Budgeting Vs Investing In Your Ceremony

A Tale of Two Paths

Many of the decisions you will make when planning your wedding ceremony, will be made on strikingly unfamiliar territory. In other words, there will be a plethora of firsts; visiting bridal expos, florists, wedding dress suppliers, photographers, bridal cars, celebrants, event hire and so on.

Nothing can quite prepare a wedding couple for the bewildering array of questions and dilemmas that confront them, as they embark on their wedding journey. But no matter what demographic you fit into or how you decide to approach your wedding day, the subject of ‘price’ will almost certainly become a ‘point of conversation’.

You really need to decide your path right from the outset, in fact your entire wedding day experience comes down to just two (2) very simple questions:

1) Are you planning your wedding based on a ‘budget’?

2) Are you prepared to ‘invest’ in your wedding day

The second question is arguably more interesting than the first, for a range of reasons. The word ‘invest’ is not considered synonymous with weddings, since there is little tangible (financial) profit to be gained, unlike (say) investing in shares or property. The other point is that many couples (these days) are responsible for funding their own wedding, often resulting in the need to pursue question ‘1’.

Return on Investment

The big payback with question ‘2’ (ROI), is the immeasurable (and often underestimated) value of ‘experience’. This is a word that largely has no financial conotation, yet it’s life-long value is unrivalled.

Investing in your wedding tends to suggest that ‘money is no object’. Whilst this is rarely the case, what it actually (better) refers to, is a couple’s overall approach and desired outcome. Couples following the ‘invest’ path, generally design their wedding first, then seek-out suppliers and service providers who fit their design.

Whilst this doesn’t negate the need to be thrifty, it actually empowers couples to be flexible when trying to carve-out the perfect wedding day experience. In other words, price takes a backseat to ‘want’ (or need).

The other big win with question 2, is that it provides a benchmark for couples to determine if their dream wedding has been successful. Having researched and invested in the appropriate suppliers and services, the couple will be able to sit back after the big day, and assess if they received an adequate return on investment.

Weddings Driven by Price

Question ‘1’ provides a pathway for wedding couples who basically design their wedding in reverse. Couples in this category set a budget first, and then seek-out suppliers who fit that budget, often regardless of any other criteria.

There is a huge advantage in doing this, as it caps the overall cost of the wedding, and keeps it financially managable. The big problem here though, is a marketing term known as the ‘satisfaction curve’.

The Satisfaction Curve

The ‘satisfaction curve’ is an ideology where ‘too little’ investment in something may lead to a lack of satisfaction, and hence a poor (or dminished) experience (essentially negating any monies already invested). For example, a couple may budget $1000 for a wedding photographer, but find that (afterwards) the final product is so ordinary, that the additional investment of $500 would have delivered a satisfactory result.

The same applies at the other end of the price spectrum. For example, a couple may book a Hotel Suite for $500 a night, but experience the same satisfaction level as a Hotel Suite valued at $350 a night. This is called ‘over investment’, and can present a very real issue when planning a wedding.

However, the wedding industry (whilst being vast) generally has a way of categorising suppliers and services through natural selection. This means that much of the hard-slog (with regard to price) has been done for you. For example, the better (or more popular) the product or service, the higher the price. For couples on a budget, those products and services will often have less appeal, since their ‘satisfaction level’ can be reached at a different point on the ‘marketing curve’.

Like many markets the wedding industry could best be split into 3 price-based blocks. 15% (of suppliers and services) at the low price end, 75% in the mid-price range, and 15% at the upper price end.

Mixing Budget With Investment

There are arguably some couples who strike a balance between budget and investment, giving them more flexibility over their satisfaction level (as compared to couple’s strictly using the budget-based planning method).

There is certainly an advantage in having a wedding plan right from the get-go, negating the concern to make every decision based on price alone. Having said that, your satisfaction level (together with your overall experience) is of paramount importance.

This may ultimately mean going above and beyond your wedding budget. It may sound trite, but the most successful weddings, are those that deliver the optimum satisfaction level for the wedding couple, whilst being financially managable.

The Rising Popularity of Themed Wedding Ceremonies

As civil ceremonies continue to grow in popularity (as apposed to their denominational counterpart), wedding couples everywhere are beginning to take control of their big day, in an attempt to break away from age-old tradition.

The Pressure of Tradition

Part of this ideological breakaway, is the notion of ‘owning a ceremony’ (in it’s entirety), however this concept is not for the conservative or faint-hearted couple. As a community and society, we often feel bound (and pressured) to do ‘what is expected of us’; nothing could be truer than when it comes to wedding ceremonies.

