Platinum Wedding Bells

The Saints are pretty good at spotting blatant attacks on the family. But, recently, I realized that I had been completely unaware of a subtle yet profound attack on marriage and family.

The average American wedding costs 26,000 dollars (by comparison, the average household income is 43,000 dollars). That’s an incredible financial burden for a family to take on. I think our initial impulse might be to be less-than-sympathetic: after all, no one has to fork over almost 30K for a wedding. But it is a little more complicated than that. Let’s say that your social circle consists of people primarily from the same tax bracket as you. (I belive this is generally true for most people, roughly speaking.) You’ve spent the last few decades attending their costly weddings. Now it is time for your own daughter’s wedding. I am afraid that the implication, if you don’t spend what they spent, is that you are cheap. After all, they somehow managed to afford the 30K wedding–why can’t you? There is, I think, something a little churlish about eating rubbery chicken cordon bleu at everyone else’s weddings and then serving punch and mints at yours. So the cycle is perpetuated, with families taking on enormous debts in order not to offend their friends and family.

“OK, OK,” you say. “So many Americans are trapped in a system they can’t graciously back out of. I don’t think Mormons have this problem. Why should I care?” And I reply, “Here’s why:”

(1) Forgive me for getting personal, but if you asked the average Mormon male or female what the most significant change was that resulted from their wedding (and you could somehow get an honest answer out of them), I think most would say, “We got to have sex!” But I think many nonmembers might say, “We got to have debt!” You have to admit that that 26K (an increasing percentage of which, by the way, is paid for by the couple and not the bride’s parents) albatross is not a particularly pleasant honeymoon souveneir. And while I may be overstating its emotional impact, the fact remains that many marriages are handicapped by consumer debt from day one. And we all know the effect that money issues can have on a marriage . . .

(2) I have personally been guilty on at least two occassions at scoffing at nonmembers who have told me that they really wanted to get married but couldn’t afford to. I didn’t realize that they weren’t just making excuses. I wish I had been more sympathetic and even offered some help–making favors, centerpieces, etc. for their wedding.

(3) Stop complaining about the LDS weddings that you go to that involve watered-down punch and mints under a basketball hoop festooned with pastel streamers. Stop comparing them to the nonLDS weddings that you attend. I’m guilty of this, too. I just about fell on the floor when I attended the wedding of the daughter of a well-off (and I mean well-off) LDS family and there wasn’t a sit-down dinner. On another occasion, I was stunned to find myself at the wedding of the daughter of a wealthy member where the food was being prepared by the friends of the mother of the bride. I wasn’t sure it was legal not to hire a caterer. (Where I come from, plumbers’ daughters have sit-down, catered dinners for 300 people.) I am going to make a concerted effort from now on to be proud of thrifty LDS weddings. And if you are considering having an expensive wedding, even if you are in a position to pay for it outright, perhaps you should consider what effect it will have on your friends and family when you set the bar higher.

(4) As I was discussing this with my husband, we realized that the problem (if you will) with weddings is that the entire focus of the reception is a sit-down meal (which doesn’t come cheap–at least 40$/person in most areas). We were brainstorming with what that might be replaced. One thought was with a band and dancing (I’ve always wondered why there isn’t much family dancing in LDS culture–this is common where I come from and there’s really nothing like slow dancing with your grandfather.) Another thought was to ask all of the bride’s and groom’s families to bring their own wedding albums for perusing. (These should have a crotchety maiden aunt hovering over them to be sure that no nasty children spill watery punch on them.)

Seymour Skinner once commented on Edna Krabappel’s ability to be “personally offended by broad social trends.” No point in doing that, really, unless you are going to use what little influence you have to change them.

90 comments for “Platinum Wedding Bells

  1. Being a guy, I appreciated having a reception in the church gymnasium (because it was inexpensive). Many in our area do it this way (and many do not), so I do not sense any regret in my wife for having done this.

    There was relief regarding the physical relationship (due to the freedom), but a little bit of a letdown because of a loss of excitement (I attribute this to Satan, who was no longer tempting us to have sex).

  2. Receptions in church gymnasiums are ugly. We did ours in the backyard of a friend of my wife’s family. We also didn’t do the traditional line (which sucks) but just wandered around greeting people. It turned out very nice and certainly was no where close to $26,000.

  3. Humbug.

    My wedding cost well under a thousand dollars. Mardell made her own dress; the reception was in the cultural hall; my family and friends made the food for the reception. I rented a tux; Mardell and our mothers made the bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen shirts. And my father, who dabbles in semi-professional photography, took our pictures.

    I’ve been on the other side several times as well — I’ve provided (gratis) music for weddings; done assorted manual labor and lifting; etc.

    My younger brother just got married, and they did much more of a traditional wedding arrangement. The reception was at a reception place; there was a paid photographer; the groomsmen and bridesmaids had lots of bells and whistles.

    I don’t see a big benefit to throwing a huge party. I didn’t really care about most of the people who came to my wedding. I wanted to get married; the rest of it was a necessary formality, but nothing to belabor.

    We also drove to our honeymoon, at a bed-and-breakfast in Sedona.

    Then again, my decisions at the time were probably at least in part influenced by the fact that I was a student working part-time and making $20k a year, and neither my family nor Mardell’s is wealthy in any way.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with this post, but would like to humbly make a suggestion: that we give more charitably in our wedding gifts. Mormon wedding presents are the WORST.

  5. I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons for the trend toward expensive wedding galas is found in the diminishing meaning of the wedding itself. Where a couple has been living together/sleeping together/sharing finances together, an exchange of promises/rings makes very little difference in how they live their lives or participate in the community at large. The big party itself then becomes the substitute rite of passage. In contrast, the LDS temple marriage can be simple and straightforward because the promises made remain huge and represent a total remodeling of self and relationship to the other and the world at large.

    Keep encouraging the focus of the wedding to be in the right place.

    And I really like the idea about the wedding albums!

  6. Thanks Julie for highlighting this issue. I’m sensitive about all things that distinguish on account of wealth, but this is an important one. My in-laws gave my wife a wedding budget of $2000, I believe, and the “wedding dinner” my family hosted was a pancake breakfast at a public park in the canyon. It was gorgeous and cost about $150 for 60 people. No one complained that they didn’t “get” to put on a suit and tie to congratulate us, either.

  7. My wife is a wedding planner (among other things) by profession. We often talk about how “cheap” Mormons are when it comes to weddings. It drives my wife nuts, largely because she (read “we”) doesn’t make any money off our fellow church-goers. That really sucks. I think all you T&S commenters should feel sorry for us and wire us some cash.

    The truth is, however, that Julie’s right. It boggles my mind that people spend the money they do on weddings. What a waste. We had a fairly small reception at home, my wife sewed her own dress and the bridesmaid dresses, and I was just happy to get through the day.

    Steve said:
    “Mormon wedding presents are the WORST.”

    Don’t even get me started on this. Steve hit the nail on the head, and I have no comprehension of this phenomenon at all. Is it so difficult to shell out a few bucks for a decent gift? Do people not realize that when they buy the $7.00 discount serving platter at Target and gift it to the bride and groom, there is a very strong likelihood that: (1) 27 other wedding guests probably found out about the same sale and then bought the same dumb platter too; and (2) the bride and groom are probably going to take the ugly thing back anyway, and then they’ll realize what a cheapskate you were.

    Also, why is it that 90% of Mormon wedding guests don’t buy their gifts off the Registry? That’s why the couple has a Registry! Duh.

    Oh wait… I know why! It’s because they saw this ADORABLE little picture frame at the Deseret Book store with a cheap carving of the Temple embedded in the frame, and they just figured that’s what every young Mormon couple needs! (Barf).

    Aaron B

  8. You will all have to excuse my husband. My parents spent almost $2,000 on the reception and dress. Granted the dress only costed about $90 but I spent many many (I am talking lots of time here) hours making it. His parents spent money on food and pictures and a real flower bouquet.

    Yes and some one esle did take professional photographs. Kaimi is like really so he looked at he pictures and commented “I guess someone else did take pictures my dad is in a lot of these.” (duh, he only made us smile 15million times. Kaimi where were you? I know thinking about having sex.) So, I would say the the grant total on my wedding was about $3,500. That is really cheap but not as cheap as Kaimi remembers.

  9. Huh! Computer ate my first post …

    Anyway, my wife and I did our wedding in 2000 for under $1000 ($2000 if you add what my folks spent on photos). I rented a tux, she bought a tasteful bridesmaid dress instead of a official wedding dress, family provided the manpower, we scheduled a cultural hall, few trips to the arts and crafts store. Also, my wife made the eclaires for her own wedding. She worked in BYU’s pastry kitchen at the the time (those were good eclaires!). Her boss made and decorated the wedding cake (and did an excellent job).

    Misty’s never regreted how low-budget it was. But then again, she’s probably one of the most practical people I know.

