Food for thought for couples planning for their weddings.
Wedding jollity—more or less
Apr 28th 2011 | from the print edition
WHEN Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 millions of Britons partied in public. Far fewer were expected at street parties for Prince William’s wedding on April 29th, not least because of the red tape that now snags public gatherings. David Cameron vainly told local authorities to “let people get on and have fun.”
Few prime ministers need to implore their people to party. More often governments are trying to stop them: the Afghan authorities have been considering a proposal to limit the boom in weddings, sombre affairs under the Taliban. The suggested limit is 300 guests and a few dollars per head.
Other countries have similar worries. Wedding laws in Tajikistan now maintain that only one course may be served. India’s legendary nuptial shindigs risk emptying not just the country’s wallets, but its bellies too. In February the food minister estimated that close to 15% of all grains and vegetables in the country are wasted through “extravagant and luxurious social functions”, such as lavish wedding banquets. Days later, diners at a society wedding pecked at a 100-dish menu. Party-poopers want India’s food security laws to curb such profligacy.
Some rich governments choose to subsidise expensive weddings. In the United Arab Emirates many males (a third of Dubai men, for example) wed foreigners, at a quarter of the price of marrying a local girl. The government aims to reduce the rising number of single local women by offering prizes of up to $19,000 to men who marry them.
Surveys in America price the average wedding at close to $30,000 (though the mean is inflated by high-cost dos; the median is lower). Costs peaked in 2008; economic gloom has since dampened them. Yet over 20 years the price has almost doubled, while America’s marriage rate is down by nearly a third.
Last year the canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, Giles Fraser, argued that outsize celebrations were a threat to marriage itself. He said modern British nuptials were an “overblown vanity project” seen out in “an atmosphere of narcissism and self-promotion”. Most clergy, he argued, now prefer taking funerals. Perhaps. But Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, likely to reach more than a billion viewers worldwide, is unlikely to assist the noble cause of nuptial austerity.