Wedding planning can be an adventure
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There are some rituals in our society that have stood the test of time across centuries. A wedding ceremony is a couple's way of announcing to the community their commitment to each other. It takes on different characteristics in each culture and social group, but there is a concept of it in every manifestation of humanity.
Marriage laws are a whole other beast. One does not need a wedding to be married. However basic, there is a ritual, a ceremony if you will, that must be performed in order to be considered legally married. Unless though, you live in a state with common law marriages that make a couple legally married if they live together long enough.
Not such a wild idea, if you think of what a marriage is. Marriage signifies the joining of a couple, of two families, in a committed relationship. Whether you subscribe to narrow definitions of marriage or believe in marriage equality, there are many ways to demonstrate that commitment to a community. Living together and combining your household expenses and responsibilities. Having children together. Having a shared business. Perhaps not a wedding. Perhaps not a legal marriage certificate. But a marriage none the less. Who among us hasn't heard of the couple that has been together forever and have raised children together but never got married?
In our society, though, the wedding is the thing. It is your way to show the community that you have bound your life to another person. You need that ceremony and that piece of paper to solidify your wish to combine your life with another person, right? We are also a society that believes in the romance of marriage. We need to see it respected as an institution of love and honor, not convenience or personal gain. These are considered antiquated and selfish abuses of the institution of marriage. Everybody's version of the dream wedding is different but everybody has an idea in mind what they want.
The first piece of advice my husband and I always give any clients who ask about customizing their wedding is that the day belongs to the couple, so the couple should decide what the wedding will be like. It can be hard, however, to not fall victim to the expectations of one's guests.
According to Brides magazine, the average couple spends almost $27,000 on their wedding. At least a third of brides go over their budget by as much as $15,000. Even though more young people are paying for all or part of their wedding, they and their families are taking on debt to do so. This is in addition to other debt like mortgage payments, student loans, car payments and credit card bills.
Catch an episode of "Four Weddings" or "Say Yes to the Dress." Check out a bride or wedding magazine. Trends in weddings today run the gamut, but overwhelmingly there is the need for details and elegance. Cocktail hour. Sit down dinners with three entrees. Fabulous dress. Unique location. Centerpieces. Guest swag. It can add up or take a lot of DIY time.
Which is all the more reason why the wedding should be a reflection of who you are as a couple. We get so caught up in the way things have always been that we don't allow for individual expression. Perhaps because so many couples are paying for their weddings now there is more comfort with varying the format.
A wedding should be reminiscent of the couple. Two of my close friends recently demonstrated how beautiful a wedding can be when it is a true reflection of the couple. A wedding is an opportunity for the couple to celebrate and give thanks for those who have supported them. I don't think you have to go broke to do that. You don't want your first steps as a married couple to be down a path of seemingly never-ending debt.
Those of us on the outside can never know a couple's journey that has brought them to marriage. That is a story only they will ever really know. Those of us there at their wedding are there to support their union in whatever form it may take.
I have seen some amazing weddings that had to cost high five figures. I've seen some fabulous weddings with less than a dozen guests and a double digit budget. The best weddings are where the couple planned more for the marriage than the ceremony.
- Mariel Blake writes a weekly column for The Daily News.