Till Debt Us Do Part

8 April 2008

In the course of reading a story today about a woman whose marriage lasted 3 months, I noticed it was mentioned in passing that the wedding cost $30,000. 


And the people involved belonged to what Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are always referring to as “Australian Working Families”. 

The debt of course is lasting longer than the marriage.

When did a wedding change from becoming a fairly small family and close friends affair, with a drink, something to eat and a glass of champagne for the toast, held at a local hotel or at the bride’s parents’ house, to a Hollywood-style, no expense spared shindig?   And why is this new-style wedding called a “traditional wedding”?   I think it’s a tradition that goes all the way back to the 1980’s.

If you’ve ever read the great Victorian novels (that is the British Empire era, NOT the Australian state), the weddings were low-key affairs.  The “English Working Families” put on their best frocks, bought a barrel of beer if they could afford it, and gathered at the pub or in a house.  The wealthy bought new clothing, opened a bottle of sherry and a bottle or two of champagne.  Mr Darcy was fabulous wealthy according to Pride and Prejudice but Elizabeth Bennett had to make do with a quick trip over to the church, followed by a nibble and a champagne toast chez Mr and Mrs Bennett.

The problem I find attending these weddings is that we’re expected to play the role of “audience” at a theatrically-choreographed occasion instead of being treated as guests at a social function. 

And, cynic that I am, I wonder if any research has been done on the correlation (if any) between the length of marriage and the amount spent on the wedding.  All the couples involved in the most lavish weddings I’ve attended are now divorced. 

The wedding, I believe, became much more important than the marriage. 



  1. *nods in agreement* – if only “people” put as much planning into the marriage as they do for the wedding.

  2. I totally agree with you – I wonder if any thought has gone into what happens after the ‘big day’. Or if the wedding is a game of one-up-manship, gotta be bigger and better than everyone else.

  3. While I was doing my celebrant training, I heard that research has shown that couples who write their own vows are statistically more likely to stay together. We learned to encourage people to do the work, think about what their marriage will mean to them over the years, and then write vows that reflect this.

    The wedding that I performed over the weekend had great vows, that I will be asking the couple if I can include in my “sample ceremonies” book, and I feel strongly that they know what the ceremony meant. I feel strongly that they will be together for years to come, and I hope to be there when they have naming ceremonies for their children.

    Incidentally, I don’t know what the budget was, but it was a gorgeous ceremony, and I suspect they didn’t have to go into debt to do it.

    So many weddings “follow the script” of what a wedding is “supposed” to be, the couple lose touch with what it means to them.

  4. And a loud double ‘Hear hear” rings out from Lilyfield. The stress some of these young women put themselves through – it’s astounding. (Notice that it seems to be a girl thing….)

  5. I’m nodding so hard I’ve got a headache! So much weird crap goes on around weddings, fights, rules invented by different family members, concentration on the fripperies at the expense of the important stuff.
    And don’t get me started on ‘having to’ have a diamond ring that costs x numbers of months salary…….

  6. Completely agree!

    The Man and I have had many discussions about what we want for the future, and when we went to a friends wedding last month we had a bit of a discussion about ceremonies. We have both agreed that when we get to that stage of making a life-long commitment we want to have people celebrate our Marriage rather than ‘Just another Wedding’

    Oh – and we aren’t getting married anywhere they have images or statues of some guy nailed to a cross (I would say that we aren’t having a ‘church’ wedding, but we have seen some rather atmospheric chapels. But we won’t be including any imaginary spiritual friends)

  7. Scary – that’s most of the family weddings we had. In-laws and out-laws all in the same room together with alcohol, not a good combination.
    Thanks to my NRMA shares sale I had a wedding that didn’t cost more than $1500 and only the nearest and dearest were present, including our 4 yr old.
    I like the sound of the Elvis drive-through weddings in Las Vegas.

  8. Oh, my, yes. Much effort goes into planning a lavish ceremony to impress who?? Little effort spent thinking about the life choices ahead. Daughter’s wedding was gorgeous; she and the offspring (twins) are now home with me!

  9. I couldn’t agree more. The description “traditional” especially gets my back up. “Traditionally” the bride and groom left the shindig early on for their honeymoon (hence the “going-away outfit”). They weren’t there for the whole nine-yards – or the firework display (firework display!!!). It was the norm for the families to cater the event and the best weddings I’ve been to have been low-key, welcoming and inclusive of everyone. I’ve even heard of a wedding where the bride said she didn’t want the groom’s very elderly grandmother to attend as she would spoil the photos…

  10. Judith – this last is really shocking. Surely any man with gumption would have called it off then and there. What a lovely future he’s got to look forward to. Let’s be merciful and hope it’s as short as the wedding that Sally was blogging.

  11. I meant the marriage, of course…. doh!

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