I have been engaged for a little over two months now and wedding planning has been in full swing. With less than 4 months to go before the ‘big day’, there are still quite a few details to hash-out. Now that I’m on the planning side of things, I’ve noticed something: The modern wedding has taken the focus completely off the marriage. Instead of focusing on celebrating the union of two people who love each other, the merging of two families, and the starting of a new one, the modern wedding celebrates the quality of your centerpieces, the creativity of your wedding favors, and the price tag of your wedding dress. Have we forgotten what we’re celebrating?
After signing up for The Knot (a wedding website that helps with planning, ideas, forums, etc.), my inbox suddenly started getting a lot more e-mails: “50 Wedding Photos you NEED at your wedding”, “Look 10 Pounds Thinner”, “How to make your first dance perfect!”. The wedding industry thrives off comparison, encouraging you in whatever way they can to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. The wedding you’ve wanted since you were two is no longer good enough, big enough, or glamorous enough. There are rules to be followed in regards to programming, timing of events, and the color of the mother-in-law’s dress. Expectations are so high, no wonder women turn into Bridezillas. They are consumed with wanting a movie-worthy celebration. Women strive to compete in a make-believe contest for “Best Wedding” until they drive themselves crazy.
“In 1959, Bride’s magazine recommended that couples set aside two months to prepare for their wedding and published a checklist with 22 tasks for them to complete. By the 1990s, the magazine recommended 12 months of wedding preparation and published a checklist with 44 tasks to complete.”
–“What The Cost Of Your Engagement Ring May Say About Your Marriage” –Huffington Post
Back in the day, weddings were not an elaborate affair. They consisted of small family gatherings at the home of the bride or groom’s parents. The dress wasn’t shopped for or even white, it was simply the best dress the bride owned. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that weddings started to get fancy. The upper class started to throw parties similar to weddings we see today. In the 1900’s, brides began ordering a dress specifically for their wedding day. Wedding registries, as we know them, didn’t exist until the 1920’s. Before that, the only wedding gifts were in the bride’s dowry: a collection of items her parents presented to the groom along with their daughter. This turned into guests giving essential items to the newlywed couple so they could start their life together with life’s basic needs met. Today, not only are guests expected to give a gift, they are expected to bring another gift to any and every shower they attend for the couple. The engagement ring has changed a lot as well. Though most of us have never lived in a world where diamonds weren’t “forever”, the classic diamond engagement ring didn’t exist until 1947. It was part of a marketing campaign by DeBeers, a diamond cartel, trying desperately to fight the collapse of diamond prices due to the Depression. They created a campaign that dramatically changed the wedding industry and consequently, the diamond is the primary stone used for engagement rings.
“In 2012, total expenditures on diamond rings were roughly $7 billion in the United States alone.”
–“What The Cost Of Your Engagement Ring May Say About Your Marriage” – Huffington Post
It has always cost money to throw a party and in the 20’s and 30’s, the average wedding cost $5,000 (adjusted for inflation). According to The Knot, the average cost for a wedding in 2013 was $29,858. That is almost a 500% increase. Couples now spend more than the U.S. median income on their nuptials. What was once a religious covenant has become an example of extreme consumerism and the ultimate form of self-expression.
Weddings were once a simpler ceremony. An intimate celebration between families to celebrate the unity of their children. For religious peoples, a wedding celebrates the union of a couple as they become one before God. A covenant. A promise of fidelity and love for a lifetime. Have we lost sight of this? What if we were more excited about our marriage than our wedding? What if we put more effort in our relationship with our fiance’ than the design of the cake or the color of the flowers? I firmly believe that if we put more emphasis on the marriage than the party, marriages would look a lot different than they do today. Now, is it intrinsically wrong to spend a lot of money on your wedding? Not necessarily. However, I would argue that one’s heart can be in the wrong place. I’ve had to stop myself a few times in the midst of wedding planning from falling into the comparison trap, comparing my wedding ideas to those of my peers and to those in magazines. There is nothing wrong with wanting your “Happily Ever After” wedding. But when we lose sight of the purpose of the wedding and the meaning of marriage, we lose sight of everything.
“[The wedding is] just the beginning of your life together, not the climax.” – Dr. Steve Orma
That’s why so many men and women become depressed after their wedding day. Post-wedding depression is an actual diagnosis. Once you’ve walked down the aisle, the cake’s been eaten, and the attention has gone, reality sets in. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Your marriage just started. You’ve just embarked on the hardest and most rewarding journey of your life and it’s not always a party. And that’s ok.
I pray my wedding day isn’t the happiest day of my life. I hope it’s the next day, and the next, and the next. I hope for a lifetime of happy days amid tough times. I pray that we use our wedding day to glorify God, to love on those who have supported us and will continue to do so, to eat good food, to have good conversations, and to dance until our feet fall off. I pray we wake up the next morning, with our hearts even more determined to love each other the way God loves us (1 John 4:19). At the end of the day the flowers will fade, the food will be thrown out, and the dress will sit in your closet, but the covenant made will last a lifetime.