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Raise a toast to marital bliss, and its price tag of $26,000
Kansas City Star ^ | 4/10/05 | Lisa Gutierrez and Jenee Osterheldt

Posted on 04/11/2005 8:59:33 AM PDT by qam1

Haydee Leon is planning her wedding with a spreadsheet in hand.

It's the “something new” prospective brides need these days.

Leon and her fiance, Chris Mandernach, 25, have set a budget for their Sept. 18 wedding at The Clubhouse on Baltimore, and she's determined not to overspend.

When they got engaged in December, they decided they wanted a wedding that was elegant and in good taste, “but without going overboard,” says Leon, 26, who lives in Overland Park. “Something that was just reasonable.”

In the end, they decided that $16,000 was reasonable. It is, compared to the cost of a typical U.S. wedding, which is now more than $26,000.

That's almost 50 percent more than what they cost in 1990 according to the latest estimates from the industry.

Americans, it seems, are in love with love, and a savvy industry that throws seminars for photographers and wedding planners on how to “sell the bride” is a more-than-willing suitor.

From TV shows such as “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?” and movies such as “Bride and Prejudice,” to bridal expos, celebrity wedding coverage and Internet bridal sites, everywhere you turn, someone is saying “I do” — or at least telling us how to do it. This weekend will surely bring up the subject again with Prince Charles' royal wedding in England.

Today, the bride-to-be has her pick of at least 77 bridal magazines on newsstands, more than four times as many as the 18 published in 1989, according to the National Directory of Magazines.

Most of them will tell the happy couple how to save money and many a father of the bride has joked about mortgaging the house to pay for his daughter's wedding.

These days, that's no laughing matter.

Before World War I, the average wedding cost one-third of the annual U.S. median family income, says Alan Fields in Boulder, Colo. He and his wife, Denise, have become well-known watchdogs of the wedding industry.

By the 1960s, it had risen to half. Today, wedding costs are closing in on 60 percent of annual family incomes, says Fields, co-author of the popular Bridal Bargains series of books.

It's all too much for some couples. The commercialization of weddings has caused inflation and people are forgetting what the ceremony is about, says Pete Tarantino, a 35-year-old Kansas City loan officer who just got married to Susan, 31.

“It's important to stay focused on spending a lifetime together and not just a day,” Tarantino says of the planning process. “It's about your relationship with your spouse and your relationship with God. Stay away from the magazines and the TV shows, and be involved with each other.”

“The focus has moved to the bride's dress, the size of the ring or how many people are at the reception, when it needs to be the exact opposite,” he says.

How did we get to this point? The idea of the big, fancy wedding is seductive.

Cele Otnes, an associate professor of business administration at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, spent four years researching weddings for a book she co-wrote with colleague Elizabeth Pleck called Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding.

One reason the lavish wedding has taken off to near recession-proof costs, they argue, is that “it allows people to experience magic in their lives,” Otnes says.

It's guilt-free magic, she says, because people tell themselves this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, though that's not necessarily true anymore. Half of all new unions involve at least one partner who is marrying for a second time. And there's no more reluctance in spending big on a second wedding either. Encore weddings in the United States average about $12,000, Otnes says.

Weddings also let people “remember themselves as close as they'll ever get to being celebrities,” Otnes says. “People are young, and probably the most attractive they'll ever be, given the amount of pampering that's gone into one day.

“When you think about the powerful task that it accomplishes, it's hard to beat. You get a lot of sociological and emotional bang for the buck, even at $26,000.”

Romance is a huge driver of consumerism, Otnes says, quoting one of her sources who suggested that the lavish wedding allows us to express our romance with consumption and our consumption of romance.

So is it any wonder that the fairytale wedding has become the picture of a romantic marriage?

“A fantasy is much more appealing than reality,” says Susan Shapiro Barash, professor of gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College and author of The New Wife: The Evolving Role of the American Wife.

The glamorized wedding epitomizes the hope for happily ever after and with that idea comes the willingness to create it at any cost, says Barash.

And it's important to today's young bride that her marriage is enduring. These are the daughters of baby-boomer women, many of whom are divorced or have never been married but often have careers and educations, she says.

But when these brides look at their grandmothers, they see women who have been married for 50 years to the same man. They want that kind of marriage. They want to live “happily ever after.”

“The 21st-century wife is determined to not have a stressful marriage, but to have a very romantic, exciting marriage,” Barash says.

Sarah Burkindine of Prairie Village has seen the fantasy of it all while planning her Nov. 5 wedding to Brian Roberts, 32.

“Weddings are becoming more of an event,” says Burkindine, 28. “I definitely think people are spending more these days on weddings than they did years ago.

