This was a post for MiBReviews on April 17th of 2010. These are just some general thoughts on weddings. I did get some jokes about being so dedicated as to review a wedding, but while there are some details, I don’t really consider it a review per se. I certainly don’t give the wedding a verdict or a rating. Still, these are some general thoughts about how weddings go down.
I went to a wedding of a family friend (one could say cousin, but I’ve always been one to quibble semantics) today, so I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on weddings. I want to note in advance that these are thoughts on weddings, not on marriage in general.
What mostly struck me during this wedding (other than the important things) was the unnecessary theatrics that took place during the ceremony. The wedding took place in a church- a Catholic church- with all that entails. There were things like bowing and hand crosses toward the podium, and the greater part of the audience was expected to have memorized scripted responses to what the church employees carrying out the service said. Those who have attended most Christian services for any significant length of time will recognize the narrative told at the beginning of the sacrament of Communion. In this case, it was accompanied with a sharp ring of bells- something that was probably meant to represent the blessing of God, but as this blessing is supposed to be believed to be taking place regardless, it came across to me as arrogance: it felt as though the church was telling God the precise moment the blessing was to take place.
It’s not the fact that these theatrics were part of the ceremony that stands out to me in a less than positive way. This is a ceremony to announce that two people who already live together, are having a child together, and are known to be in love are all of those things in as dramatic a fashion as possible, after all. It’s the fact that these things did nothing to add to the ceremony in a meaningful way. None of the things that I mentioned did anything to symbolize love, marriage, the bride or groom or their family. These were theatrics for the same of theatre.
Note that I did not say that they were for the sake of tradition. There is a place for tradition, especially at a ceremony like a wedding. For example, if (as I convinced myself during the ceremony) the bride loved the church, and the traditions that to an outsider might appear obsessive-compulsive made her feel happy and comfortable, then they have a place at her wedding. On top of that, some traditions simply make sense- the inclusion of the family, even the entire ceremony formed around that. It’s hard to imagine a wedding without the best man and the maid of honor, the bride’s maids and groom’s men and the father giving away the bride. These are all very beneficial (if arguably unnecessary) traditions designed to strengthen the core of the wedding and draw attention to the bonds that it is designed to celebrate.
When standard wedding music started playing at the end of the ceremony, I frowned once again. Again, nothing against the wedding- this is standard fare, and it was a very nice wedding. That’s simply not what I would have chosen to play, and as it’s what, a six (wo)man or more decision, I might not have been willing to fight hard enough to change it. If I were kissing the bride, though, I would have been much more inspired by the hook and soulful beat of Tupac Shakur‘s “Unconditional Love” in context than a traditional song that nevertheless sounds to me like the congregation should be mourning something. The location is another thing that, while very standard, stands out to me as not particularly optimal. It just seems to me that if you’re appealing to God and talking about things like nature and togetherness, that having such a sturdy and elaborate structure around you is peculiarly akin to shutting nature out.
Another thing that I noticed is that one of the people performing the ceremony (Sorry, you don’t get specifics today. This isn’t a review, even if my mind picks it apart like one.) didn’t know the couple. He was reading from a script, got through the name of the bride, and has to pause and remember the name of the groom. I only mention this because it gave me pause. I asked myself this question, “do I really want somebody I don’t know performing what may be the definitive ceremony of my the rest of my life?”
What it comes down to is a bare bones semblance of tradition needs to be worked out by the couple (and maybe their parents x_x), and then an entirely new ceremony should be built up from there. The skeleton of the ceremony- there’s no reason the muscle and fat needs to be similar, as long as the skeleton supports it in the right way. The wedding party is an important part of the ceremony, as can be the traditional way of entering. The segregation of the main group, in my opinion, is unnecessary and outmoded (I can’t think of a single person as the best choice for “best man”, but I could easily put together a list of “best women” I’d like by my side). The exchange of vows is necessary, but the structure and scripted response that carry even into that part of the ceremony can be left out in most cases without hurting the procession. In my personal opinion, bringing the specifics of religion into every line can be very easily chopped off- nothing better to alienate a group of people that are trying to come together than to remind them that you are expected to believe that a fraction of them deserve to burn in hell.
The important thing is that the wedding is for the wedding. Anything that’s irrelevant to the wedding and the people in it, is irrelevant to the ceremony. Anything that doesn’t bring people together and symbolically represent or promote a happy future together, is irrelevant to the ceremony. What, then, is relevant? Is your family church relevant?
I want to wrap this up with some random wedding-related ideas and some highlights and comments. My first idea (and I know I’m not alone in having this idea) is that of non-human ring bearers. The ring bearer is often selected to be a young child, because this is a very simple way to get a beloved yet simple member of the family involved. Other than young children (and excluding the mentally disordered), who else fits this qualification? Pets, of course. The question is, is my cat qualified to act as ring bearer. Turns out, after some discussion, that the answer is yes, as long as he doesn’t realize he’s surrounded by strange people, and we’re allowed to call and/or bribe him from the altar.
The next question is as to the level of formality. This may seem a no-brainer, but wait a minute. My idea of a formal event comes from military training, specifically a Jr and Sr ROTC and Boy Scout career spanning over eleven years. By following strictly that type of formal, most of the people participating in most weddings would not be allowed to. Fathers cry, ring bearers need coaxing, people comment; brides and grooms exchange a few words when the mic isn’t on them. But it’s not a perfectly informal event, either. Generally, the wedding party wears suits and elaborate dresses, even if nobody else does. There’s no universal answer, of course, but it is something to think about.
As to receptions, well, that’s interesting. It could easily be argued that many things I’ve suggested can be solved by taking the non-traditional things and sticking them into the relatively informal reception. That’s true, if it’s your cup of tea. Receptions are a lot of things; they’re far too many things to detail in a blog that’s already approaching two pages. Two things to note, then: I am not pushy enough for hugs and handshakes, and slow dances are even more torture when you have someone who’s not present than when you have no one at all to dance with.
Like I said, this isn’t a review, so there’s no “final opinion” to give here (remember, these were family friends whose company I enjoy, and I attended of my own free will), but I will wrap up with some highlights. What was probably the most touching moment of the entire day was when the bride broke into tears while she was giving her vows. Not missing a beat, the groom was there with a tissue or handkerchief to wipe them away. On a more comical note, the moral of the reception was that you never try to fence with someone who can dance, because they’ll score a direct hit way before you get a glancing blow and you’ll have cake in places you didn’t think it could go.