One of my daughters recently got married, and all I can say is, weddings are bigger deals than they used to be. Or at least, they are bigger deals for me. They are expensive and complicated, and they weren’t either back in the good old days when my wife and I had ours. That ceremony cost $168.42 including my necktie and the honeymoon, which consisted of a tank of gas, one night in a motel in Chattanooga, and a pancake breakfast the next morning.

We were poor kids and couldn’t afford much. The best man was only a better man, and we had to use a rental maid of honor because we didn’t have the money for a real one. Our wedding photographer was my wife’s aunt, the cake was made by my new sister-in-law, and the invitations went out by word of mouth. Thirty-six years later, we are still hitched. That works out to about $5.25 per year, and I think it was money well spent.

They say that you can’t put a price on love, but I have it on good authority that the average wedding nowadays costs $25,000. I can believe it, and so much for the theory that you can’t put a price on love. The term “wedding” actually comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “give me all of your drachmas.” I don’t doubt that, either, because from the moment my son-in-law popped the question until the I do’s were said, every time I turned around, someone was standing there wanting to share in my joy by relieving me of some of my cash.

If you are the father of the bride, there is unfamiliar territory out in the world of weddings. If you are as unprepared as I was, you may stumble. Luckily, I kept good notes—cancelled checks, mostly—as I wound my way through the maze, and the information I gathered may help you avoid some of the pitfalls of modern matrimony.

Dresses. If you have a daughter of marrying age, then you have already bought your share of frilly, lacy, expensive clothing. I am talking about party dresses, prom dresses, cotillion dresses, bridesmaid dresses, and all manner of other frockery. Thus, you may have built up enough immunity over time so that the purchase of a gown that actually costs more than a good used car may not kill you outright, although you’ll probably get pretty sick. Cash in two savings bonds, take a hot bath, and call me in the morning.

Tuxedos. If you own your own tux, you can skip this section. But if you are renting, there is really just one thing you should keep in mind. Your wife and daughter will not let you keep the “zoot tux” you have rented, no matter how “fly” you look in it.

Invitations. If you were thinking you could just pick up the phone and call a few friends like you do for the Super Bowl party, you may now think again. There is an entire industry devoted to inviting folks to weddings. As a less-expensive alternative to the more traditional cards, I suggest sitting down with a laundry marker and writing the date, location, and time of the wedding onto a stack of $5 bills before mailing one to everyone you know.

Photography. When I take pictures, I have a tendency to cut off portions of my intended subjects while at the same time including one or two total strangers in each shot, so I was willing to consider hiring a photographer. It is getting kind of tough to find film for my Kodak Brownie, anyway. We hired an unscripted photographer, and I guess I don’t understand what that means, because I sure handed over a big pile of scrip while consummating the arrangement.

Music. You will want music at the wedding, and no, I am not talking about that eight-track tape of the live version of Muskrat Love by The Captain and Tennille that you like to trot out on special occasions. If the band you are thinking about hiring asks during the audition if there will be an open bar at the reception, it is a sign that you might want to keep looking.

Flowers. My neighbor (the one who owns the nice flower garden) was out of town, so I got a pretty good deal on flowers. Ironically, she was at a wedding.

Hors d’oeuvres. Folks get hungry when you make them dress up in their church clothes during the week, so feeding them is the decent thing to do. I advise leaving this area entirely to your spouse if you don’t want to get your feelings hurt. I thought that we should put out a couple of washtubs full of Little Debbies, but my wife found that suggestion to be unacceptable. She can laugh if she wants to, but everyone I know likes them just fine.

Cake. Wedding cakes are pretty, and they are tasty, but what you really need to know about them is that they sell by the slice. No, I am not kidding. Still, they are sort of traditional, and I don’t see much chance of you getting out of buying one, although I do have two washtubs full of Little Debbies for sale, if that would help.

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Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.