I came across some interesting statistics the other day. As of 2016, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was just under $27,000 and took about 14 months to plan. That’s probably no surprise to anyone that has recently wed, or who have helped plan / finance a wedding for their daughter.
But I kept digging. I found that during that same time period only 44% of engaged couples participated in any form of pre-marital counseling. Of those who did, the median time spent in sessions was around 8 hours.
Take a step back and think about these numbers this way. In our country (on average) we spend 14 months planning for an 8 hour day, but only an 8 hour day to plan a lifetime of marriage. Is it any wonder that our divorce rate is so high? As family and friends, we eat, drink and dance at these celebrations and then a few years later shake our heads for a moment when we hear the couple is divorcing.
There’s a natural let down after any big event is over. Think about Christmas. I know people that go through over a month of preparation, decorating, listening to music, watching Holiday movies on tv, baking and decorating cookies etc. But within days of December 25th, they are dismantling everything that was put up and packing it all away. It’s as if they can’t stand it anymore. That’s only 30-40 days of preparation, not 14 months. How many couples get past the wedding (and the honeymoon if it’s taken) only to stare at each other and say, “Now what?”
I’ve had some counter-cultural ideas in this regard. What if we spent more time in preparing for marriage and kept wedding ceremonies simple? Just a few family members and close friends in attendance to be witnesses as the couple makes a marital covenant before God. Words of encouragement, and financial blessings to get the couple started would still be appropriate.
What if we then shifted our emphasis to celebrating milestones? Imagine if the couple were to throw increasingly large parties to celebrate 5, 10 and 25 years of marriage? At 50 years, the family would throw the party on their behalf. At each of these events, they could have slide shows, or photos or whatever made sense, depicting their lives since their last party. Dinner, dancing and celebrating a successful marriage sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The point is, we would shift our focus from a one day event to a lifetime of successful marriage. The emphasis could shift from a $10,000 wedding dress (that is worn for less than 4 hours total) to a celebratory feast that recognizes those that have been integral in making the marriage a success. Would that encourage people to reach out and support others’ marriages over time? How do you think this would change our society?