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Marta Segal Block Headshot

Don't Judge the Marriage by the Wedding

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There's this couple I heard about. You won't believe their wedding plans. For starters, you should know that they're young, early 20s. The bride wants a big, fancy, wedding at this expensive hotel. She wants the groom to wear a top hat and tails and her veil is like 10 feet long. The groom is basically an orphan, and he works for the bride's dad. It's not like her family is loaded, they're self-employed and struggling to put together a family business. Oh, and get this, they just met like six months ago.

Totally unrealistic right? Especially in this economy. Just another example of how today's brides are being ruined by reality TV and how people put so much effort into the wedding that the marriage can't possibly survive. Right?

Except that the couple above was my grandparents, and they had their fancy wedding in 1936 -- during The Great Depression. They were married for 70 years before they died within months of each other. They raised three sons, had nine grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. By all accounts they had a normal, happy, successful marriage.

Why do I mention all of this? Because I've been wondering lately about how much hate is directed towards weddings in general, and specifically, big or fancy weddings. I've been writing for a wedding blog for over four years now. Usually, on a wedding blog you don't get a lot of push back about the idea of a wedding, even a big one. But, any time you see an article about weddings on a general site (even Huffington Post) you also see a lot of negative comments.

About 10 per cent of the comments on a wedding article will be from people who think the whole idea of getting married is a joke. Why these people are reading articles about weddings and marriage is a mystery. Then, there will be a large chunk of comments from those who want you to know that they did not do anything as foolish as having a big wedding. They and their spouse spent $500 or less on their wedding, in their parents' backyard, and they've been married for over 20 years. These people want to know why today's couples can't be more like them. Why today's weddings are so big.

I get it. I too got married in a second hand dress at a park. On my mantlepiece I have a picture of my DIY Hippie-Dippy wedding right next to my grandparents' "Downton Abbey"-worthy extravaganza. If you had to guess, based on those pictures, which of us would go on to make a career in the wedding business, it wouldn't be me! But, do I think my marriage will be longer lasting or happier than my grandparents because I spent less money on my wedding? No, I do not.

I think we all make different decisions about where to spend our money for different reasons. My grandparents were immigrants. Perhaps they wanted a big, fancy wedding to show that they had made it in America, that they were here to stay. Perhaps they were trying to keep up with the Joneses in their small upstate New York town. Maybe my great-grandfather saw the big wedding as a business investment, a chance to show off for clients. Maybe, in the face of the Great Depression, the ongoing massacre of their relatives in the Holocaust, and the impending doom of World War II, they just wanted a reason to celebrate. Or maybe, my grandmother just knew how devastatingly handsome my grandfather would be in that top hat.

Some people see a big wedding as a great way to honor their friends and family, treat them to a fantastic day, and involve them in their marriage. Putting the guests and their needs at the center of the wedding is one of the big trends for 2013 weddings.

Some people see a small, intimate wedding as a great way to honor their relationship, to focus on the relationship instead of material goods, and yes, to save money for other things.

Both kinds of weddings are great, as long as they make the couple happy.

There's nothing about a big wedding that guarantees a happy marriage. But, there's also nothing about a big wedding that dooms a marriage.