|Photo by our lovely photographer, Jen Pagano.|
I came across this article today. The author, Valerie Anderson, has an interesting point that marriage is more important than weddings and raising a child is more important than having a huge party with expensive gifts, which she makes at the end of the article. The rest of the article she spends complaining about the thousands of dollars she spent on being in seven weddings, only two of which the couple are still married. Then she talks about how people throw huge baby showers and emphasize having a baby, instead of graduation from school or a promotion. I agree with her that way too much money is spent on unnecessary things, but I disagree with the idea that the celebrations are a problem.
I was married right out of college, and my husband and I had very little in savings. We asked out parents to help us fund our wedding. Between both sides of the family we had a budget of $8000 (Anderson spent $15,000 on a wedding reception for 125 people). We had nearly 200 guests (we both have large extended families) and the $8000 covered everything: the church, the hall, the musicians, our photographer and printed pictures, the caterer, the two-buck chuck we served to drink, my $99 clearance rack dress, the tux rental, the flowers, and more. We did everything for a little as possible and still worked to make it nice. We used my parents minivan instead of a limo. I picked a reasonably priced dress for the bridesmaids, and my husband and I picked the lowest tux we could find for the groomsmen. Our friend guests carpooled and roomed together, saving as much money as they could. It was simple, it was maybe a little bit cheap, but I think that it was a beautiful and wonderful day for everyone who came.
For me, my wedding was not about "being a princess," it was about entering into the Sacrament of Matrimony with my dearest love and best friend. It was about starting a life together, and hoping for children. It was about helping each other become saints. If that is not something to have a huge celebration for, I am not sure what is. We wanted our family and friends to celebrate with us, to pray for us, and to know that we wanted to share our life with them. That is what a wedding is about. Further, since we were fresh out of college, the wedding and the bridal showers provided us with the necessary material foundation for our life together. If it were not for my parent's generosity, we would have slept on a $99 futon for many years before we bought a mattress for ourselves. A wedding celebration is the community's way of supporting a young couple and helping them start their life together, and the great feast is the couple's and their parents' way of thanking everyone for their support. It is all very beautiful, if that is the way it is approached. As a potential bride, I was very skeptical of the over-commercialization of the wedding "industry", and I think my husband and I navigated it very well for a beautiful and affordable celebration.
Six months after my wedding, my family threw me a baby shower. We were bringing a new human into the world, and that is something to celebrate! A new human life to add to the perfection of the universe! It is a bit hard for a post-partum mother to have a huge party right after delivery, so during pregnancy when the baby is nicely cared for in the womb is a great time. Plus, while there are a lot of unnecessary baby items in the world, new parents really do appreciate the support of friends and family in purchasing all the necessities of baby care. One of my showers was a cloth diaper shower. My third baby is wearing those very same diapers I received as a shower gift three years ago. That shower was not a waste. And, while I did not receive gifts for getting a job after college (which I left to be a mom) or throw a huge party when a blog post gets lots of hits, I am pretty sure that these things are not as major as the existence of a new human being.
The new life of a human has the same value, even when the mom is a teen mom. She might even need more support and aid than a married mom does. This paragraph from the article is probably the worst:
"I've been to a handful of these showers, and the unmistakable fact is that the guest list is mostly other teenage girls, all cooing and fawning over their corpulent friend or cousin, shrieking excitedly as they present her with the beautiful bassinet that they all pitched in for, ignoring the fact that the endeavor she is embarking on will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and stunt her career opportunities for the rest of her life, not to mention the devastating impact on her social life."Where are the adults in the life of the teenage girl, who needs their help more than ever? It is a great good that she is having a baby, even though it will "have devastating impact on her social life." And there is nothing wrong with her friends supporting her in this; I would rather that than them take her to a clinic to have her child murdered. I am not sure really how this complaint about teenage baby showers fits into the marriage article to begin with, but clearly Anderson is seeing children as a burden and not a blessing. I think the movie Juno, where she gives her baby up for adoption, is a great example of how to act in the case of a teenage pregnancy, but, for those who are able, keeping and raising the child is beautiful as well.
I think that the complaint that Anderson makes should be about the over-commericalization of weddings and baby showers, not the things in themselves, but then that is easy for me to grasp since the value of thrift has been instilled in me my whole life.