Last year the Bishop of Willesden got in trouble for his now infamous Facebook comments about the forthcoming Royal Wedding. He was widely criticised for saying, amongst other anti-royal comments, that ‘I give their marriage seven years’ and was temporarily suspended from duties. I think the key problem that his comments were cynical about the wrong thing. I don’t think we should be cynical about William and Kate’s marriage – lets hope that they enjoy a long and happy life together. But we should be cynical about the whole wedding industry.
The royal wedding is simply the über example of the extravagance, hype and nonsense that has overtaken the contemporary concept of getting married. This culture is fuelled by an industry dedicated to ramping up costs because it knows how much money people are willing to waste for ‘the perfect day’ and a ‘fairy tale experience’ (the latest ‘average cost’ banded around is £18,500).
The culture around weddings has become bloated and corrupted by consumerism. Too many people have been taken in by the lie that a lavish and expensive event equals depth of value and significance. When it comes to weddings, too often we live out Oscar Wilde’s famous words: we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
This all leads to the deeply ironic situation where weddings are actually undermining the very concept that they are supposed to be celebrating: the love and commitment between two people. Many couples are avoiding or delaying getting married because of the cost of the wedding. They are having to save for years in order to get married – not in the old-fashioned sense to order to buy furniture or get a mortgage – but in order to pay for a big celebration.
It means that more pressure is applied to families at a time when this is the last thing they need. Increased expectations mean that people feel they need a lavish event which can lead to incurring huge debts. And we know how much debt is a major cause of relationship and family breakdown. So, the expense of weddings actually increases the pressure on families and contributes to more children are growing up in less secure situations.
All this is tragic. I love going to the weddings of friends and family and the best ones are when the simple joy of celebrating and supporting a commitment between two people shines through the day. Of course, what people eat and what the bride is wearing is all nice – but these are all essentially decorative frills. They should not obscure the main thing: the marriage vows, the simple but powerful promises which lie at the heart of the wedding service.
So this week, I won’t be celebrating the Royal Wedding as a fairy tale day between some idealised couple or as an excuse for misplaced national pride. But I will celebrate the promises that William and Kate will make to each other in front of billions of people – we don’t need to be cynical about that. Let’s raise a glass to their commitment to each other and hope it can last and endure. Perhaps they can be a couple in the public eye who show an example of commitment and fidelity. God knows our country needs it.