“My aunt got married in the early to mid-‘80s and my grandmother paid for it by herself, and that wedding was much less than $10,000,” says Burkindine. “My sister recently got married and had a wedding similar to that one, but 20 years later the cost more than doubled.”

That is closer to the cost of the average $20,000 Kansas City wedding, according to local bridal publications.

“Weddings are more extravagant,” Burkindine says. “It's not your basic dress, tux and 50 guests. People get wrapped up in the little details, like favors, chair covers, huge halls, big bands and outstanding florists. But there's a supply and demand, and people will pay for it.”

It would be hard for any one person to pay for all of the cost themselves, Burkindine says. Her budget is made up of a large contribution from her parents, some from his parents and a few thousand from the couple.

That's not necessarily a new phenomenon, but this pitching in to cover the cost of a wedding is happening more often these days, wedding experts say.

“It's just becoming more unusual for the bride's family to foot the bill,” says Kara Corridan, executive editor of Modern Bride and Elegant Bride magazines in New York. “It happens, but it's not the norm anymore. It's almost seen as old-fashioned.

“We know a lot of couples bringing in a nice income and they feel funny turning around asking their parents to pay for it.”

Even arbiters of etiquette such as Peggy Post contend that it's not unusual for families to pool their money to get their sons and daughters hitched. Today, approximately 25 percent of weddings are paid for solely by the bride's parents, according to wedding industry estimates.

“I think that's a reflection of that $20,000 figure,” says Alan Fields. “It's just a lot of money.”

The Cinderella Dreams authors found little backlash to the lavish wedding during their four years of research. But they didn't meet Kansas City couple Jamillah Duckett and her husband, Quentin. They steered well away from the marketing and hype when it came to their 2004 wedding.

“My wedding was simple, intimate, elegant and romantic,” says Duckett, 29, whose wedding cost about $2,500. “I only had my sister stand up with me, and his brother stood up with him, and I would not change a thing about my day.”

Duckett thinks people have forgotten what a wedding is supposed to be.

“Spending your whole life savings makes for a dream wedding, but it's not the (blueprint) for a healthy marriage,” Duckett says.

“One of the main things for my husband and I is that we had to remember that this was our day, because everyone is going to give you their opinion of how they think your wedding should go and that, in itself, can be stressful,” Duckett says.

“Just remember the purpose and you'll be fine.”

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: bombproofprenup; genx; loveandmarriage; stupidwasteofmoney; vegas; waytomuch; zirconiaisforever
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To: qam1
The "princess for a day" thing is such a foolish thing to rack up debt for before the marriage has even started.

What makes more sense to me is to have the big party A) after they've been married 25 years and actually have something meaningful to celebrate, and B) when they can afford it.

21 posted on 04/11/2005 9:32:00 AM PDT by Lizavetta
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To: Petronski

Got married by the police chaplain in my apartment when I graduated the academy. $100.00, tops. $750 for the engagement ring. If it would have cost $26,000, I'd still be single.

22 posted on 04/11/2005 9:34:00 AM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: Mr Rogers
Anyone who thinks the initial passion will last unchanged is setting themselves up for a divorce.

It's sad to say, but I know of a half-dozen or so couples where one of them became "unhappy" after 7-10 years. Were they abused, did their spouse run around on them, was their spouse lazy and couldn't hold a job? No...their significant other just became, "unhappy."

23 posted on 04/11/2005 9:34:14 AM PDT by Lou L
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To: retrokitten

"I didn't get the big huge wedding gene (I think I got the big huge butt gene instead ;-))."

I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read this but my butt kept me firmly anchored. I've never been married but if I do get hitched it will be a very small wedding but a nice big picnic/party at a later date for friends and family.

Never was into the girly girl pricess wedding thing.

24 posted on 04/11/2005 9:35:28 AM PDT by cjshapi
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To: Larry Lucido

Oh, yea, and coming up on 19 years May 20. Hmm, better put that on the calendar...........

25 posted on 04/11/2005 9:35:29 AM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: qam1

Wow! Seeing stuff like that sometimes makes me glad Mr. Ex and I eloped...we were only out the cost of our marriage license, lol! I wore a simple white dress I already owned, and he wore new jeans, a Western shirt and Ropers that HE already owned. We didn't even buy our rings until five months later. (Wowee, did he give me a nice engagement ring for Christmas that year, though, which I wasn't expecting!) :)

26 posted on 04/11/2005 9:36:31 AM PDT by exnavychick (There's too much youth; how about a fountain of smart?)
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To: Larry Lucido

You damn right!

The bride and groom should take that money and buy a house with thick curtains and a great big bed. That's the happiness. A bit of financial security and plenty of sweet, sweet lovin'.

