Weddings, Part 3

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My recent train of thoughts about weddings came from my seeing the new movie, “Sex and the City.” The main story line is about Carrie and Big deciding to get married and how it turned into a circus and ended up freaking him out. He doesn’t show up for the service, she is publicly humiliated and they break up. I won’t tell the rest for fear of spoiling it any more than I already have. (However, the story line was pretty easy to predict.) I never had a wedding anything close to the kind that Carrie starts cooking up, but it made me think a lot about what we do to get married and why. Not to mention whether or not it brings us satisfaction.

Sometimes I think big weddings either end up obscuring the fact that the whole thing is about two people who love each other or they make up for the fact that they don’t as much as they should. It’s so easy to get caught up in the production you can’t think clearly at one of the most important times in your life. How many people can say that they honestly enjoyed the process of getting ready for a big wedding?

Maybe my attitude toward big weddings partly comes from the fact that I was never able to afford one. So of course, every detail had to be agonized over: can we afford this, can we leave out that? Maybe if I’d had plenty of money I would have loved to have made a huge production out of at least my first wedding. (I recognize that it’s kind of tacky to do so when it’s your second, let alone third or fourth, wedding.) But most couples have to watch the dollars and since the wedding business is all about big bucks, they have to make some hard decisions: about how many people to invite, how big and what kind of reception to have, how fancy a cake, how many bridesmaids, how expensive a dress, and on and on and on. I didn’t realize until my own daughter decided to get married how many things are involved these days. For instance, they didn’t have “Save the Date” cards when I got married; now they seem to be de rigueur.

I’ve empathized with my daughter as she’s gone through the process. One thing that is often overlooked about weddings is how they express one’s life philosophy. If appearances are very important to you, if you yearn to fit in, you’re more likely to do it all by the book. If you hate the idea of spending what could be the down payment on a house on a wedding, you’re probably going to curtail a lot of the expenses. If you always dreamed of being a bride you’re going to have a completely different wedding than someone who came to the idea kicking and screaming.

And what about if you’re a feminist? Is having a big wedding at odds with feminist principles? I think my daughter is struggling with the concept that the wedding is her chance to be a princess. That’s just not the way she is, but it’s all so tempting: to get that dream dress, buy foundation garments and expensive shoes, have your hair done, and generally arrange everything to complement you. She has bucked tradition in a lot of ways, but she’s found it hard to hold onto her principles. So much is expected of you. Everyone has this ideal wedding stuck in his or her head and the further the bride and groom stray from that the more eccentric they are judged to be.

There are some people who think that feminists are against marriage period. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even lesbians (and there are those who think feminists are all man-hating lesbians) and gays are pushing for the right to get married and it’s not just for legal reasons. I’m sure there are marriages that are based at least in part on the fact that there are real advantages to being married. I think my daughter’s is one of them. But marriage is still a meaningful concept. At least it should be.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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