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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Barbara Klein. This week -- weddings in America.
Each year, more than two million weddings take place in the United States. The Association for Wedding Professionals International says more than eighty thousand million dollars is spent on those weddings. And that does not include honeymoon travel for the newlyweds.
Some people have big weddings and invite everyone they know. Some have small, simple weddings and invite only their closest friends and family members. And some elope. They get married first and tell people later.
Still another choice is a "destination wedding." These are popular now. The bride and groom invite a small group of guests to travel to someplace special for the ceremony. Think of it as a wedding and honeymoon all in one.
June is the beginning of summer. It is also considered the traditional start of the wedding season.
Hollywood has had a lot of fun with weddings. In the summer of two thousand five there was the movie "Wedding Crashers." Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two friends who trick their way into weddings. Why? Simple: to meet women.
Many couples organize their weddings themselves. But some hire a wedding planner to organize everything for them. The planner helps the bride find a wedding dress as well as dresses for her bridesmaids.
The planner helps find a place for the reception after the ceremony. And the planner organizes all the details for the celebration, from the flowers to the food to the entertainment.
In the movie "The Wedding Planner," Jennifer Lopez stars as a highly organized planner with a suddenly disorganized personal life. She falls in love with a doctor, played by Matthew McConaughey. Only he turns out to be the man who is supposed to marry her most important client.
Hollywood has also had fun with wedding planners. In the Steve Martin and Diane Keaton movie "Father of the Bride," Martin Short plays their daughter's "wedding coordinator."
Traditionally the bride's parents pay for the wedding. But Americans now get married at an older age than they once did. So working couples might pay for some or all of the wedding themselves. "What a wonderful idea," once joked a real-life father of the bride.
Couples can have a religious ceremony. Or they can have a civil wedding before a judge or other public official. Or they can have both. The couple might also read special vows they have written for each other.
Many ceremonies share common customs. For example, the bride may wear a long white dress and have a white veil over her face. The veil is pulled back when the newlyweds kiss at the end of the ceremony.
The groom traditionally wears a tuxedo. If the suit is black and the shirt is white, picture in your mind a penguin. A nervous penguin.
An old tradition says brides should wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. These four things are supposed to bring good luck.
Different cultures have their own traditions. At African-American weddings, for example, there is "jumping the broom." This is an old tradition where couples jump over a broomstick laid on the ground.
America is known as a nation of immigrants. Each group brings its own wedding customs and traditions to the mix. But one tradition at most weddings is music. Many people hire D.J.s, disc jockeys, to play recorded dance music. A wedding might also have live music.
Many couples hire small chamber groups to play classical music before and at the end of their wedding ceremony. One musical tradition is "Trumpet Voluntary."
Another classical favorite at weddings is "Sheep May Safely Graze" by Johann Sebastian Bach:
Some couples want to get married in a famous place like Disneyland or Las Vegas. The eightieth floor of the Empire State Building in New York City is a popular place for weddings. Couples can enter a competition for a chance to get married there on Valentine's Day.
Couples sometimes hold their wedding in a romantic place where they met. Or they choose a place that will not be too far for all the guests to travel. Or they hear about a beautiful place where many other people have gotten married.
Many couples get married on the beach in Hawaii and the mainland, or travel to Mexico or an island in the Caribbean.
With a destination wedding, the celebration often lasts three days. All the guests are invited to a dinner on the night before the wedding. Then there is the ceremony and the meal that follows. And often there is an early morning breakfast the following day.
Thanks to the Internet, couples can make a lot of their wedding preparations online. Technology has also made it easier for other people to decide what to give them for a wedding gift.
The future newlyweds can go to stores and choose the gifts they would like to receive. The information is entered into a list on a wedding registry at each store. Then their friends and relatives can choose what to buy.
This means the bride and groom get things they want. It also means they avoid many of the things they do not want - like three toasters for their morning bread.
Some couples planning a wedding create their own Web sites so they can provide information to the people they invite.
With all the planning that goes into some weddings, it is easy to forget what the event is all about. A Protestant minister in Maryland advises couples to remember one thing. Their wedding is over quickly, but their feelings for each other have to last a lifetime.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Barbara Klein. Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. And we invite you to listen against next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.