Sisterhood Blog

Why Cheaper Weddings Are Often More Fun

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

The fact that I absolutely love weddings often comes as a surprise to those who know me. This is very likely due to the fact that I have very little interest in wedding planning.

To be blunt, I don’t think most of what usually woman, but increasingly men, occupy themselves with during the planning process really matters. Should you use succulents or flowers for the centerpieces? Should she wear a strapless gown or cap sleeves? Should they walk down the aisle to classical music or classic rock? Should they have a signature cocktail, and if so, what should it be?

Brides and grooms of summer 2014, it’s time to hear the hard truth. Nobody really remembers these things. What they do remember, if all goes well, is the good feeling of watching two people in love declare their commitment to one another in front of family.

Unfortunately, now that weddings have transformed from a party to performance art, brides and grooms are all too often distracted by the line at the photo-booth, the rapidly melting ice sculpture or the fact that the canapés are a little soggy, or whatever other minor detail they have been spent the last year obsessing over. Meanwhile, their guests are just happy to be together, talking, eating, drinking and dancing and really don’t worry about such things – unless of course the clearly preoccupied couple gets in their way. We don’t go to weddings for a great meal or to gawk at the centerpieces, we go to celebrate people we love, and if they don’t look like they are having a good time then it is hard for us guests to have one too.

This is all to say, stop spending so much money on your weddings everyone. I promise those who love you will come anyway, and you could probably better use whatever it is you save on the band or the three-tier custom cake for a down payment for a house, to pay for preschool, or to cover some of the costs of elder-care for your boomer parents who lost a good chunk of their retirement in the recent recession.

The spiraling costs of weddings has been a recurring story in recent years, with the average American wedding now costing $28,427. In affluent areas the number is even higher, with Santa Barbara weddings costing an average of $42,319 and Manhattan weddings a whopping $76,687. Not only are the bride and grooms and their parents absorbing these costs, but so are their friends. As a recent essay by Carey Purcell points out, being a bridesmaid is increasingly pushing women in debt, with the average cost of participating in a friends wedding at $1700 a pop.

Experts say that wedding mania died down in the States during the 1960s and 1970s when a counterculture inspired youth rejected conventions and showy displays of wealth. And then Princess Diana wedded Prince Charles in front of 250 million television viewers and the rest is tulle-lined history. Today women continued to be inspired by celebrity weddings which have become more extravagant than ever, with the Kimyes of the world spending $2.8 million on their big day; their flower bill alone was over $100,000.

It’s hard to fight the power of Kimye, and everything else pushing us into the ever-growing gears of the wedding industrial complex. The need to not just keep up with but actually outdo the Joneses, or Steins, is woven deep into our American DNA and this instinct becomes especially sharp when it can so conveniently mask, or even replace, the more difficult spiritual and psychological preparatory work a couple should be doing to get ready for their wedding.

This is where rabbis could make a big difference. Planning a wedding is, for many of us outside the Orthodox community, the first moment since our Bar or Bat Mitzvahs in which we come in contact with a rabbi. In these meetings, rabbis should make sure that the couple is paying attention to the non-material aspects of the wedding, and even provide them with some direction by way of reading materials from Jewish and non-Jewish texts as well as meaningful anecdotes from their experience as an officiant. This is a moment in which people turn to tradition, so rabbis should work harder to make sure they bride and groom experience the tradition in all its complexity and richness.

The best advice I got on wedding-planning came from my dad, who told me that the only thing that really mattered was having a rabbi, music and booze. He was right. We had the rest of the conventional stuff, cakes, centerpieces, etc., but I didn’t spend much time making sure they were perfect and nor did I spend much money on any of them. In the end people were glad they had cake to eat and appreciated that the room felt festive, but they were not what made the wedding a success. That was the rabbi, the booze and the music, and the fact that we, the bride and groom, were free to experience what was truly a moment of unprecedented joy and communion.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: weddings

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.