Call it a professional curse. But everywhere I look, I see opportunities to do things differently than the way they currently are. My oldest son is engaged and is in the midst of planning for a wedding this summer. Okay, realistically his fiance is planning the wedding, but he’s definitely along for the ride. Though they are looking to have a (relatively) modest ceremony, I am absolutely blown away by the number of decisions and details they are having to deal with months in advance. Truth be told, it seems there are many hours invested for every minute of the actual wedding plus reception. And I realize that theirs is a very simple ordeal compared to those you can see on such awe-inspiring television shows like Bridezilla.
According to the website Soundvision.com $72 billion is spent per year on weddings in the USA alone. The average wedding budget in 2006 was over $27,000. To me these numbers are staggering. But think of the soundness of this investment. According to divorcerate.org, 50% of marriages will end in divorce. The way I calculate things, that tells me that $36 billion/year are essentially wasted on a single afternoon or evening’s entertainment that holds no long-term results… It’s really like throwing a victory celebration before the race even begins. And let’s be honest, in some cases the “entrants” never really get out off of the starting line.
Before I go any farther, I want to make one point clear, I am absolutely pro-marriage. I have been happily married to my high-school sweetheart for nearly 28 years. My parents have been married for over 65 years, and my wife’s parents enjoyed their 50th anniversary before her father passed away. Marriage is a fine institution. So maybe it’s weddings that I am actually questioning…
So here’s my idea. What if (as a culture) we stopped spending soooo much money on an “uncertain” event and shifted our thinking to the celebration of successful marriages? In other words, a wedding would be a simple ceremony attended only by immediate family. It could either be held in a religious setting or a secular setting, depending on the views of the couple. It would still be nice to have “showers” (like baby showers) for the couple to help them get started, but the ceremony itself would be greatly downplayed. Then, our tradition could shift to having “milestone celebrations”, thrown by the couple themselves. As an example, after 10 years of marriage, the couple could throw a party and invite whoever they would choose. It could include dinner, dancing and all the amenities. It would be easier for the couple to afford such a thing (knowing for 10 years in advance, they could be saving for it), and would put less stress on the parents (who often have to fund a wedding with relatively very short notice). The couple could throw an additional party after 25 years of marriage (probably less enthusiastic dancing, but better food and drink), again, having had an additional 15 years to save for the event. I’m still in favor of those that make it to 50 years having a party thrown by their kids. Two big parties thrown by a given couple should be enough!
What a shift in thought… Instead of toasts being about two individuals coming together, they could be about highlights of the marriage as observed or enjoyed by others. Children could see their parents celebrating and being honored for working through the tough times and seeing a very positive role model for themselves. It would feel like a victory celebration that was well deserved.
I know this post had nothing to do with running a business or innovating a product line… But I can’t help but think there’s a better use for the $36 billion a year spent on a passing event.