    Wedding debt = $0

  10. Brave post, Julie! My wife and I have been invited to many weddings, both here in the U.S. and in Belgium, for Mormons and non-Mormons. The obvious conclusion: the more expensive the wedding, the duller. People who throw in lots of money often create an artificial sphere they cannot handle themselves (and some probably also crushed by the thought of the debts they are making). The whole becomes formal and stiff. Best weddings we have seen are the ones where you feel at ease because within your reach, where friends and family can be themselves, where a great dance is provided… Continue to spread the word, Julie!

  11. I have a small quibble with the cheap wedding presents theme–my parents get invited to every wedding reception in the stake. Sometimes that’s two or three a weekend. My parents, while not poor, are certainly not rich. So should they need to spend $20-$30 per reception? Or not bring a present at all, so as not to give the impression that they are cheap?

  12. Steve,

    My parents get about three new wedding invitations PER WEEK. You try staying “classy” about thirty times each year.

    Lots of socially active Utah families simply can’t afford your sense of taste.

  13. Fantaaaaaaaaastic post, Julie. This is one of those “if I were the prophet” issues. I wish it would change, but there’s no way it will. My wedding was of the moderately fancy variety, which I never would have chosen for myself. But I did think it was worth the expense of having a lot guests from a purely pragmatic standpoint– the extra presents to us more than made up for the extra money spent by my in-laws!

  14. > And we all know the effect that money issues can have on a marriage . . .

    If money issues are going to have a negative effect on a relationship, I think it should happen long before the children are born.

  15. I played in a series of small Jazz groups while I was at school. We did the wedding thing often, sometimes for free, sometimes for pay, depending on who asked. By the time I got married, I knew what I wanted in a wedding. Simple. Nice. Inexpensive.

    The expensive wedding receptions I played at usually left me wondering how long the bride and groom would be together. They rarely seemed totally in touch with themselves, and often seemed incredibly interested in the outward social expression they were making by getting married. Something like, “Here we are! We’ve done it! We’re married! Adore us! Shower us with gifts and attention!” (As an aside: these were the ones we got paid for :)).

    In contrast, all the inexpensieve, simple wedding receptions I played for made me excited to get married: the bride and groom almost always seemed interested in one another, the newly-minted husband helping his dear wife prepare for the guests, helping her move around in the sometimes awkward wedding dress she was wearing. The bride concerned about making sure her husband was included in all of her conversations with girflriends/Young Women’s presidents, etc. The couples seemed concerned mostly with their own relationship, and they seemed deeply in love. These weddings seemed intimate: the couple was inviting a few close friends and family members to share in a part of their relationship, rather than forcing themselves upon whomever might bring a gift.

    When my spouse-to-be suggested that we hold our reception in a cultural hall, I knew I’d chosen the right kind of person to marry. And I was right: our whole reception was about sharing our marriage with a few close friends. It was nice.

  16. Julie,

    My wife and I had a very simple reception in her sister’s home 36 years ago and our eight married children have all had cultural hall receptions. I like what one writer said about wedding receptions:

    The first miracle Christ performed was at a wedding. At our own weddings, we too celebrate a miracle—the privilege the Lord gives us of making an eternal covenant with him and our beloved spouse. An appropriate reception can be a wonderful way to celebrate this miracle with our loved ones. (Elaine Holbrook, Ensign, June 1986, 24.)

    In the same article, Sister Holbrook offers several suggestions for avoiding elaborate, expensive wedding receptions. At least two additional Church magazines articles about this are also available: “A Word about Receptions” (New Era, Feb. 1987, 48) has some good advice from President Spencer W. Kimball on receptions and “Cutting the Costs—along with the Cake” (Ensign, Mar. 1988, 67) talks about not overspending or overshadowing the importance of the temple ceremony and its covenants.

  17. the funny, or tragic, thing about expensive weddings is how shortly thereafter so many of them fall apart. all the wedding planning and paying…none of the preparing and saving.

  18. Julie,

    Oh my gosh what an amazing post.

    I fully agree with your sentiments and many of the other posters.

    Couple of quick points.

    One reason LDS wedding are cheaper and the presents are pathetic is that active LDS families have:

    Lots of children related expenses (large familes are exp and mom is often a SAHM) AKA missions, college all at the same time. My parents had 3 weddings, 3 missions and 4 kids in college in a 5 year span.

    There are sooooo many weddings in the LDS community. I am always having relative getting married. Its almost like its not a big deal anymore. (here is your toaster. what is your mailing address?)

    Non Members often have such a low birthrate(far fewer kid related expenses) and age of marriage is delayed so far that each individual wedding is a huge deal. Plus people are living together often for years, are older like 30plus, have a higher income, (double income), and they can afford the 26K(this is a huge number IMHO)

    Then there are so few children born into the nonmember family that the baby showers are so few and far between that they are as excessive as the weddings.

  19. You know, I spent high school near one of the richer areas of Utah Valley. I saw plenty of rather elaborate wedding receptions which must have cost a fortune.

    It got me thinking … I wonder if wedding receptions are essentially a way for the Utah elite to display their status. A ritual by which a family establishes its place in the community pecking order.

    But I’m not sure the entire motivation behind an elaborate reception is selfish. Perhaps the well-to-do families simply feel an obligation to be generous to their neighbors and provide them with a nice event and good food.

  20. I now tell all the young people I know to get married in the temple and save their parents money and their mothers’ grief and wear on her body.

    Buttgold’s wedding cost over $6000. I’m not sure exactly because of all the little $50 here and there. It’s a mess to look at my credit card bills.

    She had a civil wedding in the gym of the church. We spent about $1500 transforming (we hired a decorater) it into a lovely garden setting and it WAS absolutely beautiful. If I ever figure out how, I’m going to send some pictures.

    Her dress, slip, veil, etc. was about $800, the pictures, photographer, invitations (including postage, stickers, and little pin things to put them together) $1350, food, over $1000 (we had to do the dinner, also), clothing (tuxes, bridesmaids, etc.), $1000, flowers, $300. I also spent $800 putting up family at a bed and breakfast.

    That does not compare to the stress I encountered. I figure it’ll take me a year to recover physically and emotionally.

    We offered her $4000 to elope and she refused. We thought we could do it for $4000.

    I know it can be done cheaper, don’t lecture me. I’m doubling my antidepressant prescription.

    Also, I had my relax pills (the comments policy doesn’t let me name them) stuffed in my bra and toward the end, was so spaced I just took one out of my bra and dry swallowed it in front of the groom’s uncle, who now looks at me speculatively. I have good cleavage. I’m pretty sure he’s in love.

    Which I guess is an antic. But I didn’t do it at the moment on purpose. I was trying to survive.

    I put her wedding fourth below the deaths of my family, my sister’s descent into madness, and my divorce. Actually, it’s about on the same level as divorce.

    I tell people to give their daughters up for adoption before they reach marriage age. About 17 is good. They’re usually unpleasant at that age, anyway.

  21. “I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons for the trend toward expensive wedding galas is found in the diminishing meaning of the wedding itself. Where a couple has been living together/sleeping together/sharing finances together, an exchange of promises/rings makes very little difference in how they live their lives or participate in the community at large. The big party itself then becomes the substitute rite of passage. In contrast, the LDS temple marriage can be simple and straightforward because the promises made remain huge and represent a total remodeling of self and relationship to the other and the world at large.”

    Liz O this is true for sure. wanna write a book?

  22. Thanks for a great post, Julie.

    The problem is much worse in some cultures, such as the Philippines, where family incomes are much lower and yet there is huge societal pressure to have elaborate weddings where you feed all the friends and relations and hangers on. The debt can cripple a family for life.

    Back in the USA: My dear son, when he called to tell us he was getting married, was kind enough to tell us that he had reserved the banquet room at Brand X Restaurant for a wedding breakfast, to which a large number of the bride’s extended family would be invited. So, we ended up feeding this large flock of strangers, at a cost of nearly $1.5K–and most of them hadn’t even the decency to suggest that they were thankful for the meal. See Kaimi’s post on Brother J. Golden for hints about my feelings toward them.

    But, we had an awfully nice reception here where we live. We paid the church/school where my wife teaches a few hundred bucks to rent their garden, paid a caterer triple that for trays of cheeses and veggies and other finger foods, paid a baker a few hundred for a great cake, had no receiving line–the absolutely stupidest part of Utah Mormon wedding receptions–we (parents and bride and groom) just wandered around, meeting old friends and having a great time. The bride’s parents, despite intentions stated earlier, didn’t make the cross country trip for the reception, but I suspect they were happier not spending an evening with a bunch of total strangers.

