The Wedding vs. The Marriage

I’ve attended oodles of weddings.  The occasion is typically a lovely one filled with joy, laughter, and unabashed dancing.  However, nearly every time I’ve sat in the church, community center, or outside on the lawn to witness the ceremony, the same thoughts run through my mind: Why do people spend so much money and time on such a brief event? Why is there more focus on the bride than on the groom?

In the U.S. the custom for weddings is, arguably, to spend a great deal of money on them. Unless you want to have a last-minute gathering in your backyard with a potluck and barbecue, you’ll need to spend money, and often more than desired. I cringe when I think about the exorbitant cost people—friends included—have incurred for the occasion. From a venue and catering to musical entertainment, flowers, and a dress, the numbers easily reach into the tens of thousands.  A Reuters article in 2012 reported that the average cost of a U.S. wedding was $27,021.

My thought about money doesn’t come from judgement. It comes from curiosity and from watching people (some of whom I care very much about) experience a great deal of stress related to their weddings. I’ve been behind the scenes and watched friends and their family members melt down over a number of mishaps from flowers not being the intended color to dresses not being fully fluffed. Yep. I have acquired excellent dress-fluffing skills. And even when the show moves forward and the money has been spent, a wedding event, at least in the U.S., is typically over in a flash.

Wedding Rings

When it comes to a majority of the couples that I’ve known, there is usually more emphasis and attention on the bride than the groom on the wedding day. It’s her day and all eyes are on her. Men generally rent a tuxedo while women purchase a once-in-a-lifetime dress. Women typically receive an eye-catching engagement ring while one is not usually supplied to men. Also, in many cases, it’s the woman, along with her entourage, who advises, plans, and coordinates nearly all aspects of the event.

I take issue with this approach. If marriage is a partnership and the goal is for the two people to stay married forever, then why is there more emphasis on the bride on the wedding day?  I imagine this thinking comes from the history of marriage being a transaction of sorts between two families. The groom’s family either paid a “bride price” to his bride’s family, or the bride’s family paid a “dowry” to assist with her establishing a new household. In either case, there is a clear focus on the woman being the primary factor in the transaction.

My instinct is to focus on both the bride and groom, equally. I want to shower them both with love and attention. When the woman gets more of the spotlight, I feel that this is a reflection of a value placed on women as being more involved in or attentive to the wedding event.  I recognize that this premise is not true for every couple; in some cases, both are very involved and “present”. However, I can’t help but ask: does the energy and preparation that goes into a wedding also go into a marriage? Or, is the event with its high cost and stress the apex?

This may be grim questioning, but I do want to understand how people approach this significant stage in their lives.  The wedding day is meant to be a celebration of a new union and once that union has commenced I realize that it automatically enters a new stage. But what happens afterward, after they’ve returned from their honeymoon? Does a couple receive the same attention and support?

Photo credit: earl53

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