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Via Media


Here’s another stat for you

posted by awelborn

In a WaPo article on weddings and such:

Decades of statistics point to a societal retreat from the church wedding. Catholic marriage ceremonies have been in decline for 35 years — from 426,000 marriages nationwide in 1970 to 212,456 in 2005, according to church data — even as the number of Catholics continues to grow. Many states, including Maryland and Virginia, have tracked a shift from religious to civil marriages. And a growing network of interfaith and nondenominational ministers offers couples the freedom to wed on their own terms.

I’m trying to wrap my head around that one. Various people have told me that this was the case, but that’s still a startling drop, especially considering the growth in the Catholic population in this country.

Oh, and here’s another related statistic: 3 million IVF babies so far

The announcement came during the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, held June 18-21 in Prague, Czech Republic. The ICMART report, which includes data from 52 countries, covers two-thirds of the world’s IVF treatments.

The report noted the uneven distribution of IVF births. Nearly 56% of all IVF treatments are in Europe. And almost half of the techniques are performed in four countries — the United States, Germany, France and Britain.



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RAnn

posted July 3, 2006 at 8:31 am


The number of Catholics continues to grow–but who is providing the growth? If we are basically talking about immigrant families with children, then the parents are already married and the children aren’t ready to marry. As far as native borns, those getting married the 1970′s were part of families of 4-8 kids; those getting married today are part of families of 1-3 kids. Colleges today will tell you that they are renovating their dorms because not only have many of their students never shared a bedroom, they’ve never shared a bathroom either.



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Cathy

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:00 am


Another factor in the decline of ‘church weddings’ is the cultural definition of a ‘church wedding’ – meaning a limo, $3000 dress, reception at $100 a plate. Like we require this!
You would think I am making this up, but weddings are a major part of my ministry. Typical conversations in the last 20 years: 1) “Why are you living together now?” Answer: “We needed to save money on rent so that we could pay for our ‘church wedding.’” 2) “Why did you get married civilly and not in church?” Answer: “We couldn’t afford a ‘church wedding.’”
Since we have no statements issued on the expenses you must incur for that church wedding, I am assuming that this is an impression in the general society. And I am old enough to remember friends marrying before 1980 in much simpler circumstances. So, to what do I attribute this shift? I think it began with Charles and Di and the ‘return’ of the fairy tale wedding. The shift has its effects even on those who are marrying now (in church or not) but are not old enough to remember that 1981 wedding.
It’s a guess of mine, not backed up by intense sociological study, just talking with thousands of engaged/married couples over a career.



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Simon

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:39 am


That’s an astute observation by Cathy about the cultural notion of a “church wedding” as an expensive Charles-and-Di fairy tale extravaganza. My wife and I tried to keep our wedding relatively simple, but by (foolishly) trying to meet what we perceived (misperceived?) as the expectations of family and friends the event became faar more costly — and stressful –than it needed to be. And on the whole it was still one of the simpler church weddings I have been to.
Whatever happened to potluck receptions in the church hall?



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Caroline

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:39 am


How much of an offering do parishes require around the country for administering matrimony? For those who couldn’t afford a church wedding, even a simple appearance in street clothes before a priest could eat up next month’s rent. In San Francisco the expected offering is at least $500 for marriage. Can really poor people get married in the church today?



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Ray from MN

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:51 am


Hasn’t the “need” for IVF vastly increased because of the widespread use of birth control pills for long periods of time before a decision is made to have a child?
A natural “system” that has artificially been turned off is difficult to restart.
I find it difficult to believe that women are that genetically defective in that they are unable to conceive a child normally in numbers that great.



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Donald R. McClarey

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:54 am


“Whatever happened to potluck receptions in the church hall?”
That is close to what my bride and I did in 1982. Friends of my parents prepared the food. My parents paid $100.00 to rent the hall. I paid $50.00 to the priest. I wore work clothes, one of my lawyer suits, and my wife wore the wedding dress prepared by her mother, and a lovely dress it was and is. If the whole wedding cost more than $500.00 total I would be surprised. Turning weddings into huge debt creating monster parties is a trend to be deprecated and fought against.



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fr richard

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:56 am


I’ve been quite surprised to read, from time to time, about Catholic churches “charging” for a wedding, or, as in the post from Caroline, expecting an offering.
Marriage is a sacrament. How can a church “charge” anything for a sacrament? If one or both parties are members of the parish (as generally (he/she/they must be) this is just a part of parochial life.
Is this a widespread custom? How can it be permitted?



