Tuesday, May 15, 2007

When Big Fat Weddings Get in the Way

The wedding business is big business. According to CNN:

"A total of $125 billion -- about the size of Ireland's GDP -- will be spent on 2.1 million weddings in 2005, according to the "American Weddings" study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group. Fairchild surveyed more than 1,000 brides."

(O.K., so you’re not so good at math; how much is that per person?)

"The average price tag that is fast approaching $30,000 represents a 73 percent increase during the past 15 years, according the study."

30,000$ is a lot of money. Some people simply don’t want a big fat wedding. Mary Beth Baptiste did her best to bring down the national average in her backwoods wedding:

"We snow shoed a short distance into the trees and found a pine alcove for our chapel. Our Unitarian-Universalist minister read some inspirational passages we had chosen, we exchanged our own vows and we kissed. Two friends photographed the ceremony with a digital camera and surprised us by popping open a bottle of champagne they'd carried into the woods in a backpack……..

The final rundown: Marriage license: $25. Dinner for five: $60. Minister's snowshoe rental: $15. Flowers: $25. Champagne: $10. Cake: $15. Online photo album: free. Total: $150."

Now, when it comes to material goods, I’m no fundamentalist. I don’t believe that wealth and luxury are the root of all evil. (That idea is found in the sacred book of another religion). But as a guy who eats more than his share of wedding dinners, I can tell you that bigger is not always better.

Big fat weddings can get in the way of love.

The Bible will back me up on this. Isaac and Rebecca have a shoestring wedding. Rebecca is brought by Isaac’s servant to Isaac’s hometown, and meets him in the field:

Now Isaac …went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebecca also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, "Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?"

"He is my master," the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebecca. So she became his wife, and he loved her….

Two strangers dramatically meet and find true love. A simple wedding in the field is a shoestring wedding that turns out really well.

But Rebecca and Isaac’s son is not as lucky in love. Jacob arranges to marry Rachel, and Laban, his future father in law, throws a big wedding. Then there's trouble:

So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob…

How does Jacob lose track of his bride and end up with the wrong one? It’s hard to know, but if I had to guess, the size of the wedding might have had something to do with it. Big fat weddings have a tendency to get confusing.

I’ll admit that big fat weddings can be wonderful (I got married at one). But when the big fat wedding is all about pageantry and theatre, then the couple is reduced to being a mere prop in a large stage show.

Weddings require drama, not theatre. The couple’s love, commitment and devotion makes for an enchanting drama. Weddings small and large should celebrate the drama of love.

Unfortunately the drama of love can get buried under an obsession with impressing the guests. When this happens, the big fat wedding becomes off-Broadway theatre.

And then, the big fat wedding just gets in the way.

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