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A bad case of the wedding bill blues

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012 4:58 a.m. CDT

I just got my third bill in the mail for an out-of-town wedding this summer. (Many people like to call them “invitations.”)

While the brides’ fathers are paying for the receptions, the dresses, the ministers and the honeymoons, I will be paying for plane tickets, rental cars, airport parking, hotel rooms and expensive presents for brides I barely know and the complete strangers they’ll be marrying.

Why do phone companies and electric companies still send out old-fashioned “bills” when they could mail fancy invitations on expensive card stock each month that read, “Humongous Utility invites you to celebrate the wedding of Your Money and Our Monopoly on the fifth of the month. Please save the date. RSVP with a gift check in the amount of $115.76. Enclosed is a map with directions to our office if you’d like to drop off your gift in person.”

“If it bothers you so much, why don’t you just send a big present and save yourself the grief of attending?” you might ask. Because we’re not going for the bride and groom; we’re going for their parents — the same parents who forgot to mention the money-saving benefits of elopement to their progeny. Have a big wedding, or buy your first house? Have a big wedding, or retire at 40?

Or maybe the parents tried it and it didn’t work. Weddings have become a competitive sport. The point of a wedding now is not to celebrate a loving commitment to your life partner, but to make all your friends jealous.

I know one father of the bride who offered his daughter $50,000 to elope. She wanted a big, fat wedding instead. One could probably make a good case that anyone who wants a big wedding probably isn’t mature enough to get married.

As friends of the parents, we can’t play favorites. Once we make the mistake of attending one out-of-town wedding, we have to go to all of them or we’ll hear, “So you like Daphne’s daughter better than mine?” for the rest of our lives. Maybe in the afterlife, too. Some people can really hold a grudge. Better to shell out the cash than listen to that for the rest of your years.

Even if the wedding is not in some exotic, faraway land — “Join us on our wedding cruise to New Zealand,” “Share our love of vertical ice climbing and of each other in Banff,” “Help Chad and Merlot forage all the food for their wedding feast in the Copper Canyon” — it can still run up a tab. You have to buy new clothes; you have to buy a present.

Buying a present is pretty easy for us, because we give cash. Our feeling is, let the kids do something smart with it — pay off some of their college loan, save up for their first home, start a 401(k), start a college fund for their children. There are hundreds of ways to invest that money in their future. Or they could spend it on breast enhancements and expensive hubcaps for the groom’s car, as Chad and Merlot did.

We are still waiting for the thank-you notes from last summer’s weddings, even though we don’t expect them anymore. Both marriages ended in acrimonious, expensive divorces. Chad wanted to split up the breast enhancements; she wanted her half of the hubcaps. I hear from her parents that Merlot is busy planning her next wedding. That’s one way to get over the heartbreak, I guess.

I hope she doesn’t wait too long to send out her next batch of wedding bills, because we can’t attend two weddings at once.

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