    For my daughter’s wedding a few years ago, we used the (carpeted) cultural hall in our church, which has no basketball standards. My wife stealthily accumulated four million potted plants in the months preceding the reception, and assorted racks and stands for them, which we spent eight hours schlepping up to the church before the reception (and back home again afterwards). We spent some time working on the lighting–get rid of those lousy fluorescent lights on the ceiling–and made the place unrecognizable.

    My wife also spent countless hours baking stuff–pastries, etc.–which all went into the deep freeze until the day of the reception. And, we kept the guest list relatively small–we felt no obligation to make the entire ward list part of the party, and, in fact, more than half the guests were not members of the church. The result was a great time spent with good friends, good food (but no sit down meal of rubber chicken), and a bill at the end that was well under $2,000. I didn’t hear anybody wonder why they weren’t getting a full meal–the Mormons at the wedding wouldn’t wonder, and the others probably just think Mormons are weird.

  23. Wedding receptions are organized celbrations more commonly called parties. I think elaborate, tradditional receptions are wasted on Mormon-American culture. The avarage WAS (that would be White Anglo-Saxon– religious affiliation irrelevant) is an uptight, selfconscious boob. Add Mormonism to the mix and you get someone who is ALWAYS an uptight, selfconscious boob. However, other WASs will typically imbibe of various alcoholic beverages at social gatherings which has the concommitant effect of loosening up inhibitions and allowing the typical WAS to transform themselves temporarily. The traditional wedding reception is little more than a party centered around alcohol. How else to you explain hideous brides-maid dresses and WASs dancing to the Village People in formal attire– WASs don’t like to dance in jeans much less in a full tux with tails.

    Nearly twelve years ago my spouse and I were married. She is the only Mormon in her family and we are both WASs. Consequently, when we had our reception there was an equal division of WAS-Mormons and WAS-Others. To insure that my spouse’s father (who paid for everything) would not order an open bar we arranged for the reception to be held at the stake center. With the exception of the decorations, which my wife and an army of her friends designed and arranged, everything else was hired out which included a catered meal, music, flowers, photos, etc. We had all the ingredients necessary for a good party– but no alcohol. As a party the reception was a bust. With the exception of my spouse and I and a few of our peers (who, by the way, had been tipped off about the “no alcohol” policy and had shown up having already consumed some “strong drinks) no one danced or participated in any of the “party games.” Basically, the reception consisted of us greeting about 300-400 well-wishers and collecting gifts.

    About a month later one of my spouse’s cousins was married and we attended that reception. By and large, the guest list included all the non-Mormons from our wedding. This time there was an open bar. What a difference. People were dancing, singing, and carousing and everyone was having a good time. After a few drinks, the priest who performed the ceremony got up on stage and led the crowd in a few traditional Irish songs. My wife’s grandmother, a small, saintly woman in her 80s at the time, was dancing on stage and spent much of the evening entertaining small crowds by telling some great stories– some of them a little blue.

    Unless Mormons can come up with a reception format that differs from tradition then attempting to throw a party for 300, or even 100, Mormon boobs represents a collosal waste of resources.

  24. Re: Wedding gifts –

    I never minded the cheap gifts, because most of the cheap gifts we got were practical and useful.

    What I couldn’t stand were the expensive gifts! Here we are, two college students, living in apartments for the forseeable future and likely to move every few years, even after I get a steady job – and what do we get? Crystal doves that will shatter at the slightest bump. Fine china we still haven’t even looked at. Bizarre artsy stuff we still have no idea what to do with. And most of it non-returnable because we couldn’t determine where it came from.

    At least the cheap stuff from Target and Wal-mart was returnable.

  25. “WASs don’t like to dance in jeans much less in a full tux with tails.”

    He speaks the truth! Especially Norwegian-descended WAS’s (which pretty much pegs Utah).

  26. This is a great post.

    Although I’ve always hated the reception under the basketball hoops, I’ll have better feelings towards it in the future.

  27. I am going to make a concerted effort from now on to be proud of thrifty LDS weddings.

    And we should be! At a previous employer I sat next to a good friend for a year. During that year there was not a single day that she didn’t do something or other toward planning her very, very, very large wedding (scheduled for the end of said year) back home in Europe. I didn’t begrudge her one bit (she’s also about the smartest, hardest-working, and most-efficient person I’ve ever met) for this, but it’s definitely different from the Mormon weddings I’ve been to.

  28. People who marry after knowing each other a few weeks or six months at the most should not be spending thousands on a wedding, which for them is little more than a very expensive date followed by legalized snogging.

    Most non-members spend a lot on their weddings because they actually consider it a celebration of a shared, deeply committed, deeply satisfying long-term relationship that will continue for the duration of their lives. It’s a highly meaningful event that would be trivialized by toilet paper streamers under a basketball hoop with nothing more than colored sugar to suck on.

  29. The whole no pre-marital sex issue for temple weddings makes the timeline for planning a wedding very short. Yep its about the hormones. This is another issue in elaborate weddings for non-lds and LDS temple weddings. if you are already having sex whats the big deal about taking 18 months to plan a wedding?

  30. Are we all in agreement that traditional reception lines and sit-down dinners are boring and uncomfortable for almost everyone involved? And that they’re not worth the money? I suspect that those types of weddings are more to allow the parents to show off for friends and family than they are for the new couple to enjoy themselves. And that’s probably the type of wedding reception they had themselves, waaaay back when. As a result, the guest list will probably include people that the couple doesn’t know well, if at all, but their parents do. However, if you’re dead set on that type of day, then do it, and do it up right, with no whining about the cost.

    But if either the parents or the couple really would prefer something simpler and more intimate (as well as less expensive) then I suggest they stop caring what “people” will think, and set the wedding up to please themselves, not society. Tell everyone you wanted to make it more meaningful, and leave them wondering exactly what you meant by that…

    Do something different to make it harder to make a direct comparison with everyone else’s rubber chicken accompanied by a cruddy band.

    Like, build-your-own-pizza with oom-pah music on a CD (ok, that’s a little extreme, but you get the point).

    Make it a get-away weekend with just your parents and one attendant each, somewhere unique that doesn’t require a passport or crossing several time zones. Throw a housewarming party when you get back.

    Have a theme party–horseback riding, canoeing, sledding. There was a nonmember couple in Colorado that had a trail run for their wedding–the slower guests started walking early, everyone else started together at the trailhead and ran to the chosen clearing for the ceremony. They may have had a reception/dinner afterwards, but anyone intrepid enough to run to the wedding is unlikely to worry about whether the grade of beef served at dinner was choice vs select.

    One of my friends wants to have a banana-split reception, because that’s her favorite dessert. No dinner, no dancing, just ice cream and all the toppings you can handle. In jeans, because it *will* be messy.

    My parents were all set to do the formal reception with sit-down dinner for my wedding. After all, they’d been saving for 35 years…Instead, we had a fancy dinner for immediate family only in a private room at a nice restaurant, a ring ceremony the following day at a gazebo on the grounds of the B&B we honeymooned at (no additional charge since we were guests), and a BBQ that evening at the other B&B where all our out-of-town guests were staying. Could we have afforded the traditional event? Sure. Would we have enjoyed it? No. I hate sitting still and/or being on display. Also, the initial guest list included my parents’ friends and cousins, many of whom I didn’t know at all.

    Here’s another radical idea–don’t invite people to your wedding just because they invited you to theirs. If you’re actually friends, then you’ll invite them for their own sake, not some weird concept of reciprocity. If you’re not friends, then they’re unlikely to be hurt that they didn’t get an invite, and even if they are, you’re obviously not close enough to them that their pique should matter.

    Overall, I think church members do a great job focusing on what really matters about a wedding–getting married–instead of on the carnival surrounding it. But your wedding reception/party still shouldn’t be a warmed-over version of the high school prom. If you really *like* paper streamers from the basketball hoop, that’s cool, but don’t expect everyone to gush about how nice it was. In fact, I’d suggest having it at someone’s house and keeping it smaller so everyone fits. Having it in the cultural hall just because that’s the only place where everyone from the ward can fit at once isn’t a valid reason–I’ve seen very few wards where “everyone” from the ward really wants to come (they usually do so only out of politeness). And because they’ve also been to every other wedding reception for every other couple in the ward for the last 2 months, they’re limited to spending 10$ on your gift, effectively forcing them to buy a present which you don’t want. So don’t invite the whole ward, keep the party small, and do it somewhere else. The majority of the ward will be perfectly happy to hug you at church the following Sunday without having to spend an hour buying/wrapping a present, 30 minutes in the car, and 30 minutes at the cultural hall eating mints and mixed nuts while keeping their kids from decorating a white dress with red handprints.

