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THIS IS AMERICA - June 3, 2002: Weddings - 2002-05-31


Almost two-and-one-half million marriages are performed each year in the United States. June is one of the most popular months for these wedding ceremonies. I’m Sarah Long.


And I’m Steve Ember. We tell about weddings on our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.



Almost five-million Americans get married each year. Some of these people will have a traditional wedding ceremony in a religious center, a hotel or a social club. These couples may invite hundreds of people to their celebrations.

Other couples will have a simple ceremony performed by a judge in a public building. They will invite only close family members and friends. They may not have the money to spend on a big wedding. Or they may want to save money for a wedding trip to a faraway place or to help them buy a house.

Americans get married in different ways. But the meaning of all these wedding is the same. The bride and groom promise to spend the rest of their lives together.


Big weddings have created a huge business in the United States. A big wedding requires special clothing, flowers, food preparation, photographs and music. Experts say the average American wedding costs about twenty-thousand dollars or more. Some estimates say Americans spend as much as seventy-thousand-million dollars a year for everything connected with weddings.

Traditionally, the bride’s parents plan and pay for the wedding. Sometimes the groom’s parents share this responsibility. Today many Americans are older when they get married. So they often organize and pay for their own weddings.


Two computer experts from Reston, Virginia, were married Saturday. They had a traditional American wedding. The bride wore a long white dress and a white head covering called a veil. She also wore four other traditional things: Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. And something blue. These four things are supposed to bring her good luck.

During the ceremony she and the groom accepted each other as husband and wife. They promised to love and honor each other always. The groom placed a gold wedding ring on the third finger of the bride’s left hand. The bride placed a gold wedding ring on the third finger of the groom’s left hand. The clergy member performing the ceremony declared them husband and wife. Then the bride and groom kissed.

During the past year the couple organized all the plans for their wedding. For several months, they could not decide what music they wanted to be played at their ceremony. Finally, they chose music often heard at weddings – “Sheep May Safely Graze” by Johann Sebastian Bach.



Couples planning their weddings can get advice in many different ways. They can ask their married friends. They can study magazines published especially for people getting married.

Couples who are very busy sometimes hire a wedding planner to help them with their preparations. For example, the planner helps the bride find a wedding dress. The planner helps find a place for the party after the ceremony. This person organizes the food, the music and all the details for the party.


Couples also can use the Internet computer system to prepare for their wedding. Modern Bride magazine says almost half of Americans getting married buy wedding products and services on the Internet.

The bride and groom can use the Internet to communicate with family members and friends who will take part in the celebration. They can look at pictures of wedding clothes. They can choose flowers. They can decide where to hold the wedding party, and what foods and drinks will be served. They can study where to take their trip after the wedding. This trip is called the “honeymoon.” They can buy airplane tickets and decide on a hotel.

Some couples who are planning a wedding also establish their own Web sites. This way, they can provide needed information to people invited to the wedding from distant places. The Web site advises guests about places to stay and things to do in the area. It provides maps showing how to reach the church and the place where the wedding dinner will be served.


Wedding guests traditionally give gifts to the bride and groom. Computer technology also is making it easier for guests to find the perfect gift. Sometimes guests can do this without leaving home.

For example, a man and woman who are getting married can go to a store and choose gifts they would like to receive. These include things for their home like dishes and cooking equipment. The store can print a list of all these things. This list also can be found on the Internet. Guests can buy a gift at the store or on the Internet and have it sent to the couple.


Sometimes the bride and groom give gifts to their guests. These gifts may be small baskets filled with candy and little bottles of wine. The baskets may contain objects that will help guests remember the wedding celebration. For example, a bride from New York City loves chocolate candy. Her gift baskets included large chocolate candies in the shape of hearts. The couple’s names and the date of their wedding ceremony were written on the candies.

There is another way that guests can remember a wedding. There are small cameras that do not cost much and are used to take only about twenty or thirty pictures. Many couples give such a camera to each group of guests at the party after the ceremony. One of the guests takes pictures of all the other guests sitting around the table. Later, the wedding couple or their families develop the film and send copies of these pictures to all the guests.



Experts say about half of American weddings this year will not be costly or require months of planning. Sometimes people have simple marriage ceremonies so they can take a costly wedding trip. Many travel companies offer trips for the wedding couple to faraway places. For example, a bride and groom can enjoy a wedding trip to a historic castle in Britain. Or they can sail to islands in the Caribbean Sea on a large ship.

Some people have simple, nontraditional weddings. They have their weddings at home, sometimes in a garden if the weather is nice. Friends may provide food and play music for the party after the ceremony. Other couples are married by a judge in a public building.

A public relations worker in Baltimore, Maryland, and an airline pilot from Washington, D.C., recently decided to get married. The pilot knew he would soon be called back into active service in the Marine Corps. So the couple was married in a small room in a church called a chapel. Only family members attended the ceremony.


Other couples choose a special place for their wedding ceremony. For example, a businessman and a health worker in Greenville, South Carolina are in their middle thirties. Each has been married before. This couple drove to Miami, Florida to be married. A clergyman performed their ceremony on a beautiful Atlantic Ocean beach.

Many young couples plan nontraditional weddings that include traditions from their cultures. For example, one bride is from Shanghai, China. She is studying in the United States. The groom is an American lawyer. Their ceremony will honor both his Jewish religious traditions and her Chinese customs.

A Protestant clergyman in the state of Maryland has performed hundreds of wedding ceremonies over the years. He advises couples to remember that their wedding takes place in a single day. However, he says their feelings for one another must last a lifetime.



This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I’m Steve Ember.


And I’m Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.