Why You Should Cancel That Big Wedding and Save the Money for Anniversary Milestones
I’ve decided to get married. At 43 and having had enough relationships behind me, it is time to settle. After all, it isn’t easy to find someone who can put up with my writer’s temperament and entrepreneur’s risk taking lifestyle — and still want to share the rest of my life with me.
But one thing troubles me.
And this is yet another one of those conventional logic issues that made little sense to my somewhat unconventional mind.
Why are weddings such big affairs?
Across customs and culture, weddings are typically grand affairs. Relatives and friends come, intricate ceremonies are conducted, the hosts serve abundant food and drinks, and guests come bearing expensive gifts.
When you think about it, in most traditions, weddings are elaborate and extensive because it signifies a coming of age — your children have finally grown up and are moving on to another important stage of their lives. It does justify getting everyone you know together to sing and dance and feast in joy.
But they are also typically costly — very costly. In some countries like India, where the bride’s family are bound by custom to offer hefty dowries in cash or gold to the groom’s family, failure to do so literally leads to death.
Dowry deaths rose from about 19 per day in 2001 to 21 per day in 2016. And we are yet talking about reported dowry deaths here. There are many that go unreported.
— “20 Women Die A Day: Dowry Deaths Still A Threatening Reality In India?”, shethepeople.tv
When a tradition that is meant to be a celebration of union and joy kills, does it still make sense?
In parts of Africa, cows are still given away by the groom as the price of securing a bride from her family.
Even today, it can become a means of surviving war or climate change, as this story in Reuters tells.
More parents trade girls for cows as war and climate change hit east Africa
KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Child marriage is increasing in parts of war-torn South Sudan and…
In South Africa, someone even came up with an app for determining a potential bride’s cost in cows… Certainly gives the classic business term “cash cow” a rather literal but ironic connotation.
In my part of the world, at weddings guests come bearing actual cash within congratulatory ‘red packets’. This money is meant to help the couple and their families defray the cost of holding a wedding banquet.
Of course, many families and couples wish for a grand wedding they can remember by. A crowded affair where a bride (and perhaps the groom too) feels like she is the center of attention amid a big crowd glowing with envy.
This has led to an unhealthy expectation on the part of many couples holding a grand wedding banquet in expensive venues. They expect that the ‘red packet’ collection would cover not just the cost, but typically make a ‘profit’ too.
Indeed, this custom of (profitable) cash gifts has led to one guest in a Taiwan talk show admitting to intentionally getting married and holding a big wedding with an extensive guest list in a low cost venue as a desperate attempt to raise money and pay off some debts.
Perhaps this was an isolated incident and unpleasant situation that this one unfortunate lady found herself in. Nonetheless in reality I know of many couples who wanted to hold grander weddings than they could comfortably afford and ended up inviting many acquaintances and co-workers they hardly talk to; in order to ‘subsidize’ the cost and meet the minimum headcount required of a prestigious venue. (Tradition dictates that it is often polite to send the couple a ‘red packet’ even if you declined the invitation.)
Celebrating too early
Even in western traditions where guests give useful items as wedding gifts rather than cash, I honestly feel that grand weddings that consume too much time and money to organize are somewhat frivolous…. and illogical.
Marriage is just the beginning of a lifetime’s work in building a sustainable relationship and family. In most other worldly affairs we celebrate only if it is successful.
While getting hitched — legally and religiously — is an important milestone in the relationship between a couple, it is hardly proof of real (and lasting) success. Anyone who argues with me on that hasn’t read about the divorce rates of modern civilization yet. According to this article, in the top 10 countries, it goes up from 38% in Canada to 87% in Luxembourg!
And you might think that infidelity is the biggest cause. No, that’s only 18%. The biggest reason cited was “incompatible/grew apart” at 44%.
So what I would say is this.
Celebrate holy unions by all means. But let the emphasis and true celebration not be on this part of the journey — which is just the beginning really.
Save the big celebrations for the true milestones that marks success in a marriage — 10 years, 20 years, 30 years and beyond.
For that is the true definition of success for any other long term endeavors; not the beginning, but the milestones achieved.
Marriage isn’t, and should never be regarded, like winning the trophy in a one-off sporting event.
What, and those who truly matters
For me an ideal wedding should be intimate, regardless of crowd size. The key is inviting people I feel close to. Those whom I want to introduce my bride to, and vice versa.
Intimate affairs don’t have to be expensive. I would host within my means. My guests shouldn’t have to ‘subsidize’ my wedding. They are here on my invitation to share in my joy. They shouldn’t feel like they are obliged to contribute to the cost of my wedding.
And so I am looking forward to something like that. A chance for old friends to get together and catch up with each other. A relaxed affair where me and my wife have time to mingle and get to know the people who matter— in hers and my life.
A true celebration of what, and those who matters — love, friendship and shared memories.