After I got engaged, my sister gave me a copy of Emily Post's Etiquette—the 1950 version. It was half joke and half research, fascinating to comb through its musty pages to learn, for instance, how to introduce myself to a reigning sovereign should the Queen of England deign to attend my wedding. ("Mrs. Jones bows and, if the king offers to shake hands, Mrs. Jones bows again deeply as she gives him her hand.")

It's hard to imagine what Post herself, the queen of manners and doing the right thing, would say about weddings today. Wedding registries didn't even become de rigeur until a bit later in the 20th century. Up until that time, wedding guests chose from a socially prescribed list of household items—candlesticks, trays, china, and so on. The point of a wedding gift was that it was freely given, like all the best gifts are.

Now, of course, registries are the norm. Brandishing bar code scanners in department stores and clicking off Amazon wishlists have become engagement rites of passage. While registries are immensely helpful—who wants to end up with multiple cheese boards?—they have also opened the floodgates for all sorts of once unheard-of wedding requests. Honeymoon registries became popular, then savings registries to help pay for a down payment or a house renovation. It was only a matter of time before couples began asking for help with that other big expense: the wedding itself.

Strapped-for-cash couple can now setup online registries to solicit donations to pay for their wedding, in lieu of traditional gifts. It's not a mainstream thing for weddings (yet?), but it's happening. A friend pointed me to an example, where the bride and groom ask guests to "contribute to our wedding fund," which goes toward catering, the DJ, and all the other big-ticket items for the ceremony and reception.

It's a bold new world for weddings. A cake and punch reception will no longer do; the wedding bar has been raised by Pinterest and reality shows and cultural expectations and a bigger-is-better mentality. There must be imported flowers and perfectly mismatched china and cupcakes stacked in tiers with little flags telling you what flavor you're about to enjoy.

Most couples on these sites aren't seeking out an obscene amount of money, certainly not by today's standards, when the average wedding reportedy rings up well over $25,000 (or maybe more like $10,000). That's a lot. I understand their impulse to ask for help. A wedding is a special occasion, one that calls for celebration, great meals, and meaningful words. It honors God when we commit to our spouses before friends and family.

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The standup comedian Louis CK does a bit when he rethinks socially acceptable institutions by offering "but, maybe…" suggestions. To take a cue from Louis, I believe weddings are worthwhile, meaningful events to spend money on, but maybe we're taking it too far.

But, maybe, in a world rampant in debt and excessive consumption, we should recognize and stick to the limits of our own budgets.

But, maybe, as brides and grooms, we should treat our guests to whatever celebration we can afford, without worrying about the trendy, socially mandated extras.

But, maybe, as guests, we should realize the wedding gift we choose—and the money we spend on it—isn't that important in the scheme of things.

Our attendance at the ceremony is enough of a present, wrote a friend of mine on the registry section of her wedding website. We've forgotten this in our efforts to match our gifts to the grandeur of the day. Wedding guests attend the event to bear witness to the making of this incredible covenant, not just on its first day but all the way through to its last. That gift lasts longer and means more the KitchenAids or duvet covers or generous checks or donations to cover the centerpieces. (Just kidding about the KitchenAids—those things are invaluable!)

We also want to bless the couple, to celebrate their marriage, but the point of a gift is that it is freely given. Wedding gift-giving should always be done in that spirit—God loves a cheerful giver and all that.

I do not want to condemn the couple asking for contributions to their wedding fund—I don't doubt that many of their guests are happy to help finance the big day. But I do want us to rethink the requirements that come along with a wedding, and to think about the importance of doing what we can do with the budget we have and being happy with that. The theologian and transcendentalist William Henry Channing has a wonderful thought on this from his Symphony:

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich…to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.

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I love this picture of contentment and simplicity. It extends much further than a wedding, of course, but is incredibly instructive for a big day. We are reminded many times in the Bible to be content, not to worry about material things, and to be wary of excess. We cannot forget those important parts of our faith; rather, we can let them guide us as we work out how to celebrate well within our budgets and boundaries. The point of a wedding is to do this well, rather than to impress or overwhelm or compete.

I'm no expert in this area—I write this for myself as much as anyone. But the more we can remember to ask "But, Maybe…" questions, the more we can release the expectations of a wedding day with the financial overload that has come to define it.