27th May 2007

Average Wedding Cost shock

I’m a slow reader. By that I don’t mean that I read the words slowly, I mean that it takes me a while to get around to reading magazines I subscribe to. I only mention this to explain why I’m only just now commenting on an article that appeared in the May 21 issue of Newsweek (in the My Turn column featuring reader-contributed articles). This particular article made me stop and spend a bit of time thinking ( I love when an article does that!).

Titled “Love on a Shoestring”, and written by Mary Beth Baptiste, the gist of it was concerning her recent, and extremely inexpensive, wedding which she and her now-husband accomplished for the grand sum of $150. I found it to be both moving and inspirational. But in addition to being moved and inspired, I was also shocked by a statistic she quoted, that the average amount spent on a wedding in the US now is more than $27,000. Yes, that’s not a typo or misprint – nearly $30,000 for a single-day event. Mary Beth went on to put into perspective how much good that money could do for many underprivileged communities, or families coping with disasters such as floods or hurricanes, as well as comparing that figure (annualized) to the GNP of several small countries. What an eye-opener!

Although she didn’t mention it, I couldn’t help but think also about the fact that the national divorce rate in our country is still hovering around the 50% mark – so it becomes even more appalling to think that anyone would spend such a huge amount on a wedding for a marriage that, the odds say, is just as likely to fail as succeed. And that figure doesn’t take into account what the bridal couple’s family and friends spend on gifts – which averages another $20,000 per wedding.

What has our society become that somehow it seems okay to spend such a colossal sum of money a dress and a party? It takes my breath away to think how much good that amount of money could do – there are thousands of worthy charities in our country that are dedicated to such humanitarian causes as ending hunger and homelessness, curing various diseases, caring for children or elderly folks who have no one to care for them, saving our planet and various animals that we share it with, the list goes on and on.

I hope that the article gets attention so that anyone contemplating getting married can think about this and consider whether or not they really need an over-the-top celebration and just exactly what that will accomplish – will it guarantee a long and happy marriage? I doubt it. If just a fraction of the nearly 2.3 million (yes million) couples getting married this year opt for a smaller ceremony and donate a chuck of what they don’t spend to their favorite charity – and / or if they ask that donations be made in lieu of gifts, just think how many millions or even billions of dollars could be raised to make this world a better place. It might even make for a better start to a marriage.

Although my longtime sweetheart (going on 12 years together) and I don’t feel any particularly pressing need to get a paid-for piece of paper to cement our relationship (we are as committed to each other as all of the married couples we know), we have discussed the subject a few times over the years, and I have no doubt now at all that should we decide to take the plunge, we will follow Mary Beth’s example.

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