Spending a Fortune on Weddings
Because my wife and I were past the typical marrying age when we tied the knot, we had to pay for our wedding. That’s one reason the only invitations were issued by word of mouth and the reception was in our new home.
It was one of the best days of our lives. Crammed elbow to elbow with people we loved and celebrating with plenty of good food to boot is a memory that will live for a lifetime.
I got to thinking about the price of weddings recently when I saw an analysis of their expense written by Mark Wingfield, the first editor I worked with after moving to Louisville in 1994.
In his column, Mark talked about his 1985 wedding in a Baptist church, followed by a reception in the fellowship hall.
Today, the twin sons who resulted from that marriage have become professional musicians, playing at hundreds of weddings with a high-end cover band.
Among the pricier ceremonies the younger Winfields have played at: a destination wedding at a resort in the Swiss Alps. Another in Aspen, Colorado ran $900,000; Mark said the cost of flying the 20-piece band from Dallas was likely one of the smaller expenses.
While I’ve never been to a wedding in that stratosphere, I remember the fete I attended with a sit-down dinner, emcee, full orchestra, and dancing into the wee hours.
While I have no idea what it cost, I imagine $25,000 would come close. Less than three years later, the marriage came crashing to earth, proving that upfront expense is no guarantee of lasting happiness.
At a similar event another time, I remarked that we were used to simpler occasions back home. Replied one man, “Our reception was in the church basement. We don’t all do that up here.”
The other disturbing aspect of Mark’s analysis concerned the declining number of weddings held in churches. He mentioned how 30 years ago his church in Dallas hosted a wedding or two nearly every weekend. From the early 2000s on, the ceremonies trickled off to a pre-pandemic level of fewer than five a year.
In fact, according to a wedding planning website, in 2022 farms and barns tied with banquet halls as the #1 reception venue. Churches didn’t make the top five.
There are a couple reasons why the trend away from churches as wedding sites bothers me, starting with the fact that marriage was God’s idea. As Genesis 2:24 reminds us: “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (MEV).
A second is the emphasis on flashy, expensive weddings, with this year’s average cost expected to hit $29,000.
That kind of spending for a short-lived event gives evidence of one-upmanship. This kind of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses ethic is not healthy for any society.
Besides, that kind of cash could go toward lasting purposes. A few years ago when I worked on the memoir of a retired businessman, I suggested he get various family members to write brief sidebars for the book.
In one contribution, one of his daughters recalled him offering her an alternative to a big wedding: $20,000 towards the down payment on a house. She insisted on the big wedding, but concluded her story: “As usual, Dad was right.”
I can’t help but think generous parents shelling out small fortunes for a wedding would be wise to pay for pre-marital counseling and classes on money management instead. If they did, there might be fewer marriages dissolving after the party ends.