W5: The ballooning cost of modern love
A century ago, if someone had asked a group of Canadians what is the biggest, most expensive, or wackiest party each of them had ever attended, my guess is that few, if any, would answer, a wedding.
Ask the same question in 2014, I expect the answers would be very different.
Without looking too hard, W5 has found video of weddings performed on rollercoasters, under water, on mountaintops. There have been wedding party wardrobes that cost six figures, others that cost not a dime because the couples married au naturel.
And one person who’s seen it all is Marilyn Knipp, an ordained minister in Vancouver who earns her living marrying couples. She estimates that over a 30 year career, she’s performed more than 1,000 ceremonies.
She told W5, “I’ve done them on horseback, in a hot air balloon which was an experience, I’ve done them in the woods. I’ve done weddings where people are jumping over broomsticks and we have the cauldron going. Sometimes, it becomes more about managing the people and logistics than anything.”
But even traditional weddings often have a very different look from the past.
Lara Holte and Graham Taylor spoke to W5 just days before they married. The ceremony would take place at an Okanagan Valley winery. “Every girl wants to have that dream wedding,” Lara said. “The tears in her eyes when she thinks about what that grand day is going to be like with her family and friends there.”
But it comes at a cost.
The winery where Lara and Graham will marry is 700 kilometres away. “Everything has to be brought in,” Graham said. “And afterwards, it has to be taken down again. It’s almost like a military operation or doing a movie.”
The couple won’t say what the final cost will be, but they will be facing bills for transportation, professional planning and catering. There will also be a bill from a professional videographer.
He is Jacob Wasef, a former television director, who discovered the lucrative world of wedding videos after a friend asked him to record his.
“I shot it as if I was shooting any of our regular music videos,” he said. “We had five cameras, we had a 30 foot crane, we had floor dollies. All the technical stuff and communication systems that we used for music videos. I shot it as a live event.”
High-end wedding videos are now much in demand. Typically, Wasef works with budgets of between $3,000 and $25,000. The bigger budgets can include video shot from boats, helicopters, cranes; there can be special effects.
“We can do everything that’s ever been done on features or broadcast TV,” he said, and the service can be quick.
It is common now for professional wedding videographers to offer couples the option of a finished and fully edited product by the end of the wedding day so that guests can view it at the evening reception.
It wasn’t all that long ago that almost all weddings happened in a church close to home. Afterward, the couple would go perhaps to a nearby park to pose for a few pictures, sometimes shot by a relative. The reception would be held in a local hall and the honeymoon would be neither expensive, nor far away.
Those days have gone.
Wordwide, weddings now have grown into a $300-billion business. In Canada, it’s $4 billion.
It consists of designers, caterers, purpose-built venues. A quarter of Canadian couples now spend between $30,000 and $75,000 on their wedding. Three per cent spend more than $100,000.
There are alternatives.
Not long ago, on a seedy street in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, workers put the finishing touches on a storefront rented for the weekend. It had been decked out in wedding-style decorations, chairs brought in to accommodate 20 guests and a sign placed outside that read, “The Pop-up Wedding Project.”
It is one of the quick, easy, and relatively economic ways to get married. Couples show up one after the other, they enter, are married, there are some drinks and canapés for guests, some photos, and then out again, all in 90 minutes, and all for $1200.
When asked whether they’d have preferred something a bit more elaborate, an excited, happy, just-married couple answered laughing, “It was a choice between spending money on a big wedding, or a house. We chose the house.”
It is easy to find those who understand the appeal of a quick and simple wedding. Luwam Guebezai is among them.
She’s the daughter of Eritrean immigrants who want her wedding to be “cultural.” That means strictly traditional dress, ceremony and party.
It also means inviting much of Vancouver’s Eritrean community. The guest list is 1000 long, and the family cannot afford to hire professionals to do all the work. So, they are doing much of it themselves.
A few days before her wedding, W5 asked Guebezai if she found all the planning difficult. She answered immediately, with just one word, “Yes.”
But when asked if she’d have preferred a simple and quick wedding, a more qualified answer. “I don’t know if it’s easier to do a smaller wedding or a different type of wedding. I’ve never done it before.”
But even though she admitted that the planning and arranging was wearing on her, the idea of a quick and simple wedding was never seriously considered. “That,” she said, “is not a real wedding.”
It is easiest to make choices, when there are few choices to choose from. Perhaps that’s why generations ago, weddings seemed so much simpler.
Nowadays, the modern marriage marketplace has become an enormous labyrinth with options that can burn through a down payment on a house. But the couple walking down the aisle of a church, or through a winery garden, or into a temporary Vancouver storefront, all seem to emerge looking much the same.
All show the smiles and excitement of those who’ve just made a commitment to one another. The institution of marriage is ancient. But there are a few things that even modern times have barely changed.
How much did your wedding cost? How did you keep costs manageable? Share your story in the comments below. Watch W5 Saturday night @ 7 p.m. for Tom Kennedy’s full report.