How To Save Money on Your Humanist Wedding

hardly a day goes by without someone in public life deploring the soaring cost of weddings. Canon Giles Fraser was moaning about it on Thought for The Day, with Andrew Brown lining up behind him in The Guardian.

One of their complaints is that wedding ceremonies focus on the egos of the individuals, rather than the universal values that marriage celebrates. The other is the cost.

Having conducted quite a few wedding ceremonies now, I think they’re both missing the point.

I encourage the couples I marry to tell their story, talk about their reasons for marrying and their hopes for the future, because I know that in listening to what they have to say, their friends and family hear echoes of their own hopes and fears, recognise their own triumphs and disasters, and that is what makes the ceremony both unique AND universal.

The over-riding message they hear is that love (in the sense of empathy, compassion and fellow-feeling), is the most important human value. And if I had a gold-wrapped chocolate coin for every time I’ve been told that afterwards by a guest or family member, I’d be a very fat celebrant by now.

Weddings don’t need to cost the earth. Last weekend, I conducted a wedding in a field down in the Borders and this weekend I’ll be on a beach in East Lothian. Cost for venue, nil.

Unlike Canon Fraser, I don’t want to preach. So if you want to marry in a castle and be a princess for a day, go ahead. A wedding is celebration of love, but it’s also a party and you should have the best one you possibly can.

But if you feel that you might be able to put twenty grand to better use over the next few years, you could ask your friends to make the food, use your imagination, and focus your energy on having a dream marriage, rather than a dream wedding, as this article in the Guardian suggests.

  1. Jen Hancock - A Happy Humanist left a comment on August 11, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I love this post and it is so true. We got married on a ferry boat – total cost to us was a dress and the cost of the ferry tickets. My sister bought a carrot cake, my mom bought flowers and my dad provided the sparkling apple cider. The staff on the ferry provided in impromptu feast for us and our guests/fellow passengers on the ferry. We didn't ask them to do that, they were just thrilled to be part of a wedding and did it because they wanted to. Our reception when we got home cost us less then $2k total which included the venue, food and a live cajun band (friends of ours). The highlight was our friend a bagpipe player jamming on Amazing Grace with the cajun band. If we had hired an mc and/or a pro band, that magic moment would have never happened. My mom acted as MC and organized the toasts, none of which we had requested. It was a REALLY fun party – and as the bride, I got to enjoy it because I wasn't worrying about details.

    What is important is the marriage. I don't see the point of spending good money on a party when you better use that money to set up your new home. The wedding and the party should be fun and low stress. Just make sure the paper work is done right and allow your friends and family to share the moment with you. and above all, allow your friends and family can help and be a part of it with you, instead of just being guests at a fancy ball you are holding for yourself in your honor.

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