Your Wedding Day: ‘It’s Your Day’ — or Is It?

Guess how much the average wedding in the United States cost in 2012. More than $28,000. To be more precise, $28,427. And that is, to repeat, an average. Considering how many people couldn’t afford that, or wouldn’t think of spending so much, you can only imagine how much more lots of other people must be spending.

That’s one of many interesting things I ran across in a Daily Beast article, “The ‘Me,Me,Me Wedding: How America Is Exporting Its Bridezilla Culture.” (HT: Get Religion.) The part that interested me most was author Hannah Seligson’s explanation of the causes. Part of it’s sheer consumerism and materialism, of course — pandering to princess fantasies. But that’s not all there is to it.

“Peggy Olson or Don Draper couldn’t have conceived a better marketing slogan than ‘This is your day’ — the kind of tagline that so deeply, and reliably, influences consumer behavior. … But the slick marketing by the wedding industry explains only part of it. The rise of the ‘me wedding’ has as much to do with waning religious affiliation. After all, it’s religious elements that have tempered individualism for centuries. In Judaism, the wedding ceremony talks about ‘being consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel’; in other words, joining a 3,000-year tradition. Jews, of course, aren’t the only ones. ‘The core of the Indian wedding is that you are marrying the family, not just the person. It’s not just about us; it’s about giving every relation something to do,’ explains Sunny Uppal, 28, who was married in a traditional Indian wedding ceremony in Toronto last month.”

A bit later, she writes:

“The bride- (and groom-) focused insanity is certainly a byproduct of our increasingly individualistic society. Young people are becoming less tied to religious institutions — Pew Research found that today one in four millennials claims no religious affiliation, a record high — introducing a whole new set of values and social mores when it comes to marriage. Nothing signals this more than the wedding officiated by a friend who was ordained as a Universal Life Minister on the Internet a week before, or by couples writing their own vows, another hallmark of the ‘I need to express myself’ wedding. But in deviating from an organized, shared tradition, ‘the vows people write on their own have become a little odd to listen to,’ says Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of Till Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America. ‘They’ll list all the things they’ll promise they’ll do, like you’ll promise to listen without judging. These people aren’t being realistic about marriage.’”

Seligson, who’s Jewish and implies at one point that she’s not religious at all, regrets the trend. She’d like to see people rediscover a sense of extended family, community and tradition — a spirit of not “It’s about me” or even “It’s about you and me,” but “It’s about us: our whole families and everyone who’s come before us.” While that would be an improvement on one level, Christians should know that it still misses the mark. The right way to look at it is: “It’s about Him.” Extended family, community and tradition all are important, but the Lord matters far more.

What I wonder is how many people get this even among Christians — how many really get that it’s not “your day,” but “His day.” Christians can get sucked in by the materialism and showiness of the culture around them, or by their own vision of how everything in their wedding must suit their tastes and/or long-treasured fantasies. And Christians who might have humbler aspirations still can succumb to a subtler temptation. They can regard the wedding as primarily personaltheir favorite songs, their favorite poems or quotes, their closest friends, their self-expression, their chosen words. They may forget that while those things have their place, the wedding is a service of the church, conducted under the authority of the church and in accordance with its procedures. Any variations should come within that framework, which might or might not allow for some of the couple’s preferences. If they approach the service thinking it should be tailored to their desires, they’re approaching it in the wrong spirit. The church is not a rental facility, and its ministers aren’t blessers-for-hire. Some things, perhaps — some songs, some words — should wait for another venue, like the reception.

I’d like to know your attitudes toward the wedding you hope to have some day (or, in the case of a few of you, already had). I’d also like to know what attitudes you see among the people you know, especially the Christians. Are they — and you — approaching it the right way? Or is some attitude adjustment in order?