie, or “humanitarian worker” Barbie?

I’ve even seen Instagram bio lines that list “wife” and “fiancée” before all other accomplishments. Finding the love of your life is special and important, but our culture has made it too much of a defining feature.

And another guilty culprit: Social media

Think about it. In our parents’ age, no one saw the ring unless you were right in front of them and wedding photos weren’t seen until months later in a nice photo album. Now it seems like 24 hours after the ceremony every picture from the first look to the last dance are up for the whole world to see. There is an increasing importance in broadcasting your wedding to everyone. And Pinterest? Yes, I am guilty of having a wedding board of my own, but Pinterest is wedding porn. From DIYs to hairstyles to “the photos you have to have” most weddings now have a distinctively “Pinterest feel”. I am not the only one that has noticed either, check out this Pinterest board I found about “Tremendously Ridiculous Wedding Crap”, you will not be disappointed. There is a funny paradox too: as we are supposedly individualizing our weddings, they are looking increasingly similar thanks to social media.

Candy bar? Check. Photo booth? Check. A sign urging guests to sit wherever because we are all family now? Check. Flower girl in tutu? Check. Sure, cute ideas, but aren’t weddings starting to feel a bit more like a themed party? And a ridiculously stressful experience of crocheting your own placemats.

I am guilty to settling into conversations with girlfriends that maybe lasted wayyy too long on the style of wedding dress, venue, flowers and more that we want at our future weddings, and I’ll be ecstatic when I marry the person I love, but I think we all need to assess the idea behind the wedding.

So have your expensive wedding, and I will come, eat and be merry. I love love and am always happy to see two people come together. I just want to suggest before you shell out the cash, the time, and the stress, to take a deep breath and think, why are we doing this and what is this really about and what do we define as important? If for you that’s three dresses and a gold-leaf cake along with your marriage, then by all means have your cake and eat it too!

 problem with weddings