Are Expensive Weddings Hurting Marriage?

Some are making the argument that, when it comes to the big day itself, less is more: 

Noting the sharply increasing costs of weddings, marriage advocates have begun to urge couples to be less extravagant in their nuptial celebrations for the good of their relationships.

“We ran a survey early this year with a law firm that looked at reasons for not marrying, and the top reason for men was the cost of the wedding,” said Harry Benson, an official with the U.K.-based think tank The Marriage Foundation.

Benson said that the average price for the event in the United Kingdom is around $30,000, according to wedding magazines. Such expenses, he told CNA in a June 13 interview, are “definitely a barrier” to getting married.

“I think the celebrities have set the bar very, very high with all these hyped-up, high profile, highly photographed weddings, very extravagant events.” When couples want the “big, dream wedding,” he added, “often it’s very unrealistic.”

The Marriage Foundation was recently established by British judge Paul Coleridge, an expert in family law. Having seen a “stream of human misery pass through his doors,” Coleridge decided to launch the charity to promote strong marriages, Benson said.

Part of the promotion of strong marriages, he believes, is focusing more on the marriage than on the wedding.

Melissa Naasko, a Michigan-based wife, mother, and blogger at Dyno-mom, agrees. “If I was going to give a bride advice, it would be to focus more on the marriage and less on the wedding,” she told CNA June 12.

Naasko advocates celebrations that won’t break the budget and put burdensome financial stress on the married couple. She recalled planning the wedding of one of her friends a year ago, helping keep the cost reasonable.

When her friend got engaged, the first piece of advice she gave her was “never ever, ever buy a bridal magazine…because they’re all geared just to sell stuff.”

“Anytime you pick up a bridal magazine, they’re at least 60 percent ads. You’ll look and see that all the articles in it are sponsored articles.”

Avoiding wedding magazines – and shows such as “Say Yes to the Dress” – helps brides to “pay attention more to what their friends and their family are saying, and it becomes more about the people and less about the stuff.”

“There’s nothing wrong with having smaller weddings,” Naasko urged. “And the marriage obviously is the most important part of a wedding.”

“But one of the reasons it’s a social event, is because it’s the public aspect of our lives. Making the wedding itself about people always makes it less expensive.”

Not being influenced “by all the propaganda that surrounds the wedding mystique,” will ultimately benefit the couple, Naasko reflected.

Catholic commentator Matt Archbold added to the discussion in a blog post for the National Catholic Register May 19, noting that “big weddings…might just be causing heartbreak, damaging society, and hurting people’s faith.”

Being engaged for more than a year, saving up the money to splurge on the big day, can put couples in a precarious moral situation, often involving cohabitation, which in turn is linked to higher rates of divorce.

“The dream of the lavish Hollywood style wedding is not only ridiculous but harmful to one’s faith and society in general,” Archbold wrote.

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