Monday, July 20, 2009

Great Expectations

Ah, the “joys” of wedding planning! Over the past few months, the one question that has kept coming to my mind is, "How can there be an entire industry -- and a fifty billion dollar industry, at that! – supported solely by weddings?" Apparently the average wedding costs somewhere around $20,000. Maybe it's just me, but that seems like a lot of money to spend in less than 24 hours!

After exploring the world of weddings, I can’t blame all of the excess of the wedding industry on brides. Everyone groans about “Bridezillas,” those unfortunate souls who have let anxiety over that “perfect day” make them selfish and nasty. But the more observe, the more I'm shocked by the expectations that brides have to deal with. Expectations that are primarily established by the wedding industry itself. Of *course* they're going to try convince you that you need a limousine, a string quartet, a Vera Wang gown, embossed place cards, an eight-tiered cake, and caviar at your reception. Then they price those wedding services at a premium, which makes it very difficult for brides who don’t have the time and/or skill to make their own gowns or arrange their own flowers. It’s their livelihoods at stake, after all!

Signing the Register

But expectations can also come pouring in from many other quarters -- including friends, family, and the bride herself. We've all gotten so used to seeing "perfect" weddings, with all the bells and whistles (and individual chocolate-dipped spoons at every place setting), that we've come to regard anything less as shabby and inadequate. And what bride wants that stigma on a day that’s supposed to be the most important of her life?

Thus, The Dilemma. On one hand, I am disgusted with the materialistic, money-grubbing wedding industry. But on the other hand, a wedding is an important covenant (both to God and man), and I want to honor that day!

How does one honor God through a wedding? By putting Christ at the center of it all. That’s easy enough to say, but what bearing does such a statement have on wedding favors and invitation fonts? It may be easy to apply to certain aspects (chossing modest wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, for instance), but it’s more challenging to apply to others. Even when you try to keep things simple, there are still details to deal with -- and details can be distracting.

So what’s a bride to do? Is there any compromise between ten minutes with a justice of the peace and a $50,000 extravaganza?

I’m still searching out the answers to most of my questions, still questioning myself constantly to find out why I want certain things a certain way. Or why others say certain things should be a certain way. My crafty soul is delighted by all of the creative outlets that a wedding offers, but it’s just as possible to get carried away in DIY land as it is in the pages of BRIDES magazine. What is it, after all, that makes a great wedding? I don’t think it has anything to do with aisle runners, or flower arrangements, or lighting. The most uplifting wedding I have ever attended was also probably the least expensive wedding I have ever attended! I think that wedding was memorable because the bride and groom were more focused on the marriage than the wedding – focused on the lasting reality of establishing a covenant family, not on whether or not their color scheme was trendy.

Deep down, I still want an elegant wedding. Just like every other bride in America. I’m rather curious to find out what my wedding will be like! A strange thought, perhaps, but I think it's the kind of thing you can’t predict. So onward we go, moving ever closer to the “big day,” trying to work through all the details without letting them take over. Trying to discover what makes a wedding elegant and memorable. Trying to redefine what's "necessary" and decide where "more than necessary" is okay. And (hopefully) avoiding the entanglements of trying to satisfy needless expectations!


  1. What an awesome post, Shannon. I am so glad that your desire is to glorify God in your wedding!

    It's funny that you posted this today, because just yesterday some friends of us were telling us about their cousin's wedding that went so absolutely horrible-- the bride was "in charge" of everything, and was getting so stressed and nasty, and everything went wrong! Scary! I've often thought I will want a small wedding with just immediate family and closest friends, on the lakeside. We'll see. :-)

    Anyway, I'll pray for you as you and Pablo prepare for your wedding and for your life together, that the Lord would guide you and that He will be glorified.

