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Devin D. Thorpe
Tuesday, April 24 2012

Naked Weddings and Other Lessons From China

By Devin D. Thorpe Notify me when this author publishesComment on Article
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Naked weddings are not what you think!

Naked weddings are not what you think—thank heaven! Living in China for nearly a year has given us an opportunity to observe some remarkable and admirable behaviors, like a growing social acceptance for once taboo naked weddings.

A “naked wedding” is similar to eloping, but with further implications. Not only does the naked wedding imply that the couple has wed without a traditional ceremony and the expensive celebrations that accompany them, but the couple likely does not own a house or a car and so are thought to be getting started in their new life together naked.

Traditionally, here in China, a couple would wed only after the groom acquires a home, typically an apartment, and perhaps a car. The groom is also responsible for most of the costs of the wedding. Each of these things tends to delay marriage and child-rearing, which the government seeks to discourage with a variety of policies, including the infamous one-child policy (which is slowly being relaxed).

Growing social acceptance for naked weddings allows young couples who are deeply in love to begin their lives on the right moral path, by allowing them to respect the traditional social values against premarital sex rather than test their commitment to such values over the course of multi-year courtships and engagements.

Latter-day Saints have been admonished not to delay marriage or child rearing, even for education or financial considerations.[i] Society in general, however, discourages young marriages and large families.

The growing acceptance of naked weddings in China is a reminder of the never-revoked commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28). We demonstrate our faith in the Lord and our obedience to the counsel of the brethren when we choose not to delay marriage for the acquisition of education, a home, a car or even simply to afford a large celebration.

Buying a home before buying a car

China and America have a great deal in common; much more than one would think without living in both countries. One thing that is obvious is that both are massive countries, covering huge parts of the globe.

Even the most affluent Chinese, unlike their American counterparts, make car purchases much more cautiously. Generally, a Chinese man or a couple will not even consider the purchase of a car until they have acquired a home.

This may sound quaint, but it is exceptionally wise. The home is a much larger and much more important purchase. Once the family owns a home, they have anchored themselves to a community and have begun to build a solid financial foundation.

The great American obsession with cars may do more to impoverish their owners than they can fully appreciate. Cars are sneaky. They don’t present you a bill at the end of the month showing all of the costs of ownership, rather they present you a monthly bill representing the car payment with the pretense that this represents the bulk of the ownership cost. Oh that it were so!

According to the MSN Auto web site, a new 2012 Dodge Durango costs $35,695. This would be mid-line model; according to the web site, you could spend another $10,000 rather easily. Now, a Dodge Durango is hardly a luxury car. It doesn’t seem extravagant in the least, but let’s consider the costs of owning that vehicle.

With no down payment, a five-year loan at 5.9% interest would leave you with monthly payments of $737 per month. Add to that, the cost of maintenance, insurance, and gas and the monthly cost of ownership quickly tops $1,000 per month.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I don’t choose the Durango at random. I love that vehicle, but consider my purchase of a new Durango in 2000 my biggest financial blunder. When I sold mind, I calculated the monthly cost at $1,500 per month for the 18 months I owned it.

Now, to put this into perspective, here in 2012, interest rates remain very low by historic standards. According to, 30-year mortgage rates are below 4% as I write this. That means that to buy a $200,000 house with a 20% down payment would require payments of $764, barely more than the payments on the Durango and much less than the total ownership cost of the Durango.

It begs the question, how many people in America are now driving a car that could fund their entire house payment?

One less car

Once you own a home, it may be tempting to fill the garage with beautiful cars, but we should stop and think.

Some might argue that if you pay cash for your car that this significantly reduces the cost of owning it; in fact, it really does not.There are a variety of reasons to pay cash or a car rather than borrowing the money for it, but it doesn’t make owning the car much cheaper. What that discipline really does is to force us to buy more affordable cars.

We all tend to spend more when we’re spending someone else’s money, but when we’re spending our own hard earned money, suddenly a previously owned car starts to look very good!

There is no sure way to save money by buying a car. The sure way to save money is to not buy the car. It may not be practical or even possible to go entirely without a car, but an old clunker bought for a few thousand dollars may be adequate to cover those occasions when you really need one.

Of course, once you own a home and are in a position to more readily afford a car, owning one can not only bless you and your family but also the Church as you use it to do service in and for the Church.

One need only drive through a typical suburban community anywhere in America to see the evidence of the national obsession with cars. In the more upscale neighborhoods, three car (and larger) garages often hide the cars, but not their existence. In less affluent neighborhoods, the cars are often parked in plain view, and there, too, there are often more than one or two cars per household.

One of the fastest ways to get control of monthly spending and to increase the happiness in a home is to sell a car. A combination of car-pooling and public transportation can provide dramatic savings over the ownership of a car. If someone in your home is about to leave for a mission, selling a car can be a great way to pay for it. Not only does the sale of the car potentially contribute to the fund, but the absence of the expenses could easily cover the $400 monthly cost for a missionary.

When considering the full cost of ownership, even for an old clunker with good gas mileage, it is hard to spend less than $300 month because the maintenance costs become significant. On the other hand, more than 1 billion Chinese people commuting without a car demonstrate well that it can be done using a combination of walking, bicycling and public transportation. And in America, it would be difficult to spend $300 per month on public transportation.


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