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Cathy

posted July 3, 2006 at 11:10 am


At the parish where I work, we do ask for a $500 donation to the parish for the work we put into preparing a couple for marriage at our place. But since most of them are spending $30,000 + on the wedding, that is less than 2%.
Yet if a couple comes with no intention of going to all that trouble and expense (regardless of what they can afford), we don’t ask for the donation. (I think that we are so relieved that they might be concentrating on the vows and not the clothing, to be honest.)
If financial need is a real issue, no donation is asked for. But if they plead financial need and then show up with a videographer (at least $1500) and a limo (ditto), then it is completely aggravating, I have to admit.
Because, bottom line, we have to pay our own salaries and keep the lights on.



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Simon

posted July 3, 2006 at 11:11 am


I think the biggest contributing factor in the decline of church weddings over the last 35 years is simply the lukewarmness that has infected so much of Catholic life in the US (and in other rich countries). The old, powerful Catholic subculture has almost entirely disappeared in that time. As a result, young Catholics today are either part of a personally committed “creative minority” — or else their faith is slowly being killed by our toxic culture.
Catholics getting married 35 years ago usually came from practicing Catholic homes. Living together or getting married outside the Church were socially unacceptable. Parents and other relatives often would have advised them to marry a fellow Catholic. There was also at least an awareness of the reality of sin. The surrounding pop culture didn’t bombard them with the message that all sorts of evil things are in fact good, or that good things (like chastity, virginity, and celibacy) were strange, even unnatural.
Many young Catholics today experience the Church only as 1 hour of Mass on Sunday (if that) and perhaps the memory of being dragged through CCD classes till Confirmation. Like everyone else, they receive their primary “formation” from the secular — now irremediably toxic — pop culture of TV, pop music, video games, MySpace, movies, etc. Not to put too fine a point on it, but virtually all of this is trash.
Meanwhile, young Catholics have never had their eyes opened to adventure of Christian life in its fullness. There is no prayer in their parents’ “Catholic” homes — very often, not even grace before meals. They have probably figured out that their parents contracepted, thereby confirming that the Faith is something one needn’t take too seriously. And they have never even heard of ascesis (fasting, self-denial, “offering it up”), without which Christian life is sterile. Growing up, they experienced the great feasts of the Church calendar celebrated in their homes either in a heavily secular way (Christmas and Easter) or not at all (Pentecost and everything else).
Why should we expect such young people, when they are planning a wedding, suddenly to care that it be sacramental?



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CV

posted July 3, 2006 at 11:23 am


What Simon said.
I also think the two stories, one on the decline of church weddings and the other on the rise in IVF, are two sides of the same coin.
The subtext of both could be, “I did it MY way…”



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DF

posted July 3, 2006 at 11:43 am


No doubt, the ever-increasing time for marriage prep plays a role in barring the gate for marriage. One diocese I know changed from six months prep time to nine months prep time.



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Al DelG

posted July 3, 2006 at 12:14 pm


Ray from MN – “Hasn’t the “need” for IVF vastly increased because of the widespread use of birth control pills for long periods of time before a decision is made to have a child?”
That may well be part of the “need”. Also there’s the well documented rise in pelvic inflammatory disease and functional sterility associated with the sexual promiscuity that is so common in our culture.



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Simon

posted July 3, 2006 at 12:31 pm


One more factor that may contribute to both the rise in IVF/infertility and the decline in Church weddings is the sharp trend toward later marriages.
A couple getting married in the early 20s are far less likely to have trouble conceiving than a couple ten or more years older. And until recently, one or both of the 20-somethings usually would have been living with their parents right up to the point of marriage, making the choice for a non-Church wedding unlikely. That circumstance is rare today.



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RAnn

posted July 3, 2006 at 1:19 pm


Remember too when talking about “infertility”, the modern definition (tounge in cheek, sort of) is “the inability to conceive a child exactly when we want to”. If you go back and look at family trees, you’ll see that in the pre-birth control era, children came a lot more rapidly to women in their 20′s than to those in their 30′s, and many women didn’t have babies in their 40′s. There were people who had gaps of four of five years between some kids. Because they started having kids in their early 20′s, and had several, we don’t think of these women in their 30′s and 40′s as “infertile” but according to today’s definitions, many of them could be considered so.



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RAnn

posted July 3, 2006 at 1:25 pm


Regarding the cost of a church wedding, I think my parish charges $150, which, when compared with the overall cost of wedding, doesn’t sound like much; however it bothers me that a parishoner who regularly supports the parish is asked to give that, plus a donation to the priest, for a sacrament. Many of the beautiful old churches in town charge close to $1000 for a wedding for a non-parishioner, and I have no problem with that. Those fees keep those old buildings repaired, and the people paying those fees always have the option of using their parish church for a much lower fee–but choose to pay the larger fee for the more attractive setting.



