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Peter Jon Mitchell (Senior Researcher, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada)

A wedding isn’t a marriage, it just starts one

Wedding show season is in full swing. Brides-to-be are scouring trade show displays in convention centres across the country and flipping through wedding magazines as thick as an encyclopedia. They’re hunting for bargains and searching for unique ideas that will make their big day special. And special doesn’t come cheap. Last year the bridal magazine Wedding Bells reported from their annual reader survey that the average Canadian wedding was expected to cost $23, 330. [1] That’s up $3200 from the previous year.There is no shortage of items and services to spend money on including cakes, dresses, invitations, photographers, flowers and of course the honeymoon vacation just to recover from all the stress. The increasing cost and the sheer grand scale of weddings today seems to be at odds with reports that marriage is in decline. [2] Why the wedding hysteria? Is this simply the Wedding Industrial Complex gone mad?The answer could be rooted in the cultural shift in the understanding of marriage in North America over the last few decades. The average age of a bride has increased from 22.8 years old in 1973 to 28.5 years old in 2003. [3] More couples are living common-law before marriage if they choose to marry at all.Young adults deferring marriage until sometime in the future reveals a lot about how they view marriage. In the past, couples married first and then built a life together but Johns Hopkins University sociologist Andrew Cherlin suggests, “Whereas marriage used to be the foundation of adult family life, now it is often the capstone.” [4]Young adults are choosing to finish their education, establish careers, purchase real estate and for some, have children all before getting married. For many young adults getting married is the final mark of achievement after the pursuit of other life goals.University of Texas sociologist… Read More