27 posted on 04/11/2005 9:37:12 AM PDT by Petronski (I thank God Almighty for a most remarkable blessing: John Paul the Great.)
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To: Lizavetta

"The "princess for a day" thing is such a foolish thing to rack up debt for before the marriage has even started."

Yep, add to that the fact that most couples argue of money and their debt is the biggest stress factor and these couples are just mixing the divorce recipe! Talk about self fulfilling prophecies....

28 posted on 04/11/2005 9:38:45 AM PDT by CSM
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To: exnavychick

Did he at least buy a nice ladder?

29 posted on 04/11/2005 9:40:24 AM PDT by Larry Lucido
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To: jwfiv

Robert Johnson-esque ping.

30 posted on 04/11/2005 9:41:13 AM PDT by Serb5150 (Christlich leben selig sterben ist das beste das wir erben.)
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To: Voltage

My wife and I were married in the mid-70s. The wedding cost around $150, and most of that was for a dinner-reception for the immediate family only. Her uncle was the minster and we used his church. The ceremony took about 15 minutes. My uncle was the photographer. She had a friend make her wedding dress at low cost. I wore a sport jacket and slacks.

30 years, 7 kids, and 5 grandkids later it's still going strong.

31 posted on 04/11/2005 9:41:27 AM PDT by topcat54
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To: qam1

Mrs. Moment and I saved the cost of the party and got married by the local JP. 11 years later, we're still just as married, still happy, and still $26,000 ahead.

IMO, this HUGE wedding business is absolutely ridiculous!!!

32 posted on 04/11/2005 9:45:12 AM PDT by DustyMoment (FloriDUH - proud inventors of pregnant/hanging chads and judicide!!)
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To: Gingersnap
We had a backyard setting, (relieved) parents donated food, beer and cake. Mom took pictures. Mr RB had a rented tux, but didn't want to have to buy fancy shoes, so he borrowed some from the best man. However, he neglected to try them on until a few minutes before the ceremony. They were 4 sizes too small. He ended up wearing his high top tennis shoes with the Tux. We still laugh at the pictures.

I think we spent no more than $500.00, tops. I waited 23 years for the fancy ring. The one I got more than made up for the wait. We'll have our 25th in a few weeks.

33 posted on 04/11/2005 9:47:22 AM PDT by Red Boots
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To: cjshapi; SuziQ

Another of our long lost sisters! LOL!!

Weddings seem to bring out so much tension in relationships, too. The old saying, "Too many cooks spoil the broth" comes to mind. Everyone from parents to friends want you to do things their way.

My mother in-law and sister in-law didn't speak for a year after SIL's wedding. Why?? Because she had the nerve to have her attendants walk down the aisle NOT in height order! I mean, come on- how petty can you be? But MIL thought this was just completely unreasonable.

34 posted on 04/11/2005 9:52:18 AM PDT by retrokitten (I heart Tony Snow)
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To: qam1

My wedding cost slightly over $20K but we recouped that and profited after all the cash and checks from guests were totalled up.

35 posted on 04/11/2005 9:52:29 AM PDT by Phantom Lord (Advantages are taken, not handed out)
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To: ruiner
I would say almost half our wedding cost is associated with random items that cost a few hundred dollars each. Most people don't "mentally" tabulate that stuff.

Not tabulating the misc. will cause anyone to go bankrupt, and not just in a wedding. Mr. M and I married 18 years ago and total cost from gown to appetizers to the victorian b&b was right at $450. I have to say that my best friend got hitched two weeks later and her gown alone was over $2000 and she was ticked because mine was waaay nicer. It's ludicrous to spend what amounts to a new car or a hefty downpayment on a house on a couple hours of one's life. If a bride needs a spreadsheet, the groom may want to think twice what her future drain on the family income may be.

36 posted on 04/11/2005 9:54:14 AM PDT by mtbopfuyn (Legality does not dictate morality... Lavin)
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To: Phantom Lord


37 posted on 04/11/2005 9:54:46 AM PDT by k2blader (Immorality bites.)
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To: mtbopfuyn

Well, the two of us are neck and neck in salary so the drain works on both of us equally :)

38 posted on 04/11/2005 9:58:22 AM PDT by ruiner
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To: qam1

I didn't pay that much for all three of my weddings.

39 posted on 04/11/2005 9:58:45 AM PDT by Safetgiver (Only two requisites to be a judge. Gray hair to look wise and hemmorhoids to look concerned.)
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To: qam1


That would buy a pair or decent Harleys. And they'd both be happier.

40 posted on 04/11/2005 10:01:42 AM PDT by Eagle Eye (BTDT got the T shirt, shot glass, coffee mug, ball cap, shoulder patch, key chain, challenge coin...)
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