More than once over the years, my boys have asked, “Why is everyone so interested in my love life?”
“All the world loves a love story.” I told them, “Books, movies, music… all attest to the universal obsession with love. And we especially savor witnessing a love story up close; feeling like we contributed to others happiness.”
I believe this fascination with love reveals the very best in human nature. We want to feel loved, but we also want others to find joy. Few of us worry about our friends earning fame or fortune but we want everyone to discover love.
Those unselfish feelings, that unfettered joy for others, come out full force for a wedding. And not because of a naive expectation of ‘happily ever after’ or that marriage won’t offer challenges– I think people are supportive because they know married life can be hard, but oh-so-worth every effort. All these offerings of gifts and setting tables, stitching quilts and hanging lights say, “We’re invested in you; we’re here to support you.”
Over and over, I’ve heard my sons say, “I’m amazed at people’s kindness; it makes me want to work hard to be the best husband.”
By now, you’ve likely read/or heard one of the many news stories proclaiming “Want a happy marriage? Have a big cheap wedding.” based on a study, by two economics professors at Emory University. In short, the researchers found the less a couple spent on their wedding and the more people they invited to the celebrations, the more likely they are to stay happily married.
Mormons all over the world strained muscles by patted themselves on the back after reading these studies. Because who does big weddings? WE DO! And who knows how to stretch that dollar? WE DO!
Two of my sons just got married within five months of each other and I saw these principles come to life. All our friends and neighbors contributed their talents from flower arranging to baking, sewing bunting, creating wreaths and good old setting up and taking down tables. And while I wouldn’t exactly call Mormon weddings cheap– our willingness to help each other, to contribute talents and lend table cloths and to be just fine with serving dessert and no sit-down dinner certainly cut costs.
While wedding costs are tricky to determine–the supposed national average is $26,444, but most people spend under $15,000, the supposed average Mormon wedding is $15,000 but most people spend around $7,500– it’s clear Mormon weddings run about half the national average.
The lack of alcohol accounts for much of the savings, but so does the willingness of Saints to help each other. With both my sons’ weddings I was amazed by the kindness of my friends and neighbors. People sewed quilts and held showers, loaned us arches and lanterns, trays and candle holders. One exceptionally kind friend loaned us their yard for a September reception. I held wedding dinners at my house, and the day of the dinner my house filled with friends ready to cook, clean, set tables and offer love and support. Honestly, if we’d gone to a restaurant or hired a caterer, I feel like I would’ve missed out on all those happy feelings.
I’ve heard of stakes who keep a wedding book– a folder detailing who owns folding tables, cloths, candles, lanterns, easles, etc. I love the idea! I have about 100 Ikea plates I’m willing to loan out, four folding tables and several vases.
Because I’m a wedding photographer and I see all kinds of celebrations, people often expect me to have lavish wedding plans. I’d say spending up-close time at many weddings has taught me exactly the opposite– overthought and overwrought weddings only increase stress and decrease joy. No one remembers the handwritten place cards– everyone remembers feeling welcomed and loved. Pinterest can be a bride’s good friend for sharing her vision, but her worst enemy when she finds more good ideas than can possibly be executed. At one of my favorite weddings I’ve photographed, the bride folded paper cranes for decorations, her sisters made the wedding cake, grandma arranged the flowers and they passed out creamsicles for refreshments.
And there’s the beauty of big, home-grown wedding– friends and neighbors gathering to help and participate and offer support. As my new daughter-in-law AnnaSam said, “In the midst of all the wedding prep, every couple decides eloping sounds like a great idea. But gathering all these people together who love you and care about you lends power to a marriage. I know there will be hard times, but we know we have hundreds of people cheering us on, invested in our happiness and our success. And starting the first day of marriage celebrating with all those people we love is a gift to all of us.”
What are your thoughts on Mormon weddings?
Does your stake have a ‘wedding book’? Tell me about it!
What are your favorite wedding traditions?