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Peggy

posted July 3, 2006 at 1:59 pm


In general marriage rates are declining and the age at marriage is rising. My husband and I are examples of what Simon is talking about. We married late and adopted our boys. While it’s quite unlikely, there certainly is always the possibility of us still having a child.
We paid a modest $100 or so to our parish church. I really sought to avoid unreasonable expenses for the wedding.
Another factor to consider in the increase in Catholics but decrease in Catholic weddings, however, is that we are receiving many converts who are probably already married, with kids even. Some may have to go through the rite of matrimony to regularize their marriages in the church, but I am guessing that even if they have to do that, these ceremonies are probably not included in Catholic marriage stats. Also, adult already-married immigrants which increase Catholic numbers through their kids as well would not be counted in Catholic marriage stats, as someone else pointed out.



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Julia

posted July 3, 2006 at 2:06 pm


Watching some of the mega-weddings, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the fuss over stuff is for the photos and videos. It’s all for the album, the photo on the wall, the video that records the wonderfulness of it all.
In the old days, the wedding marked the end of virginity – what’s the point of these white dresses, anyway? And why are the brides allowed to wear strapless dresses that would not be allowed at Mass on Sunday?
Old crank here.



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Liam

posted July 3, 2006 at 2:17 pm


Well, the white dress for weddings only became a cultural norm in the Anglosphere after Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert. Customarily, brides wore their best dress; if they were fortunate, they and their families made one for the occasion, and it would thenceforth be worn on important occasions and feasts.
I am all in favor of opposing the wedding industry on all fronts, as well as the waxing cultural trends that make the wedding more of a showcase event than a sacramental encounter. The Church’s prescribed rites (including replacing the movie-style procession with a more liturgical procession involving the family and priest as well as both bride and groom) can help here.
Americans have an inordinate fondness for scripting events like movies we have witnessed. The baleful effects of this habit only seem to increase with time.



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DK

posted July 3, 2006 at 2:30 pm


This article is very sad. It seems that lots of people don’t even know what Church is or even marriage for that matter! No wonder there are so many divorces. Every time I read articles like these, it leaves me with an awful chill. I can’t help worrying that the kids of these people are going to be the very kind of people that will meet your child that you’re trying to raise as a Catholic. He or she is going to meet less and less Christians as time goes on, and more and more atheists/agnostics. This is why it is so chilling for me to read.
By the way, what on earth is the “Church of Spiritual Humanism”?



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Peggy

posted July 3, 2006 at 2:32 pm


Hi Julia,
If it makes you feel better to know, our parish had a long page of guidelines (in small font) from covered shoulders to permitting only sacred music (well, we used the Gather hymnal, however).



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mayangrl

posted July 3, 2006 at 4:02 pm


Infertility is the inability to conceive after 12 months of trying.



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Mary

posted July 3, 2006 at 4:53 pm


“Hasn’t the ‘need’ for IVF vastly increased because of the widespread use of birth control pills for long periods of time before a decision is made to have a child?
“A natural ‘system’ that has artificially been turned off is difficult to restart.”
Actually, women who take birth control pills are more fertile than usual shortly after they stop taking them.
Meanwhile, the “need” for IVF has increased because more women are postponing marriage and childbearing. For example, imagine a 20-year-old who isn’t in love. In the 1800s she may have married a man who she didn’t love in order to be a housewife, had cheap loveless sex with him, and had several babies by age 30. Today she’s better able to support herself with some other career or job instead of housewife and modestly postpone marriage until she is in love (even if this means staying a childless virgin until her mid-30s).
“And until recently, one or both of the 20-somethings usually would have been living with their parents right up to the point of marriage, making the choice for a non-Church wedding unlikely.”
…and making any other choice by the bride and groom themselves less likely to happen and more likely to be overridden by their parents.
“In the old days, the wedding marked the end of virginity – what’s the point of these white dresses, anyway?”
The point of these white dresses was originally showing off to your fellow Victorians the fact that you’re rich enough to keep clothes spotlessly white. In the medieval days the wedding marked the end of the bride’s virginity and she still probably wore a colored dress.



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scotch meg

posted July 3, 2006 at 5:09 pm


What’s with complaining about time for discernment? Objecting to a six month “waiting time” is laughable. Couples who want a fancy wedding wait longer than a year for the “right” hall, and couples who have a good reason not to wait can get a waiver from their priest (or, in strictest cases perhaps, their bishop). Plus, assuming optimal conditions, they will need time to schedule marriage prep and time to learn NFP. I don’t get it — we spend a year prepping seven-year-olds for First Eucharist, and (in my parish) sixteen-year-olds for Confirmation, and we can’t ask adults to spend six months preparing for a lifelong commitment? More about Me, less about God, AGAIN.



