Friday, September 10, 2010

Piece of Advice #68: Keep your wedding in perspective

This one is for the brides-to-be, as requested by PuffsPlus.

A wedding shouldn't be an excuse for a woman to get her narcissism on.  Weddings are ceremonies by which a community witnesses the formation of another stable family unit and, having witnessed it, ideally will exert some help or pressure to keep it in functioning order.  A wedding was not for the bride or for the groom, it was for the community and an exercise in reaffirming community customs and beliefs.

At least that's what they once were.

Now they are expensive parties, hugely overpriced blowouts organized and choreographed around the main event, the bride.  Everyone else fades into the background - it's Bridezilla's day.  It's been a winding road to this point, of course.  The day was always important for brides because marriage holds more protections and perks for women than it does for men.  That's why historically women have wanted - have dreamed - about getting married and men generally have had to be pressured - gently or with the pressure of a metal barrel - into it.  It's normal for a young woman to look forward to her wedding day and anticipate saying her vows and celebrating with her loved ones, surrounded by the beauty of the occasion.  I had a wedding.  It was a lovely wedding in the gorgeous Polish Catholic church I attended, and other than being hot, tired, and somewhat nervous, I had a great time.  It's a bit of a blur, actually.  What I remember most is wishing that I had more time to spend with all of the people who had traveled so far to see me get married.

The problems I have with weddings as they currently are celebrated are:

  1. They rarely longer serve any cultural purpose in that they aren't there to transmit culture or values forward.  How can they when all the participants know going in that there is a 50% chance this will end in divorce?  With the meaning behind the wedding gone, what we're left with is a fancy party that requires an extensive consultation of etiquette no one knows anymore. And
  2. They are so overpriced.  On average an American couple spends $19,581 to celebrate that magical day.  Let me write that out: nineteen thousand, five hundred and eighty-one dollars.  Just shy of $20K for a one-day party.  Wow.  Again, there's a one in two shot this won't even last.  
If you went to to the courthouse and threw a barbeque for all your nearest and dearest, you'd have, say $19,000 left to put down as a down payment on a house or pay off 19K worth of student loans or other debt.  Or you could put it into savings or investments.

I don't want to be a hypocrite; after all, I've admitted I had a nice wedding.  But for me it was a celebration of my religious beliefs, and I did not bear the expense.  It was important for my parents and my husband's parents to be there and for it to be an occasion of note and in a church.  These are things that have to be factored in.  If I'd have had to pay for it, it would have been much humbler and with fewer stressful details.  I certainly would not have gone into debt or more debt to pull off a big production.  My grandparents married in their minister's front room and they were married over 50 years.  I think that is a valid way to celebrate.

We have a secular, highly consumer-oriented society.  Keep that in mind when you plan your wedding and ask yourself who benefits from the decisions you are making about how to celebrate it.  And if you do get married, count yourself lucky.  Not so many women will because it's a very risky venture for men these days with even fewer benefits than there were traditionally, so if you accomplish it keep the vows you are planning to take.  Be grateful.  Oh, and treat him right.  With any luck, if you picked a good one, he will do the same.


  1. I'm a young guy (early 20s) and I'm single. I always want to get married, but I never want to have a wedding. My dad was pressured into a wedding he didn't want, and my mom is not happy about it because my dad didn't enjoy it. Lots of money that could have been used in other constructive ways were spent to feed my grandparents ego. The relationship of my parents went downhill from there. I know I don't want a wedding as early as I know what a wedding is as a kid.

    As I grow up, I realize that a lot of girls dream about THE WEDDING, being swept off their feet into sweet ecstasy - seems pretty immature to me. To my surprise, more men and women still succumb to the pressure to put on an expensive wedding show for the community - not much people have the guts to say no - even when we are in an "open society". Ruining a great relationship because of a stupid thing called wedding sound silly to me, but I really won't enjoy my wedding. I don't know if it is realistic to think I can get married happily with a girl in the courthouse. So would grerp mind giving a guy like me some advice to balance this issue?

