Weddings, Weddings Everywhere
Ah Summer. Season of weddings and engagements and all the cute couples making you think, “Gee, I wonder what I’ll do when I’m them.” As what was once a long term concept gets closer to a reality, I’m struck by……the wonder, the magic, the mystery, the beauty?
How about the sheer and utter ridiculousness of it all?
I confess, I was never the girl dreaming of her big day. It was always more of a theoretical idea like, “Yeah, I plan to do that one day.” Along with, “Yeah, I plan to go to Spain or Hawaii.” Or “Yeah, I plan to own a house.” Adult things on the horizon that would come around eventually. It doesn’t help that my parents adamantly encouraged us that if we just eloped instead of having a wedding, they’d give us cash on the spot. As a teenager, that seemed like darn good deal -yes, I’ll take your cash please.
As such, it took me until my twenties to realize what they meant by this joke. I always assumed that if I had a wedding, I’d be the one paying for it. I had NO idea that it was expected the bride’s family would pay for the wedding. Here I thought my mother was just trying to bribe her way out of helping with wedding planning.
Of all the things that confuddle me about weddings, the fact the bride’s family is expected to pay gets me the most. Like….what? We’re still doing that? That’s still a thing? Surely it can’t be.
Once Upon a Time….Let’s Make a Deal
Once upon a time (at least in Western culture), women didn’t generate income. Sure, they provided labor services in the form of household cleaning and child birthing, but since they didn’t have jobs where they sold things and made money, they were considered to be kind of a burden. As such, when a young suitor decided he’d marry your daughter, you’d give him a dowry. Basically, since the girl didn’t have any means to help set-up the household and the new husband would be supporting her from then on, her family would offer up goods instead. Let’s make a deal!
Okay, for once upon a time, I buy it, but we’re done with that old mode thinking. Women are beginning to overtake men in obtaining college degrees. Thus they are securing futures where they’ll likely make higher, if not similar salaries to their spouses. As Liza Mundy points out in her book, “The Richer Sex”discussing the new gender rules and roles, the presence of female breadwinners is becoming more and more standard. So if the bride is not only bringing money to the table, but likely bringing more of it, the idea of dowry should disappear.
Who Pays? Survey Says!
I didn’t think most people could overlook those facts, and I vaguely knew the groom’s family paid for the rehearsal dinner and other miscellaneous things. Of course, it’s a really complicated system as I learned from wedding website The Knot’s list when I started digging into this. But there is some indication that people know weddings are financial burdens, and the love should be spread around.
I also found that while the recent surveys say the bride’s family still typically covers almost 50% more of the cost, couples are taking on more of the wedding costs themselves. Mind you, that’s because of the terrifying trend wherein the average wedding cost is around $30,000. (GET OUTTA HERE.) Only 12% of couples pay for weddings entirely by themselves.
It appears that the “Contribute What You Can” philosophy is becoming more normalized too. Of course, parents who are farther along in life and likely more financially stable than their offspring want to help. Probably, you’ve got a family like that on each side. But your parents need to worry about their retirement too, and breaking the bank over your dream dress doesn’t help either of you in the long run.
Back to Basics: Your True Budget
I’ve known friends to get married where the groom’s family is better off, and that Mom wants a beautiful wedding for her baby boy so the groom’s family foots the majority of the bill. More and more, people just run off and elope or have small DIY ceremonies in their backyards to stay on budget. It’s the wild wild west of do-what-you-will weddings.
I’m encouraged by all of this. Of course I’m not against parents helping their kids out. And the idea of having a big party with your closest friends and family to celebrate your love is a hard idea to pass up. What I am against is archaic social structures that put unnecessary stress on people. So I’m hopeful (and I’m not the only one) that we’re moving to the world where the standard of “the bride’s family pays ‘cause that’s how it is” is over. Instead, I get to move on to the new worry of, “How the Heck Do People Afford This” with a healthy dose of “Don’t Go Into Debt Because of Your Perfect Day.”