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Kent Bernhardt: The high cost of hitchin’

Somewhere along my life’s journey, the wedding industry left me behind. It blew by me like I was a turtle on the freeway.
I’ve attended very few weddings in the past ten years, and if my luck continues, I’ll attend even fewer in the years ahead. At my age, I’ve reached the point where funerals are the pinnacle of one’s social life.
My grandparents married in the late 1920’s. It was an intimate affair – mainly just family and a few friends – and the wedding took place in the home of my grandmother’s sister. That was commonplace in those days, and the ceremony cost virtually nothing.
By the time my parents married in the early 50’s, church weddings were becoming all the rage. Costs were moderate; the bride’s dress, some flowers, a few tuxedo rentals, and maybe a few dollars for the organist and minister. For probably less than a Ben Franklin, your children were on their way to wedded bliss.
When I married in the mid 80’s, only the price of wedding dresses had become obscene, but trends were beginning to change. The cost of everything associated with marriage had begun to balloon, and parents of the bride and groom were feeling the strain.
Fast forward to today, and weddings are sprawling affairs and a multi-million dollar industry. And by multi-million, I mean the cost of one wedding. At least it seems that way.
Church weddings have faded into oblivion, replaced by wedding venues. When I was young, a venue was a place you went to watch rastlin’. “Don’t miss the Masked Bolos this Saturday at the Charlotte Coliseum!” The coliseum was a venue, the place you could see wonderful entertainment. I saw Three Dog Night there in 1975.
Now, the word venue has been taken over completely by the wedding industry. Acres and acres of farmland that used to produce corn, potatoes, and cucumbers now produce marital unions.
Instead of tractors and field hands, these acres are littered with folding tables, wedding decorations, and sweaty musicians. They’re sweaty because most couples still find it appealing to take their marriage vows on the hottest day of the year.
I never understood that. For some reason, June has always been the most popular month to take a fully grown man and stuff him into a tuxedo that’s three sizes too small because of a mix up at the rental store.
Now, it’s the most popular month to corral your friends into a wide open field in the broiling sun to hear a homily that’s far too long and listen to the bride’s fifty-something-year-old Aunt Mildred navigate her way through Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love.”
All of this while mosquitos feast on wedding guests who have given up any hope of swatting them with commemorative wedding fans, and are simply hoping they can drown them in their perspiration. At the last outdoor wedding I attended, thirty mosquito couples renewed their wedding vows.
Weddings are also longer than ever. There are countless pre-wedding luncheons and parties, and the reception party alone can last hours.
Plus, brides now solicit the services of hair and makeup professionals to make sure each participant has the right look, guarding against the possibility that your cousin Alice will wear too much mascara as she tends to do.
Oh, and there’s the photographer-videographer. My wedding photographer took a total of thirty-five photos of our special day. I think my parents have maybe a dozen wedding day pictures.
But thanks to limitless digital photography, modern photographers can capture thousands of memories of even the smallest nuptial moments, right down to the bride’s last potty visit.
The cost of your special day can vary somewhat, but rest assured the payment plan can easily outlast the marriage. I’ve known weddings that journeyed well into six figures. And none of those figures were in the cents column.
I know. It’s your special day. You want the wedding you’ve always dreamed of, and the wedding industry is well aware of that.
But your wedding is only the first day of the rest of your journey together. Someone once said that marriage isn’t 50/50. It’s 100/100. It takes two people giving everything they’ve got.
Invest your effort into that, not into one grand and glorious day.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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