    BTW, I love the pictures you posted. :-)

  2. Shannon, I'm old enough to be your mom, but I believe you are thinking straight. When my husband and I got to this very point in our wedding planning, we pulled back and said, "the purpose of our wedding is to honor God and to get us married; the rest is just the frosting on the cake." Yes, you want it to be memorable, and it will be; it can't help but be! But it won't be perfect. In fact, the flubs will be the thing you laugh about most as the years go by. My advice is to enjoy the ride, but don't let the preparations make you forget your husband-to-be. Sometimes the guys can be swept aside with all the tulle and flowers. You are going to be fine. I'm enjoying your posts about all your wedding plans. Oh, to be young again!
    Mrs. R. in California

  3. Hi, Shannon!

    I've been following your blog for a while but have never commented. First, congratulations to you and your soon-to-be husband! This is such an exciting time. I'm getting married soon, too, and thought I'd pass along some tips that have helped me cut my budget A LOT in case they might help you.

    1. Look for local flower wholesale shops. I can get all of the flowers wholesale for about 1/10 of the price of going to a florist. Sure, I'll have to arrange them, but a dear friend's mom is helping out, and they'll look so much better! This includes all centerpieces, bouquets, church flowers, etc. Costco also has delightful flower selections for very little money.

    2. I really wanted Crane invitations... but alas, didn't want to pay a ton of money. I found a very pretty blank set of monarch-sized cards on sale, and ran them through a printer. Total cost? About $50. I'm getting our place cards from there as well, since the clearance sale is going on right now! This is a great way to get really high-quality paper for a fraction of the price it would cost to have them done professionally.

    3. Depending on what you're having for food service, don't discount the possibility of a sit-down dinner. I thought heavy hors d'oeuvres or a buffet would be far cheaper than a seated dinner, but that was not the case. So, we're going with a seated dinner!

    4. Friday night events and Sunday afternoon events are often far less expensive than Saturday events.

    5. When in doubt, just ask! It never hurts to ask for a discount. One place I was considering came down 20% after one email request for a discount. Getting married right now can have its perks, as many event places, caterers, florists, etc. will give discounts to secure your business.

    Best wishes in your planning!

  4. My husband and I had a very nice wedding, for about $7500 (including the cost of the building, catered rehearsal dinner, and catered reception). We invited over 300 families, and had over 200 in attendance at the ceremony and reception.

    We did a lot of our own decorating, including making the floral arrangements and centerpieces. We asked our talented friends to provide a lot of the items we needed, including music (actually a 17 piece orchestra), photography, the cake etc. and because they were our friends, though professionals in their respective areas, they discounted their prices and we knew they would pay attention to detail (more than a stranger would) since they knew us.

    The photography was actually the most expensive part (we wanted to make sure we had quality prints that would last and capture our day).

    Our guests were surprised at how little our wedding cost when looking at everything we did. And they called it the wedding of the century.

    We had a Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella wedding and had to acutally pay royalties to use the music. That's the reason we had the 17 piece orchestra.

    Low budget fancy affairs, are very possible, just be willing to compromise.

  5. A wedding is indeed a wonderful celebration of you and your beloved. I also think of it as a lovely time of friendship and fellowship. I think the glory comes from the mindset that it is more about the beginning of a journey joyfully shared with friends and family... and less about "me me me me me, the bride".

    Hand dipping spoons in chocolate one winter day shared with a couple girlfriends is a wonderful memory as you prepare for the big day. The opposite is a girl obsessed with perfection that somehow the more pretty the party is, regardless of cost and stress, the better the marriage will be.

    I only know you from the blog world (a link to a link to a link!) but enjoy watching this generation of lovely girls as you graduate and find love. I must admit that the refreshing excitement and eagerness to marry and set up home is humbling and encouraging to me. Reminds me how I am living the same dream I too looked forward to. (now that I am often tired, surrounded by children and dishes!)

    You seem to be very wise. May you be always blessed.

  6. Hi Shannon, I found your blog through another blog, I forget where...anyway, I have been married nearly one year, and I wanted to encourage your desire to have a simple (but elegant) God-glorifying wedding. Some of the best advice I received was for me and my husband to list our "top ten" priorities, and then use these to spend money and plan. For example, good-quality photos were very important to both of us, so this is the thing we spent the most money on! In contrast, neither of us cared very much about decorations, so we had an assortment of beautiful (and nearly free!) wildflowers for our decorations. Enjoy this season and God bless you :)

  7. I got married in october 2007, and if I have one advice to give you is this one: make that day being a reflection of who you two are, period. And believe me, your guests will be delighted and it will be the most beautiful day of your life. :)

  8. Check out "Unless the Lord" blog - they just did a wonderful, beautiful wedding very inexpensively but elegant!

  9. Hi, I am a regular reader of your blog but I don't believe I've ever commented.

    I just want to encourage you that you can have a beautiful and economical wedding! Others have posted some of these ideas but here's what I learned from organizing my own wedding.

