Over my nearly 60 years of life I have attended many weddings, both casual and elaborate. This past weekend I flew out to Las Vegas for the wedding of the daughter of one of my closest high school friends. This wedding definitely fell into the latter category with an outdoor ceremony on a posh golf course, followed by a sit down dinner for over 100 guests, an open wine and beer bar, a DJ for dancing, and wedding favors for everyone. Naturally there was a professional photographer/videographer, flowers, and an overpriced wedding cake. It was a beautiful wedding and a fun party. Although the couple, he 33 and she 27, both have well paying jobs, have lived together for some time, and own a house, the wedding was primarily funded by the bride’s parents. While talking to my friend the next day I learned that initially the bride’s dad had suggested a much simpler celebration, but the daughter wanted the fairy-tail wedding of her dreams. What father could refuse to make his daughter’s dream come true? He sold his boat and probably deferred his retirement to pay for this one day affair that easily could have cost twenty to twenty-five thousand dollars.
My husband and I married in 1983 on a vacant lot where we planned to build our home in the high desert of California. We too had well paying jobs, lived together for some time, and owned a condominium. My uncle, a Presbyterian Minister performed the morning ceremony in front of my parents and Don’s parents, my brother, my sister who was maid of honor, my husband’s best friend Tom who served as his best man and Tom’s wife Jean. My groom wore a new pair of Levi’s and a button down shirt and I a knee length dress that my mom found on sale. Later that evening we hosted a reception for our families and friends in the back yard of my parent’s home. My sister and my mom baked and decorated a wedding cake and enlisted the help of friends to make sandwiches, salads and casseroles for the guests. Don and I provided a few big steel tubs filled with ice, beer, wine and champagne. We hired a neighbor down the street that had a pretty good rock band to play so our guests could dance. There was no professional photographer, just guests who brought their own cameras. It was a beautiful wedding and a fun party. Our total out of pocket expense was less than a thousand dollars which is equivalent to $2,400 today.
I guess my point is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a memorable wedding. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who chooses and can afford to spend a lot of money on a wedding. It is after all (or should be) a once in a lifetime event. If our daughter, when the time comes, wants to have a fancy wedding, we certainly would try to make that possible. But a fancy wedding does not insure a long term marriage. Often the stress of paying for such a celebration can cause discord for young newlyweds and their parents. Weddings are meant to be a celebration of love and commitment and that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or put the newlyweds or their parents in debt.