  2. Well, I wouldn't consider marrying unless you have a woman of sterling characters. I would recommend going over Dalrock's and Athol Kay's discussion of this.

    At that point, if you think you have a very good prospective wife and still do not want to have a wedding, I'd tell her that and make it a dealbreaker. As I said, marriage benefits her more than it benefits you. She probably will know this. If you don't budge, she'll have to decide if your relationship is worth foregoing a wedding/big day.

    I wanted a wedding, but I wanted to be married more. I probably would not have done the courthouse bit, though. As a Catholic I needed to be married in the Church. But I probably would have negotiated down to a private wedding mass with a few witnesses.

    I'll tell you, though, this probably will not make her happy, and she may hold on to the resentment. It's hard to say. As with all things, it's important to choose your battles and hold firm on the things you think are the most important.

    Hope that helps.

  3. 50% of all first marriages do not end in divorce.

    50% of ALL marriages end in divorce, give or take, but that counts in all the repeaters.

    If you are getting married for the first time to someone getting married for the first time, it's about 12-34% chance of divorce.

    I think it's important to know, because the 50% thing is used to degrade the validity and importance and strength of marriage.

    As for boys not looking forward to marriage, I will say I overheard all three of my boys speaking hopefully of marriage to each other on several occasions. Then again we taught strictly against sex before marriage. Which I believe you address.

    Sex is part of marriage, and if it remains within marriage only, men become EXTREMELY interested in marrying, as they should be.

  4. What a thought provoking post on getting married, Grerp.I think it's a case of balancing the joy of the big occasion with the indisputable expense. It's true that family traditions and wishes are important on these occasions.

    I loved my own wedding day, witnessed by a churchful of family and friends, and the party afterwards was fun for us all. Families often have weddings and funerals as their focus for get togethers nowadays that we're all far apart and busy. My parents helped by buying my wedding dress and dinner for the guests, as they'd planned since I was born. They were devastated when my sister 'eloped' and had a private wedding depriving them of the joy of seeing her married. They gave her a deposit for a house instead but felt it wasn't the day they had wanted for her.

    When my daughters were born, I envisaged a day when they would be married in the church where they were christened. They're all students in steady relationships, and weddings are still far from their minds. I'm open minded about their future plans- whether they choose the white wedding with family present or get married on a beach alone with their partner, or indeed, just stay single.

    My husband loved the wedding we had and helped plan it all with me, down to the music and the speeches. He spoke about it proudly for years afterwards and the kids loved getting out the wedding album to see us as bride and groom. I'm glad on one level that I had my day as a bride, with the photos, video and cake, toasted by nearest and dearest instead of a casual civil ceremony. As you say, it doesn't have to be a huge expense and an informal wedding party can be as fun as a huge event.

  5. grerp, I especially love your description of what weddings once were, including the very legitimate role the community played in aiding the survival of the marriage. I think it was GudEnuf who shared that he'd been to a wedding where the couple had amended the vows to say, "as long as we both shall love." That's got to increase the odds of divorce right there - how is that different from cohabitation? Another reader shared that he realized after his wedding that his wife had been so enthused because of the party, and she really wasn't all that interested in being married after all. I'm afraid this really is an area that encourages and perpetuates the epidemic of female narcissism.

  6. Very good.

    I've thought a lot about what the antidote is. How do you fix the parade of bridezilla narcissism? I think the answer lies in identifying how the influencers manipulate people into actually doing things not in their best interest.

    I think that a broad spectrum antibiotic to this sort of crazy is a general education on propaganda techniques. Taking a determined walk through history and carefully dissecting specific ways it was done. How did Edward Bernays convince millions of women to start smoking? Or when he convinced the CIA to invade depose the democratically elected leader of Guatemala. Or when Hitler/Goebbels/Goring engineered the holocaust. Or how Woodrow Wilson got us to enter WWI. Walk through enough examples, breaking down the nuts and bolts of how the deception was built and foisted off on the naive public herd, and soon enough we will recognize red flags when we are the ones being manipulated.

