Diamonds are forever (Marriages, not so much)

Friday 12 August 2016 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Cecil B. DeMille’s birth anniversary (1881, Ashfield, Mass.)

Two professors of economics at Emory University recently compared longevity of a Marriage to the costs of the wedding. I find the results fascinating. 

The wedding industry in the United States is big business. The word “huge” comes to mind (I’ve been hearing too many political speeches). The wedding industry generates $55 billion a year. That’s approximately the annual income of the oil-rich nation of Iran. 

The bad news is that an “average” wedding these days runs about $30,000 (excluding the cost of the honeymoon). The worse news is that Cape Cod is one of the most expensive places in the country to hold your “Big Day.” The average wedding on Cape Cod will set you back $54,334. 

Manhattan, with an average cost of $82,299, is the most expensive venue. If you’re looking for a bargain, head for Alaska. A wedding in Alaska comes in at only $17,361. An Iditarod theme would be unique. 

On what, pray tell, is all this money spent? 

One thing that will eat up half of your average wedding budget is renting a hall for the reception — more delicately referred to as “deciding on a venue.” There are 36 popular wedding reception venues within 10 miles of this church. Anything is possible if you can afford to pay for it, but if cost-cutting is a priority you can simply choose from the standard reception menu. At one place in town, you can pay only $180 per plate when ordering from the standard menu. Think of the money you’ll save. There’s a pricey wedding venue down-Cape that can set you back $345 per person. 

The diamond is another big ticket item. The average engagement ring goes for $6,000. Diamonds are transparent carbon crystals being held for ransom in an artificially-inflated world market. This is an expensive way to impress your relatives and friends. No wonder the ring is featured prominently in engagement photos.

The formal photographs and professional videos are additional expenses. You can even rent a photo booth for the amusement of your reception guests while you’re off posing for the photographer in some sand dune. 

Custom-designed websites are relatively new in the wedding business. You will want the website up and running as soon as you announce your engagement. Be sure to include photographs of you and your fiancée back to the time you were both infants and a saccharine narrative to accompany them. You can even include a link to your gift registry — as a convenience, of course. 

Other costs to be considered when planning your average wedding are the parties. There are post-engagement announcement parties for the men and for the women. Sometimes there’s a party for both the men and the women together. There’s the rehearsal dinner and the post-wedding brunch. 

There’s also the hired wedding planners, the disc jockey and/or wedding band, ceremony musicians, hairstylists, florists/designers, wedding dresses and male attire, wedding cake, limos, pre-invitation/invitations, wedding jewelry, wedding travel, wedding favors and gifts, and the reserved hotel block — to name a few. 

I read of one engaged couple who, to cover their wedding costs, are selling flavored ice this summer from a cart on Main Street. They plan to marry in the backyard of a local nursing home, according to reports.

Both last and least are the fees associated with the church. In Catholic churches on Cape Cod, the fee cannot exceed $500, by order of the diocese. This includes a stipend for the priest, which is standardized at $10. Musicians are extra.

All you really need is a man and a woman (with some degree of Christian faith) who are willing and able to freely commit themselves to an exclusive and lifelong union open to the possibility of children — in other words, Marriage as the Church understands it. You also need a qualified celebrant and two designated witnesses. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, these are the essentials. The rest is generated by the ad campaigns of the wedding industry. 

Now, back to the study results. These two professors found there is indeed a correlation between the cost of wedding festivities and the length of the Marriage. The more expensive the wedding celebrations, the less likely the Marriage will endure. It’s beyond the scope of their study to speculate why this is so. I have my own theories. For one thing, there’s the financial stress of paying all those accrued wedding bills, sometimes on top of massive tuition loans. But most importantly, when it’s all about a showy wedding and not so much about the Marriage, there will be trouble ahead. A wedding is a day; a Marriage is a lifetime. 

There was a second correlation identified in the study. The more wedding guests, the more likely the Marriage will be successful. Why? Because the newly-married couple have a large network of family and friends to help them. God knows they’ll be needing support. 

Diamonds are forever and so can Marriage be.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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