Getting married, a spending racket

Newly married couples kneel as Pope Francis celebrates the marriage rite for 20 couples during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 14, 2014. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

I love weddings. I mean, I can watch wedding shows on TLC for hours and hours, and I once considered being a professional wedding planner. So naturally, I thought that planning my own wedding would be epically wonderful. The people who complain about wedding planning being stressful, I thought, just don’t love weddings the way I do – they don’t love hosting as much as I do, and they don’t genuinely care about details the way I do.

I was so naïve back then.

Since getting engaged in November (ICYMI: that happened), I’ve learned that planning a wedding is one of the most stressful things in the world. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and everyone you know will want to help – which is kind, but overwhelming. And since you can’t please everyone, there are bound to be hurt feelings and/or sighs regarding your clearly questionable taste. 

And then there’s the wedding industry itself. To put it bluntly, the wedding industry is a multi-billion dollar racket with no other purpose than to make couples think their entire marriage will be doomed if they don’t shell out $400 for custom cocktail napkin, and that kind of pressure can be overwhelming if you’re not preemptively prepared to resist it.

I, for one, was prepared. Or I tried to be. I told my mother decisively that I wanted to spend no more than $5,000 for the wedding and that I absolutely would not buy anything that couldn’t be used again. Nick and I wanted nice but not lavish – a simple ceremony with our people, followed by a dinner. Not a reception, a dinner. Simple and inexpensive, right?

Hahahahahahaha!

No.

In case you didn’t know (and I certainly didn’t) most caterers have a $10,000 minimum catering fee. Minimum. Furthermore, all the reception venues have contracts with these caterers, so you can’t even eschew their services for Grandma’s homemade macaroni and cheese to keep costs at bay. Invitations cost a bajillion dollars and even a veil – a flimsy piece of tulle – can cost upwards of $800.

It’s like a trap. Even if you don’t want an extravagant wedding, even if you fend off every single one of the bajillion businesses that begin emailing you as soon as you change your Facebook relationship status, you can’t get away from the fact that everything associated with weddings is expensive. Because it’s a racket.

So here’s where I find myself now: I still refuse to spend anywhere near $30,000 (that’s the actual national average cost of a wedding these days, I kid you not), but I also don’t want to cut corners just because I don’t want to spend the money. You’re probably trying to figure out what any of this has to do with women religious – a totally valid point – I do, however, have an answer.

Here’s the thing: I spend every day at work talking to and writing about women who have taken vows of poverty and who, in many instances, have given up even their personal safety to serve others. And when that’s what you’re thinking about day in and day out, it helps you keep other things in perspective; it’s helped me find a balance while wedding planning. 

The way I see it, our wedding is the first chance for Nick and I – as a married couple – to show hospitality to our family and friends. I want to be a gracious host, which I think at the very least means making sure our guests aren’t fed dry chicken. I mean, I could definitely feed them dry chicken and save a few hundred dollars, but would it really be worth it? So, yeah, we’re paying more than I thought we would for catering (though still not $10,000 – that is absolute crazy talk), and we’ve had to make other decisions about what tasks we can take on ourselves, and what we will have to pay for.

Not everyone has a job that helps them with their personal life, so I consider myself quite lucky. I guess I should say thank you. Thanks, ya’ll! 

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report, based in Kansas City, Mo. Follow her on Twitter @Dawn_Cherie.]

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