Does a severe economic recession inspire people to save money or to recklessly spend it, to have a good time in spite of the financial problems?
The average cost of a UK wedding is around £22,000. Over at The Cotton Boll Conspiracy, the author tells us that an American wedding costs $28,000 and points out the bizarre behaviour that surrounds a wedding ceremony.
Either way, if you are starting your life out with someone, I would have thought twenty odd grand in either currency could be put to better use than poncing around in a white frock and entertaining a bunch of freeloaders.
If you are rich, however, then it is probably a different matter. But I’m not talking about super rich. Or even comfortably off. I’m talking about people spending a ridiculous amount of money for one day in their life. I could think of a lot of things to do with that money and it wouldn’t be throwing a party. Apart from anything else it would easily keep me for two to three years without having to lift one of my idle fingers to even consider working.
It would go some way towards a deposit on a home, surely having a roof over your head is more important than having a party?
But for those of you who haven’t read about my wedding before, let’s have a quick trip back in the Tardis to the 1980s.
I’d arrived in Sydney with my travelling companion (TC). After a two or three months, I’d met someone who’d turned up at the hostel in King’s Cross and was funny, easy-going and not bad-looking. I was planning a trip to Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia at the end of the week with the TC, so I jumped into bed with the new man a few times before I left.
Traipsing around the south of Australia with TC, I was annoyed to find myself thinking of the new man. I was here to travel not to get involved with anyone. But in fact, I was in quite a rush to get back and see him again.
I’d left him in charge of my big rucksack, and just taken a small overnight bag for our trip down south. I could have left the rucksack in the hostel store, but that wouldn’t have given me the excuse to see him again would it?
When we got back he’d left the hostel. I asked if he’d left my rucksack behind. No. Any messages? No. Hmm. Missing rucksack and no idea where he’d gone.
I wandered into one of the pubs he used when he finished work mid afternoon. He was there. ‘Hello,’ he said, as though I’d not been gone for three or four weeks. ‘Do you want a drink?’ I had a bottle of Coopers Ale. He’d already got one.
He’d moved hostels and found a room that was a four-bunk bedroom, plus its own kitchen and bathroom. I moved in with him. I didn’t pay any rent. We sprayed the cockroaches in the kitchen. There were a lot.
We moved again a bit further down the street for a room of our own with a cooker, and a toilet in the back garden. Height of romance this. A couple of ‘friends’ decided to go up north and asked us to flat sit for them. We said yes. They also asked us to take over the lease. We said no. We still moved in. It was a huge flat and had a view of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
One evening we were down at the Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel, discussing my forthcoming trip to NZ. I had been putting it off a bit, but decided I needed to stop living in limbo due to this brief but enjoyable fling, so had booked my tickets.
‘How about we live together for say, 20 years,’ he said out of nowhere. ‘And after that I get the right to trade you in for a younger model.’
‘So long as I can do the same,’ I replied. Then a horrible thought hit me. ‘I hope you don’t want to marry me.’
‘Oh no, of course not.’
Some time later we asked the bartender for the telephone directory to find out where the register office was in Sydney and explained we had just decided to get married. She looked rather stunned and took a while to find the Yellow Pages. Didn’t even get a drink on the house!
I told him getting married was dependent on him finding a decent flat for when I returned from NZ. I nearly missed the ‘plane as we were too busy chatting at the airport and it was in the days when last calls were individually announced.’Last call for Ms Roughseas’ was blasted all over Sydney Kingsford Smith.
Once on the ‘plane I started talking to the people in my row. They were off to watch the rugby in Auckland. Kangaroos and All Blacks. I bought a spare ticket from them. It was a good start to my hol.
I liked NZ. I liked it so much I spent an extra week there. I sent a postcard to the potential husband saying I would be late back. He didn’t get it so turned up at the airport waiting for me with a bunch of flowers. He sadly turned round when it was clear I wasn’t on the flight, went to one of the pubs in The Cross (King Arthur’s Court) and gave them to one of the bar staff, Hilary as I remember. Bit of a stupid move there, as she’d always fancied him.
