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Starter Marriages and Destination Weddings

Roy Christman is a retired political science professor and has a farm in Pennsylvania.

I feel reasonably qualified to comment on weddings since I've attended both indoor and outdoor ceremonies officiated by priests, rabbis, and pastors. I was an "usher" in at least three, and twice a groom. Plus, I saw "The Wedding Planner" with Jennifer Lopez. Twice.

Since Linda and I just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, I've been reminiscing about our own wedding. It was a "destination wedding" on a minor scale. We were living in San Jose, but we were married in a small chapel in La Honda in San Mateo County. La Honda was the home base of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a group of hippies who drove around the country in a psychedelic bus and were profiled in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

I'm sorry to say none of the three couples who attended our wedding were Merry Pranksters. After the ceremony (in which Linda pointedly did not say that phrase about "obeying"), we walked down to a local bar for drinks and cake, but we were tossed out for being too rowdy.

I won't go into detail about my "starter marriage" in State College, Pennsylvania, but for that one the entire church was beautifully decorated in flowers. That was courtesy of the daughter of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture who had been married earlier in the day and hadn't removed the decorations.

Here is the first rule of wedding behavior. Don't use the term "starter marriage" at the wedding. I did that at my cousin's son's wedding in Portland, and after the divorce he told me that both he and his ex-wife clearly remembered what I said about their starter marriage and thought that may have jinxed things.

The cliche is that the bride wants a huge wedding and the groom would be happy with a small ceremony at the Courthouse with the guy waiting to pay his traffic ticket as the witness. In fact, I was recently at a family event where an up-coming wedding was under discussion, and someone mentioned that the groom wanted a huge wedding. Three people independently and simultaneously exclaimed, "Dump him." All three of us knew that guy was not be good marriage material.


As for destination weddings on mountain top resorts in exotic locations, and I'm trying to be polite here, they are often a real burden on your friends unless your friends are extremely rich. It can be a financial drain to fly to Ayers Rock Resort in Australia or Nusa Dua in Bali or even Cancun. Stay local.

Let me turn from wedding planner to financial advisor. I looked at a number of sources, but the consensus seems to be that in the United States the average wedding plus reception last year cost approximately $30,000. If that is the average, many weddings must cost far more. There's a word for that. Ridiculous.

Instead of spending a large amount of money on the wedding, say $100,000 for a really smashing affair, why not use that as a down payment on a house? In Carbon County, Pennsylvania, where I currently reside, you wouldn't even need to make a down payment. You could buy the house.

Don't change your name. If you do, you will have to re-do your voter registration, your passport, and many other forms. Why go through that hassle? I'll note that the etiquette on gay marriage name changing is still evolving, but in any case my best advice is discuss the whole name taking/ring wearing/butt tattooing stuff with your partner before the ceremony.

I hope any young couples who are contemplating marriage have found this helpful. I have a much better track record than Jennifer Lopez. She's been married four times.

~ Roy Christman


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