I’ve been in the thick of it for a while now -- the time in my life I had been told would come since I was old enough to complain about being dragged to weddings.
I am of marriagable age.
I can vividly remember my mother’s words as she bent over me, annoyed, shoving my feet into a pair of too-small patent leather maryjanes while I sobbed. With an expertly crafted combination of motherly reassurance and guilt, she said “One day, everyone you know will be getting married and having babies all at once, and you’ll have to do this every weekend for months.”
Surely before the time came for my friends and I to get married, something would have changed.
They began to trickle in quite a few years ago, and progressed in stereotypical fashion -- first the young ones, straight out of college and into the Ikea-laden love nest. At the time, I was in a long-term relationship with a man who was terrified of growing up, and was jealous. How romantic! The idea that being together was the priority over feeling youthful and independent. A few shotgun weddings were sprinkled in over the next few years, but then: the late 20s.
My male friends felt increasing pressure from their partners, my female friends began to talk about things like babies and "life plans." Everyone sort of lost their heads, and just like that, my mailbox runneth over with tissue paper, weird calligraphy and navy ribbon. It got to me, too. I left my boyfriend of 6 ½ years because he wouldn’t talk about the future with me, and in your late 20’s, the future becomes a Christopher Pike novel -- scary and too short.It’s not that I don’t think marriage is romantic. I sort of do. (Although I went through a period of two years where I decided that I would not participate, because my best friend, a gay man, was not allowed the same right. It was all very Norma Rae until Eliot told me that I actually wasn’t doing him any favors, abstaining from a club that he wanted to be a part of. Solid point. ) It's just that after all of these parties, I can't help seeing it as something less about love and more about something you do at a certain age to prove you're really good at event planning.
I'm pro-marriage, but the routine of it and the circus surrounding it makes my skin crawl the way watching Mr. Bean silently do his laundry while making trumpet noises does.
I suppose it's because often, the pageantry is just that. My step brother got married two years ago, and because I am pretty sure that he doesn’t know how to read, I don’t feel scared about posting this on the Internet: It was an absolutely style-less, emotion-less exercise in excess, I barely saw anyone smile, and I’m positive that the charade set them back $50k.
Parties like that, full of obligations and standards and stress and BIG money inevitably create a climate that is possibly the exact opposite of the way love is supposed to make you feel. Love, being the event that they supposedly celebrate.
And now that I have publicly bashed my family, my point: not all intensely planned weddings are unpleasant. They just seem sort of impossible, for a certain type of person (me).
Last weekend, I went to the best wedding I have ever been to -- and it was possibly the most work-intensive as well. A backyard farm wedding, handmade down to the antique brooch bouquet, plates collected from thrift stores, potluck food supplemented by delicious bbq, cake baked by the bride and her mother.
To the outsider, this was an easy, breezy affair. No fuss, no muss, just love and fun and hay bales. Being the officiant, though, and one of the bride’s closest friends, I know the whole story. Ashley, bless her heart, can make anything beautiful, and the reason for that is two-fold: 1. She has an eye for it... and 2. she will work her fingers into pretty little bloody stumps to make her visions come to fruition.
It was a sincere and beautiful ceremony for a sincere and beautiful couple. It reflected them in a way that no other wedding I've been to has come close to, but the amount of work that went into their labor of love made me seriously question whether I am capable of loving anybody to the point of putting for that extended effort. I can barely finish half a can of Diet Coke without getting distracted and leaving it on my coffee table, only to open another half an hour later.
I know that there are small, low maintenance weddings, but they don't seem just right for me either. Maybe big romance seems to merit a big to-do. Maybe that just means I’m “not ready” or something, but more likely, that I’m the kind of person who likes to GO to parties, not plan them. Unless I want a cookie-cutter, tissue-paper and navy ribbon kind of wedding, I’m gonna have to work harder than I want to.
I'm not jaded and dead inside, really. This is how much: I just finished the second book of the "Hunger Games" trilogy (really). Aloud. With my boyfriend.
In it, they describe the marriage ceremony in the poorest district in the invented nation of the books. The bride and groom stand over a fire together, toast a piece of bread, feed it to each other, and they are married. Everyone dances. It is simple, short and sincere. It is about love, and nothing else. Bill and I read aloud together, because we often can't decide who will get to read a book first, and it's become an endearing tradition.
When he read that part a few nights ago, fresh from a weekend of wedding travel, I pictured us in that ceremony, and grinned. Take THAT, champagne fountains and carving stations.
It felt real cute.
(Note: the author is editing this article at a gas station, halfway through a 4 hour drive to...another wedding).