Married in a gaudy green sportcoat and a homemade wedding dress – Terry Pluto’s Faith & You –

Marriage comes with price, but don't make it all about the wedding. Illustration by Susan Santola / Advance Local
CLEVELAND, Ohio – I didn’t think I’d end up doing a few columns on weddings, but it’s a topic that connects with readers. In the near future, I will use some of the responses from my previous column about the price of weddings – and also having the courage to break off an engagement, regardless of how it looks to others.
But I love this from Ann Heyward:
“A wedding is often the first real exercise in making decisions together as a couple. Don’t follow the expectations of others, especially from social media. Think about how to have the day reflect your values as a couple.”
Maybe it’s because I’m male and dense about these things, but it never occurred to me that the wedding “is the first exercise in making decisions as a couple.” But it is, at least in terms of being the first major decision after you agree to marry each other.
You can either plan your wedding, or let others impose their will on you.
A warning sign is if one person wants a huge, elaborate and expensive wedding, and the other wants to keep it small, simple and yes – to be kind – frugal.
If this can’t be resolved without one party feeling trampled, look out.
Or if both parties agree on the type of wedding, but they can’t withstand the pressure from other family members to do it their way – trouble will probably follow.
Here’s the disclaimer: Suppose both parties want a big wedding but also want the parents to pay for it. Suppose the parents can’t or won’t do it – that’s something the couple needs to resolve. Too many young couples expect someone else to take on the cost of an expensive wedding.
The average wedding costs $30,000. One man wrote me that he paid for two weddings, combined cost was $90,000. If people want to and can afford it – wonderful. But the marriage has to be about so much more than the wedding day.
Roberta and I knew each other nearly four years before we were married. We met in German class during my freshman year at Hiram College. A year later, my father was laid off. I transferred to Cleveland State to live at home. The idea was to save tuition costs and work while getting my degree in secondary education with a social studies major and English minor.
Roberta is two years older. We stayed in touch after she graduated with a biology degree and worked as a laboratory technician at Metro General Hospital in Cleveland.
After graduating from CSU, I sent out at least 50 resumes with copies of stories that I wrote while working part-time at the old Cleveland Press. I also sold three stories to the old Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine while in college.
This was in the typewriter days. And who typed out all those cover letters and resumes?
One guess.
The same woman who has lived with me for the last 45 years, serving as the first edit on my books and many of my stories.
We were sort of unofficially engaged. When I received a job offer from the Greensboro (N.C.) News-Record, I moved south. Within a few weeks, I knew we needed to get married.
But I also became fearful. My parents had a stormy marriage. My mother knew Roberta well and loved her, but she also remembered being an 18-year-old bride who married quickly to my father as World War II broke out.
She wanted me to wait. Roberta and I knew each other far better than my parents did when they were married. Finally, Roberta pushed me over the finish line: Get married, or we’re done.
I don’t recall a long discussion about our wedding. I wanted three things:
Roberta was on board for that. We were married in St. Clement’s Episicol Church, her home church in Greenville, Pa. Her mother, Elizabeth Monroe, took over the wedding. Roberta is a no-frills person. To her, smaller is better.
The guest list was about 20. Her mom made Roberta’s dress. Her veil was handed down from several generations of women in her mother’s family.
I was married in what now looks like an awful gaudy 1970s style green sportcoat. Roberta mentioned we had to find a green pair of pants to match that dreadful coat…which she did. YIKES!
No members of our wedding party were told to wear anything except what they wanted. Even in our early 20s, we knew the wedding was about making a commitment to each other – not a style statement to impress others.
My mother-in-law secured the church and had a small reception at the Greenville Country Club.
That was it. My guess is the cost could not have been much more than $1,500.
And yes, we had chocolate cake!
“The color may have faded from the Plutos’ wedding photo (thankfully, for Terry’s sake?) but their love for each other remains as vibrant as that day in 1977. Courtesy, Terry Pluto
I received this email from Gwen Smith, who also was married in 1977 – the same year that I married Roberta.
“We paid for most of the wedding…parents contributed what they could. We had a Christmas wedding (Dec. 30) and saved on church flowers.
“My bridesmaids made their gowns and capes. I made and decorated their fur muffs. Groomsmen wore boutonnieres of holly my husband got from his boss’s holly farm. I made a large silk rose and pearl rosary to wrap around Mother Mary’s hands at the Pieta statue.
“Our invitations were printed on Christmas cards. We came down the aisle to ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful,’ and ‘Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel’ was the Communion hymn. Because Elvis Presley died that year, music before the ceremony included ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.’ Barbra Streisand’s ‘Evergreen’ was the reflection hymn.
“I wore my mother’s dress and my Communion veil ..both a little altered. People were amazed at the beauty of it all. It is a night we reminisce about often after 45 years….magical!”
Maybe these stories sound like they come from another era, but I present them not to tell you what to do. Rather, to present an alternative to the wedding industrial complex that sends many couples and their parents into major debt even before anyone says “I do.”
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