    Finally, people are not obligated to give you a gift, whether they attend or not. You’re inviting them for the pleasure of their company (see above), not because you expect “loot”. If you are very sure that your guests will bring things you don’t want or need, include a note in all invites that you are not accepting gifts and desire only their best wishes for your happy marriage. If they still bring something, you’ll know it wasn’t because they thought they had to bring “a gift” for form’s sake, but because they really wanted to show they care about you. Therefore, even if it’s horribly tacky, smile and say thanks. Pretend it’s the sticky gumdrop your niece gave you, not because you’ve always wanted one, but because it was the thing she wanted most and therefore she was being generous in giving it to you. You can exchange/return/trash it later as you wish, but don’t you dare complain that someone spent money on you when you didn’t deserve it.

    Take the money that would have been spent on the huge reception and spend it on the household goods you really need, which is the point of a wedding registry anyways. Registries were intended to allow the new couple to finish furnishing the household, not to list their favorite new toys. Which means, BTW, that asking for 16 place settings of expensive china with matching crystal is just plain greedy, and since no-one is obligated to buy any of it, you shouldn’t be surprised when you only end up with 3 cereal bowls.

  31. If that’s the way you feel, Steve Evans, then you and your ungrateful bride can just give me back the Boggle game, you jerk.

  32. “But it is a little more complicated than that. Let’s say that your social circle consists of people primarily from the same tax bracket as you. (I belive this is generally true for most people, roughly speaking.) You’ve spent the last few decades attending their costly weddings. Now it is time for your own daughter’s wedding. I am afraid that the implication, if you don’t spend what they spent, is that you are cheap. After all, they somehow managed to afford the 30K wedding–why can’t you? There is, I think, something a little churlish about eating rubbery chicken cordon bleu at everyone else’s weddings and then serving punch and mints at yours. So the cycle is perpetuated, with families taking on enormous debts in order not to offend their friends and family”

    Oh, Julie, you speak the truth.

    I wasn’t a member when I was married, and in fact have never been to an LDS wedding, but the pressure is absolutely insurmountable for a WAS wedding! The most accurate statement regarding them I’ve heard is – you can always spot the least important people at a wedding reception – they’re seated at the very front (meaning bride and groom)

    I come from a fairly well-to-do family, and mainly socialize with the same. The ceremony was perfect (fall day, beautiful weather, outdoors under a grove of trees next to a lake). But we tried to do our reception on $5000 for about 120 people – my husband and I chose the absolute worst time financially for my parents to get married – and it just couldn’t be done. In the past year or two, the majority of our friends had absolutely gala affairs running $20k, $30k or more…..seated steak dinners, live bands, open bars, etc. Our budget only alloted for hors d’oerves and a cash bar. We did the best we could with what we had, and many of the guests (older guests, particularly) said that they enjoyed having something outside the cookie-cutter norm. We, however (and some of our close friends) ended up being somewhat embarassed by the entire affair, and it’s strained a number of friendships.

    Having just passed our 1 year anniversary, my husband and I plan to renew our vows in 9 years, and throw the kind of affair we would have wanted – which specifically is that $20k affair. More because it’s important to us – we feel like we missed out – than for our friends.

    I apologize if this is too “meta” for this thread, but can someone give me a basic sense of what an LDS wedding reception is like (since it’ll be about 15 years before any of the single Members I know are of the age to get married!) ? I’m getting a basic idea (held in the gym, low budget) but is there dinner and dancing? Is it more of a “meet & greet”, “come as you are” open house?

  33. Ellen, my wedding was a celebration of an eternal commitment to someone to whom I had been sealed by the power of the eternal priesthood, in a temple of the Lord. There aren’t enough toilet paper streamers in the world to trivialize that, and there’s not enough worldly foo-fah available for $23,000, or $230,000, or $2,300,000 to add to it.

  34. It looks like SpaceChick (#31) and I were posting at the same time.

    I can see how from the outside looking in, those sit down dinners and reception lines may be boring… but if that is, in your life experience, “what a wedding is”, it becomes an entirely different matter. As you can see in my comment #33 above, the outside world doesn’t like it when you try something outside the box. Heck, going outside the box was our own idea, and it was so uncomfortable that *we* wanted the box back :)

  35. Fruit punch and butter mints in the church gym may be tacky, but complaining in a public forum about the wedding party that was the best your strained parents could manage is tasteless.

  36. On the gifts issue. You should know (if you don’t) that 75$-150$ gifts are standard for nonLDS weddings. There’s no reason on earth that the Saints should meet this standard, but may I humbly suggest that they use whatever their budget is to buy something of quality instead of something pretending to be expensive? Someone mentioned a 7$ platter. That’s something pretending to be expensive. If your budget is 7$, buy one Calphalon egg turner–top of the line. Buy one lint-free dishcloth from Williams-Sonoma. Or, go in with others on a nice gift. One of the nicest wedding gifts we got was a cordless drill–from about a dozen of my husband’s parent’s neighbors.

    gst–#36 suggests to me that you missed the point of the original post.

  37. Am I the only one who is bothered by casual attire at wedding receptions? Unless specifically invited to come casual, shouldn’t we dress up in our Sunday-go-to-meetin clothes and show our respect for a couple’s special day — and for their marriage, which both the Apostle Paul and Pres. hugh B. Brown called a “sacrament”?

  38. I don’t get this quandary at all. For me it seems very simple. Have the wedding you can afford. Don’t expect gifts, and be grateful for any you get. Bad food is worse than none so skip bad food. Invite people you can truly picture being delighted to be included. Invite people you will yourself be delighted to see. If it wasn’t fun for anyone then it wasn’t a successful party. Don’t worry about your “place in society” or what others think. Those things are completely foolish and entirely contingent, anyway. Just have a wedding you can easily afford. Why is that hard? I don’t get it.

  39. Tatiana–

    The reason it is hard is because this isn’t about you buying a sports car to keep up with the Jones. That _would_ be easy.

    But imagine that your friend invites you to dinner at a restaurant that costs 100$/plate. Would you feel that you had reciprocated if you took her out the next week to McDonald’s with a buy one Quarter Pounder and get one free coupon? Multiply this by 200 and that’s the problem with weddings: if you have been attending costly ones for your entire life, to throw an inexpensive one (in a culture where the costly kind is expected) is to be rather ungracious to your friends and family. I’m not sure of your background, but as someone with extended family that is not LDS, the signal that a cheap wedding sends is, “We don’t think you are worth what you thought we were worth.” I would probably rather go into debt that to send that message to my family and friends, right or wrong.

  40. Julie in A.: Perhaps I did misread her comment, though I don’t think so. She makes the following points, among others: 1) Because of her parents’ temporary financial situation, they could only spend 1/6 of the norm for her social set, which left her “somewhat embarrassed,” and 2) she intends to rectify it in 9 years by putting on the party they wish they had to experience what they “missed out” on.

    I will probably, on occasion, fail my daughter over the course of my lifetime in ways large and small. When I do, I hope that she has the grace to mask her disappointment in me, at least while in public.

  41. I’ll do Dennis Read one better: I’m disappointed by the trend of not wearing formal wear rather than business attire to weddings. The convention is, or rather was and still should be, that if anyone is in formal attire, everyone should be. I think it’s strange to have the wedding party in tuxedos and everyone else in business suits.

    Point of clarification: I actually don’t care whether it’s business or formal attire, but I think the wedding party should wear whatever they expect other people to wear. So I think Matt Evans’ pancake breakfast described above sounds perfectly appropriate, and quite nice.

  42. I agree with Tatiana.

    Julie: the car analogy actually works: If you give me a lift to work one day in your Bentley, should I go rent one myself when I have to give you a ride? No, I expect you to understand that the 1997 Accord LX with 117,000 miles on it is the car I can afford. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think you’re not worth riding in a car with a fine burl walnut veneer console–it just means I can’t afford it.

  43. gst–

    I agree with you about attire. But as for the car: you sitting in my Accord after I rode in your Bentley clearly states, “I am not on the same plane as you are economically.” The problem, as I mentioned in the original post is that most people attend weddings for people in the same economic plane that they are occupying. In that case, the message is clear: I could have afforded a nicer car (after all, you bought that Bently on the same pay that I bought my Accord on), but decided that you weren’t worth it, even though you thought I was worth it.

    Now, I don’t want to defend this too much (that’s the point of the entire post!), but I do want to point out that some people are in a real bind that is about social repercussions, hospitality, kindness, generosity, and reciprocity, and not to be scoffed at as just ‘wanting to keep up with the Joneses.’

  44. Julie, I usually agree with you, but not at all in this case. Tatiana and Space Chick have it right. I think that if your friends and family truly love you, they will not care if you have an inexpensive wedding. If your friends and family believe that having an affordable wedding signals, “We don’t think you are worth what you thought you were worth,” they are shallow, focused on the wrong things, and not worth it anyway. Why can’t people just be honest with their friends and family? This is the most we could afford. What happened to the counsel of the prophets not to go into debt unless absolutely necessary? Why all this focus on appearances? Pride, pride, pride, pride…

  45. No – the message is that you could NOT afford the nicer car, but did the best you could. Or even – that you think wasting money on cars that are too expensive is silly. Or that whether or not you care about somebody has nothing to do with what kind of car you take them for a ride in.

