In 2011, the median cost of a wedding was around 18,000 dollars in NZ and US, and 11,000 pounds in the UK (the average was quite a bit higher). That’s enough to put a 10% deposit on a flat everywhere except in the major metropolitan areas, and enough for a house deposit in many places. And I wonder how many couples, planning their big day, think about the opportunity cost of that money:
Your $18,000 wedding? It may really end up costing you between $90,000 and $200,000. That $2,000 dress? Think: $10,000 to $22,000. The $10,000 food bill for your guests? Try $50,000 to $110,000.
No, I am not kidding.
That’s because the biggest cost of every dollar you spend is invisible. It’s all the money you’d accumulate if you saved it instead. Over long periods, this cost dwarfs the mere sticker price, often by a factor of several times.
Do the math. The typical bride is just 26 at her first wedding, according to the U.S. Census. She has four decades or more to save.
If her savings earn 4% a year above inflation over the long haul, each dollar she spends now is actually taking $5—in today’s terms—out of her lifetime savings. If her money earns 6% a year above inflation, an estimate that is challenging but not ridiculous, she is taking out $11.
Per dollar spent.
Yes, this is real. Today millions are, of course, struggling to make ends meet. There is an unsung national crisis among those nearing retirement with very little set aside. Someone in their 50s today would have an extra $100,000 if they’d saved just $5,000 more 30 years ago.
Food for thought. [The Wall Street Journal: A Lavish Wedding Costs More Than You Think]
Some of the nicest weddings I’ve been to have been done on a shoe string budget, with family and friends pitching in to provide food, flowers, the wedding cake, photography, clothing for the bride and bridesmaids, and decorations for the church and hall. There’s something very special about a wedding that has been provided by a community for one of its own.
On the other hand, I’ve talked to couples whose total emphasis seems to be on the Big Day: the dress, the flowers, the table decorations.
Where should the emphasis be? On that one special day when you vow to love for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer… or on the life during which you follow through on those vows?
Last night on the news, they reported that the number of couples marrying has declined over the last forty years, and interviewed a young couple who said that they had no intention of marrying; they’d made their commitment and didn’t need a piece of paper. I have a great deal of sympathy for the view that the piece of paper is an irrelevance and – under modern conditions – an expensive irrelevance.
It all comes back to the question: what is a wedding; what is a marriage?
In Catholic theology, a marriage is a covenant relationship; a relationship in which the two parties become family – bound to each other (and to God) as if they had been born from the same blood. In marriage, the two become closer than siblings, or than parent and child; they become – so Genesis and Matthew say – one flesh; a unit; a single physical entity.
A wedding, then, is a public demonstration of the couple’s commitment to a covenant relationship.
There are three basic requirements for a valid Catholic wedding:
- The couple must be capable of being married—that is, they must be a woman and a man who are free of any impediment that would prevent marriage.
- The couple must give their consent to be married—that is, by an act of their will they irrevocably give and accept one another in order to establish marriage
- They must follow the canonical form for marriage—that is, they must be married according to the laws of the Church so that the Church and the wider community will be certain about the validity of their marriage (the canonical form includes certain specific vows, and specified witnesses).
Nothing there about the number of party favours or the colour of the dress!