A party without a cake is just a meeting. -Julia Child
We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love. —Robert Fulghum, True Love
“Many couples spend a great deal of time planning their wedding, but little time planning their marriage.”
― How Do I Love Thee: Food for Thought Before You Say “I DO”
“We can’t go through life assuming the people around us understand what’s going on in our minds. We have to have those open and honest discussions. We have to communicate.”
― In the Event the Flower Girl Explodes
Was that too many quotes? Just a little excessive? Kind of how I have always thought about weddings. This week’s topic was “What does a wedding mean to you?” I wont go in to how I read that wrong and thought we were going to talk about cakes and colors and locations and frills and how much I hate being stared at and how that’s why I hate the thought of a wedding ceremony and jump straight to what happened after I re-read the prompt the day of the conversation and suddenly realized what we were really talking about was why they are important and my revelations from there. Once I was on the correct page, I started trying to think of why weddings are important. Marriage I totally had an answer for- what does it mean, why is it important. But weddings have always seemed like a spectacle of pomp and circumstance that women were supposed to like but always seemed to hate by the end. I have been involved in a lot of weddings for someone who gets terrible anxiety about them. Don’t get me wrong, I have never begrudged any of my friends and family their “big day,” but it always seemed unreasonable that it was just that- a day. One day, one party, one set of traditions and nonsensical hoops to jump through (and pay for!) that becomes the focus of everyone involved. Perhaps that is where my true aversion has come in. Not all of the couples (or even most) that I have been around but far too many, seem all too caught up in the “magic” of the wedding and seem to forget entirely about planning and investing for the marriage. Subsequently, my thoughts on the topic revolved around slipping off quietly with the man I love and plunge into life together with little fan-fare but great preparation and love. I hate having people looking at me, I hate formality (which I see as simply an opportunity to fail to live up to expectations) and I just couldn’t see drawing so much attention to something so personal.
Then I sat down with my beloved. I believe in marriage for many reasons. I was reminded of one of my favorite reasons in our talk. When I think on a topic I draw on as many sources as possible to develop a well rounded view, however, I can only see through my eyes. When you have a partner, you share perspectives. Through our talks I began to see a different, fuller picture of what a wedding means. Specifically what a wedding means to the man I love. As we talked, a new world unfolded and I learned a whole new respect for the art of a day.
Probably the most interesting point for me was his view on why planning the wedding is important. He pointed out that it is the first large scale, complex joint venture that is undertaken. This thought had never occurred to me. Perhaps since there is a cultural expectation that women will be exceptionally concerned with the tiniest of details and that men will simply check out and then show up that I had never really seen wedding planning as a co-endeavor. Planning a massive formal event by myself sounds like a sacrifice at best and at worst my actual personal hell. But something about the idea of really working with my man to get things done and make choices together doesn’t sound so bad. As he talked I was surprised to find myself thinking, “That could be fun.” He pointed out how much compromise and commitment it takes to stay present and make decisions together that reflect both of you. The idea of the wedding being a microcosm of marriage in general- a picture of how you will handle planning your life together from the grand ideas, to the financial compromises, to the inevitable unexpected twists and mishaps that life throws at you- had never occurred to me. I delight in learning new things and finding this gem was no exception. I was enamored for days with it’s newness, so much so that it took me a while to determine how to even approach my reflection. After all, how do you process a 180 degree turn on a subject (or at least a significant pivot?).
We also talked about the wedding being the gateway, a marker denoting the beginning of something new and special. This idea was less ground shaking in that it was something I had thought of before. In fact, of all of the points he made, this one most closely resembled thoughts I had already thought. Every girl (or almost every girl as I dislike making grand all-encompassing statements) will, at some point in her growing up, whether she wants to or not, be forced into the corner of thinking about what she would do with her wedding. Some women take this and run with it, planning great elaborate events down to the smallest detail. Others are like me and the whole idea kind of made them queasy. So instead of planning colors and flowers and food menus, I thought about how I could arrange for the fewest people possible to bother to show up. My conclusion was this: Sunrise on a mountain. Why? Well, I may not like people staring at me and I hate formality, but if I am going to do something ceremonial I want it to be full of symbolism. For me weddings at sunset never really made good symbolic sense. I don’t want my wedding to be the close of something. It should be the beginning, bursting with all the newness of the dawn. Besides, how better to ensure that only the most devoted of friends and family bother to come than to make it at the most inconvenient time imaginable (sorry to all the loved ones that are going to do the unthinkable and come to my wedding even if I make it insanely inconvenient. I don’t hate you, I just don’t want 500 people staring at me and I can’t think of any other way to pare down the list without hurting feelings. And also symbolism.).
The idea of the wedding as a gateway into marriage, the threshold or doorway through which you pass into the next season of your life, a new chapter, seems oddly perfect to me. Transitions and the space in which they occur are very important to my partner (and everyone if they are honest) and this one specifically, is very significant to him. Much more than it has been to me in the past. I began to wonder in myself if, as my love suggested, this gesture would help us transition our thinking more than a simple party. Could cake choices be about more than just what flavor tastes best, could color choices and venues help set the tone for a marriage? Actually, as I sit here thinking about weddings and who would actually be there (arguably the single most stressful concept for me- people who are all looking at me all day) I began to think along another line. In the church we have several ceremonies that are public declarations (specifically I am thinking about baptism and baby dedications) and they are incredibly moving and beautiful for several reasons. In baptisms, as in weddings, the people involved are making public their commitment to join an new family and live in that family with all of its responsibilities and privileges. In being baptized you tell the watching world, I am a Christian, I belong to Christ and He to me and I commit to living with and for Him. By the same token, weddings then are a proclamation to a world that takes love lightly that we are forever joined, we are one unit now, one family. The people invited to these events are part of the family for the most part (either spiritual, emotional or blood) and serve as witness to a commitment. The same is true of the congregation at a baby dedication with one key difference- at the baby dedication in contrast to the baptism, the pastor will not only ask for a commitment from the parent(s) but also from the congregation. Those gathered for the dedication are not simply witnesses or loved ones there to celebrate with you, they are asked to also dedicate themselves. The pastor will turn to the congregation and ask them to come alongside the parents, to support and help them, to contribute to the faith journey of this child and to offer wisdom, prayers and partnership as needed as the child grows. The parent(s) are still the ones ultimately responsible for raising the child, but the congregation commits to being a part, being the village that makes that raising possible. I see a similar opportunity in weddings. We ask the guests, the attendants and the pastor not only to bear witness to our commitment, but also to commit themselves to come alongside us, to support our marriage, to encourage us to pursue God and each other as we enter this dedication of our own lives. It calls those present to protect the sanctity of our marriage as they can by supporting us together rather than pitting us against one another, to be a part of what we are committing to by not only being a part of that day, but our lives going forward. A wedding like a baby dedication is about committing to watch over and pray for that marriage from that day on.
I don’t think I will ever attend another wedding in quite the same way again. I cannot look at it as simply a party nor as an elaborate formality. Even as an attendee, weddings have changed for me. Even as a guest they are a commitment. Interestingly, I think that this revelation has made other peoples’ weddings more scary for me at the same time as making my own less scary.
So, to the love of my life, thank you so much for giving me new perspective. Please never stop challenging what I think I know and feel and want. Thank you for being you, for having the courage to have a culturally unlikely perspective and sharing it with me. Thank you for asking such a simple yet complex question. Thank you for riding out my insecurities and my conflicting feelings. I will probably need to be talked down a million times in the process, but I am so excited for the day we embark on this escapade of taffeta and cake tasting together. No one else could have gotten me excited about this the way you have. I love you with all of my heart.