As a civil celebrant, I am often confronted by traditionalists after a ceremony, questioning and analysing varying aspects of my presentation style, and why I occasionally veer from the ‘expected’ or ‘traditional’. The expectation of producing the same traditional ceremony ‘time after time’ is still very real, and has inevitably crept into the belief system of a contingent of ‘Gen Y’ers’.

Changing it Up

However for some couples, the message of keeping to tradition has either not sunk-in, or they are just too creative to continue the traditional narrative. Some couples see a breakaway from wedding tradition, not as heretical, but as an opportunity to express their characters during the most important commitment of their life.

So how do you know if you are a traditional couple or not?

It seems to me that if you share a great passion (as a couple), then you could be potential candidates for a non-traditional or (dare I say), a themed ceremony. For example if you love Disney Movies (as a couple), you may decide to exchange the white wedding dress for a Mickey Mouse costume, with a similarly attired bridal party (and guests, if you want to go the whole nine yards).

Perhaps you share a love of travel, food, the arts, popular culture, or sport; it really doesn’t matter what your passion is, the key is to act on it and become liberated (and motivated) whilst creating your wedding ceremony. Look at your ceremony as a creative opportunity, considering every aspect with a view to adding your own personal touches.

Full Theme Ahead

Once you have decided on a theme; Star Wars, Super Heroes, Fairytale, Mediaeval etc, then get very creative. Don’t look back, and (whatever you do) avoid tradition for maximum impact. Your ceremony is a statement, a reflection of your views, ideologies, characters and creativity, it provides the stage on which you will begin your exciting journey as a unified team.

If you decide to pursue a themed-style wedding ceremony, you will naturally encounter the traditionalists, who may question your alternative ideas and motives. However, wedding ceremonies are deeply personal, and tradition is exactly that…’tradition’, diametrically opposed to the creative couple in pursuit of a themed ceremony.

Working with the Right Suppliers

As you progress along your selected wedding-theme path, you will need the right suppliers by your side. Finding the right supplier for a themed wedding is surprisingly simpler than sourcing a supplier for a traditional wedding. The reason being, that the wedding industry has grown-up on tradition, which is unsurprisingly still the main stream (not to mention socially more acceptable).

When sourcing your photographer, videographer, venue, florist, and celebrant etc, simply tell them your idea (or plan), then wait for their response. If you encounter a supplier that feels awkward with your idea, move on immediately, remembering that many of your ideas will be fuelled by equally-creative and liberated suppliers.

Maximum Impact

If you have done your homework well, been true to your characters and beliefs, and hired the right suppliers, you (and your guests) will be handsomely rewarded with an amazing and unforgettable day. Themed weddings are always fascinating (if done well), delivering maximum impact, whilst inevitably baulking common ceremonial traditions (which by it’s petulant nature, creates a natural air of interest and curiosity).

As a liberated civil celebrant, I implore you to consider your ceremony as a themed event, an extension of ‘you’ as a couple. Find common interests between you and your partner, and bring them to life on your wedding day.

Get creative!

The Concealed Bride

Throughout marriage folklore history, there has been a continual underlying theme regarding the concealment of the bride, and her safe delivery to her groom at the altar.

It is often challenging to determine where such folklore originates, and why it was deemed that the bride required concealment in the first instance. However, given that the bride was perceptively under threat from the forces of evil, it is surprising how many folklore traditions have become a main stay of the modern ceremony.

In fact, marriage folklore literally underpins the entire modern ceremony, from the entrance of the bride, to the recessional. So how has this manifested in the secular ceremonies of today?

The Tradition of the Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids, according to marriage folklore, were simply decoys. Their primary task was to confuse the evil spirits, tricking them into believing that they were the ‘real bride’. In years gone by, they would even dress in a similar fashion (to the bride), although this latter tradition seems to have all but vanished.

The evil spirits, confused by the procession, would (theoretically) pick-off the bridesmaids, thus leaving the bride to safely reach the altar.

The Bridal Veil

Once again, the bridal veil was designed to conceal the identity of the bride. The theory was, that if the bridesmaids were unable to successfully confuse the evil spirits, then it would require the wearing of a veil to provide adequate concealment.

The real bride was safely hidden behind her veil, which was worn over her face until she reached the altar, at which point she would traditionally take her place together with her groom, wearing the veil over her face for the entire ceremony.

Even though many brides today wear bridal veils, they often wear them ‘back’ during the entrance. This is largely because the draconian belief in evil spirits has been surpassed by the importance of wedding photography.

