Weddings are a scam
The traditional wedding is an exercise in needless extravagance. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum
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Millennials and Gen Z should finally lay the wedding industry to rest

The traditional wedding is an exercise in needless extravagance. The sheer cost of these events should scare away every love-struck couple and yet we are expected to embrace the glitz, the glam and the price tag, whether we want extravagance or not. To put it bluntly, weddings are a scam.

While this may sound like the talk of an anti-cupid, rest assured that no arrows are being pointed at the ideas of romance or marriage themselves. We live in difficult times and love is something that should be celebrated whenever it arises. These arrows are instead aimed at the hearts of consumerism and the societal pressure that places pomp and circumstance above the love and futures of the wedded.

The average cost of a wedding in Canada is almost $30,000, a staggering number for young people who have had the misfortune of living through two economic recessions less than 15 years apart. There are multiple reasons why traditional weddings are so expensive and, coincidentally, they are often the same reasons for why weddings are considered so stressful.

First, there is often significant societal pressure for soon-to-be newlyweds to invite the entire family, buy the most expensive ring and book the biggest venue possible. In addition, there is the potential to be hit by a wedding tax, which is the name used to describe the significant markups that businesses will often put on wedding related expenses. The social media age has also brought with it the problem of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ — that is to say, we spend more money, time and stress to try and make our lives seem more exciting on Instagram. While there is certainly something to be said for the craftsmanship costs of dresses and wedding cakes, most of these extra costs are unnecessary.

The pressure for young people to drop tens of thousands of dollars to get married is unconscionable, as that money could go towards much more practical expenses. Home ownership, for example, is a pipe dream for millennials, so why should they be pressured to part with 30,000-ish dollars on a wedding when they could instead put a down payment on a home? 

Or, ignoring home ownership, the money could go towards travelling the world, paying off student loans, starting a passion project or just providing a measure of economic stability for a newly wedded couple. Millennials and Gen Z should break the mold of extravagant weddings and pocket the cash for themselves.

By eschewing the traditional wedding, we can instead look towards more affordable and personalized alternatives. If you want to go for the most barebones and affordable method — albeit at the risk of seeming a bit dull — a courthouse wedding is about as cheap as they come. Courthouse or city hall weddings don’t have much room for amenities, so things like decoration, catering and even room for a massive guest list won’t be possible. Whether that would be a pro or a con would likely depend on the person.

Another affordable option is an outdoor or backyard wedding, where you find a friend or relative with a nice bit of property and get married with a pleasant view in the backdrop of your photos. The venue would (hopefully) be free, there’d be plenty of room for guests and you’d get to enjoy the fresh air. All you’d really need would be some chairs for guests and a bit of catering.

Eloping is another alternative, and can be done with a small group of friends or family, or with just you and your spouse-to-be. Benefits here include travel and a built-in excuse to ditch your family if you don’t want some or all of them present, which can be a necessity for some people.

Regardless of the type of wedding alternative, the core motivations here should be to ignore pointless tradition and to embrace what feels right on an individual level. As long as we recognize that weddings, at least as we’ve been led to view them, are a scam, then couples will have the alternative to write the first lines of their new chapter in peace.