“Reality” TV Wedding Shows Versus Real Weddings

As a wedding minister and owner of a wedding planning company, I am witness to the changing trends and fashions taking place in the wedding world. We have noticed that the plethora of “reality” TV shows featuring weddings, are causing an unfortunate distortion of how things work in the real world. I have written about this before, regarding “bridezillas,” but the effect is more wide spread.

There was a time when weddings were a family affair; planned and financed by the groom, and mostly the brides families, in accordance with the resources and budget restrictions of the families involved. Of course, weddings of such celebrities as actors, major politicians and royalty were broadcast to the world. However, the average bride did not expect to have a wedding like Princess Diana’s or Grace Kelly’s. She expected to marry in her neighborhood church and have a reception in the church hall, community center, or her backyard. Family members created the food and often the cake, too. Flowers were grown at home or friends’ gardens. Aunt Carol might create the bouquets. Uncle Bill, the photographer, would take pictures. Rather recently, this has all changed. Weddings have become major social events and families of the bride and groom feel pressured to come up with a lot of money to stage expensive and large weddings. People look for beautiful, private sites, top notch photographers and prestigious caterers. All of this is costly. “Reality” wedding shows normalize this trend.

If the bride or groom’s families are not able to afford the planned wedding, the expense falls upon the bride and groom. If they are young and still in the process of building their careers, they feel forced to borrow money to finance the wedding of their dreams. One bride, who ended up choosing to forego a big wedding, and elope, instead, told me, “It was going to cost us at least $25,000. We decided we would rather put a down payment on a home.” Sounds sensible to me. If a couple is going to borrow $25,000, shouldn’t it be invested in something solid and substantial, like a home? And 25 to 30K is now considered an average cost of a wedding.

I saw a recent episode of a wedding show that “rescues” brides from the alleged misery and deprivation of simple, low-cost weddings and instead they get the upscale extravaganza of their dreams. Of course, the producers of the show foot the bill. But, what about the average bride watching this show, and other like it, who begins to feel like the local veteran’s hall is actually a sad choice, compared to the posh resorts she sees on TV. What happens to many brides is that they begin to feel deprived and resentful and troll for credit cards to upgrade their weddings.

The problem is that when people are spending more than they can afford, tension and stress creeps in. Brides begin to argue with their parents and groom when credit card limits are reached. (This also makes life difficult for wedding professionals. I would rather plan five small weddings, where people are happy and relaxed, than one more costly that no one can easily afford.) Suddenly, more and more costs arise, because once you start planning an upscale wedding, everything costs a lot. More and more resentment and blame build up. I have seen brides and grooms break up at this point, more often than I care to recount.

What is the answer? It’s different for each bride and groom, but I can offer some time honored basic principles:

1) This may seem a shocker, but it’s true: inexpensive weddings can be every bit as beautiful, memorable and pleasing as expensive ones and sometimes they are more so.

2) Creativity, family effort, and imagination can create a wonderful wedding on a small budget. Of course, these qualities will enrich a high budget wedding, too.

3) Understanding these concepts, brides and grooms should decide what they can sensibly afford to spend on wedding and reception before wedding planning can start. Families may want to help financially, but remember some control will be lost.

In conclusion a wedding is a very important and life changing event in the history of an individual, couple, family and community. Therefore, it is important to reflect on the larger meaning, when planning a wedding. Fashions, style, and refreshments are all fun and significant. However, what is most important is bonding, harmony, ease and a sense of the sacred.