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Hey Rev!

My girlfriend wants a big, formal wedding and I want to elope. What’s a good compromise?

- SA

Bride and groom holding each other's hands during church wedding ceremony.

Bride and groom holding each other’s hands during church wedding ceremony. Photo courtesy of MNStudio via Shutterstock

Dear SA:

Have a big, informal wedding.

Your question touches on two themes that I have thought about a lot. They are the importance of debt avoidance and the significance of public ritual. Let’s spend a little time with each.

First, debt. If you and your girlfriend are statistically typical people, then you are entering into your marriage with five or even six figures of debt between you.

Taking on still more debt to make this wedding happen is not money well spent. Nor is asking your folks to pick up the tab — if your parents or hers have offered to pay for some or all of the big bill of a big wedding, then ask them, instead, if they would consider putting that money against your student loans or other liabilities.

Minimizing your debt now is an act of freedom which will ripple through your marriage: it will let you buy property sooner, think about having kids sooner, start a business sooner, build up financial reserves sooner, say yes to jobs which pay badly but which make your hearts sing sooner. And in doing so, it will save your marriage all kinds of stress. Debt avoidance, in other words, is as huge a wedding present as you and your new spouse can make to one another.

Second, public ritual. As a young man, I tended to skip the events that marked endings and beginnings. I frequently chose not to go to graduations, to closing night parties, to funerals. But, as I got a little older, I realized that I was depriving myself of something important. And, through my absence, I realized that I was depriving my community of something important. That’s because naming transition within community — getting together with the people whom you love and asking God to bless the changes of life — is a vital part of how human beings make meaning and how we mourn and how we rejoice.

Give yourself, your girlfriend, and your family and your friends the gift of being together as you celebrate your marriage. Give everyone in your community, SA, the gift of naming that which is beginning and that which is ending on your wedding day.

How do you put on a big, informal wedding? Well, print your own invitations. If you’re part of a faith community, ask them for their help in crafting a ritual without running up a lot of costs. Ask a family member with a large backyard if he would like to host your reception (if you’re not part of a faith community, ask him if he would like to host your ceremony). Work with the friends who would enjoy making enough chili and salad cookies for everyone to eat. Work with the others who would enjoy decorating your relative’s back yard.

Most of all, work with your girlfriend to make sure that your wedding has as many of the things that she is hoping for as possible. If she’s always dreamed of wearing a fabulous dress, then think about spending some money there — dresses may be pricey, but they are a fraction of the cost of having your whole reception catered at a private club. Similarly, if she wants her dad to walk her down the aisle, then make sure that there’s an aisle! You may be surprised at how many of the things that your girlfriend would really like will prove to be pretty simple and pretty affordable to achieve.

I predict, SA, that you will be glad to have to have marked your marriage surrounded by the people whom you love. I guarantee that you and your spouse will be grateful that this day didn’t leave you with more debt. And I promise that you will be thankful that you began your marriage by practicing compromise and by sacrificing a little to help make the woman whom you love happy.

So, start planning, SA. May your big, informal wedding be richly blessed.

The post Father Knows Best: My girlfriend wants a big wedding and I don’t appeared first on Father Knows Best.

Categories: Beliefs

Martin Elfert

Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which the Divine was at work in the world. Shortly thereafter, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination.

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