By Jerilyn WatsonEvery year, about two-and-one-half million marriage ceremonies are performed in the United States. June is one of the most popular months for people to get married. I'm Steve Ember.And I'm Shirley Griffith. We tell about weddings on our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

((CUT ONE: INSTEAD OF THEME, "TRUMPET VOLUNTARY"))A wedding in the United States can be very simple. It can be a five-minute ceremony performed by a judge in a public building. Or it can be a longer, traditional ceremony in a home, private club, or religious center.

Weddings can cost just a few hundred dollars. Or, they can cost many thousands of dollars. But the meaning of all weddings is the same. The bride and the groom promise to spend the rest of their lives together.

Some people do not have enough money for a big celebration. Others decide to have a simple ceremony so they can take a costly wedding trip. But most couples say they want their wedding day to be the most special day of their lives.Big weddings take months to plan. They have created a huge business in the United States. A big wedding requires special flowers, food preparation, picture-taking and music. Some estimates say Americans spend as much as twenty-thousand-million dollars a year for everything connected with weddings.

Brides often spend a lot of time reading and talking about how to plan their wedding. They can get advice from magazines like "Modern Bride."They can find wedding suggestions on the Internet computer system. Or they can pay a professional wedding planner to organize the wedding and party.A traditional American wedding is held in a church, synagogue, hotel or social club. Many weddings are also held in public gardens or museums. A wedding party is held after the ceremony. About one-hundred people may attend the ceremony and party. However, some large weddings have more than four-hundred guests.

Special food is served at the wedding party. After the meal, the bride and groom cut a special large wedding cake that is served to the guests. A band or orchestra plays music so the guests can dance. After the wedding party, the bride and groom go on a wedding trip. This is called the "honeymoon." The most popular places for honeymoons include the state of Hawaii, the islands in the Caribbean Sea and Mexico.

((CUT TWO: MUSIC BRIDGE))Experts say the average cost of an American wedding is more than twenty-thousand dollars. The bride's parents usually pay for the wedding and party. Today, however, many couples are older when they get married. They often pay for all or part of their own weddings.

Many weddings, however, are not so big or costly. Sometimes the bride and groom plan their own wedding at the home of a friend. Friends and family members help prepare the wedding meal.

Most weddings also include a special meal the night before the wedding. This rehearsal dinner is for the people taking part in the ceremony. It is also for people who have come to attend the wedding from other cities. Usually the groom's parents pay for this dinner.It is traditional for those invited to the wedding to give a gift to the bride and groom. Technology can help people choose the perfect gift. The couple can go to a store and decide which gifts they would like to receive. These include things for their home like dishes and cooking equipment. The stores can print lists of all these things. These lists also can be found on the Internet computer network.

Sometimes the bride and groom request other kinds of gifts. For example, Douglas Christiano is the son of Special English chief Marilyn Christiano. Douglas and Sheri Smith were married June tenth in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They made a list of gifts they would like to receive. They also asked friends to give money in their honor to an organization called Save the Whales. Save the Whales tries to protect the huge sea creatures from disappearing from Earth.Many people choose to have their weddings in a beautiful outdoor place. They often include personal things in the ceremony to make their weddings especially meaningful. For example, some people get married at sunset on a beautiful beach. They may read special poems to each other. Douglas and Sheri Christiano were married in a public conservatory -- a garden surrounded by glass. The bride wore a purple wedding dress instead of a white gown that a bride traditionally wears.

Special English newswriter Onka Dekker was married in the garden of a friend. All of the guests at the wedding promised to support the marriage. Ms. Decker and her husband also observed two customs from other cultures in their Christian ceremony. Ms. Dekker wore a red and yellow dress. Many Chinese people believe these colors bring good luck. And the couple were married under a chuppah, a special covering used in Jewish wedding ceremonies. The chuppah represents the couple's future home.Special English writers George and Yenni Grow had a civil marriage ceremony in a public garden in Alexandria, Virginia. Readings from the Koran honored the Muslim religion of Missus Grow, who is from Indonesia. Readings from the Christian Bible honored the religious tradition of her American husband. After the ceremony they took friends for a boat ride on the Potomac River.

African American wedding couples sometimes include African traditions in their celebrations. They wear traditional African wedding clothes. After the ceremony they take part in an old African American tradition called "jumping the broom." They jump over a broom placed on the ground.Now we will describe a traditional wedding in the United States. People invited to the wedding are sitting in the church. Bridesmaids walk slowly from the back of the church to the front. These women are usually friends or family members of the bride or groom. They walk with ushers, who are male friends or family members of the couple.

The groom stands at the front with the clergyman who will perform the marriage ceremony. Then, organ music announces the arrival of the bride. Often, the music is the "Bridal Chorus" from the opera "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner (RICK-hard VAHG-ner). This music is sometimes called "Here Comes the Bride."

((CUT THREE: BRIDAL CHORUS FROM "LOHENGRIN"))Everyone watches the bride walk to the front of the church with her father. She wears a traditional long white dress and a white head covering called a veil. She carries white flowers.

Another tradition says the bride should wear four special things: Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. And something blue. These four things are supposed to bring her good luck.

During the ceremony, the bride and groom accept each other as husband and wife. They promise to love and honor each other always. The groom places a gold wedding ring on the third finger of the bride's left hand. The bride places a gold ring on the third finger of the groom's left hand. The clergyman declares that they are husband and wife. The bride and groom kiss each other.

As the new husband and wife walk out of the church the organ plays another traditional wedding song. It is the "Wedding March" from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Felix Mendelssohn.

((CUT FOUR: "WEDDING MARCH" (THE RECESSIONAL) ))This program was written by Jerilyn Watson, whose son Cory married Brett Silver in Greenville, South Carolina on Sunday. It was produced by Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Efim Drucker. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.