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Marriage Industry

Hannah Clements  |  January 7, 2017

LAST YEAR, I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, a book where he explores millennials’ experience with finding love. Ansari writes: “In 1932 a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania named James Bossard looked through five thousand consecutive marriage licenses on file for people who lived in the city of Philadelphia. Whoa: One-third of the couples who got married had lived within a five-block radius of each other before they got married. One out of six had lived within the same block. Most amazingly, one of every eight married couples had lived in the same building before they got married.”

Ansari finds things to be very different today: The majority of his friends “married people they’d met during their postcollege years, when they were exposed to folks from all over the country and in some cases all over the world.”

This modern reality has had serious implications for my wallet.

In the past four years, I have attended weddings in New Orleans, Nashville, Austin, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Hoboken, NJ, and Columbia, Md. Some friends’ nuptials have brought me to even more remote locations, including Sioux Falls, SD, the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, Deep Creek Lake, Md, Amherst, NH, Las Cruces, NM, and Bluemont, Va. In 2017, weddings will take me to Charleston, Memphis, and Tarrytown, NY.

American Express recently reported that the average millennial wedding guest spends $893 per “big day.” On a month when I have a wedding, that is 27% of my take-home pay. Wondering how a guest could possibly spend $893? Look up the cost of a flight from my home in Philadelphia to Las Cruces, a hotel in Hoboken or pretty much anything from the Williams-Sonoma registry, and you will quickly see how. Getting to Sioux Falls was my real-life version of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

The simple solution is to respectfully decline the engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorettes and weddings. But as someone who values family and friendship above everything else, it pains me to miss out on such significant events. And, if the situation were reversed, I would be crushed if no one came to celebrate with me. So what’s my solution to the insane millennial wedding culture? Re-wear dresses, split hotel rooms with five people and, this February, drive ten hours to Charleston to avoid the airfare.

Hannah Clements is a former teacher who now runs STEM programming for an education non-profit in North Philadelphia. She likes protein shakes, cleaning her house and, most of all, being Jonathan Clements’s daughter.

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