I have been wanting to write this blog entry for quite some time after I attended two weddings within weeks of each other a few months ago. Finally, after setting aside some time, I would like to address what has been on mind. As I observed both weddings, I began to think about how weddings themselves have no instrumental value. Instead, I believe weddings have ceremonial value only.
In the United States, marriages often involve some kind of wedding ceremony in which friends and family gather to witness two people exchange vows to express their love for each other and their commitment to spend the rest of their lives with each other. These ceremonies are each unique and different in their own ways. Some weddings are extravagant and lavish, while some are simple and intimate; culture plays an important part in how weddings are performed as well. Traditionally, a licensed official performs the ceremony in front of all the guests, then everyone celebrate the wedded couples’ vowel exchanges at the reception that follows the ceremony.
Weddings are a chance for people to engage in what economist Thorstein Veblen called conspicuous consumption, which is spending money on luxurious goods and services in order to display economic power. At its core, conspicuous consumption is a way to display your status through your economic consumption. A couple that have a very lavish wedding involving expensive clothes, expensive decorations and other services are communicating their economic status to their guests. In other words, the couple want to signal their importance and status to their guests. I am not arguing that all couples engage in this activity, but it certainly exists.
A wedding is a celebration of two people’s love for one another, but it does not add any instrumental enhancement in a relationship. In other words, a couple that have an extravagant wedding do not love each other more than a couple who have a simple wedding. The government recognizes a marriage whether the ceremony is held at a courthouse or whether it’s held at a beautiful beach. The government doesn’t consider one more meaningful than the other.