I’m a Grinch, I don’t like Christmas and I don’t like Weddings, or I should rephrase – I don’t like the commercialization of them. I’m all in favour of celebrating special days with friends and family. The celebration of the winter solstice or Christ’s birthday is all fine and good, just as the idea of coming together to honour the idea of two people committing for life is really uplifting. However, the ridiculous obsession with gifts and pageantry astounds me. I cannot believe how I can open a paper on any given day and read matching headlines to the tune of, “Average cost of wedding now in the $26,000 range” and, “Average student now graduates with $28,000 of debt.” If we are so far in debt as young people why do we feel the need to put on such extravagant weddings?!
Why Do We Ruin a Good Thing?
Aren’t weddings a fairly simple concept at their core? Isn’t the main idea of getting together to celebrate the unique bond between two individuals who want to be together for the rest of their lives fairly straightforward and about as non-materialistic as you can get? Why then do we seek to pervert this pure ideal? As a young person it seems like I am invited to a new wedding every week. For a detail person like myself, the lack of solid precedent or stone-engraved etiquette when it comes to wedding invitations drives me batty! I recently got a wedding invite from an old friend I hadn’t talked to in over two years, and whose significant other I met once. The wedding would be extremely expensive, and I’m not sure I would want to go if it was right next door. So what is the proper move here? Do I send a cheque? Only a card? It seems ridiculous. At what point can you justify not attending a wedding by simply saying, “Sorry I can’t come, I just can’t afford it.” When travelling for weddings the costs add up quicker than you can say, “I Do”. Meals out, rental clothes and/or dry cleaning costs, flights and/or car costs. I don’t at all mind spending money to go to a close relative’s or a good friend’s wedding. I look forward to these occasions like most people do, but I can’t be the only one that has a bunch of “Facebook friends” (people you only keep up with on Facebook) that feel like sending an invite to everyone they have ever met.
Yes I’m Cheap – But Am I Wrong?
I have written (in addition to many other people) that the whole idea of gift giving is inherently flawed. By socially forcing gift giving we are severely undercutting the overall positive utility our economy has. The reason behind this is that other people can’t possibly know as well as you do what you want, so therefore they can’t possibly spend their money the way you would, and vice versa. The overall effect is that over the course of a lifetime you get a lot of presents that you don’t need, don’t want, or are even pretty good, just not as good as if you simply would have bought the exact item you wanted. You will also give hundreds of these presents in the same manner. Here is a revolutionary idea – what if we all just kept our money and got together for the sake of getting together and forgot the whole stressful notion of socially-riddled gift-giving?!
Who Keeps Track of This Crap?
There are so many weird social rules out there that no one can agree specifically when it comes to weddings and I don’t know why we subscribe to them at all. First of all, for guys there is the crazy De Beers-driven notion of how much you should spend on an engagement ring to show how “real” your love is. In an abstract way, is there anything more materialistic than the idea of representing love as a certain type of rock? Seriously though, a mineral is supposed to intrinsically romantic? Then there is the whole “Say Yes To The Dress” movement which has made every woman feel that they have to spend half a year’s salary on a dress they will use for a few hours lest they be considered impoverished by the ever-judging onlookers. Finally, we get to the idea of how much money to give for a wedding gift. Some people say enough to cover the cost of the dinner, but this can be problematic as I’m not sure what dinners cost in many areas. Other people say with supreme confidence that the number is $100 or $200 per person. There seems to be no rationale for this other than that they are round numbers. To me, the logical-to-the-point-of-frustration individual, if I invite someone to spend hundreds of dollars to fly in from out of town, what right do I have to then expect a gift out of them anyway?!
Perhaps I feel so strongly about the issue because I myself have been dating the same girl for over four years now. We live together and are extremely happy and have committed to each other for the rest of our lives. Society
expects demands us to have a wedding, and the pressure seems to be building. While I would be perfectly content to tell the world to screw off, my girlfriend feels some responsibility to everyone else, and her brother and sister-in-law are in the exact same situation we are. At this point in our lives the cost of a “decent” wedding by today’s standards makes no sense at all from a personal finance perspective, and it probably won’t for a couple of years until my girlfriend graduates with her B. Ed degree, yet everyone seems to want a wedding far more than we do. Has anyone else had this experience?
Can someone help out a clueless guy here? I know us boys aren’t supposed to get the whole wedding thing, but I am actually starting to actively resent the whole idea. Some people have parents that will pay (we don’t) but even that seems insane to me. I know how hard my folks have to work for that much money, why should I expect them to lavish it on me for a single ceremony that I wouldn’t even really enjoy that much? Am I just a total jerk that needs to seek help (at least I’m a self-aware jerk I guess)? Can anyone conclusively explain to me what sort of gift a young couple should give to another young couple? Why can’t we all just be economist-minded and simply keep our own money?! If the average wedding costs a certain amount, and we then pay everyone else in $100 or $200 increments over our lifetimes, couldn’t we simply all pay for own wedding and skip the awkwardness of debating over amounts 5 times a year altogether?