A week later he turned up again at the airport. No bunch of flowers, he was rather more discrete and had brought an orchid in a box so he didn’t look quite such an obvious prat if I wasn’t on the flight. But I was. I liked the orchid.
The flat in Potts Point he’d arranged was great. I booked the register office for Friday afternoon when he had finished work. We invited two guests as witnesses. Three other people invited themselves. We were going to get the bus into town, but a friend insisted on driving us and put white ribbons on his transit van.
We hired a car (around 99 Aussie bucks) for the weekend and drove to the Hunter Valley, staying the night in Singleton at a modest hotel/motel. We were back the next day for him to return to work Monday morning on the dockyard.
Comments when we announced we were getting married:
Another lodger in the first youth hostel, 21-year-old Stewart. ‘Why are you marrying that old man?’ Bit unfair, that old man was only 28/29, three years older than me.
A Geordie who knew every scam under the sun. ‘Oh you’ll be doing it for the residency of course.’ (Partner had Australian residency and was waiting for his citizenship to come through).
My cousin came out with the inevitable one. ‘Are you pregnant?’
When I rang home in the few weeks before the wedding, my mother wouldn’t even speak to me.
We’d invited both sets of parents but they’d declined to come, as had my university friend, for whom I’d been a bridesmaid.
My parents did cough up for the frock – at my request – it was scarlet silk, knee length, so I could wear it again. It came from a rather chic boutique in Double Bay and cost around six or seven hundred bucks.
They had, of course, wanted the full traditional wedding for Daddy’s Little Princess. Long white frock, local rather impressive Victorian parish church, and a marquee on the front lawn (we had a big front lawn) with Black Dyke Mills Brass Band playing.
Whenever that had been mentioned in the past I’d cringed. It was the epitome of my father’s working class aspirations and excessive showing-off syndrome. I thought of a potential guest list – my university friends, maybe some family, maybe not, and a few local Yorkshire friends of my parents. It was an accident waiting to happen.
My partner recites the tale of his sister’s wedding. Their mother ruined it. He didn’t want a family wedding either. She promised us a church blessing and a party on our return from Australia. We told she could do what she wanted but we wouldn’t be attending.
Until she died, my mother persisted in asking us why we had got married. She went to her grave, or rather the crematorium, with the question remaining unanswered. We could only tell her that we didn’t know.
But the whole point of it for us, was that it was our decision, to be implemented how we chose. It wasn’t about a big party for parents to revel in lavish display. We’d made a commitment to each other and were going to get it legally ratified. Simple as that. Unromantic? Who can say. We’d done the practical discussions. Neither of us wanted children, I wanted to retain my own name and he didn’t care either way, and I wanted to pursue my career. The bottom line was that it was about us, and not about anyone else.
And this is my criticism about so-called traditional weddings. Not only are they exhibitionist, extravagant and competitive, they are also about status, and how we are all seen in the eyes of others. Or how we want to be seen. We are indoctrinated to think a wedding day is the ultimate day ever. One day?!
Look at the symbolism. You get married in church – you get married in the eyes of god, or whatever the words are.
The virginal chaste maiden wears white. How many virgin brides do you know? Because I don’t know any.
It’s also about worshipping youth and beauty. Women need to look young and beautiful. Make them up, dress them up, and judge them on their appearance. A bit like buying a cow or a horse at auction.
The bride is given away – like a chattel – from previous owner (father) to new owner (husband). In olden days, she wasn’t just given away, the bridegroom’s family had to be bought with a dowry.
Bride then changes her name to that of new owner. How many women seriously even consider keeping their own names on marriage? The whole emphasis on women is that they MUST get a man, they must get a provider (even though one income hasn’t been enough for years now), they must not remain on the shelf gathering dust, and once they have attracted someone, everyone MUST know about it. Engagement rings and parties, wedding rings and ceremonies, and that all important change of status to Mrs Husband’s Last Name.