However, if a bride does choose to wear a veil over her face (for the processional), there are several moments at which she may decide to remove it.

The first is when her father (or parents) ‘give her away’. A bride may decide to invite her parents to draw-back her veil, thus revealing the bride to the groom.

The second moment is when the groom has taken hold of the bride’s hand (after her parents have given her away), and has brought her into the ‘marriage position’. The groom may draw-back the bride’s veil, just prior to the commencement of the ceremony.

The third moment is just before the the bride and groom share their first kiss. This is generally after the declaration, when they have been announced as husband and wife.

The father of the bride

The father of the bride acted as a quasi ‘3rd line of defence’ in the ‘evil spirits’ scenario. The theory was that if the bridesmaids and veil were unsuccessful in confusing the evil spirits, then it was up to the father of the bride who, with his left arm hooked around the bride s right arm, would ‘draw his sword’ and ward-off the baddies.

The other important point here, is that the father of the bride would (as all gentlemen would), draw his sword with his right hand. It was not traditional to draw a sword with the left hand.

The Tradition of the Bridal Bouquet

In years gone by, sanitation was often an issue. In fact, it’s only in relatively recent times that we have access to fresh running water, and even more recently, fresh hot water.

As a result, the bride and her bridesmaids would carry a fresh bunch of flowers, designed to compensate for any lack of sanitation, thus enticing the awaiting groom.

As we meander along the pathway of the modern secular marriage ceremony, it is perplexing how (or why) many of the old folklore traditions are still practiced today.

Children at Weddings

As a civil celebrant, I am often asked whether children should be invited to a wedding. There is a range of factors that must be taken into consideration, before the ultimate conclusion can be drawn.

How young is too young?

The first question that needs to be pondered, is how old are the children attending?

In my experience, children under 4 years of age, can be often become quite restless during a ceremony, especially very young boys. The word restless needs to be explored, because it varies in intensity.

For example, I have experienced parents with 1-2 year olds verbally interrupting (constantly) during a ceremony, as well as 2-4 year olds performing antics at the front of the ceremony, providing (on one hand) entertainment for the guests, but detracting from the overall meaning of the ceremony (on the other).

Managing young children in a ceremony

Once a bride and groom have made a decision on a final guest list, they then must ensure there is a contingency plan to help manage any unexpected interruptions, if young children are going to successfully partake.

As a celebrant, I often commence a ceremony with a preamble (prior to the entrance of the bride and procession), thus empowering parents to move away from the ceremonial spectrum, should their children become restless. Difficulties can arise when children become restless, and parents fail to take their children out of the ceremonial space.

It stands to reason that since very young children have limited ability to make rational decisions regarding social correctness during a ceremony, then the question of management falls to the parent or guardian. This in turn redirects the argument from managing children, to managing parents.

Older children at a wedding ceremony

With children over the age of 4, I often find less of an issue with interruptions and distractions. The bigger issue for children of this age group is boredom and fatigue, which is generally combated by using either electronic devices (running in silent mode) to preoccupy the child, combined with a shorter style of ceremony.

Flower Girls and Page Boys

It is always baffling why so many couples select very young children to be flower girls and page boys. Whilst it is definitely cute to witness a 3 year old flower girl or page boy making their way down an aisle, it is also rare that it happens without obvious incident.

I have witnessed the usual gamete of antics from flower girls and page boys, and have concluded that it is simply impossible to predict how they will respond on a wedding day. Often a bridesmaid (or parent) is assigned to assist young ‘bridal party children’ down an aisle, which often results in a child being carried, thus changing the entire dynamic of the processional.

It may also be worth noting, that flower girls and page boys do not stand with the bridal party during a ceremony, so it’s very important to have a guardian on stand-by, ready to look after the child.

Giving parents a break

For many wedding couples who are designing a guest list, there is an assumption that guests will want to bring their children to a ceremony. In actual fact, there may be parents who would prefer to leave their children (at home) with a relative or baby-sitter.

This could be because the children will understandably be bored or restless, but also because the parents would like a relaxing (focused) stress-free experience at the couple’s wedding.

The irony is that parents often feel obligated to bring their children (if stated on the invitation), whilst couples feel obligated to invite them. A well thought-out guest list often requires communication between the guests and wedding couple, in order to devise the optimum ceremonial dynamics.

Are there any positives when inviting children to a wedding?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

Weddings are arguably about people (and more importantly about family), and families involve everyone from the very young to the elderly.

Since children are a vital part of a family heirarchy, they in-turn become an important element of a wedding. But as discussed above, children at weddings are more about the management of the parents, and having a well thought-out contingency plan, rather than their complete exclusion.

