"Couples don't need wedding loans. They need more modest weddings," writes Jennifer Graham for Acculturated.

[W]edding loans are a “thing” for couples who find that their combined student-loan debt doesn’t concentrate the mind wonderfully enough. “You shouldn’t let your finances or your credit keep you from having the wedding you’ve always wanted,” chirps the website, encouragingly. (Note to brides: Actually, yes, you should. It’s called living within one’s means, and those who do it fare better on every scale of physical and emotional health than those who don’t).

Another website,, frets with brides-to-be over the cost of the photographer ($2,000!), the caterer ($65 per person!), and the “Historic church you’ve always dreamed of exchanging your vows in” ($4,000!).

Love the idea of spending $4,000 a pop to go to church. The sites to which Graham links are visually fascinating: On the home pages of each is a brided in an expensive-looking dress getting a kiss from the groom in an extravagant setting (and My Wedding Loans also features expensive "Big Day" props: the sit-down banquet table, the cruise ship, the Tahiti-esque honeymoon destination, the wedding cake as tall as size of the flower girl. "Up to $40,000" in easy matrimonial money! Only when you click "Apply now" do the cakes and pavillions disappear and you're down to the brass tacks of the 6-8 percent "loan-origination fee," the 11 percent APR, and please supply your credit score. Although at both Bridal.Loans and My Wedding Loans, "bad" credit is no obstacle to having "the ceremony YOU want":

With one of our wedding loans, you’ll be able to have the ceremony and reception you deserve. Our unique platform was specially calibrated to offer you a high chance for approval. A wedding can be expensive and stressful. But paying for it doesn’t have to be.  Whether you need engagement ring financing, a wedding loan, money for your reception, catering, DJ, or honeymoon, a wedding loan from can take the high costs of your wedding and break them down into easy-to-handle, low monthly payments. That way, you can spend more time focusing on what’s important: your future.

A future spent in the hock to a financial institution at loan-shark interest rates. And Graham is absolutely right: Whatever happened to the modest wedding? Whatever happened to the wedding vows as the point of the wedding?

As perhaps the last bride on earth to have the reception at her parents' home (after a ceremony in a non-"historic church"), I highly recommend the etiquette expert Judith Martin's Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding (2010), a book loathed by wedding planners the world around.

For 32 years, etiquette expert Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, has watched social mores loosen and public behavior slide. But little has appalled her more than the increasingly selfish conduct of brides- and grooms-to-be.

Spurred by wedding planners, she maintains, they act as if their nuptials are not an intimate personal ceremony but a show in which they are the stars, in which no one's interests but their own are to be considered and whose tab should be footed by parents and guests alike.

So it should surprise no one that she has taken the white gloves off and come out swinging. "Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding," (W.W. Norton & Co., 320 pages), written with her daughter, newlywed Jacobina Martin, tries to get couples back to the basics, stressing that a meaningful wedding need not be an over-the-top menagerie, put anyone in debt or require a theme.

There's already a theme, and it's marriage.

Right! At a wedding a couple makes a solemn pledge to be with each other for better or for worse. That's serious stuff. One of the ways to make it better, not worse, is not to spend money you don't have on a giant party that you will have forgotten all about in a few years. I sometimes think about my wedding dress (made by a seamstress and not that expensive), and what it might look like now, if I opened the box where I have it stored in the basement 29 years later: laughably dated with its huge 1980s "Dynasty" puffed sleeves.

The point of marriage is that it's supposed to last longer than the bride's wedding dress. Which, like all the rest of the ephemera of the wedding itself, is not worth imperiling with the burden of debt.