The current concept of a wedding day is that it is a bride’s day. The big day of her life and she has to make the most of it. Is it really her day? Or is it the day of her parents? After all, they are historically palming off a financially dependent child onto someone else. No wonder they needed a dowry to buy off the new family. A few goats and a bit of cash pale into insignificance compared with a lifetime’s upkeep.
Why else is it allegedly the bride’s day? Celebrating the loss of her virginity? Why don’t we celebrate the bridegroom’s loss of virginity? Haha. Men sow wild oats, women keep their legs together. Anyone who believes that tosh should take a look at the sad marriage of Diana Spencer.
What about the really exciting media discussions of the past about whether or not royal brides will choose to obey their husbands? Why should one spouse obey the other?
I was brought up with all these subtly – or not so subtly – infused messages. And rejected them.
Over at Cotton Boll’s blog, I said I thought the whole shebang of a traditional white wedding was overly patriarchal. In the discussion, CB said that was interesting as it seemed that brides and their mothers drove the whole wedding process.
There is a subtle difference between who organises the wedding (and does the work, yes?) and what the values surrounding that event are. There is no way, in a traditional white wedding, that a woman is a symbol of either power, equality or dominance. Some couples may well get married on equal terms. But the symbolism of the big wedding, compared with a civic union, is not about equality. It is a perpetuation of long-established patriarchal mores.
Just to be clear when I talk about patriarchal values, or patriarchal society, I am not talking about individuals. I am talking about societal normals, rules, traditions, and customs, which are reinforced by men and women from one generation to the next.
Patriarchal society is well-defined on Yahoo answers, so if you want to know more check out this link.
Finally, back to the cost of that big day.
My parents gave us a couple of grand as a wedding present when we returned to the UK. It was cheap compared with what a wedding would have cost. They probably thought they had been deprived with our register office wedding on the other side of the world.
Cost of a wedding back in 1985 (all costs approx and in Aus dollars)
Register office fees – 60
Shoes (bride) – 30/40
Shoes (bridegroom) – expensive
White shirt and black trousers – 80/100
Wedding rings – 120
Pre-wedding drinks for nerves – 15
Meal afterwards for four – 40
Car hire for weekend – 100
Hotel and meals out – 100
Cost to us, no more than 700 Aus dollars.
Cost to parents, no more than 700 Aus dollars for the frock.
There were no stag or hen parties. Although one of the Mafia union dockers had organised a strippers’ show for the wedding day. Partner jumped ship that day at lunchtime. Literally of course. Not only was he working on ships, but they were transported to the island by ferry from Circular Quay. On return to CQ, they all fought to see who could jump off the ferry first before it had docked. Silly macho men.
There was no engagement or engagement ring. I have two now anyway, my mother’s and my grandmother’s, a beautiful half-eternity ring which is now more than 100 years old.
We have both pairs of shoes still, the two wedding rings which we don’t wear, and the clothes. We needed a drink beforehand to steady our nerves (!) so had a quick whisky in a local bar. The meal out afterwards was attended not just by our witnesses, but by the three who had invited themselves so we left money for our meals and the two witnesses only, and left them all to it.
I could be out with the figures, but it’s near enough. At the time it was around 2.2 Australian dollars to the pound.
The biggest current day wedding expenditure costs (in pounds sterling) in one of the links below are:
• catering 3520
• reception venue 3519
• honeymoon 3178
• wedding venue 2157
• engagement ring 2103
• bride’s dress 1346 (doesn’t include shoes or veil)
• champagne 1280
Seriously, I so do not think that is a good use of money. Of course, if you are still together after say 25 years or so, you could always have a party for that if you are financially stable. We didn’t do that either.
UK wedding costs:
A couple of much earlier Clouds posts on the same theme: