Summer weddings: how many people will get married in 2022? | Opinion
Tulips aren’t the only things coming out this spring, tuxedos too. After two years of delays and cancellations due to COVID, long-postponed weddings are about to take place.
This translates to around 2.6 million weddings expected to take place this summer, although the backlog has made it difficult for newly engaged couples to marry. Wedding vendors are overbooked, churches are overcrowded, and friends and families are overwhelmed. And yet, every plan drawn up seems tenuous, with couples and sellers trying to fit multiple COVID contingencies into their contracts.
But even in less complicated times, the wedding planning process can extend commitments beyond any reasonable length. Part of the reason is the cost, which can make the wedding feel like a luxury item for couples.
To help solve this problem, a church in Dallas offers a program to cover the cost of a wedding for cohabiting members who accept 11 weeks of premarital counseling. The church aims to free couples to do good for each other, rather than thinking that their only choice is to cohabit indefinitely in the hope of one day having the money for a dream wedding. The church provides a wedding dress, tuxedo, wedding bands, bouquets, and even a reception.
But the cost is not the only problem. Increasingly complicated logistics – with families spread across the continent and around the world – can make families feel like joint celebrations are out of reach, whether it’s for the wedding, the birth or the end of life. At the same time, these celebrations seem to demand more of us.
My husband and I had been engaged for about six months, the minimum required by our church. When I read books on wedding planning in our local library, it was clear that I had already missed what the wedding industry complex considered essential deadlines. With six months to go, I was well past the wedding planning website The Knot’s due date for sending “save the date” cards. And I had exceeded the recommended deadline for room reservations by more than a year.
For us, the date was fixed by a single constraint: when would my future husband’s two brothers return from university for their fall vacation?
We checked the intersection of their academic calendars, called our parish and recorded the date. From then on, each time we were faced with a choice concerning our projects, we asked ourselves two questions: does this affect the validity of the sacrament of marriage? Does it help us to be hospitable to our guests?
By this standard, many choices were superfluous – our caterer stocked two different shades of white tablecloth, and I asked them to just bring the one that was most practical. Others were worth a bit more commitment — for example, an online spreadsheet to help traveling customers find Airbnb rentals to save money.
When we tried to free ourselves from the superfluous structure that was built around tradition, we discovered that it was the logistics of travel and free time that most influenced our choices.
Our daughters’ baptisms were less of a logistical lift. There is no formal reception or dancing and no vendors to book, but we were still frustrated with the complexity of marking the start of our children’s lives in the church.
Our ideal would have been to just go to church the first weekend I was reasonably well and have our baby baptized during mass. Instead, we emailed godparents, grandparents, and ward secretaries to make sure we could set a baptismal date. long before she even gave birth.
The core issue was the same as our wedding: however simple the ceremony, people need to be able to plan their trip. The people we love are too scattered for spontaneity. We want to be well integrated into the fabric of our church, but too much of our life takes place outside the boundaries of the parish. It’s not an insurmountable hurdle, but it does feel like we plan the most sacred sacraments around age-old concerns and schedules. It’s a unique take on the ongoing struggle of families to ensure Sunday worship isn’t crowded out by their children’s sports programs.
We had more flexibility in choosing wedding and christening dates, but the hardest service to plan is a funeral. Death comes at its own pace. Although a memorial service may wait a month to accommodate all those who need to come together, mourning does not wait for the opportune moment.
Planning for joy has made my husband and I more aware of how we might need to prepare for possible heartbreak. For couples getting married this summer who face obstacles in their planning, it can be fruitful for them to ask themselves what complications they want to free themselves from.
Can they be closer to their family? Do they have the opportunity to put down roots where they are? Do they want to talk to a friend about buying a bigger house together and sharing the space? How can they arrange their lives so that neither celebration nor heartache has to wait the duration of a plane flight or a long car ride?
Not all parts of our lives can wait – certainly not the 18 months recommended by many wedding planning sites. The wave of weddings this summer will require certain compromises. It is an invitation to practice saying “no” to the expectations and demands of the worldly calendar and “yes” to what really matters. The success of every marriage requires the ability to be in the world but not of it.
Leah Libresco Sargeant is the author of “Arriving at Amen” and “Building the Benedict Option”. She leads the substack Other feminismsfocused on the dignity of interdependence.