  46. Sue, again, the entire point of my post is to get us away from this kind of thinking, so I am not trying to defend it but rather to encourage a charitable attitude toward those who are caught in this way of thinking. They really are quite in a bind when social expectations are involved. If you don’t come from a subculture where gifts and hospitality are a way of showing others how much you appreciate them, this may be hard for you to appreciate.

  47. Julie, I understand you now. Sometimes I need things explained to me slowly. So, the assumption is that you and I are both equally awash in cash, and you throw a generous party at which I indulge, and then when it’s my turn to through a party I turn parsimonious. I follow you. Perhaps a partial solution is to turn down invitations to parties more lavish than yours? So long as you send a gift, no one should care.

    Maybe if Mormons don’t want to play this game we should just tell people that our religion forbids it.

    But am I right about post #33?

  48. gst–You are following me and thank you for trying to see my side. Turning down wedding invitations seems a little drastic and would have its own problems. I don’t know what a good solution is.

    As for #33, I don’t think Ginny’s goal was to hold her family up for public ridicule, but just to point out that, as you now (I think) recognize, the disparity made everyone uncomfortable.

  49. I have no idea how much my wedding reception cost, and there’s no reason I should know, because I presume my father-in-law paid for the whole thing. Grooms just show up. I did notice that it was a very nice country club affair which I’m sure all of the guests enjoyed, and for which I’m grateful, mainly because of how much my bride enjoyed it.

    He may have saved money on the photographer–he was an Air National Guard reservist who took aerial reconnaisance photos. Consequently, many of our pictures look like they were taken from the nose cone of a U-2 passing above at 49,000 feet.

  50. I would be interested to know how respected and cherished you’ve felt at the big fancy weddings you’ve been to versus the small simple ones. As for me, I definitely have enjoyed myself more and felt more personally welcomed and wanted at the simple ones. It seems that along with their family’s financial stability, some people are also willing to sacrifice the feelings of all involved to that dream they have of their special day. And as far as I can tell, no one is made glad thereby. It seems to me that this custom is one more honored in the breach than the observance.

  51. Well, Tatiana, it may have to do with how you are raised. Because I was raised in a subculture where hospitality and generosity are seen as gestures of love and appreciation, I have felt honored to be at the (few) fancy/expensive weddings that I have gone to. (Which, again, is not me defending expensive weddings–see original post–but me acknolwedging the difficult social pressures that people face.)

  52. I understand that you’re saying people find it hard because they feel obligated, but it seems to me this obligation can be better met with real feelings and respect in a million different ways that aren’t about spending money.

  53. Tatiana–

    I’m with you on applauding the courage of people who risk alienating their relatives in order to do things in a more sensible way. I’m just hoping that we can agree to be charitable towards those who either aren’t able to or don’t think to stand up to a title wave of pressure and risk having grandma’s last thought be, “Hmm, I guess she didn’t think much of her family.”

    By the way, I am one of those who ‘didn’t think to stand up.’ My parents did the standard wedding (I don’t know precisely what it cost, however), and I didn’t think to do otherwise. I feel badly about that. Anyone want an overpriced ten year old wedding dress?

  54. gst–you should know that the U-2’s cruising altitude is about 80,000 feet. Maybe the guy had the long telephoto lens on that day.

    For all those non-LDS family and friends who may feel that you’ve run your child’s wedding party on the cheap–don’t worry. They’ll be so confused–annoyed–mad as hell–righteously indignant–etc. etc. about not being invited to the wedding ceremony itself that any problems with the party will fade into insignificance.

    Unless, of course, you live in New York and the wedding ceremony was in Utah, and the party is not “the reception” but an open house held a month later.

    I’d take you up on the dress, Julie, but I remember your saying on the Mormon beauty thread that you’re rather short. When I wear a dress, I try to make sure it covers my ankles.

  55. One of the best things about getting married young, as many Mormons do, is that there are usually fairly low expectations for your wedding. Most of my friends and I were just halfway through college when we got married, and believe me, we all felt lucky to have a backyard reception, with some buddies (the talented ones, of course) taking pictures and supplying the music, and a honeymoon in Jackson Hole.

  56. gst –

    Please understand that it wasn’t at all my intent to publicly mock my parents or their situation (which has since been rectified). Julie’s post #40 was what I was trying to convey, and perhaps I did it poorly- that some of our friendships have suffered since the wedding because our friends felt slighted – they gave us caviar and we gave them Burger Barn, and many of them were insulted. Even moreso than they may have been, because we were trying to keep my parent’s struggles under wraps, so as far as they knew, we could have afforded the moon, and just chose not to. We tried to mask it by doing something completely different than the prepackaged wedding experience, but it just didn’t work. It’s difficult to do something different than everyone else around you. Sometimes it works, but a lot of times it doesn’t, and that was the point of my post.

    I used poor word choice in saying that it was what we “missed out on”. Ten year renewals are the norm here, I was just trying to say that even if it takes nine more years, my husband and I plan to try to remedy our social faux-pas by throwing the lavish party that was expected of us, and if we happen to enjoy it in the process, I don’t see the problem in that :)

    I don’t begrudge my parents at all, and would be devestated if they ever knew we felt this way. They live clear across the country, so luckily we’ve been able to spare them any of the fallout. I apologize if this came across as tacky to you – I was just trying to add what I felt was a relevant perspective to the discussion.

  57. wow, I don’t know how I ended up getting comment #57 when #58 – #62 were already there when I started my comment…..

  58. Julie, I realize that I’m largely oblivious to cultural expectations like that. It’s easy for me, because I don’t notice or feel the sting when people in my greater community disapprove of my choices. As a female in engineering, that trait has served me well, since at the moment one still needs to be pretty stubborn and oblivious in order to succeed as one. (smiles) Hopefully people like me serve some good purpose in opening up new territory for others. I do value hospitality and generosity, but I guess it means more to me (both on the giving and receiving end) when it feels spontaneous and not as though it’s given under duress or duty.

    There’s a great short story by Peter Taylor called The Old Forest, that talks about these freedoms and obligations. I suppose I have no idea what I’m missing by not being part of a community like that. It’s probably quite wonderful. Maybe there’s all sorts of support and personal affirmation that I will never know.

    Are you the first person in your family to convert to the LDS church? I wonder how much harder that must have been for you than for me! Did you experience a lot of opposition and rejection for it? My mother confided to me that my father and she had decided I must have turned off my brain. (laughs) I am awed by your courage.

  59. One thing I learned is that kids need and love money the best. $10 in a card rocks. We, too, get invited to a lot of weddings, and there is a small, but very nice store here that registers for weddings. We often just put in $5 towards a gift and the newlyweds are able to get something nice with that. But from now on, I’m giving money in a card.

    One reason ours cost so much is that our daughter has been spoiled( or just deeply adored). She wanted the best, but then when I started to get into it, so did I! I also wanted to be with her on the wedding day, not decorating or cooking.

    Also we’ve lived here a long time and know so many people, we didn’t know who to leave out. So we didn’t leave anybody out.

    After the wedding and pictures, as the guests ate, we danced, that was the most fun, except for the part when my little granddaughter decided she didn’t want to be a flower girl after all and bolted. I wish we had skipped the line and just danced and had fun.

    Oh, my mom was really funny, too. She had no idea why she had to go through the torture of getting hair and nails done to go to somebody’s wedding with people she didn’t know.

    During the wedding, because so many family was there, I decided to celebrate her birthday, which occurred a week before. Well, she knew it wasn’t her birthday even if she didn’t know all those people and it just made her so mad. I’m going to try to sell the pictures of my mother to greeting card companies.

    The decorating was well worth the money, the atmosphere was just beautiful, with lots of white woodwork and flowers and plants and little lampposts all over, so the lighting was muted and went with the classical music. I think Sarah felt beautiful and happy and I think it was an absolutely beautiful wedding.

    But you guys, it was truly the most stressful thing I’ve done in years. For the mom of the bride, it’s hell. One of my older friends, whose lovely and fun daughters are my age, said, “it’s what you have to go through to get them out of the house.”

    And it’s not over! We both got sick, and now we are doing thank yous and deciding which picture packages to order. This is like the wedding that never ended.

    JKS, $3000 was my original amount. Before I decided I just couldn’t do the decorating myself. If you have a nice backyard, that would be the way to go. Also, I would say buy a used dress. They only get worn once and they are beautiful. I wish Buttgold thought we were poor, see that’s a couple of thousand right there.

    But then there’s money for the alteration, nails, hair, those little things really add up.

    This is like the post that never ends. Don’t tell that guy on M* who I criticized for talking too long.

