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News alert: weddings do not have to break the bank

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My blog neighbor Jane the Actuary has a little news today about spiraling wedding costs, and points out that the numbers you’ve been hearing—upwards of $30k—may not be accurate.And she adds this personal detail at the end:

That the wedding industry has done such a good job of convincing couples that an expensive say-yes-to-the-dress type dress is obligatory, and a sit-down dinner reception, and so on, that couples think that getting married is all about the wedding:  if they can’t afford the bells and whistles, then they think the right thing to do is go on with your everyday life, saving the rings and the change in legal status for a later time, maybe, or eliminating it altogether because the spending is frivolous and wasteful.

19 years ago tomorrow, my husband and I exchanged vows.  Our total spending on the day was about $5,000 — a simple dress, a catered but buffet-style meal for a comparatively small number of guests at the parish center, a DJ.  Knowing my family is mostly fairly light drinkers, we declined the per-person per-hour alcohol charge for a per-use rate.

Let me chime in here. Jane, are you sure you aren’t talking about my wedding?

My bride and I just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary.

On May 24th, 1986, we got married at a small chapel in Rockville, Maryland. About 90 people. We had a string quartet play for the ceremony. The priest did not charge us for use of the church (though I believe we gave him $100 for services rendered). Then we piled into a white Cadillac and rode about a mile down the road to a church hall of a neighboring parish, where we had a pleasant but hardly extravagant buffet (roast beef, if I remember correctly) and danced to music from a DJ.

The whole thing cost a few thousand dollars. Then we went off to Ocean City, Maryland, to a condo owned by my in-laws, for our two-week honeymoon. We ate lots of seafood (Phillips!) and hung out at the boardwalk and rode the Tilt-A-Whirl and got stung by jellyfish and loved every minute of it.

It was perfection. All of it.

We didn’t end up spending the equivalent of a downpayment on a house for a big party or destination wedding.

It’s possible.  Do not believe the gauzy fantasies being peddled on reality TV or in overpriced wedding magazines. It’s not about The Dress, or The Day; it’s about the decades that start unspooling on the morning after.

More importantly, it’s about the husband and wife working each day to do something you don’t think about much on your honeymoon—but that you will want to think about over the many years that follow:

Helping to make each other saints.

Now that is truly living happily ever after

Deacon Greg Kandra
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Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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