The latest figure for the average cost of a wedding stands at a staggering £17,000. Now, it isn’t often I can say I agree with what the Church of England has to say on an issue, but the Church has produced a booklet suggesting that people should spend less on their big day, and on this aspect at least, I’m right behind them.
The Church is concerned that too much emphasis is being placed on the wedding ceremony, and not on the marriage itself, and that the true meaning is being lost in a “spiralling culture of expenditure”. That’s quite a good point, and while people might say they are spending a lot because their wedding day is important to them, it simply boils down to the usual mentality that it’s necessary to spend a lot of money to have a good time.
If losing the true meaning is of no concern, let’s think instead about what better use the money could be put to. How about paying off both the bride’s and the groom’s student debts – or if they have already done that, putting the money towards their children’s? Or maybe, in an age when it’s increasingly difficult to get onto the property ladder, the money could go towards a house? Or perhaps, instead of blowing the lot on a single day, it could pay for summer holidays for most of the remainder of the couple’s working life. And if none of those ideas appeal, I’m sure there are plenty of charitable organisations that could do with a £17,000 or two.
Now, it’s widely known that most companies are only too quick to overcharge for a product or service if they know it’s for a wedding. Ultimately, however, the spending decisions are down to those organising the wedding: i.e. the couple getting married. How many of the things are necessary, and how many are chosen simply because it’s what other people do? How many things really need to cost so much, and how many could be obtained at a lower price, or substituted for something less extravagant?
Where does all the money go? The fees payable to a church, if it’s to be the venue, might be only £200 or so; marrying at a registry office costs in the region of £100 (now there I can see a way of saving money already that the C of E would probably not be in agreement with, although, to be fair, theirs is only a small proportion of the total cost). So that’s not where the money goes. In fact, most of the money goes to people who have purely commercial interests in the ceremony.
If it’s necessary to spend so much money for a “traditional” wedding, why is it that in decades past, before we entered the age of super-consumerism, a traditional wedding cost a fraction of what it does now in real terms?
I can imagine people are thinking, “It’s worth spending that money to make the wedding romantic.” But since when did romance require money? Surely being together with a few special friends and family members is all that is needed, which should cost very little at all? And a great, atmospheric venue, whether chosen for spiritual or architectural reasons, need not break the bank either. Strip away the expensive kitsch, and the occasion would be far more romantic.
I’ve never seen the figures published, but I’m sure that if the cost of the wedding was plotted against the duration of the marriage, the (mathematical) relationship would not be directly proportional. But never mind the effect of spending on the marriage. How can anyone enjoy the wedding day itself, knowing all the time that it has cost them such a lot of money?