Many people dream of the BIG WEDDING, the fairy tale ending with cake makers, dress designers, florists, jewelers, photographers and more for the low low price of a mortgage-like sum!!! But it might just be causing heartbreak, damaging society, and hurting people's faith.
When my wife and I first were engaged, we planned to get married a full two years later so we could save money for our BIG WEDDING. She wanted the big fancy catering hall and I wanted to give it to her. I was working and she was just graduating from college so I wanted to provide that for her.
I remember that it was the remark of a Jesuit who, when I told him that we weren't planning to be married for two years so we could save money for the wedding. He literally said, "Hey man, what does money have to do with love?" I rolled me eyes and dismissed his comment as hippie jabbering but it stayed with me and ate at me. I finally concluded (with great reluctance) that the hippie Jesuit was right.
So I asked my future wife if she wouldn't mind drastically moving up the wedding. It turns out that she was excited to do so. Yes, she actually wanted to marry me (and very little chloroform was used!) And you know what, we ended up having our big wedding celebration in the gym of a local Catholic school. There were pigs in a blanket and turkey sandwiches and yup, there were basketball hoops next to the dance floor. (My cousins so badly wanted to break the basketballs out of their trunks.) But everyone enjoyed the heck out of the day. And most importantly, we were married!
I now think the dream of the lavish Hollywood style wedding is not only ridiculous but harmful to one's faith and society in general. Our culture is focused completely on planning the perfect wedding while ignoring how to live in a marriage? In fact, so prevalent is the dream of a lavish wedding celebration that many couples are simply living together to save money for the big event. So what happens is that many enter into a less committed cohabitation that studies have shown lead to higher rates of divorce and marital unhappiness just to afford the pictureque wedding.
So common is this "solution" of cohabitation that the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference answers that concern on their website:
"We’re trying to save money for the wedding, so living together is more economical.”
Sure, you might save the price of monthly rent, but you’re sacrificing something more valuable. Engagement is more than just time to plan the party. It is a time for deeper discussion and more thorough reflection, which are best carried out in a detached way. Couples who are living together do not have the luxury of such detachment. So whatever expenses you save, you’ll likely pay more in the end. Dr. Joyce Brothers said it well in an article on cohabitation: “short-term savings are less important than investing in a lifetime relationship.”
The important thing to note here is that I used a quote from Dr. Joyce Brothers in a completely non-mocking way. I assure you that will be the only time that ever happens.
But the other important thing to understand is that people are living together and undercutting their prospects at a happy marriage in order to have their dream wedding.
I actually heard one young woman complain that she spent more time planning her wedding than actually being married before she was divorced. But we have so much about weddings absolutely backwards. How often have you heard brides say, "This is my day." That kind of me-me-me thinking runs counter to the sacrament of marriage as "my day" also includes your spouse and God. Thinking about what makes oneself happy seems to be the exactly wrong way to go into a marriage. I can tell anyone that the one major thing I've learned from my marriage and raising a family is that no day is about me. It seems to me that the sooner you accept that factoid, the happier you'll be.
Let me tell you something, when you look back on your wedding day, you'll remember looking into your spouse's eyes when you say, "I do." You'll remember your first dance. You'll forget most everything else. You won't remember the cake, the flowers, or the jewelry. You won't look at your pictures all that often. And your dress will likely sit in the back of the closet. Word of advice - for a successful marriage, you'll need God a lot more than you need the dress, the perfect cake or the biggest catering hall.
A young guy I know recently told me he would be engaged for three years while they saved money for their big wedding. I asked him what love and marriage had to do with money. I thought hey, maybe he'll think about it a little. Or maybe he'll just think I'm a hippie.