((CUT ONE: INSTEAD OF THEME, "TRUMPET VOLUNTARY"))More than four-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 weddings 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. 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.For example, a businessman and a nurse in Boston, Massachusetts will marry later this month. They will have a traditional American church wedding. The bride will wear a long white dress and a white head covering called a veil. She also will wear 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 her groom will accept each other as husband and wife. They will promise to love and honor each other always. The groom will place a gold wedding ring on the third finger of the bride's left hand. The bride will place a gold wedding ring on the third finger of the groom's left hand. The clergy member performing the ceremony will declare that they are husband and wife. Then the bride and groom will kiss.In the past few months the couple agreed about all the plans for their wedding except the music. The groom wanted a friend to play a string instrument called a banjo during the ceremony. The bride wanted a friend to play a string instrument called a harp. Now they have compromised. They agreed that another friend will sing one of the most popular songs heard at American weddings. Celine Dion sings this song, "My Heart Will Go On."
((CUT TWO: MY HEART WILL GO ON))Couples planning their weddings can get wedding advice from married friends. They can study magazines published especially for people getting married. They can pay a professional wedding planner to help organize the ceremony and party. And they can also use the Internet computer system to plan their wedding.
"Modern Bride" magazine says more than one-million couples buy wedding products and services on the Internet. The bride and groom can communicate with family members and friends who will take part in the celebration.
They can look at pictures of clothes they may wear during the ceremony. They can choose flowers. They can decide where to hold the wedding party, and what food and drink will be served. They can study where to take a wedding trip. They can buy tickets for transportation and hotels.Some couples also establish their own Web sites. This way, they can provide needed information to people invited to the wedding from distant places. For example, two-hundred people were invited to a recent wedding in Chicago, Illinois. The couple had the ceremony in a church near the bride's home. But more than half of those who attended lived far from Chicago.
The wedding couple's Web site advised these guests about places to stay and things to do in the city. It provided maps showing how to reach the church and the club where the wedding dinner would be served. The bride said she saved time and money by not having to mail this information to the guests.Wedding guests traditionally give a gift 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 couple 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.Sometimes the bride and groom give gifts to their guests. These gifts may be baskets filled with candy and small bottles of wine. Or the baskets may contain objects that will help guests remember the wedding celebration. For example, a bride from South Carolina loves to play tennis. Her gift baskets included tennis balls printed with the couple's names and the date of their wedding.
Another bride and groom were married in a hotel garden. The ceremony took place on a hot spring day. Guests received gifts of hats to protect them from the sun.
((MUSIC BRIDGE))Experts say about half of American weddings this year will not be costly or require months of planning. Melinda Reed is a clergywoman at a Protestant church in Bethesda, Maryland. Reverend Reed says many couples today choose simple, nontraditional weddings. This is especially true of older people who have been married before.
She recently performed a nontraditional wedding for an older couple. Their wedding ceremony was held in the garden of a private home. The couple had a total of ten children from their earlier marriages. Their many grandchildren all took part in their ceremony.
Reverend Reed also performed a nontraditional wedding ceremony for a bride and groom who were more than eighty years old. They were married quietly in an office in the church. But later, the couple danced at a big party for family and friends.Couples can have simple wedding ceremonies almost anywhere. Some people have their weddings on a beautiful beach or in a wooded area. Others marry in the home of a friend. Friends and family members help prepare the wedding meal. A couple in Washington, DC was married almost thirty years ago in a public park. Now their twenty-seven-year-old son is planning to marry this year. He says he and his bride will be married in the same park.Earlier this month, Reverend Reed performed a wedding at a famous monument in Washington. The couple had received permission to marry at the Jefferson Memorial. This circular white memorial contains a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.
Visitors to the memorial gathered nearby to watch and listen. The statue of President Jefferson watched over the wedding couple as they promised to live together for the rest of their lives.
((WEDDING MARCH FROM A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM INSTEAD OF THEME))This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by George Grow. Our studio engineer was Keith Holmes. 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.