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RAnn

posted July 3, 2006 at 5:54 pm


My mom told me that in her day (1950′s)an engagement was seen as “a near occassion of sin” and the Church was eager to end it as soon as possible. My parents met in the spring and married in October. I have an aunt who planned to buzz into her hometown and be married by the JP before heading off across the country with her new husband. Her mom would have none of that. My grandmother talked to the pastor, and a couple of days later my aunt and uncle were married in the Church–and they are still married now some 40+ years later.



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Mary

posted July 3, 2006 at 7:26 pm


“Plus, assuming optimal conditions, they will need time to schedule marriage prep and time to learn NFP”
NFP causes a lot of abortions:
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn9219&feedId=online-news_rss20
“…and we can’t ask adults to spend six months preparing for a lifelong commitment? More about Me, less about God, AGAIN.”
Good point. Those people who, in the name of God, shorten the time a couple can prepare for marriage need to hear and understand this point. While we say talking to your fiancé for 6 months is too little time to get to know him, they say talking to your fiancé for 6 months is too much time spent with a man outside of marriage.



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Mary Russell

posted July 3, 2006 at 9:26 pm


NFP does not cause abortions, since couples who use it are not having intercourse during the fertile time. I could not gain access to the newscientist article claiming the contrary, but the header saying a “philosopher” claims this about “the rhythm method” does not inspire confidence in the validity of his/her claims.



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Mary Russell

posted July 3, 2006 at 9:31 pm


Oh, and women are not more fertile after coming off of the pill. Nor is their any scientific basis that they are less fertile after discontinuing OCPs, even after years of use.



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Jimmy Huck

posted July 3, 2006 at 10:07 pm


The NewScientist article doesn’t specifically say that NFP causes abortions. Rather, as I understand the article, the thinking is that NFP is more likely to result in greater miscarriage because fertilization, if it happens in NFP cycles, is likely to be more compromised (and thus more likely to self-abort) because it takes place on the margins of the optimal environment. The question is not abortion as we understand it, but rather of assuring embryonic viability once fertilization takes place. If the concern is defending the viability of an embryo post-fertilization and not creating conditions through NFP that degrade the possibility of providing for such viability, then the argument is that NFP may be doing more harm than other forms of birth control which actually prevent fertilization in the first place.



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Julia

posted July 4, 2006 at 12:29 am


Back in the day, “spontaneous abortion” was the technical medical term for what lay people call “miscarriage”. And “induced abortion” is what we call “abortion” with no adjective.
So New Scientist may very well be using that type of technical terminology.



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DF

posted July 4, 2006 at 1:31 am


Objecting to a six month “waiting time” is laughable.
ahem. I was objecting to a waiting time that was 6 months and now 9 months in some places; one thing it encourages is to have folks get married on a trial basis and then have the Church validate it later. Or do you think this isn’t happening?
My mom told me that in her day (1950′s) an engagement was seen as “a near occassion of sin” and the Church was eager to end it as soon as possible.
there’s a lot of wisdom in the traditional way of doing things. More thinking, more classes, more study, more talking don’t always make for better actions – especially when these classes are mandated as the normal preparation for marriage.
Fred



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Mary

posted July 4, 2006 at 8:49 am


Less thinking, fewer classes, less study, less talking don’t always make for better actions either. Imagine having sex with someone who forgets what you look like a day later.
http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/culture/features/11621/index.html



