Love. Whether we admit it out loud to our sista girls or whisper it in our personal prayers up to heaven, most of us—if we haven’t found it already—are clamoring for it, plotting to fall into it, planning to be wrapped up in it someday. So when we defy the odds of this overhyped Great Black American Man Drought and snag us a magical dude who we can get all moony-eyed over and finally label “The One,” many of us understandably want to hustle him, a pair of rings and our visions of a happy life together in front of somebody’s altar post haste. But knowing what a sentimental bunch we are, the wedding industry—an $86 billion business machine—capitalizes on the emotion attached to that big day, the pinnacle of romance some of us have been dreaming of since we started stealing kisses from little boys on the playground.

There are plenty of couples who can throw on a suit and a cute dress and get ‘er done in a quaint little ceremony down at the local courthouse, minus all the frills and excesses that can make weddings so stressful and expensive. And if that’s what works for hubby and wife, then two thumbs up for them. But for a big, wide bunch of ladies, making it official with the man of our dreams is cause to organize a bona fide throwdown and call up everybody from our second grade teacher to the bus driver who listened to all those early morning lamentations to announce that we’s fine-o-lee gettin’ married. A wedding is a day of joy, a celebration of love, a party to usher in the welcomed transition from “me” to “us.” Thinking about it purely in terms of dollars and cents robs it of all its symbolic meaning and intrinsic value. And asking a woman who wants a wedding to sacrifice her dream of having that special event—the most important one in her life next to the birth of a child—purely for financial reasons? That’s going to loom over the relationship like foul air in a subway station.

Let me be clear: I don’t condone stupid dumb shows of overspending just for the sake of doing so, unless you just got it like that (and even then it still seems pretty silly). But breaking your aluminum foil budget to throw a platinum wedding is not just irresponsible, it’ll put an unnecessary strain on your new married relationship from the giddy up. The average cost of a wedding in 2010 rang in at a little over $24,000. Pause. That right there is almost somebody’s salary, a ridiculous price tag to attach to one day—if you aren’t already financially sound and stable and sittin’ on healthy 401(k). Wedding shows ain’t doing nothin’ to help promote the concept of frugal spending for nuptials. Say Yes to the Dress makes it seem barely worth raising an eyebrow when brides-to-be slide into $5,000 gowns and watching one episode of Bridezillas can make any potential groom quake in his boots for fear his fiancée might piddle away all the available credit on his MasterCard.

Still, there’s no reason to write weddings off as a waste of money if the couple agrees at the onset of the planning to stay within a budget—no loans, no maxed out credit cards, no skipping recurring household bills to pay off caterers or florists. We throw dollars in the wind all the time and don’t think twice about it. Folks blow cash chasing the big payout at the casino. We waste money noshing at trendy, overpriced restaurants and heading to the carry-out with our co-workers on our lunch hours every day. We waste money watching, cheering and making fashion out of sports teams that are multimillion dollar franchises because we happily fork over our dollars. We waste money playing Powerball, buying shots of Patron at the club and outfitting Fifi and Fido in silly little doggie getups. With these and a hundred thousand trillion other ways to squander our expendable cash, why would investing in a day to celebrate the love of two people seem like such a ridiculous way to spend dough?

As much of a team player as I try to be, I don’t apologize for wanting to float down the aisle in a gorgeous white-ish gown, flanked on all sides of the ceremony by people who love me and my man both, individually and as a couple. After surviving being habitually pressed up on by the Jeromes, Bruh Mans and wannabe players of the world, besting three heartbreaks, single motherhood and some really difficult times in general, I’m not willing to white flag my longstanding plans to have a wedding that’s not only a joyous sendoff to my survival of single womanhood but ballyhoos the new, exciting season I’m stepping into with my dreamlover by my side. I want to have our closest friends decked out in fabulosity as bridesmaids and groomsmen and stand in front of my pastors—who, as a dynamic husband and wife team, have celebrated over 25 years of healthy, happy marriage themselves—so they can preside over all the vow exchangin’ and bless our new union. But most importantly, I want to make the promise to the good Lord that I will love this man whether he’s successful, handsome and able-bodied or he’s broke down, poor and just barely making it. Could I do that at the courthouse in a cute pantsuit and pumps? Sure I could. Do I want to be guilted into believing that spending some money on a one-time-only affair is wasteful and wrong? Child please.

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