The wonders, woes, and wipeouts of weddings

A wedding day – and all the kerfuffle beforehand – should come with a warning label. Ethical dilemmas ahead. 

Decisions like: “Should I even have a wedding?” “Who should I invite?” “How much should I spend?” “Is this day really just about my partner and I?” “Do I have to invite my embarrassing uncle who drinks too much and flirts with the bridesmaids?” It can drive you spare.

Sure, taking the time to work things out won’t mean you know the right thing to do. But it’ll mean the decisions you come to will have been thoughtful and considered.

So if you’re stuck, start with purpose. What do you believe is the purpose of a wedding? And what actions are in line with that?


Say a wedding is meant to be a celebration of the life that you two will build together. If that’s true, would you go into debt for that wedding, knowing that some of that future life will be spent paying it off? That answer really depends on you.

Would it make sense to skimp instead? Maybe. But if a celebration to you includes good food, drinks, live music, and cake, is that in line with the purpose of a wedding either?

“Hey,” you might be thinking. “A wedding isn’t about the two of us. It’s about everyone who’s been a part of our lives.” And fair enough! No one can argue with that. But if you’re juggling venue booking dates, your budget, and your dreams of having a week long wedding in Tahiti, remembering your guests and what they’d want can help you narrow it down. Sometimes multiple ceremonies and parties slim down people’s wallets and annual leave. Other times, it makes for a dream come true. You know your guests – and your purpose – best.

Wedding dilemmas splitting you in two? Book a free appointment with Ethi-call. A non-partisan, highly trained professional will help you see through chiffon to make decisions you can live by.


These same questions carry over into duties. Maybe you’re deciding who to invite and who not to. Remembering your duty to yourself, your partner, and your guests can all provide different perspectives. If you think the life you two will have together won’t include distant relatives or friends (especially relationships that were difficult or abusive), would it make sense to have them there on your wedding day?

But if you believe you have a duty to these people to invite them – be they family, old friends, or people you just need to invite – you might feel differently. No matter what you decide it’s worth asking, if you want to keep your guests happy and comfortable, would inviting difficult or disruptive people prevent that?


These days, people aren’t the only things we’re concerned about. The impact of our weddings on the environment is something we’re much more conscious of. You might have wanted three thousand silver helium balloons on your wedding ever since you were a child, but you also just watched War on Waste and know that balloons end up in the tummies of lots of birds and turtles. Does the benefit outweigh the harm?

A good way to test if you’re cutting yourself too much slack on something you’d judge others for, is to shine it under the sunlight test. Would you still do it if it’d be on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow?


As with anything, it’s worth considering whether it presents you as the type of person you believe you are – and living the values you and your partner share. Does your wedding display qualities you strive toward, like thoughtfulness, fun, and generosity? Or does it paint you as selfish, unprepared, and demanding? If the wedding you and your partner plan are inspired by shared values, chances are you’re on your way to plan a wedding that reflects these aspirations.

A wedding holds a lot of symbolism because of its importance in culture, religion, and history. Of course, it’s also fraught, often for the exact same reasons. If you’re in a “non-traditional” relationship or you disagree with marriage altogether, you might feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Does a wedding fit with the kind of person you want to be? Do you feel a sense of duty – to yourself, to your family, to your wider community, to social media, to God – to have a wedding? Do you believe weddings give you something you can’t get anywhere else? What about the specific traditions that make you ask, “Should I even have that?”

Being respectful of weddings and what they symbolise can make you think about how to make it your own.

Oh, and one final thing for anyone reading this. If you aren’t even sure you want to be with your partner, don’t have a wedding. The risk of a painful, humiliating, and expensive mistake is far too high.

Ethi-call is a free national helpline available to everyone. Operating for over 25 years, and delivered by highly trained counsellors, Ethi-call is the only service of its kind in the world. Book your appointment here.

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