Big wedding. Small marriage.

I’ve never been one of those girls who imagined a fairytale wedding or princess ballgown. I grew up a tomboy, I never brushed my hair, I rode horses and walked barefoot. At 26-years-old and with the love of my life in hand, I still haven’t given much thought to what dress I’d wear. I don’t even like diamonds.

It’s saddened me to see how competitive and commercial this whole wedding thing has become.

But like the rest of us, I have seen many a friend-of-a-friend get engaged and hitched on Facebook. I really have become a virtual guest at Facebook wedding after Facebook wedding. And more often than not, it’s saddened me to see how competitive and commercial this whole wedding thing has become.

And oh! how the dresses and drama queens of Reality Television have exaggerated the fuss: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Don’t Tell the Bride, Say Yes to the Dress… Just think back on the Royal Wedding of April 2011. It was estimated that some 45% of the world’s population tuned-in to watch the spectacle. An optimistic Culture Secretary pinned the figure at two-billion! We’re a world that is wedding-obsessed.

Back home, I have heard stories of weddings costing R250,000 and more. That’s a deposit on a house, a year spent travelling the world (together), a child’s education fund or a start-up business.

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I wonder just how many bride-and-grooms-to-be consider the pennies guests are expected to cough up during these tough economic times: engagement parties and gifts, the bachelorette’s do, flights, weekend accommodation at expensive wine farms, wedding gifts and time taken off from work (some people only get 15-days a year). I laughed once when I saw “honey-scented soap” on a gift registry. How genuinely pleased would a “Bridezilla” be with a bar of honey-scented soap from the registry? And because we’re at an age where wedding season has descended on us like 21st season once did; wedding weekends are set to become a long-running bar tab.

I so admire the friends who plan weddings that take all these things into account. Our good friends are planning a wedding at home on their 5,000 acre farm near Lesotho. Guests have to camp (Yay! No accommodation costs). Dinner will be spitbraai-style lamb from the farm (delish). And her dress? A cheapish (but stunning) little number from a boutique that was indeed a Thai-brothel, cover-up. You wouldn’t know it when you see it. And they’re not annoyed we can’t make it. Shit happens and flights overseas are expensive. A couple after my own heart — it will be the wedding of the decade!

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And of course, that’s not to say I think weddings are a total farce. You can always leave some room for an intimate, homemade wedding with the family and friends who matter. But let it be said that I do think the well-oiled, TV-production-style wedding with “Bridezilla” at the alter has brushed the whole point of marriage under the carpet. Marriage is the massive thing; in fact it’s the hugest thing of all. And it’s far, far bigger than the wedding. Marriage is more important than what flowers you choose or whether the lighting will lend itself to “that perfect shot” or how many carats are on her ring finger. The wedding is a day; the marriage is forever (in theory).

I worry that we’re tending towards bigger weddings and smaller marriages.

Do yourself a favour and read a book called Marriage Confidential: Love in the Post-Romantic Age by Pamela Haag to understand that marriage is under siege. In American society today, 60% of first marriages fail. We live in an instant gratification society: quick money, quick communication, quick fixes and quick marriages. And it’s threatening married life like no other. I worry that we’re tending towards bigger weddings and smaller marriages.

The institution of marriage is not developing with the times and that should be the greater concern for you, me and everyone else who might be blinded by the wedding fuss.

For me, the point of a wedding is to have the opportunity to stand before the person I love and tell them exactly that. It’s a day to promise them the rest of my life and for them to do the same. Call me part-romantic-part-skeptic but I’d prefer to become a generation of marriage-builders than wedding-competitors.