    How do advertisers manipulate?

    How do religions manipulate?

    How do guilds and trade organizations manipulate us into doing things good for the guild?

    Back to the parade of bridezilla narcissism. A propagandist would call this an easy project. There are already thousands or more years of human history building marriage up our minds. The job is to plant the idea in enough womens minds that in order to be happy you need a bigger, better wedding, and simultaneously plant the idea in enough mens' minds that the pinnacle of happiness is marrying a quality woman, and focusing enough of it on the actual wedding event.

    Anyway. The last paragraphs may have been somewhat incoherent. I just think there is enough manipulation going around out there, and it would be good for us all to have a little bit of a mental self-defense course.

  7. 12 to 34% divorce rate for first marriages?

    For decades, the marriage and divorce figures for the US have been printed, though recently some states have been too embarrassed to disclose them.

    Consistently, there have been roughly 2 marriages for each divorce. That is the 50% overall divorce rate.

    But, that 12 to 34% figure for first marriages is ridiculous. That would mean, perhaps that most marriages are repeat marriages, and that is also easily proved false.

    Good try, but no cigar. The most likely figure is 40% of first marriages end in divorce. Instead of reading some URL with a political agenda, in this case probably to confuse men into a marriage with 40%
    chance of divorce, dig through the figures yourself.

    Rutgers has some of the top experts on marriage and divorce, with an annual report.

    By the way, California is one state which no longer states divorce figures. But, some enterprising MRA's a couple years ago did get the raw files, and counted. There were 78 divorces for each 100 marriages in California.

  8. 12 to 34 percent? That's a huge range, almost 3:1.

    This isn't some esoteric piece of data like the prevalence of sex with goats in Nowherestan; this information should all be available from public records. How could the estimation band possibly be that wide?

  9. Anonymous: Good rule of thumb for guys to follow - women who "dream of their big wedding day" and gush over bridal magazines are probably women who don't put much thought into life AFTER the big day. Look for women who think a little deeper than that.

    That said, you may not find a woman who wants no wedding whatsoever. I got married at the courthouse but admittedly, I'm a bit of an oddball woman. The weddings I most remember attending are the small affairs where they had a few nice individual touches; the big lavish circuses - not so much.

  10. But those shows about weddings on TLC with all the crazy Bridezilla's makes for fantastic television drama!

    Personally, I'm still fair enough from the possibility of getting married myself. However, I am looking forward to being able to have one hell of a party with friends and family to celebrate the start of the next chapter in my life. Will that be the party be my main focus? No.

    My biggest concern with my generation in particular is that they seem to rush into marriage and they don't realize the level of commitment they're getting into.

    I'm always reminded of the quote a wedding is a day, a marriage is a life time.

  11. piegrand and etc., just follow the link I published, you will see the methodology for yourself. I didn't make it up.

    As for the range it is due to extrapolation, because some states don't report.

    Which they tell you at the link.

  12. Don't forget to add the bachelorette party and the bridal shower to the big event.

  13. Another great post grerp!

    My wife and I had a very small ceremony at the church her family attended. I think the total cost was a few thousand dollars. She bought her wedding dress with our tax refund, and I think she spent about $300 on it. They discounted it heavily because it was "last year's design". Nevertheless, she looked like a million dollars!

  14. I don't agree that most women who pour through bridal magazines and dream of the "big day" don't think much about what follows. I've known many, many women who did just that and went on to be good wives and mothers who put their families first.
    I didn't have that luxury of a big party. I had a total of $300 (yes that is correct) to do my wedding. I realize it's equivalent on a $30,000 income would be less than $2,500 now. What did I get:
    -60 people whom I knew, liked and loved witnessing it.
    -a dress made by a friend as a gift
    -one attendant
    -a reception with cake, ice cream, mints, nuts and coffee and punch
    -flowers, on the cheap, but the most expensive item
    -pictures from hell, but fortunately friends and family members took some nice ones
    -no honeymoon. There wasn't any money, and it was before every credit card company in the world extended people huge limits.

