Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Case for "Traditional"* Weddings

There is an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie & co. are Sunday brunching and Carrie discovers Big and Natasha’s wedding announcement in the “Single Woman’s Sports Section” of the NY Times. When Carrie first begins to read, she brushes it off. “Nothing in there sounds like Big. It’s all her..” Until she hears that a saxophone played When a Man Loves a Woman as they walked down the aisle. She promptly loses it (with the kind of desperate dignity that only Carrie Bradshaw can), because that’s the moment that the Times reporter describes that really reminds her of Big, and who he is.

I can say with 100% confidence that our wedding announcement will never appear in the Grey Lady, and I’m even more certain that, if it did, no one would be weeping over the fact that the Grige or I am off the market during a delightful looking Sunday brunch. However, the scene has sort of haunted me through wedding planning. Mostly because I wonder what about our wedding will make my guests think:  “Oh! That’s so ‘Emily’”.

Probably nothing. I mean, let’s be honest. How many of us actually find decent ways to express our personalities through details at our weddings? And even if we did, who would get it besides us? None of my guests are going to set there and think “awwwww this quirky 80’s song by David Byrn that they are walking down the aisle to is so totally Emily!” They’re going to think: “what on earth possessed them to choose such a weird song? I wonder if the person with the iPod is pulling our legs…”

 A wedding is supposed to be a fairly universal right of passage, so homogeneity should be part of the deal, right? “My special day”, my ass. That’s what makes it a wedding, and that’s what guides people to understand what you’re trying to signify by doing it at all. If a tree falls in the woods and only the Grige and I are there to hear it…….. You get the idea. We’ve seen trees fall in the woods. And we both watched the Grige hand me this pretty ring half-way down an empty ski run. And if we did my version of a perfect wedding, it wouldn’t be that different from those events. In fact, it would probably take place on a fallen tree in the woods near a ski run and there would only be a handful of people there to hear it. What’s more, most of those people would have already know how committed the Grige and I are. We don’t’ need to declare anything to them. They’ve seen us snark at each other, and comfort each other, and blame each other, and forgive each other. They’re the people who will be standing right up next to us when we say our vows, supporting our relationship with their presence for all the world to see, the way they always have.

Trees fell, the world turned, the view was amazing...
So why am I so obsessed with my individuality and my privacy when it comes to this wedding thing. It’s clearly a social construct designed to show our community, in a way they will easily recognize, that the Grige and I are becoming a family. We deliberately chose not to elope because we wanted to share our love with our community in a meaningful way, which meant throwing a rather large and scary feeling wedding. But we will be up there, doing the same things that millions of other couples do: galavanting in a white dress, exchanging rings, saying time-worn vows….

I think it’s probably the millennial thing. If there are two things that people my age are obsessed with, it’s individuality and privacy. We live online double lives with our blogs and facebooks and twitters, constantly “brand managing” ourselves into identifiable boxes through writing and photography and consumption of goods. At the same time we assert that we are so different from everyone else. We must shout our very important individual-ness from the internet mountaintops. And we are different, and that is good, but it is not really what a wedding is about.

Photo: Chad Fisk
At the same time, we vehemently defend our right to re-claim our privacy at any given moment. To live public lives on the internet and then suddenly pull back – “you shall not see my honeymoon pictures” and “our wedding will be a private affair that will masquerade as a birthday party until the last possible moment”. Not that we aren’t entitled, but it’s a little confusing that I would be so willing to write about my wedding experience to a faceless internet audience on this blog, but hulk out whenever my mom wants to invite someone I don’t know well.

I think the difference is that I don’t really want to brand my our wedding. I’m going be a very human person that day, and it feels vulnerable. So I try to loose myself in details that will remind everyone constantly of how special and well branded and individual we are as a couple. Even though the whole point of the day is something that is such a common and shared experience that it almost seems too sacred to pepper with “individuality”. It’s not about me. It almost makes me think that cotillions and coming out parties should be more common, so that we can all just express ourselves already and let weddings be about the features that hold common meaning for our community.

Instant Anonymity..
I’m not suggesting that there isn’t more than one way to skin a cat. People have wonderful, unique weddings that work for them all the time. What I’m suggesting is that a wedding will always be unique to the two people getting married, and that a wedding will almost always hold some key, recognizable maybe even (gasp, clutches indie beaded necklace) generic features that make people of all ages point and say “hey! look! a wedding!”. Some people are crafty, and design-minded and enjoy visual stuff. I might even be marrying one of them, but no one is going to look at those leaf punch cut-outs and think “oh, Emily (sniff sniff sniff)”. They’re going to think that when I show up in a white dress and do all the “traditional” crap they expect me to do. You know, the stuff that they did too. Duh.
So I am going to stop trying to convince myself that the color scheme and cake flavor will tell people something about how different and interesting we are. The song I walk down the aisle is not going to fill their eyes with tears. They weren’t there that first fall we were together. The fact is that people don’t want to know how you are different from them. They want to know how you are the same.

* By Traditional, I don't mean that you have to spend a gazillion dollars and have all the things, I mean that you are probably going to wear a fancy dress/pantsuit/tie/whatever, exchange rings, make some promises, sign some stuff, and take some posed photos.

1 comment:

  1. Spot on as always. It's all about the information control. I will blast my life all over the internets, but will do it on my terms and with total control of the info. This post was a nice transition to watching the entire first season of Girls on demand this past weekend.