Two weeks ago, my now-husband and I got married in a secret courthouse wedding.
Our “ceremony” occurred smack in the middle of an auto-accident trial dispute. For about 30 minutes, we sat listening to deliberations, waiting for the judge to break and marry us.
When our break finally came, the judge made it special, offering to take pictures as we recited our vows through enormous, tear-streaked smiles. When it came time to kiss the bride, the courtroom erupted. Afterward, at a local bar for our “reception,” we toasted each other over nachos.
Although not exactly storybook, the story is uniquely ours, and we loved every second of it.
It was about us, plain and simple—quite the rarity these days.
According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding today is more than $35,000, with higher averages in places like South Florida ($48,596), Chicago ($60,035) and New York City ($78,464).
When you consider that the average age to get married is 28, and the mean annual salary for Americans aged 25-34 is $39,416, that means the average American getting married today spends close to one year’s salary on their wedding.
With that amount of dough (the bulk almost certainly spent by the couple’s parents), it’s only natural the wedding is no longer about the couple.
Instead, it’s about the hundreds of printed invitations sent by post all over the world to people who obviously prefer email to snail mail (it’s 2017, for god’s sake). It’s about the flower arrangements and open bar; the parents who want to impress, and the friends who travel far and wide, expecting a good time in return. Most of all, it’s about the party to “prove” just how in love you are.
Is it any wonder that the more you spend on your wedding, the more likely you are to get divorced?
Yep. Turns out, a study by two economics professors at Emory University found that couples who spend less on their wedding tend to have longer-lasting marriages than those who splurge.
"It could be that the type of couples who have a [less expensive wedding] are the type that are a perfect match for each other," said the study’s co-author.
So why are extravagant weddings only becoming more common?
Maybe it’s because, as a New York Times article on micro-weddings recently hypothesized, “Feelings might be hurt when you limit the guest list so severely, as it might go against expectations that friends and family members had that they would be invited to celebrate.”
But I’m not so sure. In fact, after our wedding, I was shocked by the outpouring of gratitude from 20-30-something friends, one of whom confessed: “I’m so happy for you, and honestly, so relieved not to have to buy another plane ticket. Although, I’ve racked up so many frequent-flyer miles going to all these weddings, I was hoping for an excuse to come to Paris.” (We live in Paris.)
One need only scroll through the Facebook or Instagram of someone aged 25-30ish to recognize that the vast majority spend their weekends at one wedding or another. The backdrop may vary, but the event itself always seems to follow the same formula: bridal party spends day in hair and makeup, groomsmen drink beer, wedding party poses for pictures, ceremony happens, dance party starts.
That is not to say I have a problem with anyone who wants to follow this formula. It’s also not to say that I haven’t genuinely enjoyed celebrating dear friends and relatives in all their wedded bliss. You do you, lady. As for the gents, let’s not pretend this is anything but “her special day” (ugh).
What I do have a problem with, however, is that this formula is now the rule, and it’d be a lie to say my husband and I hadn’t felt pressured to follow it.
Despite my assurances that I didn’t want anything extravagant, responses would always insist something like, “Oh, come on, you know deep down you want to become a princess on your wedding day.”
No, actually, I want to become a wife on my wedding day, but thanks for making me feel inadequate enough to doubt it.
For the record, I don’t doubt it and am very happy, just as I’m happy for anyone who is lucky enough to have met the person they want to spend the rest of their life with. There’s no doubt that’s cause for celebration, whatever way you choose to celebrate.