  60. Tatiana,

    Like any cultural patterns, there are advantages and disadvantages. We’ve talked about the disadvantage of spending too much money; here’s one of the advantages:

    I joined the church after dating a member for two years. We invited his family (mom, dad, 6 kids) to my high school graduation party that was held at my parents’ house. When they arrived, my mom did what she always does to guests. When she left the room, my boyfriend’s father said to me, “Every time I am over here, I always think your mother has me confused with someone more important than I am.”

    My parents gave me very little grief for joining the church, so I don’t feel that brave. And a few years later, they drove from Texas to Utah so they could sit in the waiting room of the Bountiful Temple. They are truly good people.

  61. Definitely something weird going on with the comments . . .

    [Editor’s note: Comments are posting at the wrong time and so are in the wrong order in the thread. They are listed in the correct order on the sidebar. Your editor apologizes for using Julie in A.’s comment like this, but your editor is currently unable to post comments hisself. Definitely something weird going on.]

  62. I had the typical low-cost LDS back yard party in Utah followed by cultural hall reception back home. I think it all cost about $200 25 years ago.

    My daughter just turned 24. She is nowhere near marriage, but I have thought about this. Because she is not into the whole Mormon thing, and hasn’t been for a long time now. So if and when she marries, it will be to someone outside the church. And I wonder sometimes what I will do in that situation.

    I think what I would like to do is to give my daughter a set amount of money, and she can do with it whatever she wants. If she wants a nice (though not lavish) wedding party, she can blow it all on that. If she wants a simple one and to use the rest for savings or a down payment on a house [and option B would be my preference], she can do that, too. (This method also has the advantage of me not being ultimately responsible for the wedding and getting stuck for an ever escalating budget.)

    The question I still must face is how large to make this amount. I suppose it will matter if it should happen while I still have two kids in college or after both have graduated and I have started to recover somewhat financially.

  63. I know plenty of people who spent more money decorating the church gym than I did renting someplace that was already really classy (I think it was $300, 13 years ago). I had a small reception, though, so I didn’t need to rent a big place.
    I suggest not skimping on the pictures. Its the only thing you’ll have left after the big day. I pretty much just cared about the dress (I wanted to look really beautiful) and the pictures. The rest was annoying to have to put together. Unfortunately, I felt like I had to do it and there was no one else around to do it.

  64. I plan on spending the same amount for all my kids’ weddings–boys or girls. If, for instance, I think $3000 is what we can afford, I will give that $3000 to my child for them to pay for whatever……dress, pictures, reception, ring, honeymoon, etc.

  65. I don’t think low budget receptions are typically more fun than elaborate expensive ones. I’ve never been to a fancy sit down wedding dinner, they’ve all been LDS lower budget ones. Some were fun, some weren’t fun. Maybe I didn’t know anyone, maybe I had lots of friends there, maybe I was single and there weren’t any guys to flirt with, maybe there were– it just depends.

  66. When I was married in 1993 my mom and I really had no clue how to put on a wedding, and we had little to no budget. The most important thing was for my family (I’m the oldest of 6 kids) to be able to be with me on my wedding day, no small request since we lived in Alaska and there was no temple in driving distance at the time. Most of the budget for my wedding went to plane tickets. We worked all summer to fix up my parents’ back yard for a pre-wedding open house. Everyone we knew hauled the flower boxes from their yard to our home. We made my wedding dress, six bridesmaids’ dresses, one flower girl frock and a cummerbund in mint-green dupioni. And when I say “we,” I of course mean my mother. I used an heirloom veil. My talented dad did the calligraphy on our invitations, which we had printed at the copy shop. A friend took our engagement photo and made the copies as her gift to us. My mom and her friends made sandwiches, petits fours, lime punch and cheesecake. We set up my dad’s stereo in the backyard and lit candles. There was no structure, no cake-cutting, no bouquet tossing, just lots of talk and laughing and a little rain (thank goodness we had a covered patio). It was a beautiful party; I still think so. I was the first among my friends (many non-LDS) to marry, and they all said they wanted their weddings to be just like mine. (We had a similar reception at my aunt’s house in Utah after our sealing and honeymooned in lovely Park City.) My big regret is no really good photos. I just didn’t understand at the time how much I would miss those in the long run.

    My sister was married in 2001 and used a similar approach. By this time my family had moved back to Utah, so no plane tickets. She married a chef, lucky girl, and his friends did the catering as a wedding gift. Not a sit-down but gorgeous and plentiful hors d’oeuvres and nonalcoholic cocktails. She spent her budget of $1500 on the hall and the photographer — good choices. (She used Odd Fellows Hall in SLC, which was a fantastic venue if anyone is looking). My cousin did the flowers — long-stemmed tulips in simple vases. My mom made the dress. My uncles, both excellent, but not famous jazz musicians, played the reception. It was truly amazing.

    For a while I was a little jealous of how beautiful my sister’s party turned out to be. But looking back I realize that we had very similar resources, but different circumstances. And we both had our priorities in order. We are both happily married. And neither of us can remember much of the detail of our own actual wedding day. Which is pretty funny when you think about it.

  67. “People who marry after knowing each other a few weeks or six months at the most should not be spending thousands on a wedding, which for them is little more than a very expensive date followed by legalized snogging.

    Most non-members spend a lot on their weddings because they actually consider it a celebration of a shared, deeply committed, deeply satisfying long-term relationship that will continue for the duration of their lives. It?s a highly meaningful event that would be trivialized by toilet paper streamers under a basketball hoop with nothing more than colored sugar to suck on. ”


  68. My wife and I had a “modified” Mormon wedding, I guess.

    We got married in a “compromise temple” — we married in Salt Lake, even though neither of us wanted to, but it was the most “convenient” for family (and because my wife is from SLC, and most of my relatives are from there). Funny, though, we had an all-white wedding, which served as the PERFECT excuse NOT to invite the 30 or so temple-worthy relatives who might have wanted to attend (those sealing rooms are tiny off the celestial room). Although — I regret not inviting one particular uncle. We didn’t invite any uncles/aunts (so as to not get into the “if I invite one, I invite them all”); I should have invited the one I liked.

    My wife’s parents spent about $5K total on the reception/dress/cake/band/food, which was done at a very nice hotel in downtown SLC. Her sister’s non-Mormon wedding cost several times more than that. I think her Mom was just happy we let her make decisions (we were like, “you want what? Sure, umm, OK, whatever you want”). Bottom line is, her parents were happy. My parents were happy (my dad’s tux rental aside, he griped about that). We were happy because her parents were happy. We could have done the reception at Chik-Fil-A and we wound have been happy. We did the receiving line for an hour (still a dumb idea, in my opinion), and had the jazz trio playing for the other 2 hours. My kid brother played the baby grand in the entrance of the hotel.

    Few of our own friends could attend, circumstances what they were. It was mostly a party for her parents’ friends, so we let them spend whatever they wanted. The same thing went for when my parents threw us a reception later — they spent/organized whatever they wanted, because it was *their* event, and we just showed up.

  69. Regarding my own post (#72) — I should point out that the only substantive decisions my wife and I made were regarding the colors, the style of tuxes (her parents made it clear they expected to have to wear them), the cake, the basic format of the invitation, and the dress. Her parents selected the reception place (with my wife’s consent), the band, the food (finger food, no sit-down), the decorations, and a host of other things we just didn’t care about. I think her parents, who could have spent many times more, felt sorry they didn’t spend enough on us. We were just like, “whatever, we’re getting married.”

    We tried not to spend any of their money, but they resisted… :)

  70. Most of the people I see (Mo or No-Mo) who spend exorbitant amounts on wedding and receptions are flaunting their fine twined linens, grinding on the face of the poor, etc. The bride considers it her day in the lime light and wants the best of everything. Daddy invites his customers and business associates hoping to show off how successful he is.

    When we complain about couples who decorate the cultural hall with streamers and serve homemade mints, we are really grinding on the face of the poor. My in-laws had no money to spend on a wedding or reception. Fine. It was my wedding, so my wife and I paid for it ourselves. We kept it within our budget, which was meager. I invited people to the reception so that they could celebrate our happiness with us, not so that they could bring us presents. Now I attend receptions with the view of also helping the young couple get started. We still have glasses that were given to us as wedding presents 26 years ago. When we use them I think of the nice, frugal couple who gave them to us although they were struggling to support a son on a mission.

    I think that the temple ceremony should serve as a type of how we should conduct our wedding related activities outside of the temple. Things are kept simple and inexpensive. The objective is to lift us to a higher plane.

    Or perhaps I’m still hurt by the bishop who FORCED us to pay for a dinner for anyone who wanted to attend after my son’s funeral. His reasoning: that’s the way we do things here. It didn’t matter that the hospital bills alone were over $850,000. I didn’t know if I would have a home in a week, but he forced us to pay for a dinner. He also told me that we would have to have a reception with a big sit down dinner for my daughters’ wedding receptions, because that’s how we do things here in Babylon.

