Thursday, December 16, 2010

Weddings, Yesterday and Today

I’ve had occasion to consider weddings very carefully the last few months. My daughter and her fiancé are planning a September wedding. Weddings have changed a great deal over the last four decades. My own was small. Close family and friends gathered at St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church with an afternoon reception held in my parents’ living room. People sat on couches, on the floor and hung out in the kitchen eating ham sandwiches and cake.
My parents were married by a Justice of the Peace in 1952. My mother wore a navy suit. My dad tipped the officiate $5. I have no idea who the witnesses were. My parents are deceased so there is no one to ask. The feeling was, as long as the bride, the groom and the priest showed up, as long as there was cake and champagne, as long as friends witnessed the occasion, the wedding would be a success. No one registered anywhere for anything. My sister’s ceremony was the same.
                Not so today. Today’s extravaganzas are planned to the final detail with lighting, a band, ceremony music, before ceremony music, cake tastings, entrée samplings, favors, video photography, engagement pictures, save the date notices and, to top it all off, a wedding planner who coordinates the day assuring that all will run smoothly. The cost is staggering.
                One would think cleaning out the bank is an American or California custom, but that isn’t so. In Ireland, too, weddings are huge affairs, shockingly expensive with men and women dressed to the nines, even more so than in The States.  Women wear hats or little frou-frou bands with flowers attached, revealing dresses and shoes guaranteed to break ankles. Men wear suits and ties. A band and full bar is customary as is a lavish feast with several entrees and guest lists in the 300s.
              I’m nostalgic for a simpler era and customs such as jumping over the broom or hand-fasting where after a year and a day if a couple didn’t suit, the two went their separate ways without rancor or fiscal hardship. All children from such a union were recognized as completely legitimate. I like the dowry idea, too, and the bride price paid to the bride's family. It seemed more equitable.
Maybe marriages shouldn’t be lavish affairs until the 25th anniversary celebration. I like that, too. It’s a better idea, in my opinion, to celebrate a lifetime of love and tolerance with an expensive public affair. What, after all, do children know of hardship, commitment, loving a person and hanging in there despite all you don’t like?
Friends of mine are celebrating their 50th anniversary on the 17th of December. It will be a lovely affair and tasteful, hosted by their twin daughters. We’ll share food, wine, conversation and friendship. It is a grand thing to be married and in love after 50 years. It is even more than grand, it is inspiring and miraculous to share in the glow of knowing they would marry each other all over again.


  1. Weddings are definitely over the top today, but then so are so many things. Look at the price of purses.