More church weddings?
Not only are engaged couples cutting back on wedding spending, some are also deciding that having the ceremony in a church adds meaning.
When Eileen Weir of Boston gets married in November, she'll probably walk to the church to save the cost of a limo. She purchased a wedding dress for $200 at the annual "running of the brides" event at Filene's Basement and plans to make her own invitations.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Saving money on the wedding matters to her, but Ms. Weir really has only one requirement for her wedding: that it be at St. Brendan's Catholic Church, where she was baptized and received her first communion and confirmation. If she can't have it there, she doesn't have a second choice – it just wouldn't matter.
While engaged couples bemoan a recession that's forcing them to scale back their spending, a different conversation is also bubbling: Will the economic downturn help focus attention on the religious importance of the wedding ceremony or even reacquaint some with a faith tradition from which they've drifted?
"You have to ask yourself what's important," Weir says. "How many decorations do you really need? We are tied to the Catholic Church. If getting married is a leap of faith, than this is the place to do it."
According to a recent Gallup poll, the recession isn't increasing Americans' weekly church attendance, but for those already affiliated, a faith community can help prioritize the creation of a sacramental bond.
Despite the fact that Weir is worried about wedding planning amid financially tough times, she says that St. Brendan's has given her something more important than money. It has helped her ponder the future with the confidence that she's chosen a suitable partner.
St. Brendan's "is a place I've gone when I've needed hope and inspiration," Weir says. "When my father died, the first thing I did when I woke up [the next day] was go to the 9 a.m. mass. Marriage is like this. Your spouse is someone you go to for comfort and who grounds you. ... It's the person you want next to you in the bad times. That's a lot like faith. My fiancé and I are connected, and you have to [be married] in a place that has the same connection for you," she says.
There are many ways people feel connected to their faith communities, says Nancy Ammerman, a professor of the sociology of religion at Boston University who is conducting a study on how people talk about their spirituality.
These connections include "liturgies and music, things that evoke something awesome, transcendent. Sights, sounds, and smells," she says, adding, "It's the connection to community. Some Jewish people, for instance, have talked about how important it is for people to attend services to learn the traditions, through the community."
Community is of utmost importance at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, which recently began offering a complete wedding package (minus the photographer and band) for $10,500.
The weddings are held in the building, and five local kosher caterers agreed to offer the same menu for the same price, explains Avi Frydman, executive director of the Orthodox Jewish congregation.
The caterers "police each other, down to the length of the tablecloths," he adds with a laugh.
Previously, families who were part of the congregation had only two choices for weddings: Travel to New York or Lakewood, N.J., to host less expensive weddings, or pay between 50 and 70 percent more to have the celebration locally.
Snapshots of wedding planning in a recession
While a recession won’t stop most people from getting married, more engaged couples are scaling back their wedding spending. As many as 75 percent of brides-to-be say they will make some adjustments to their budget due to the economy, according to a study commissioned by David’s Bridal.
Spending is down in a variety of areas:
• The average amount spent on an engagement ring in 2008: $3,215. The expected average amount that will be spent in 2009: $2,939
• The average cost of a wedding in 2007: $28,704. In 2008: $21,814, a drop of 24 percent.
Spending in other areas also saw a marked decline from 2007 to 2008:
Wedding dress: -31 percent
Rehearsal dinner: -34 percent
Reception food service: -53 percent
Wedding cake: -33 percent
Wedding favors: -9 percent
Limo rental: -24 percent
Other ways couples are saving money:
• To save costs on photography, some brides are turning to student photographers.
• Do-it-yourself invitations. Overall spending on invitations dropped 34 percent, according to the Wedding Report.
Sources: David’s Bridal, The Wedding Report