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Simon

posted July 4, 2006 at 10:35 am


With respect to both sides on the 6-9 months waiting issue, I really doubt that’s a major cause of the decline in Church weddings. It’s not like couples are running off to the Justice of the Peace 3 months after they first meet.
On the contrary, there’s a broad cultural assumption that a man and woman should spend a ridiculously long time — years, even — as a “couple” before even considering marriage. In the majority of cases, there’s also a long period of cohabitation before anyone talks about taking vows. And this is precisely a cultural assumption — behavior considered scandalous and frankly weird 35 years ago is now taken for granted as perfectly normal, even “responsible.”
I reiterate my comment above, that the real problem with Catholics not getting married in the Church is that they are not especially Catholic. Their parents, even if personally lukewarm, got hitched at a time when Church weddings were the norm and “living in sin” was shocking to almost everyone.
But most of those parents built “Catholic” homes where prayer is occasionally referred to but never practiced, fasting/self-denial is unheard of, the Christian calendar is not observed outside of Church, Sundays are the day to do the grocery shopping or head to the mall, contraception is tacitly endorsed, and the whole toxic brew of industrially-produced pop “culture” is welcomed into the home (maybe the youngsters are shielded from it, but the message is sent that once you are a certain age it’s all fine).
The people who form such homes are certainly not bad. They are kind, considerate, give money to charity and care about their kids. But their homes are marked by lukewarmness. Absent miracles, no vocations will come out of these ordinary, decent, all-American homes — not to the Priesthood or religious life, and not to Holy Matrimony.
IMHO, we all need to listen carefully to Pope Benedict when he speaks about the need for “creative minorities” to rekindle and reestablish the faith. Because otherwise we’re going to sit back and watch our culture, and the entire Church in the developed world, go down the drain. I must say, however, that there are many hopeful signs that these creative minorities are in fact forming and that the future is bright.



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Mary Russell

posted July 4, 2006 at 6:35 pm


It sounds like the newscientist article belongs to the realm of speculation. It is hard to see how anybody can have any hard evidence for a postfertilization effect of fertility awareness methods (presumably including the rhythm method).



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Jeff Tan

posted July 4, 2006 at 8:43 pm


In the Philippines, many couples intending to marry are lukewarm to the cost of the wedding. Filipinos are ones for revelry, but with guest lists numbering all the aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, etc., that costs money. I know some who have opted for civil weddings instead, with the Church wedding either postponed indefinitely or given up completely.
One small step in the right direction is that, from time to time, friends, relatives or lay groups like Couples for Christ arrange the low-cost wedding for the couple. They take care of preparing logistics including dresses/suits, the priest, the Church, the food (which they prepare), whose house will be used for the banquet, and so on. Nothing fancy and nothing rented or bought. They pitch in for everything, so the wedding itself is a gift to the couple. My own wife and workmates did this for a couple whom they worked with.
But no matter how hard priests explain that the wedding celebrations are secondary to the sacrament of matrimony, people still feel compelled to spend too much on the wedding. On the other hand, it isn’t just the couple. It can be their parents and relatives (as in my case) who oblige them to hold huge banquets. I suppose it would be alright if everyone brought a plate to share. :)



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Marion (Mael Muire)

posted July 4, 2006 at 9:44 pm


A church wedding can be lovely and intimate and not expensive at all!
At the time of our 1987 wedding, my father was in the hospital. He had been in poor health for several years, in and out of hospitals and rehab centers, and although we had hopes he would improve in time for the wedding, there seemed little signs of his doing so.
Because of his health, a big production seemed inappropriate, and a big budget was out of the question!
The wedding took place at my parish church, and my husband paid the fee for this and also Father’s honorarium. I don’t recall that these fees were very high at all.
I wore my aunt’s wedding dress (I made my own alterations to it in the weeks before our wedding), and my husband’s aunt, who is a bridal veil designer, contributed the veil. The music was provided by the church organist, and my brothers took turns playing DJ at the reception, which was in the back yard of my parents’ house.
We rented big tents and outdoor furniture for our guests. My sister and I spent part of the morning of my wedding decorating the tents, wrapping the supporting poles in colorful tissue paper and ribbons.
Just before the ceremony, my husband-to-be and I, dressed in our full wedding regalia, went to visit my Dad in his hospital room. He looked very proud and happy. On our way down the hall, a man called out to us to come and look in on his wife who occupied a room near Dad’s. She had spotted us from her bed, and asked her husband to go out and have the bride come in so she could see her. So we visited with this lady for a while, too, before we left the hospital and went to church.
We did splurge on flowers – the most extravagant we could afford, and on the food – a catered buffet, set up under one of the tents in the yard.
People said afterwards that it was one of the loveliest weddings they had ever been to.



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Lynn

posted July 5, 2006 at 1:55 pm


Thanks for sharing, Marion; it sounds as if you and your family had a lovely wedding day.



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Ken

posted July 13, 2006 at 12:17 pm


Re modern weddings:
I think it started back in the Eighties with everybody taking Princess Di’s wedding as a bare-bones minimum. Since most marriages have a shorter term than the wedding bill loans, who gets stuck with the remaining wedding bill during the divorce?
Nearly 56% of all IVF treatments are in Europe. And almost half of the techniques are performed in four countries — the United States, Germany, France and Britain.
No surprise there. USA and Western Europe are among the most high-tech areas of the world; they have the technology to do lots of IVF. (I wonder where Japan — also undergoing a population crash — is on the list?)



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