Put simply, if children are going to partake successfully in a wedding, then they must be assisted in every way, with careful consideration given to the elements discussed above. The assistance must be driven by the wedding couple, empowering the parents to make well-planned decisions, thus creating a harmonious ceremonial atmosphere that can be enjoyed by all.

Managing a Broken Bridal Party

A wedding is a monumental event, and involves the integration and cooperation of a many people; from friends and relatives, to wedding suppliers.

It is for this reason, that it is important that every person involved in the wedding is carefully selected, ensuring that they either want, or need to be there. This is particularly important when it comes to selecting a bridal party.

But what happens when there is a rift in the bridal party, or when the bride or groom has a fallout with a bridal party member?

Is it Common?

As a civil celebrant, I have seen this happen on many occasions, and have witnessed how different brides and grooms cope when faced with such a scenario. It may be worth emphasising that broken bridal parties are more common than you think.

The reasons why a bridal party may break are numerous, but are often based on the underlying stresses and pressures of the intense and important day that lies ahead.

The Bridezilla

Arguably the most common reason for a bridal party to splinter, is due to a stressed bride, who has placed the importance of her wedding day, above the feelings and concerns of her closest friends or family. This spells immediate danger, because a bride’s support network is often the most vital element of her wedding day.

Ironically, spotting a bridezilla is normally the domain of the bridal party, since their role is to work closely with the bride; shopping for wedding suppliers, discussing decorations and colours, and assisting and supporting her every step of the way.

It may be worth noting, that I see far more female bridal party members ousted than males. This is to be expected, since groom’s often have much fewer wedding responsibilities, hence much less wedding stress. The male members of the bridal party are also limited to a few simple tasks, mainly trying on suits, and (possibly) doing a short speech at the reception.

The Bridesmaidzilla

Stress (and the notion of being unreasonable), is not just confined to brides. It can also manifest in bridesmaids, who are either dominant, reluctant, petulant, or overly keen to relive their own wedding day.

Once again, it is the management of such situations that falls to the bride and groom. In extreme cases, it is common for the perpetrator to be ousted from the bridal party, in order to maintain harmony.

Bridal Party Management Solutions

It is common-place for a bridal party to incorporate the bride’s closest friends and family. It is for this reason, that simply ousting bridal party members is not always feasible.

So how do you manage an unruly bridal party member?

The first step is to determine whether an issue can be resolved quickly and easily, and what triggered the issue in the first instance. It is also important to be subjective at all times.

One idea, is for the bridal party to meet (if practicable), to air any issues that may have arisen. It then falls to the entire bridal party (rather than just the bride) to begin the task of negotiating a middle ground.

But what if you are dealing with a bridezilla?

Dealing with a bride who has become overly precious about her wedding day is like ‘walking on egg shells’, because there is often an element of irrationality. There are also (often) casualties, not only in the bridal party, but often in the wider guest list.

Once again, it may be useful for the bridal party to meet to provide support for the bride, and include a close family member such as a mother, father, or close sibling. If a bride has become irrational (about her upcoming wedding day) it is important to understand why?

Is she anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, poor at making decisions or too quick to reach a conclusion. Are there financial issues, or is the bride unable to get the exact colour, size or shape of a particular wedding feature?

Getting married is arguably one of the biggest days in a couple’s life, and apart from involving intricate planning (and loads of money), it also involves dealing with family and close friends. This can be intense, since families and friends have a history, and putting them all together in one place, can prove stressful for the fledgling wedding couple.

Weddings are renowned for bringing friends and families together, not the contrary. It is to this end, that offering assistance and support to bridal party members (during the stressful moments), is far more logical than ousting them.

A Look at Chapel Ceremonies

When a bride and groom begin their journey to find their perfect civil ceremony venue, the topic of chapels will almost certainly arise.

The issue for modern wedding couples, especially those who are determined not to have a religious ceremony, is that chapels are often associated with the Catholic church. The reason for this is that chapels are historically places of worship, and worship (in western society) is commonly associated with Christianity.

Whilst chapels are a regular feature of church structures, they can also be stand-alone independent structures, completely detached from any denominational parish or influence. The stand-alone (style of) chapel arguably offers modern couples the choice of either a denominational or civil ceremony.

Many stand-alone chapels are free of the usual denominational chattels, providing a fresher and more secular environment in which modern couples can get married. Having said that, the ubiquitous church pew and traditional red carpet (often) still remain, whilst stained glass windows are also a regular fixture in modern chapels.

