Costs vary by region, but the average wedding ranges between $20,000 and $25,000. Some couples justify their spending because it’s a “once in a lifetime” event. Others feel pressured by families and friends to stage an elaborate celebration. Expectations may be greater for couples who have been on their own for a while. Presumably, they have more financial resources, plus they’ve accumulated lots of great ideas from their friends’ weddings.
The Catholic Church understands a couple’s desire for an appropriate celebration of their marriage with family and friends. In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament. All sacraments are to be celebrated because they are encounters with Jesus Christ. A wedding celebrates Christ’s gift of marital love to this particular man and woman. It is a time for rejoicing.
But what is “appropriate”? The U.S. Catholic bishops have not spoken directly about wedding spending, but couples might ask the following questions before setting up a wedding budget.
What do you want the wedding to say about you and your values?
Couples frequently say they want their wedding to express who they are. Of course, a Christian wedding is much more than a personal identity statement. Still, this is a legitimate concern; after all, the wedding is the couple’s first public act as husband and wife. It should say something about what’s important to them. Do you want to express hospitality, gratitude for the support of family and friends, and a commitment to share your love with others? Then plan a wedding that highlights those values.
Are you willing to go into debt, or put family members in debt, because of this wedding?
According to a national study, debt brought into marriage is among the top three problematic issues for newly married couples. Many couples are already struggling with credit card debt and student loans. Do you really want to add wedding debt to the mix? Financial worries can strain even seasoned couples. Newly married couples are especially at risk.
Are you willing to focus time and energy on the details of a lavish wedding? Will this reduce the attention you can pay to preparing for the marriage itself?
You may have heard the Engaged Encounter slogan: “A wedding is a day, a marriage is a lifetime.” In other words, what are your priorities? The engagement period is not only a time to plan the wedding, but to prepare for your married lives. Too much concentration on the former can take time from the Must-Have Conversations that need to take place before the wedding. It can also turn you into an overstressed Bride- or Groomzilla.
Do you feel comfortable with the amount you plan to spend? Have you considered this in relation to the needs of people in your community?
The U.S. Bishops have called people to “carefully consider our choices and lifestyles.” They point out that “we live in a culture that prizes the consumption of material goods. While the poor often have too little, many of us can be easily caught up in a frenzy of wanting more and more” (Global Climate Change, 15).
Moderation is the key. If you have a feeling that wedding expenses are getting out of hand, they probably are. To restore your focus, consider how your wedding might express your concern for the needy. Some couples prepare a large food basket that they bring forward along with the bread and wine for Mass. Other couples include a request on their wedding invitations that guests bring one or two items of non-perishable food to the church. These are then given to the parish food pantry or a local food bank. Couples can also make a donation, from the money they may receive as gifts, to the parish’s social outreach committee.
Can you really cut down on wedding expenses? Absolutely! Check out the resources below to get started. Then take up the challenge of planning a dream wedding that won’t break your budget.