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.

8 Comments
  1. Great Blog, Ray. We had two sons get married in the past 6 months so we were on the other side (which is expensive enough in it’s own right). One of the girls father had a marvelous idea for the reception. He said we should make it a covered dish dinner and then the new couple gets to keep all the casserole dishes and pie pans as their wedding gifts.
    I don’t think the women in his family even graced his suggestion with an answer.

    1. I like that suggestion about the covered dishes, Kay, though I can see why it did not get traction. Perhaps if he’d offered to clean them all afterward…

  2. You have my sympathy, Raymond. You remind me of my experiences. Like you, my own wedding was a very inexpensive affair. We went to the courthouse, bought a license, found my friend, the judge, and did the deed. We did notify immediate family who showed up to observe. Some family & friends insisted on hosting a luncheon afterward. The next day I returned to work and she to school.

    With my daughter, I offered funds of an amount comparable to the figure you named and wanted no part of organizing save what she may have desired by way of help. Her mother, sadly, did not live to see the day so she was unable to be involved. My daughter and future son-in-law refused as a matter of practical pride and out of concern about his family’s reaction. Long story best left untold, that last bit. I think they ended up spending less than $8,000, and every bit out of their own pockets. Fortunately some expenses were lessened such as the dress. Since she had just finished her education & training as a costume maker, coming up with a dress was as simple as designing and making it. I now recall, I did fork over $200 for the fabric and other materials. Otherwise, the affair was entirely their own. I didn’t even need a suit, let alone a tux. My daughter, knowing my lifelong aversion to formal wear, said she planned the affair so that everyone could dress as comfortably as they liked. She picked out a wild Indonesian shirt, similar to Hawaiian but shades of the same color, and casual slacks for me and it was terrific.

    Photography was another adventure. The in-laws impressed a nephew into service and the poor fellow had never seen the camera they gave him to use. What photos turned out were blurry and poorly exposed. Fortunately, two of my friends in attendance are professional photographers and carry their gear everywhere they go. They were both armed to the teeth with photo taking equipment and each gave a few hundred photos to the couple that were perfect.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and prompting a pleasant reminiscence.

  3. A friend of mine said paying for a wedding is just like buying a nice new car and driving it in a lake. The ride to the lake is really nice.

  4. We have had many weddings in our large family, from one in a meadow at dawn, to a Christopher Wren chapel at Emory, or a small Baptist church. All beautiful with wonderful food to follow, and all together they did not require as much expenditures as the latest extravaganza’s rehearsal dinner. Many of these marriages are now decades old, role models for the newest young bridal couple. We hope that as much attention is paid to the marriage as to the wedding ceremony. Raymond, I enjoyed all your comments, all so true. Have you finished all the Little Debbie’s yet?

  5. Will Cantrell

    Great article Raymond. I enjoyed it a lot…though the numbers give me reason for considerable pause. I would think that you had to lay down a lot during this whole thing…. not just cash but physically, in bed. Did you ever once consider counseling the kids on the option of “shacking up” ? By the way, my sincere congratulations on your daughter’s marriage. Will

  6. Robert Lamb

    Good artlcle, Ray.
    I invite you to submit this article for publication by http://www.the-final-draft.com, which is a new online literary magazine scheduled for launch for Sept. 1.
    Some of my former students are building the site; I offered to help by querying writers I know and by watching for good writing on various sites I subscribe to.
    If interested, contact Bob Rothbert at http://www.finaldraft.gmx.com. Mention that I asked you to contact him/them. ~Bob Lamb

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