As a Civil Celebrant, it is always perplexing why modern stand-alone chapels remain as popular as ever, however it seems that as long as their are no obvious signs of denominational content, modern couples (looking for a civil ceremony) are as keen as ever to utilise chapels.

It is possibly the fact that we (really) have no other ‘alternative vision’ of marriage ceremonies, other than that which the Catholic church has provided (for western society) over the past 2,000 years, thus perpetuating the use of chapels as an accepted ceremony space.

Stand-alone chapels provide fantastic solutions to weather-affected outdoor ceremonies, generally accommodating from 50 guests upward. Often the acoustics are better than comparable venues, whilst chapel layouts tend to lend themselves to the traditional incorporation of a bridal party, and certificate signing.

Modern reception venues have taken advantage of Gen ‘Y’s desire for chapel ceremonies, by (often) including a chapel on the reception grounds. This also shows how the modern approach to weddings has shifted (dramatically) from the bride and groom, to the guests. In days gone by, guests would attend a church ceremony, and then make their way to a separate (off-site) reception venue, the logistics of which could often present many challenges.

So the big questions is whether Chapel Ceremonies are sustainable, considering Gen ‘Y’s arguable shift away from the Catholic church. Given the arguments above, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

The Disappearance of the Shotgun Wedding

For many couples, the thought of standing in front of a crowd and declaring their ‘undying love’ is simply too overwhelming. But this is just one potential driver of an eloping couple.

The other driver (for many), is the stigmatised fear that the bride will be (or is) pregnant prior to her wedding day. However, it is arguable that Gen ‘Y’ has little to no affiliation with such outdated concepts, whereas Gen ‘X’ still exudes an underlying fear that a couple must be wedded prior to becoming pregnant.

Where does such folklore originate, and why is it so indelibly stamped on our social physche?

The Catholic Church and the Pregnant Bride

Without question, the Catholic church (in western society) has led the fear campaign in this area, arguably brain-washing generations that ‘it is a sin to be pregnant and unwedded’. It may be worth noting that (in days gone by), the Catholic church derived a handsome income from sinners (and such sin), not to mention the unmitigated power that could be wielded against believers.

This in-turn created a massive social stigma, filtering into the community and manifesting in the fathers of pregnant brides, who would perceivably take matters into their own hands with their preferred ‘pregnancy deterrent’; the humble ‘shotgun’.

So, with the fear of being socially outcast, and the ‘all important’ father figure reinforcing his disdane, the pregnant bride would be forced to either elope, abort the pregnancy, or run the risk of being ousted.

This was an ideal situation for the Catholic church, since sinners are the life-blood of the faith, and marriage was the domain of the church, and with a dutiful community wielding the church’s cross, it proved both a powerful and profitable result. However, there are several interesting factors that have all-but seen the disappearance of the ‘shotgun wedding’.

A Change of Direction

The first of these is the obvious shift of Gen ‘Y’ away from the outdated doctrine of the Catholic church (discussed in a previous article). The second of these is the gradual defrocking of the ‘all important’ father figure, giving rise to the ‘all important’ mother figure in recent years. The final factor (and perhaps the most obvious), is the abolition of gun ownership in Australia.

Oddly, I still hear the echoes of stigma in modern-day pregnant brides, uttering the often common phrase “I don’t wan’t to be pregnant and unmarried”.

Fortunately, the term ‘shotgun wedding’ has now been replaced with the term ‘elope”, and generally refers to a wedding couple doing one of three types of ceremonies. The first is to get married at a Marriage Registry Office, the second is to get married in private (often with just 2 witnesses and a celebrant), and the third is to travel overseas to be legally married under another country’s law.

Living Together and Eloping

Apart from pregnancy and the fear of speaking in front of guests, Gen ‘Y’ is also now living together prior to marriage; another sin according to the Catholic church. However the act of living together (prior to marriage) has brought about new responsibilities for unwedded couples, most notably money.

There was a period in recent history, where it was up to the ‘father of the bride’ to fund a large portion (if not all) of the wedding. This was arguably done to ensure that the bride ‘did the right thing’, prior to marriage (ie. no sex, no pregnancy, no living together with her partner).

However, since it is now common-place for couples to buy a house and live together prior to marriage, it also stands to reason that they are more ‘money conscious’, thus prompting a need to be more frugal with wedding costs.

It is this last point, that makes the concept of eloping so attractive to modern couples. In fact, the Marriage Registry Offices are often flat-out marrying couples on a daily basis, giving enormous credence to the argument that financial considerations for many modern couples is now a major driving influence.