  71. Floyd, your bishop is a perfect butthole. I would say the other word, which I find totally appropriate, but it is Times and Seasons after all.

    I’ve never heard of that, never.

  72. I was inactive at the time, but I gave one of my really good friends about $300 worth of groceries as their wedding presents. None of it was perishable, all canned, boxed, bottled, dry, etc., so it was kind of like food storage, but it was stuff that people eat and use on a regular basis.

    In addition to the obligatory thank-you shortly after the wedding, about a year later I got a note when they used up the last of it, thanking me for the sensible gift that saved them from making trips to the grocery store when they didn’t have time.

  73. When I married in SLC temple a billion years ago, we spent under 2K dress to cleanup including tux’s. Our reception was thin. Mint chocolate chip ice cream and a donated cake. Balloons and streamers. Dance music I put on tape played on a boom box. Fairytale ended tragically.

    New marriage: 500 guests, civil ceremony, temple sealed in Nauvoo a year later. My pop and his mom are Nons, so we thought we could salve hurt feelings since this was #2 for both of us.

    Didn’t work. Pop went fishing instead,his mom was mad because there were people everywhere swarming like zombies chanting “cake…cake…I’d like cake”. No focus on appropriate factors at all. Too much “Cinderella”, not enough “Union Under God”.

    Gifts: I’m all about giving year’s supply these days. If you a re more affluent, a year’s supply of wheat or beans, if less a year’s supply of sugar or spice or TP or ketchup. For really close family, we do 72 hr kits.

    Sit down dinners: I’m against them. It isn’t about the food, it’s about the couple, who would really rather be going on their honeymoon soon. Wish them well, eat the cake, give them their hymnal with their name engraved on it, and take your thank-you bell. This is about their happiness- no amount of rubbery chicken, or stringy shrimp, or gag-me roast beef will make them more happy then driving off with their friends and family wishing them well.

  74. Please don’t attack me…
    I’m sharing my views because I havn’t seen anyone else try to defend luxurious weddings, or point out reasonings for them, I’m interested to see if anyone agrees/can come up with a good reason why someone should spend $25,000 plus on a wedding.

    A few reasons possibly to spend a lot on a wedding:
    1- Desire. My parents spent a lot on my wedding because they wanted too. My mother had fun/and stress planning everything in my absense, I’d been away for a long time and it turned out to be a wonderful event and I’m forever in their debt because of it.

    2- Family prominency. One father was the temple president and the other a Bishop and an OBGYN (so EVERY lds female saw him) so they had over 600 people at her wedding.

    Its the same thing as asking why do people spend $60,000 on a car?

  75. I am commenting just to let Emily know she has at least some support.

    I agree with Emily that there are legitimate reasons to have a nice wedding reception.

    As to her number 1, doesn’t anyone else like to be invited to nice parties? Doesn’t anyone find them fun and memorable and thus worthwhile? I personally don’t feel like someone who has a luxurious wedding/reception and invites me is shoving their wealth in my face in order to denigrate me. I feel like, wow, lucky me, this is a great party!

    As to Emily’s number 2, if the parents are in a position where they attend nice parties thrown by others and perhaps even throw nice parties for their own friends, business associates and employees, there is no reason that the party they throw for the wedding/reception of one of their children should be the least elaborate of these social events.

  76. Most of the people I see (Mo or No-Mo) who spend exorbitant amounts on wedding and receptions are flaunting their fine twined linens, grinding on the face of the poor, etc. The bride considers it her day in the lime light and wants the best of everything. Daddy invites his customers and business associates hoping to show off how successful he is.

    When we complain about couples who decorate the cultural hall with streamers and serve homemade mints, we are really grinding on the face of the poor. My in-laws had no money to spend on a wedding or reception. Fine. It was my wedding, so my wife and I paid for it ourselves. We kept it within our budget, which was meager. I invited people to the reception so that they could celebrate our happiness with us … [snip]

    I think that the temple ceremony should serve as a type of how we should conduct our wedding related activities outside of the temple. Things are kept simple and inexpensive. The objective is to lift us to a higher plane.

    Or perhaps I’m still hurt by the bishop who FORCED us to pay for a dinner for anyone who wanted to attend after my son’s funeral. His reasoning: that’s the way we do things here. It didn’t matter that the hospital bills alone were over $850,000. I didn’t know if I would have a home in a week, but he forced us to pay for a dinner. He also told me that we would have to have a reception with a big sit down dinner for my daughters’ wedding receptions, because that’s how we do things here in Babylon.

    So help, I will track that bishop down and see him judged between heaven and earth.

    Otherwise I very much find myself agreeing with your post.

  77. Ginny,

    I’ve been to the formal receptions with sit-down dinner. I found it boring even when expensive. The bigger it was, the more boring. I have little patience with standing around in fancy dress chatting with people I don’t know well. I guess if you’re an extrovert then it might be fun. My preference is to read, go for a run, ride my bike…I like friends and family, but in doses under 50 please.

    I understand the social pressure for a big wedding–my parents grew up in New England, went to school there, etc. That’s why they were preparing for a big wedding with a huge list of invitees. Maybe they were just lucky that I married rather late, had no desire to be a fairytale “princess”, and hadn’t gone to an Ivy League school with the resulting classmates and career. I’m not suggesting that those are bad things, or that you necessarily fit that mold, just saying that life *could* have gone that way for me and didn’t. To my parents’ families and school friends, I’m odd to start with, so they didn’t expect normality when I married. I chaffed off Rensselaer and went to a military academy for college, I move every 2-3 years (sometimes faster depending on the Air Force assignment system), my husband has 2 teenage boys and is back in college, and we sign up for adventure races whenever possible. They weren’t expecting a traditional wedding, and we had more latitude to do as we pleased.

    You may very well have married in a location and culture where you felt that you had to conform. I’m sorry that your resources and your expectations didn’t match at that time, and that it’s continued to be an issue. That’s why I suggest that anyone dealing with that same disparity simply break the mold altogether, instead of taking half-measures which allow guests to make a direct comparison. Let’s go back to the car analogy: you take me for a ride in your Bentley. I take you for a kayak trip. You have no way of knowing whether a Seaward kayak is the best or not–it’s only a problem if it springs a leak and you end up swimming. If everything goes well, you enjoy the paddle trip as something new and different, and no-one complains that it wasn’t a Bentley, because it wasn’t meant to be and it wasn’t billed as one.

    I applaud your attempt to step outside the box–I think you needed to step a little farther outside to avoid the strained result, that’s all. Go ahead and plan to mend some of those fences at a gala 10-year anniversary party, but be cautious about expecting that such an event will do everything you want it to do. Nine years is a long time to let resentments fester. Have you considered one-on-one discussions with those friends and relatives who were put off by the less-expensive wedding and quietly explained that finances were an issue? If they’re still offended after that, maybe it’s time to reexamine why you’re friends with them at all. I know that sounds really harsh, but it’s no harsher than being dropped by a friend (?) because *your* wedding didn’t meet *their* expectations.

    In the final analysis, I don’t live in your social stratum. (I have my own definition of elite, based on commissioned rank and professional competence. I know exactly what my commander makes, but I doubt his fellow colonels care about how much he spends on weddings or whether they are invited.) So I can’t say you are right or wrong to feel the way you do. But from an outside view, it seems a little warped to go into debt on a big reception simply because that’s what was expected by your peers.

  78. Let me see if I’ve got this straight: if we don’t have alcohol at our Mormon wedding receptions, it’s just a stupid party, and if we don’t spend a lot of money on the reception, we’re not really committed to each other? Not sure I follow that logic.

  79. In the Eastern European tradition in which I was raised weddings can go on for four days. The wedding guests expect a great party. In return they bring expensive gifts/cash. The couple reap the benefits. The wedding, paid for by the parents, is their gift to the couple who will reap the benefits. This is one reason to have a big wedding.

    Of course this is a lot easier to do in the non-LDS culture where families tend to be smaller and weddings less frequent.

  80. We spent about $1000 on our wedding and have been dizzily happy with our marriage, though my wife intermittently wishes we had done something fancier. I’m glad to see weddings as expressions of community, and our community (Utah-based Mormonism) has a long cultural legacy of frugality. I have no objection to using the church (with its basketball standards) and simple drinks and food. I also have no objection to a fancier wedding in a fancier culture, though it’s a shame if people are driven to it by a standard they inwardly reject.
    There is one phenomenon my wife has noticed that is at least a little funny: Mormon nouveaux riches will sometimes try to split the difference by using expensively very tacky food/accoutrements at their wedding, in which case they have only evinced their affluence and their simultaneous lack of high-cultural insight. Those are sad I guess.
    I suppose another option for $26k is to use the church, buy a car for cash, and then give people rides around the “cultural hall” in your new car. There could be streamers, soda cans, and the Herbie Goes to Hollywood theme song on the horn.

