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“Is There No End To The Madness?”

Current extravagant weddings are often the poster children for our culture of excess.

By Bruce Carlson

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     Also See Choosing a Marriage Partner And

The Actual Wedding Ceremony according to Scripture



I’m still stewing and brewing about this whole wedding thing.

My study of scripture leaves little room for doubt that marriage is God’s idea; it has been from the beginning.  He made us man and woman with the full intention of us becoming husband and wife. Everything from the hardware to the software suggests the sexes were designed in a fashion to compliment one another.

Though much of the union and subsequent lives of married folks remains mysterious and confrontational, the basic fact remains that “it is not good for man to be alone,” so God produced for each of us a “help-meet.”  

My study of American culture leaves little doubt that marriage remains a popular institution, though there are troubling signs it has lost its sacred edge. The number of young folks who have had sexual relations before marriage is astronomically high, confirming the continued cheapening of the sacred trust.  As well, couples living and sleeping together before marriage continues to rise.  Divorce rates remain frighteningly high, reminding us commitment and respect for covenant lacks priority in many marriages.

See Premarital Sex   and   Can Christians Divorce and Remarry?

In spite of the problems, about two and a half million people will get married this year in America. That’s a whole lot of “I do’s.”  Nearly ninety percent are church-style weddings with a traditional, Christian theme.  God still gets a lot of play as people come to the altar.

Weddings remain the primary social ceremony in Western culture.  Average attendance at a wedding hovers around two hundred.  That means about two out of three Americans attend a wedding every year.  I say “about” because my younger son attends about forty a year which skews the numbers. He doesn’t necessarily like weddings, but he loves free food and drink at the receptions. 

Some of you may not be aware, but marriage in America is a giant industry.

Depending on whose statistics you accept, the wedding business accounts for somewhere around 100 billion dollars a year!

The Bridal Association of America’s most recent marketing survey reveals the basic cost of a wedding in July of 2007 at $28,850, with an anticipated increase of about five percent per year.

That means you folks with teenagers better have a $50K limit on your MasterCard.

    How can this be, you ask?  Well, here’s the breakdown: wedding attire, $2.5K; ceremony, $2.5K ($263 for preacher); favors and gifts, $1.2K; flowers, $2K; jewelry, $2K; photography, $3K; reception, $14K; stationary, $1K; transportation, $0.5K.

These costs reflect the basic staples of an average wedding. Not included in the $30K price tag is the cost of the honeymoon, $4K, $5K in gifts (how many towels and serving dishes can one couple use?), and the $10K in counseling fees for distraught parents following the extravaganza.

Throw in the ten billion dollars in interest fees piling up on the charge cards and the $100 billion figure is left in the dust of the limo headed for Cancun.

If I were the father of three daughters, I’d declare bankruptcy now and get it out of the way.

The outlandish costs surrounding a wedding do not present the whole story. I’m also troubled by the psychology of entitlement that permeates the event. Girls and boys are brainwashed to believe they deserve a big fancy wedding, thanks in no small part to the marketing machine that profits from “the gotta’ have it” mentality of contemporary consumerism.

Is there no end to the madness?

I sincerely believe that those of us professing a Christian faith (remember the survey says it is more than eight out of ten) need to do an honest evaluation of the ethics surrounding a marriage ceremony.

I feel like such a kill-joy.

My problem is I read Jesus and the other prophets, and they are keen on financial responsibility.  The question is: What does God think of lavish and opulent weddings?

Make no mistake that Jesus grew up in a culture that prized wedding parties, and He was known to attend a reception or two.  Keep in mind, marriage is God’s idea, and He deeply enjoys ceremonial fellowship.

My issues are not with weddings, but with the current extravagance that accompanies many of them.  They are often the poster children for our culture of excess.

I’m calling for a return to moderation and fiscal sanity. 

Begin planning now for a modest wedding and fight the temptation to outshine and outspend the bride down the block.  Remember, powerful cultural forces are manipulating you to spend in irrational ways.  Resist.

It’s not that difficult to cut the cost of a wedding in half.  Here’s how: Do away with tuxedos and those grossly ugly bridesmaids’ dresses. Men wear black suits hanging in their closets and women wear one of their own black dresses. Buy your own reception food at Costco and pay disadvantaged students to serve it.  Buy a fake diamond. No one will know and war-ravaged African countries will thank you. Rent a mini-van and not a limo. Rent a building without marble and a professional guild. Wear a recycled wedding dress. Get your uncle to photograph.  Use local flowers for centerpieces. Get a CD instead of a band.

Ask your guests to make a donation to Nicaraguan Missions in lieu of another serving dish.

Take the twenty thousand dollars you save and split it.  Give half to the mission of the church and stick the other half in savings for your own daughter’s modest wedding.

Learn to say “no” to rampant materialism.

If this isn’t radical enough for you, call me and ask about the seven dollar wedding at the local Ninety-Nine Cent Store.


Marriage From A Christian Perspective