Magazine article The Christian Century

Gift List

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gift List

Article excerpt

PAY ATTENTION: These are our values." That's what we're saying when we make decisions about spending money or ask others to spend money on our behalf. For an engaged couple, it all starts with the wedding. Brides magazine reports that the average cost of a wedding today exceeds $19,000. That amount includes more than $4,000 for rings, $7,500 for a reception, $1,500 for flowers and--much lower on the budget list--$9,50 for clergy.

The wedding industry involves florists, jewelers, invitation printers, restaurants and country clubs for receptions and wedding meals, as well as limousine companies, wedding shops, travel agents, photographers and professional wedding singers. Professional photographers are available for videography (average cost $1,311 and up) and photography ($1,500 and up), which provide a permanent record of the occasion even as they turn a religious event into a photo shoot. Couples once rode in the best man's ear; now they rent a limousine ($400).

What if a couple want to begin their family on a foundation that looks outward, thinking of others rather than of themselves? There is no better way to begin than by thinking of a "stewardship wedding." The couple could begin their wedding plans by balancing the significance of the event with the needs of others--starting by trimming nonessentials and reducing expenses to bring down that 819,000 average cost.

The possibilities are limited only by a lack of imagination. Consider these: A church hall is less expensive than a country club; if special music is desired, use the church choir. If the hall is too small, cut the invitation list. Let the best man take over the driving duties; save the limousine for the 50th wedding anniversary. Use volunteers as photographers, and make sure you have backups in case one camera fails to function; you don't want to spend a lifetime blaming Uncle John for the camera glitch.

Then there are the wedding gifts. The Association of Bridal Consultants reports that the average wedding present costs $85--a figure inflated by an industry that convinces couples to create wedding registries that list pricey china and silverware patterns, kitchen appliances, furniture and comforters. These days the lists may be customized as never before: if the couple loves the out-of-doors, for example, they may request tents or scuba diving equipment.

The "family for others" can turn those wedding registries into a stewardship gift list that gives testimony to what sort of new family is being formed. Couples could follow the example of Jenny Elliott, 24, and Justin Alexander, 9.8, described by Kirsten Scharnberg in the Chicago Tribune (July 16). …

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