    PS one possible argument about honoring the ceremony is that significant cultural and emotional investment is made in the notion of the eternal marriage which occurs in the temple. It is possible that some of the gravitas obtained from that institution is reflected in non-LDS weddings by their festal extravagance–both are ways to honor the significance of the bond being made. And ours just costs 10% of our income…

  81. sam b–Funny you should mention buying a car. My parents had one of those traditional weddings–and raked in enough cash in wedding gifts that they DID go pay cash for a car the next day.

  82. I think this post is dead, but i wanted to thank all of you who described your weddings.

  83. A $5000 budget for a wedding reception that is supposed to be a celebration of an eternal event is not too much or too little to spend and will not cause financial ruin. There are some main problems with LDS weddings which cause costs to rise and cause people to go to the other end of extreme and throw the cheapest wedding reception which gets ridicule from those who choose not to go to that extreme.
    1) Everyone thinks they need to invite everyone in the ward or anyone they have ever met or associated with in a calling. High guest list counts automatically mean higher cost if you want to have anything that isn’t “cheap” looking. If the bride and groom and their parents would only invite those people who are close family and friends and who really care about your eternal event, say 100 people total, then the costs would go down dramatically. There might even be more meaning to the event if you know most of the people there. I think most young couples are thinking, more guests, more gifts.
    Just this last week my mother-in-law got a wedding invitation from someone… who they don’t know. They don’t recognize the names or the faces in the picture. And it was even from out of state.
    2) Decorating the gym… need I say more? There is the cost for massive decorations and rentals of linen, etc. trying to not make it look like a basketball court. Why not use a hotel or other location? They provide setup/take down, linens, real dishes and silverware, menus to fit your budget (just tell them what your budget is, how many people, what type of food you’re looking for and you would be amazed with what they come up with), and you only have to have minimum decorations (table centerpieces usually). Some allow you to provide your own cake and music. The setup and take down convinced my mom to use a hotel for my sister’s wedding reception after 3 months earlier she did mine in the church gym. She ended up paying less for the hotel reception than for the one at the gym. Sometimes even switching the wedding to a Thursday or Friday will cut the price drastically. And those that really want to come will take the day off work to come. An added bonus will be that if it isn’t at the church, guests will most likely come dressed for the occassion (hence, no blue jeans and tee-shirts), and they will also leave their children at home (since they aren’t on the invitation anyways) .
    3) Gifts… it is nice to know where someone is registered, but it is tacky to put the registry cards in the invitations implying that the guest needs to buy you a gift and off your list. If they want to know if you are registered, they will usually call and ask.
    4) Where is the groom’s family in this? They need to help with the bill. They are inviting people too. Divide up the cost somehow to make it fair. And then they probably should have some say in how the money is spent.
    5) Reception versus Open House. If you aren’t going to have any entertainment/program or a sit-down meal (buffet or served), then the reception is really an open house and should be advertised as thus. An open house is what I think you really are throwing if you go to the extreme and only spend $1000 or less for some mints and punch, you might just be using the gym instead of a house since you have invited the whole Stake.
    6) Since most people are changing from having a full receiving line, guests have no clue who the parents are. When I attend a reception for a friend I think it is nice to meet the new spouse’s family. When you don’t introduce them in some way and the bride and groom just walk around aimlessly stopping here and there, it becomes chaos. If guests would arrive on time and sit down, then a bride and groom could introduce the parents and family from a microphone and then walk around to tables to talk to guests. The way to get mosts guests there on time (since LDS shamefully have some problem with this) is to have a start time, but no end time on the invitation.
    7) Clothes… tux or suit… why is this so difficult? A tux is used for the most formal of occassions in our culture. Is not a wedding the most formal occasion for an LDS couple? Of course the guests should not wear tuxedos and formal wear. But Sunday best is the appropriate dress for weddings.
    8) Reduction in wedding party members…. what happened to having bridesmaids and groomsmen? They are supposed to pay for their clothes anyways so it really has no reflection on your budget except for flowers. Yes, don’t go to extremes, but at least include siblings and their children. They do like dressing up too usually instead of blending in with the other guests.
    9) If you don’t want to do a meal, then do a dessert buffet, or appetizers. And have enough. No one remembers that you had too much, but everyone always remembers if you run out.
    10) Photography… should be professional or someone who really knows what they are doing. It is the only thing that you can look back at and show your children some day. It is always worth the price. Shop around for a good deal.

    Overall my opinion is that LDS wedding receptions need to be more personable and intimate. Fewer guests, elegant/romantic setting, some sort of program/outline of the event, not rushed (groom trying to step up the timeline so he can get to the honeymoon), food fitting the occassion. The occasion should be one to remember nicely, not one to remember as embarrassing later in life.
    LDS and non-LDS wedding are always going to be different. Non-LDS people don’t have the same standards or concept of marriage as we do. You can’t compare them. The cost of your wedding is not going to cause a divorce. If you think that is a main factor, then you have bigger problems.

  84. I think the underlying assumption of this entire discussion is a little naïve. The idea seems to be that the average cost of a wedding (26,000) indicates that people are spending too much on weddings. First of all, you can’t necessarily tell much about what an “averageâ€? person is spending on a wedding based on the average cost of all weddings. You have to think of all the multi-million dollar Hollywood weddings that are tipping the average away from what people closer to a normal socio-economic scale are doing. Just because the average cost of a wedding is 26,000 doesn’t meant that most people are actually spending anywhere near that amount.

    And secondly, wealth and money are always relative. I think what we want to avoid is extravagance. Dollar amounts aren’t the best measure of extravagance. There are too many additional variables that need to be taken into consideration.

    For example, it may be perfectly fine in Utah to have a wedding in a cultural hall. That’s great. But when my wife and I got engaged perhaps the fastest wedding plan we made was that we would never, under any circumstances, have our marriage in the cultural hall. It’s not that the cultural hall isn’t “good enoughâ€? for us (I would have been happy to elope).

    Secondly, we also decided that we would serve wine at our wedding. Lots of it. Most of our friends and family are not Mormons, and we wanted them to feel comfortable.

    These types of decisions are especially important when most of the family can’t come to the temple sealing. There’s plenty or room for moderation between the extremes of being a pharisee with our faith and being ashamed of it.

    The rest of our decisions followed the simple objective: make the wedding as close to what my wife wanted it to be, and as comfortable and happy an experience for the guests, as was possible without going into any debt.

    The result? We had a couple hundred non-Mormons experience a Mormon wedding as a wonderful, fun, awesome party. There was music with A LOT of dancing, there was a Muslim as the best man giving the toast, and there was mingling and friendship for all. A lot of the stereotypes of intolerance and prudery we don’t need were dispelled, and my father’s beautiful description of what marriage means to Mormons unabashedly – but humbly – presented the Mormon faith to our friends and my wife’s family in a way that left everyone comfortable.

    We spent about $5,000 on the whole thing – although it cost more because a nice lady in the church picked up the tab for the catering (we weren’t going to cater, but she didn’t want my mom and my wife’s mom trying to prepare food during the reception).

    The point of this isn’t that everyone should have a wedding like ours – it’s that there’s no point to trying to use dollars to estimate whether or not a wedding is appropriate. And if people feel pressured to “keep upâ€? with the rising costs of weddings, that’s no excuse to spend exorbitant (relative to their means) money on their own wedding.

    On a final note – I understand that if someone is going to dozens of weddings a year it may be hard to get a nice gift, but many Mormons are so horribly, embarassingly stingy that the absolute least you can do is at least pick something cheap that’s on the registry. My wife and I made sure we had plenty of suggestions in the below $20 range. A lot of our guests were college undergrads, we didn’t expect expensive gifts from them.

    I don’t mean to offend anyone with that “stingyâ€? comment and I’m sure there are lots of exceptions. But out here the more “Utahâ€? a Mormon is, the more they’re likely to skip tips entirely. It’s horribly embarassing to me to see it happen, and it annoyed me greatly when people would do it to my wife. She was a waitress for a couple of years, and NO ONE tipped worse than the Mormons. I’m less than year out of college, I don’t come from a family with a lot of money, but I know that if you have the money to spend on eating out you can leave a decent tip for the hard-working people (who probably have even less than you) who depend on your tips to make the most of their money.

    Just had to get that out of my system.

  85. The pictures we took with disposable cameras spread among trustworthy friends were almost on the level of the professional photographer’s. In fact, I think some were better.

  86. I know I’m a few weeks too late for anyone to read this, but I used to run one of the large bridal magazines in Utah, and for 10 years have owned a wedding invitations company. So, first, let me say that Mormon weddings don’t average $26K. Nationally, the average bride spends $26K, but around here we average $10K. MUCH of that comes from our temples being free, and the reception centers being cheap or free (gyms are free, real reception centers in Utah at least are

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