Butterflies, Modern Love & the Semicolon

The New York Times published an article today about wedding planners and their finicky clients, including a great anecdote about a bride who demanded the release of live butterflies during the wedding dinner, only to watch them flock to the light fixtures, go up in smoke, and shower her guests with their crispy remains. Less funny was the statistic that the average American wedding now costs close to $30,000. That's a full year's maximum 401(k) contribution for the couple ($15,000 a piece), start-up capital for a small business, a year of living abroad and learning a new language, a nice down payment on a condo, or a year of graduate school tuition.

I don't live in a binary world — I don't expect people to pay 30K or nothing on a wedding. The same article also profiled a 28-year-old bartender who bought her dress on sale for $115 and is working with a 10K budget for a wedding that, as she describes it, sounds perfectly lovely (and more fun than some lavish weddings I've attended). Managing and saving money together can be a big challenge — ask any married couple — and your wedding is often your first big spending decision together. Treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Watch out for wedding budgets that escalate because you have to keep your parents happy and impress their friends. If your parents are willing to pay for the whole shebang, great. If not, you have the right to put your foot down and start your marriage off on solid financial footing.

Also in today's NYT: an essay in the "Modern Love" column by a writing instructor at a Connecticut college who finds herself attracted to an adult, recently divorced student. Why did the article catch my eye? Because he asked her one day how to use the semicolon, and she confessed to her readers that she "had no idea." When your writing teacher doesn't know how to use a semicolon, run. And go buy yourself a Chicago Manual of Style. What you need to get out of a college is (1) the ability to write well; (2) the ability to read well; (3) the ability to speak well; 4) the ability to think critically; and (5) a facility with numbers. You can leverage those five skills into just about any discipline or industry you want, and everything else you learn in college is just a cherry on the sundae. In my experience, most college graduates haven't mastered even one of those skills, but with writing instructors who prefer the "intuitive" approach, I guess that's no surprise.