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Cash Is Not Cachet!

“Mom, we’re getting married.”

This sentence is often great news in a family’s life, right?

And it was for us. Our daughter was well-launched in her career. Her beloved was too. They had been together long enough to know what they were getting into, and had weathered the storms of love that toss one about on the way to that assurance.

We liked him a lot, and had grown to love him once he stopped with the phobia of uncertain commitment. The day we met his parents—a “blind date” orchestrated by our kids—his dad blurted early on, “So, I told him, ‘If you love her, what’s the problem? Cut this out. Just do it.”

Well, then there’s a thing called a wedding—some people still have them. But what a “THANG” weddings have become! Is it a sort of social cancer on the way to the death of patriarchal marriage—an out-of-control growth sucking up every ounce of energy that comes near to it?

I just couldn’t believe it, as we started exploring “options”.

When I was a working-class girl, weddings were mostly fifteen-minute ceremonies followed by one-hour cake and punch receptions in a church hall. By the time I married, they were fifteen-minute ceremonies—though my own was a hour-long church service with what amounted to be two sermons (really good ones too)—followed by an afternoon or evening meal that often included live music and a bar.

Now it’s all about destinations, and multiple parties, over several days. I saw one statistic in a bridal (always “bridal” still, never “groom-al” [not even a proper word that, for the man’s role in the ritual]) magazine claiming a national average of cost somewhere in the middle $10000s.

“CRAZY!” I thought. Still do.

In our scheme of family life we had planned for housing and clothes and schools, and college. I guess we never considered weddings, even though we had only two girls. There was no line item in the 10 or 20 year plans (no, we didn’t really have such things—not in print anywhere anyway) for a middle-$10000s social event at a tourist locale far from every participant’s home.

“What are people thinking?!” I cried several times a day for many, many days.

And, our daughter and her beloved were very reasonable, and conflicted, in trying to consider what their wedding should be. What should their “wed-ding” be?

Because we hadn’t put it in the “plans” for life, we hadn’t put it in any budget. So, we hadn’t put it in any bank—so to speak. There was no money set aside for a wed-ding.

We had paid for our own wedding, and had bungled it badly, in a way. After twenty years I would still become red-faced when I thought of how many of my guests had only bread and cake to eat because of our failures in planning for the food. But the bread was good, and the cake was GREAT! I think now, after 37 years, I have become more sanguine and can smile at my naïve self who had never planned a party for more than 20 before the wed-ding shindig for 200 and more. We spent just $2000 dollars, and my dress was a gift made by one of the women in my church especially for me.

So, what was our children’s wed-ding to be? We settled on offering a flat sum of cash for them to use as they chose. That turned out to be the easy part—deciding what we could afford. Or, was it deciding what value we placed on celebrating socially a new contract for sharing life?

There were so many individual bits of it, and each coming with a price tag. There are many stories to tell of those individual price tags—some with laughter and a few told with tears. Wed-dings, it seems, are fraught with so many meanings that hide in the shadows of our souls; books have been written I’ve discovered. The costs were not just cash.

But all I will say is that our children, our daughter and her beloved, wrestled it through to what was an amazingly, heart-wrenchingly beautiful affair. I know this because just writing it brings a flood of sad, happy, pride-filled tears.

I actually don’t know what the whole thing finally cost. My husband has a list of it all somewhere—of the things we know and paid for. Finally, it was not about the cash.

The New Oxford Dictionary says of the verb “to wed”—it “derives from weddian (from the Germanic and Scots) meaning ‘a pledge’, and related to Latin vas meaning ‘surety’.” In these two people’s machinations toward a socially celebratory day, they made their way to an expression of “pledge” and “surety”—inner and outer—that declared, “You love [her/him]? Then what’s the problem? Cut it out! Just do it!”

What made it that amazingly, heart-wrenchingly beautiful day was they were THEY, and they declared it their way. Finally, it was not about the cash. And, what cachet!

Je Vais Aller

City of Strangers