When the time came to start planning our wedding, I told Bonnie that I would do whatever she wanted, but that I had already been through the whole “have a huge expensive wedding” thing and I had learned a couple of valuable lessons from the ordeal.
In general, my experience was as follows:
## 1. Big weddings are complicated
Everything starts out simple and pure: Two people in love want to celebrate their union will all of their family and friends. Unfortunately, it quickly gets complicated.
When should we have the wedding? Where should we have the wedding? Who should marry us? Who should be in the bridal party? Who should be invited?
“Well, Spring Break is bad for my family and the summer months are too hot. Grandma doesn’t like to travel, so we’ll need to stay local. I have four sisters plus three best friends so you’ll need to get seven groomsmen. I know you’re not Catholic, but my Mom would flip out if we didn’t get married by a Priest. By the way, my cousin wants to know if its ok for him to bring a date. Not a girlfriend, just some girl he’s been talking to lately.”
And that’s just the beginning… That doesn’t include the bride’s dress or the bridesmaid’s dresses or the flower colors or the center pieces or the DJ or the Band… Should we get a limo? Who gets to ride in the limo? Are we going to leave on our honeymoon right way? Should we have an open bar? What about a Wine and Cheese Hour? What about the seating chart? “You know we can’t put Uncle John any where near Aunt Jane since they haven’t spoken since their divorce.”
At this point, complicated is an understatement. We haven’t even gotten to the guest list! In my observations, you either invite everybody you know, or just your parents. There really isn’t any “in-between” because no matter how hard you try, someone is going to be / feel left out.
I almost forgot: “Who’s niece is going to be the flower girl”, “what flavor should each layer of the cake be”, and “can we schedule the rehearsal dinner later because Aunt Sandy has a Junior League meeting and she can’t bring Grandma until after”?
While we’re at it, the whole idea of it being “Her Big Day” has got to stop. Having a wedding revolve solely around the Bride and her warped Disney Princess Fairy Tale is ridiculous. If it really is all about the bride and it’s “her” big day, then why does the groom even need to be there?
As such, I think big weddings are awesome and I’ve had the honor to be a part of several of them. But, they tend to be very complicated and it’s difficult to maintain the primary focus.
## 2. Big weddings are busy
Let’s just say two people were actually able to make it through all of the decisions of a big wedding with out killing each other or their family and friends. Unlikely, but let’s just say. What we’re left with is the most amazing gathering of all the people you love most in this world, looking fantastic, with the finest food, drinks, and music that money can buy! Sounds like a great time! Too bad the couple won’t get to enjoy it.
First off, the Bride has to get her hair done, then her makeup, all while the photographer is taking pictures and her bridesmaids are trying to shield her from the fact that the tables and chairs haven’t arrived and the caterer is double booked so they’re going to drop the food off two hours early. Then she has official pre-wedding pictures. Then it’s time for the ceremony, where the happy couple gets to see all their most-beloved family and friends for a total of thirty-seconds as they walk down the aisle. Then the couple walks past all of their people again on their way out of the ceremony to go take more Bridal Party pictures. Then, it’s the introduction of the Bride and Groom at the reception, where again they simply walk past everyone to take their place at the table of honor. Then there are the toasts, the first dance, the cake cutting, the throwing of the bouquet, and before you know it, it’s time to go because the limo is here to pick them up.
All of those decisions, all of the coordination, all of the drama, all so we could gather every wonderful person we’ve ever known into the same place and not get to spend hardly any time with them? Not only that, but they were so busy that all they ate all day was one bite of wedding cake and had one sip of champagne. They didn’t even have time to notice the center pieces that we supposed to be so important three months ago.
At least all the guests had a nice time and good thing there was a photographer and videographer there to capture all of these precious moments because everything was a blur to happy couple.
By the way, who’s paying for this party anyway?
##Big weddings are expensive
In present day American culture, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding has become common as the average cost of a wedding is more than $26,000.00. Unfortunately, being “common” doesn’t mean that it is “right” or even a good idea. One primary reason I see couples spending obscene amounts of money on huge weddings is because many of them aren’t spending their own money. While some people may be independently wealthy, many are using a savings account that their parents or grandparents gave them for their “big day” or even worse, using credit cards to pay for everything. As such, it’s always easier to spend someone else’s money than it is to spend your own hard earned cash. The sad part about this is that businesses understand this fact as well and adjust their prices accordingly. From hotels and banquet halls to photographers and florists, business owners know that couples tend to overspend on their weddings and thus they increase their prices significantly for weddings.
So what if weddings are expensive and busy and complicated? You only get married once!
Spending a lot of money on a wedding isn’t itself a bad practice. But when you examine all the other things you could do with that same amount of money, it makes you think. With $26,000.00, you could buy a new car, put a down payment on a house, take a 6-month vacation, build nine houses for poor people in Guatemala, or go on a cruise around the world.
Additionally, you could trade your one incredibly hectic day for many days of leisure by using the $26K to take a $1000 trip every other weekend for a year to visit (and spend quality time with) all of the people who you were going to have at your wedding. Not a bad idea, huh!
Most importantly, the expenses, the hectic schedules, and the complications, regardless of how small and insignificant, take away from the true focus of the wedding. The fact is that a wedding is about a two people entering into a union with God and all of the guests are invited to support and witness this spectacular moment. Anything that distracts or takes away from this central purpose is inappropriate and shameful.
## Our Ceremony
Knowing all this, Bonnie and I weighed all of our options carefully. As Bonnie had grown up with the standard understanding of a fairy tale wedding, it was difficult for her to entertain any other ideas at first. But, as we started to go down the list of decisions that needed to be made for that fairy tale to become a reality, she very quickly saw the stress that would be involved.
The first time we mentioned to anyone that we were officially engaged was at my parents house at Christmas. Immediately, the suggestions and opinions started flying…
“You should get married in Cancun!”
“No, not Cancun! We’ve already been to a wedding there. How about San Diego?”
“No, you should do it in Utah!”
Is was at that point that I shot Bonnie a glance and a smirk as if to say “Are you sure you want a big wedding?” This was especially funny because this was just my side of the family’s opinion and there was no doubt that her side of the family would have drastically different ideas.
In the end, we would have loved to have had all of loved ones with us on our special day, but we decided that all of the details would take away from the primary focus of our ceremony. So, we invited just our parents. We had a beautiful, focused ceremony in the prayer garden of our church and then had a great dinner at a wonderful restaurant on the water. Then we used all the money we had saved and spent four months serving the poor in Costa Rica with 6:8 Ministries and a month giving pottery lessons on Princess Cruiselines while enjoying Alaska’s Inside Passage.
All in, though this play wouldn’t work for everybody, it worked for us and we have absolutely no regrets about our decision.
Our vows were as follows…
“I Omar take you, Bonnie to be my Wife, my Best Friend, and my Spiritual Partner. As your husband, I promise to put Christ above all things, with you second, and myself last. Just as Christ loves the Church, so too do I promise to love you, honor you, cherish you, and serve you all the days of my life. Though times may grow tough and our spirits may grow weary, I promise to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the strength, love, and wisdom we need to persevere through all things.
I love you and I make this pledge in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. “
“I Bonnie take you, Omar to be my Husband, my Best Friend, and my Spiritual Partner. As your wife, I promise to put Christ above all things, with you second, and myself last. Just as Christ loves the Church, so too do I promise to love you, honor you, cherish you, and serve you all the days of my life. Though times may grow tough and our spirits may grow weary, I promise to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the strength, love, and wisdom we need to persevere through all things.
I love you and I make this pledge in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.”