    The best part was the chance to make promises to and with someone who has always stood behind me. He has been my friend, my wonderful lover, good provider and loving father to our children. He's never cheated, and I've not been tempted. (We quit shopping when we picked each other.)
    There have been times of financial stress, illness and even times when for a variety of reasons we weren't too fond of each other at the moment, but we hung in there, and what do you know, it got better again. Isn't that what marriage is about?
    Parties are great. The real thing is better and longer lasting.

  15. my husband and I found out we could get married at the Renaissance Festival on a Friday. we were engaged and planning a wedding at his grandparents house in a year or so but Saturday was Valentine's Day and it sounded fun so we called up our friends and family and said "we are getting married tomorrow! you have to buy a ticket to get in." surprisingly a lot of people made it. we rented peasant costumes when we got there and enjoyed the festival until the wedding in the afternoon. my cousin took pictures with her digital camera and another cousin brought me a bouquet from Safeway. the ceremony cost around $300 which my dad thought was great. my face hurt from smiling so much that day. we got great pictures and a fantastic memory we both love. we were even on the website for a while under weddings until they replaced us with people dressed like royalty. it really could not have been better and i loved how i didnt have to plan and worry about the big day because we just went for it. we had a reception a month later at a friend's house with her professional jazz band and had the food catered by an affordable local Italian restaurant. lots of people told us it was the best reception they had been to. we go to the festival for our anniversaries and it is always a lot of fun.


  16. Excellent post. My wedding costed all of about $2500, and that's including the dress. Even in 1994, that was cheap.

    I didn't have an engagement ring, either. Husband bought me a diamond on our 5th anniversary.

    I wouldn't change a thing!

  17. So many good comments on this one. Thanks, everyone for sharing. Big Jay, I do think that all of us need a good way of blocking out all of the propaganda thrown at us all of the time or, at the very least, learning to recognize it for what it is.

    I very firmly believe that marriage is a critical building block of any solid society. Unfortunately our society isn't very solid, in great part because so many marriages aren't. But it is good to hear from the people who still value it.

  18. "...marriage holds more protections and perks for women than it does for generally have had to be pressured...into it...."

    I think you're missing something. Male resistance to marriage -- more accurately, non-religious male resistance to marriage -- must be a recent phenomenon. As long as the Christian moral structure held sway over the great majority of society, the one overwhelming, all-controlling marriage perk for men was SEX, which we men will make any sacrifice to obtain, and which men in the old days mostly could not (or, dared not) get any other way.

    Of course disease-ridden prostitutes were always there for the stupid, and illegitmate pregnancies happened now and then (more often than not ending up in a wedding, not welfare), but this was not normative. Saving it for the wedding night was normative for almost all our cultural history -- right up til the demonic sexual revolution of the 60's -- hence, men desperately wanted wives!

    One other thing, you didn't mention. I find it astonishing, amusing, and utterly meaningless when a couple that has been living together for years, having sex the whole time and sometimes even having one or more children, THEN decides to spend $30,000 on a big formal wedding. Why bother? They should be ashamed of themselves. If they suddenly decide to do the right thing after, say, 5 or 7 years of fornication, why don't they just quietly make it right by going down to the courthouse, getting a marriage licence, and taking the oath in front of a judge for $20? To do the full sacred ceremony after violating the sacredness flagrantly for years on end, is a MOCKERY just as much as sodomite pseudomarriage is.

  19. I'm currently planning my wedding. In my ideal scenario, it would be a small wedding in a church with a progressive minister, attended by our parents and siblings.