    Order flowers from a wholesaler--I didn't have one in my area so I got my flowers from 2G Roses I have no affliation with them other than overjoyed customer. I made some of the arrangements myself and talented friends did the rest.

    Rent a high quality digital camera and have a talented friend (notice a trend here?) take the pictures. I think our camera rental was $50 and we were able to get crystal clear prints up to 36" wide. Even better if a friend has such a camera you can borrow.

    If you're intimidated by baking your own get your wedding cake from a grocery store. I was aghast at what specialty bakeries were charging! I think we paid under .50 a serving and people raved about how good it was. The decorations on the cake were lovely too. We didn't tell where the cake was from and everyone assumed it was somewhere much ritzier than their local grocery!

    I had my invitations printed from an online shop--cheap but lovely quality. I forget the shop I used but there are so many good ones that it wouldn't be a problem to find another.

    Make your own dress (which you are already doing). My wedding dress meant so much more to me because I sewed it myself and I was able to have it just as I wished. I asked my attendants to wear simple knee length dresses that they already owned. They brought them to the bridal shower so we could be sure they coordinated.

    Have friends bring a dish for the wedding reception. We supplied a ham and the cake and everything else was donated (and delicious). Especially in these economically challenging times I would imagine folks would be grateful to contribute to a wedding rather than purchasing an expensive gift.

    I hope these ideas are helpful. Have a wonderful day!

  10. Thank you all for your kind words and suggestions! It's so encouraging to hear from others who have been through this before, and I'm always up for new ideas!

    Yours in Christ,

  11. What lovely thoughts!! :)
    It is good to go out of the box
    and do things differently than what is expected in an economical way!
    With Christ as your focus....
    you are bound for a sweet wedding!!!

    Many Blessings~ Miss Jen

  12. Ah it is so hard to get the right balance, but as long as you are seeking to honour the Lord, and focusing on the marriage not just the wedding, I'm sure you will do fine :-)

  13. Also, just to add, I think if you have speeches, they can really set the tone for a wedding - and also readings etc in the church. The last wedding I went to was my (non-christian) brother's. It was the most extravagant and show-stopping wedding I've ever been too, but it was quite different to the christian weddings I've been to - there was a marked difference because the speeches and readings, on the whole, were very much *not* focused on the Lord. I'm sure you will get it right because you and your fiance *are* christians!

  14. A friend of mine has just started a courtship which now they are pretty sure will lead to marriage, because they think that God really has put them togeather to be one. I was talking with my sister, another friend and this young lady about what she thought about a wedding. What would she do for her wedding if she were to marry her suitor. She said she wants it to be totally focused on the Lord and so does her suitor as you do also Shannon. I also don't want the center of attention to be on just me the bride at my own wedding Lord willing. I want it to be focused on the two of us before the Lord surrendering our marriage to Him!

    Shannon I pray that Pablo and you will be blessed and be focused on our Lord through this time. I agree a wedding should not be expensive in the world's eyes, but should be rich in honoring our Lord.

    In Christ and with love,

  15. Oh and I am a regular reader of your blog Shannon and I can't wait to meet you on the England trip with Mrs. Chancey!

  16. Hello:
    My DH and i will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary this Saturday. We were married in town hall, during night court - surrounded by our most beloved friends and a few family members. My bridal bouquet came from the county fair, a friend picked it out for me the night before. Our reception was held at His family's house, in the backyard a month after the wedding (so the weather would be a bit cooler!) The cake was made by my cousin-in-law and decorated with flowers from her yard. My dress came from the thrift store.
    We've had 19 years of bliss together.

    I wish you happiness, no matter how the ceremony comes together. $20,000 doesn't make a happy wedded life!

    Blessing upon you both,


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for stopping by!