Did you know that the average cost of a wedding in the United States is about $33K? Getting hitched in Arkansas is the most budget-friendly choice at around $18K, while a California ceremony breaks the bank at about $47K. That's a lot of money for two people just starting their lives together.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—this is just another wedding-bashing rant, but I promise it isn’t. It’s my own wedding story, which I relate not because of how much it cost, but because of the important lesson it taught me about weddings and marriage. When I look back on my wedding day, my emotions are a mix of overwhelming happiness and love, along with sadness and upset.
From Fairytales to Facebook. I grew up like a lot of little girls, planning my entire life from a JCPenney catalog. In my colorful daydreams about my future husband, home and children, I always pictured the wedding would be fancy and formal, like the one in that old movie, Father of the Bride.
I was twenty years old and in college when I first encountered the man who was to be my husband. He sat in front of me in a theatre class, and for the entire semester, I sat quietly behind him hoping for a reason to talk to him. I’d even concoct scenarios in my head, like the one where we’d work on a group project together and have to exchange phone numbers. None of these scenarios played out, but finally I worked up the courage to befriend him on Facebook. The rest is sweet history.
After four-and-a-half years of dating, this person asked me to be his wife. I admit that I was often impatient during those first years, wondering if he was ever going to propose to me. And honestly, at that point I was still only picturing the wedding and eventually having kids, without much thought about the time in-between.
A Simply Perfect Wedding. My husband proposed in the month of January, and after a few weeks of planning, we picked a date. Though neither of us wanted a long engagement, we needed enough time to prepare. We finally settled on November 5th. Like all pre-weds, we started collecting prices for everything from caterers to DJs. The costs seemed astronomical, and we knew we’d have to simplify.
In the end, we had a destination wedding—a no-muss, no-fuss affair with some of our closest friends and family. For me, it was a perfect day. My husband and I stood before the people most important to us and vowed to love each other eternally.
After the ceremony and celebratory dinner, we walked around the small town, delighting in the beauty of the area and surrounding mountains. The end of this amazing day found us happy but exhausted. We were asleep before 11:00 pm, blissfully unaware that life was about to hit—hard.
Diving into Marriage.
I awoke to my phone ringing and soon realized I had several missed calls and texts from my brother-in-law. As I was waking my husband, I received a devastating text message relaying that his uncle, with whom he was very close, had passed away suddenly.
So there I was, staring into the eyes of my brand-new husband on our wedding night, having to tell him that someone he had loved dearly was gone forever. I think that was the instant where the wedding ended and marriage began. Over the next few hours, I got a quick education in the difference between the two.
Marriage, I learned, means having to deliver terrible news to your beloved partner and be there when he falls apart. Or putting aside honeymoon plans because you know neither of you will enjoy yourself. Marriage is leaving at 3:00 am for a six-hour drive home to be with your family. It’s also comforting your spouse when he’s unable to walk up to a funeral casket and say goodbye to someone he loved and admired.
My wedding memories will always be bittersweet because of what happened that night. We went from euphoria to heartbreak in just a few hours. No high-class venue, designer dress or gourmet wedding cake could have prepared me for how our marriage began.
Set Your Sights on the Marathon.
Anyone considering marriage should understand that a wedding is like a 100-meter dash—breathtaking and majestic to watch—but marriage is a marathon. There’s sweat, cramps and exhaustion involved. That said, every ache and pain is an opportunity for you and your spouse to become stronger together.
Society puts so much emphasis on big, extravagant weddings. And as I said, I’m not here to talk you out of planning the wedding of your dreams. But I would suggest you give serious consideration to the marathon that follows the sprint. Don’t settle for just a participation trophy. Strive for the gold medal.