    In reality it will be an extremely expensive affair attended by tons of friends, but also tons of people we don't really know. Why? Because the families, especially his, want it that way... and his family is funding it. I'd personally prefer to have a smaller wedding, and put the money towards paying off my law school debt... but it isn't my money, or my fiance's, so we don't really get a say in it. And we're compromising, trying to have a wedding that reflects us, but will still please his parents as they get to show us off. And yes, my wedding dress is perfect and beautiful-- but I would have been perfectly happy with one that cost 1/10 of the price.

    I also know that it isn't MY special day. I'm a feminist, so I realize it's equally my fiance's day-- which means that our wedding will include religious elements for my sake, but not very many, since he is not religious and is uncomfortable with large religious displays. Above all, I know that the purpose is a public unification and commitment.

    And as cool as the wedding itself will probably be, I'm far more excited about the marriage.

  20. Not so many women will because it's a very risky venture for men these days with even fewer benefits than there were traditionally,

    Why should she count herself lucky?

    Going by studies, stats, and surveys there are more happy divorced women than married women. In fact the chain of happiness from most to least goes single, divorced, and last married.

    Most women in marriages are unhappy it's quite interesting that the over half of married women are unhappy and over half of divorces are initated by women.

    Let's not forget that as she owns a vagina she'll be expected to:
    1. contribute equally but not treated equally as men & women are different and the man is head of the household.
    2. satiate his sexual need through various sexual acts but her orgasm is her responsibility. A woman who won't perform oral is generally limited in options despite the fact that the guy can orgasm from vaginal intercourse. A man who doesn't ensure his partners orgasm from intercourse isn't limited. So while a man can expect his partner to satiate his sexual need a woman can't expect her partner to satiate her sexual pleasure.

    Quite frankly divorce tends to make a woman come out winning thanks to skewed laws that think woman = nurturer & man = provider so woman gets money and child support while the man gets the bills.

  21. Wow. Very insightful post and discussion.

    I'm rightly shocked that there is a female out there that actually understands the massive risk, investment, sacrifice and subjugation a man undertakes when getting married. This must be pounded into the heads of men everywhere of any age. It can't be brought up enough. And of course that risk analysis goes times 1000 for any offspring he has. Once some fickle, amoral female decides to blow up the union and ruin the lives of the children, they never really recover. None of the parties really does.

    I do think the worm is turning a little now, with more and more males--even young males--understanding that so many women get married for the wedding. Period. But weirdly enough, just as many pathetic males want to walk down the aisle at any cost as well.

    The distinction of marrying for the wedding vs. having a wedding as a mere gateway necessity for publicly affirming the covenants the couple are making to each other thru their life in a family unit (possessing and conveying as it does all applicable and relevant cultural, religious, and societal values) IS a distinction that must be kept in mind. But, once recognized, this distinction must be taken to its logical conclusion and put to good use: if the woman you want to marry wants to go all hollywood for her wedding day you must--as a MAN--see this for the massive red flag that it is and take a big step back and consider whether this female is really marriage material--especially if this big obnoxious wedding in in direct contravention to the man's stated preference for discretion and simplicity. Remember, it's not just your life you may be saving but those of your future offspring as well. Men are always told (shamed) into sacrificing and white-knighting and man-ing up. Fine. How about this then: sacrifice for your children--even if they're not here yet. NEVER sacrifice for your modern woman. She's always going to be just fine. Society has more than seen to that.

    Also, I don't know if there's been any kind of actual research on this, but I wonder what the incidence of divorce is between couples who married in a church vs. those that married at the holiday inn or some charming old mansion. The absence of a church in these hip, nonconformist wedding ceremonies always raises real red flags in my mind. The irony is more than delicious. Getting married is THE MOST conformist and biblical thing two people can do together relationship-wise in almost every society that has ever existed. But the insistence on trying to escape from that reality and really trash it by marrying in an art gallery? Like I said. Ironic.

  22. It’s true that planning a wedding takes plenty of time. I think it’s better to pick ready to implement wedding ideas and trends. From my cousin’s wedding, I got food, decoration and other flower ideas for my wedding. We have booked one of local wedding venues Chicago and want to arrange things perfectly.