Besides being rather exciting even for a grown-up girl (Nathaniel has been smirking at me over his coffee this morning while I watched parts of the ceremony), Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton provides a perfect opportunity for a little chatter about the state of marriage in America and the Western world.
The Christian Science Monitor put up an article titled “How Kate Middleton and Prince William could hurt marriage in the U.S.” It argues that, by glorifying “fairytale,” expensive weddings, their wedding will cause fewer people to marry because the trouble and expense is too great. Indeed, at an average of $30,000 per American wedding, the rising expense can really hurt young couples starting out by such an outlay on one day with nothing to show later for it but a few pictures rather than something durable like a house.
[expand title="Click the arrow to continue reading."]I think it’s unfair to blame this on a royal wedding. Kate and William, well, are having an actual royal wedding. It’s not pretense for them to spend a lot and make it a lavish celebration, because of their station and position within Britain. Plus, they can afford it. Plus, I like to watch it, and not enviously. It’s just fun and pretty and nice and :dreamy sigh:.
But while the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spin away in their beautiful carriage, the state of marriage in the United States and the Western world is in serious trouble. For most normal people, it’s not that easy to marry and stay married.
Of course, as with any social problem, this has myriad antecedents. But I’d like to talk about one today: finances. Why? Because outrageous spending on weddings is just one structural impediment to marriage among several in this category.
Young couples have been stymied by money for centuries. That’s where we get the “young, poor, and in love” meme. It takes time and effort to build up family wealth. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It binds couples together in shared need, pushes them to sacrifice for each other, and helps both know they love for the lover and love’s sake, not for material possessions.
But society can either encourage or discourage marriage, and there’s a definite trend towards discouragement right now. For one thing, the low-to-middle-class is not marrying, in horrifying numbers. For another, the bachelor’s-degree-as-new-high-school-diploma is saddling lots of would-be couples with huge debts. As the New York Times put it, “In some circles, student debt is known as the anti-dowry.” These are only some of several structural impediments, as well as the societal idolization of spendy weddings, that hurt marriage and, thus, society. When you add to it the decline of men in education and business, which is a real problem for families when women, at least biologically, have to bear the kids, you’ve got a perfect stew of trouble.
What can be done? Well, what do you think?
Image by Jens Rost.[/expand]