The Wedding - Romantic Event or Performance?

Over the Labor Day weekend, I attended a weekend wedding. By that, I mean, an entire weekend of wedding festivities. Yes, the days of a wedding ceremony followed by a reception are gone the way of the twentieth century. This was a full weekend event, and we were informed that our presence was expected throughout. I have to attend the rehearsal dinner? Neither I, nor anyone in my family, was in the wedding. Of course, as it turns out, we were in the wedding as “the audience”.

And here's how a 21st century wedding unfolds.

The rehearsal dinner is fun. No more than 100 handpicked guests. We do have to listen to at least ten speeches, but some of them are quite funny. Even the slide show is okay, though this is where I begin to realize we are the audience, not the guests.

But it takes the wedding itself to show me how much things have changed since I married. Start with the photography. Four photographers plus a video photographer take over the wedding room. Cameras are mounted on 15 foot tall stanchions on both sides of the room. A huge klieg light is mounted on the altar in front of the bride and groom and faces directly into the audience. We won't sleep through this ceremony. We won't see it either, due to the blinding spotlight which remains on for the entire ceremony. The spotlight is reinforced by flashbulbs that pop randomly just when you think you've located a vista uninterrupted by the kleig. The photographers buzz the altar like pit bulls seeking prey. They stand in the aisle. They discuss their work among themselves in stage whispers. My daughter observes that we seem to be the studio audience in a reality tv show.

When the bride and groom exit down the aisle, they are preceded by two photographers scuttling backwards to record the event for all posterity. Do we actually get to see the bride and groom? No. But I guess they’ll enjoy seeing themselves in perfect photos forevermore.

The string quartet plays beautifully before the ceremony and during the following cocktail reception. But I miss the organ pumping out ‘Here Comes the Bride’. I comment to a close friend, “Did you realize the gown was made to order?” She looks at me like I’ve just rolled off the turnip truck (and she is not fond of turnips, nor anyone who travels with them). “All gowns are made to order,” she informs me.

We move into the ballroom for dinner. Despite an ample buffet during the cocktail reception, the men are starting to get hungry. It’s about 8:30 pm. The music from the dance band is so loud we quickly exit the ballroom, posting a sentry to watch for dinner. Folks start searching for the parents of the bride. If the music isn’t toned down we’ll all require pacemakers. My chest hurts from the noise (which is something I’ve never experienced. Rock concerts are quieter.) My teenaged nephews can’t even take it. The bride’s SIL sends her twin 8 year olds back to the hotel for good. She wants their hearing to remain intact.

Dinner fails to materialize. At 10:00 pm my husband storms the kitchen to procure a plate of chicken tenders and French fries for our youngest, who is on the verge of passing out. She doesn’t eat chicken, but I spot her guarding the fries with her arms literally over her plate. Her tablemates are hungry. The groom even comes over and high fives her for scoring food. The chicken tenders she doesn't want are brought back to our table and broken into pieces for the adults to share. Now I know the conditions under which civilized adults will dispense with silverware.

Two entire tables of guests have cleared out by the time the food arrives at 10:40. The meal is delicious, though few guests take the time to appreciate it. Mainlining it is preferable. The bride and groom cut the cake, I think. No one can see them due to the photographers circling them like vultures over a kill. (Maybe they hadn’t received dinner yet.)

The band plays on. It's the first band I've ever heard that never takes a break. They do play very well (once the parents get the volume toned down.) But as midnight approaches, the volume increases. The dancing gets frenetic, and that part is fun. Lots of fun. But the old folks and the young ones are getting tired as midnight passes. I proclaim that no one can leave until the bride and groom do. But this is another custom that apparently has gone the way of the dodo bird.

The bride and groom aren't leaving. No honeymoon for them. The bride started law school last week and classes continue this week. I guess the groom is going back to work. Huh? Where’s the romance? Where are the special memories to savor when marital life has its bumps? Where is the chance to take a break from busy individual lives and begin to meld your lives together with fun and pleasure? (You know what I'm talking about.)

Yes, they had lived together before the wedding. Yes, they’d been engaged for two years. (It takes that long, the mother of the bride told me, to line up all these props that go into such a performance...ummmm wedding.)

This wedding was beautifully planned and, for the most part, executed. No expense was spared. The only thing missing was the romance.

But it did get me thinking. How would I like my daughters to get married? The mother of this bride told me you get caught up in the whole rigamarole. You must have rose petals strewn down the aisle. You must have the imported wedding dress. You must have an invitation packet consisting of several pages plus individually printed cards for the “goodie bags” for every guest.
But, I ask you, is all of this necessary? Has anyone attended a special, romantic wedding not built around props? Or are we all doomed to such extravagance to show we love our children?


Jennifer August said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with the reality show comment. My own wedding (not in the 21st century!) was full of bloopers, laughter and unscheduled incidents that only added to fond remembrances. I certainly hope my son's wedding is nothing like this one. Not only would it be ostentatious and cold, but it would have no heart, and what's a wedding without heart? Really good discussion point!

Carly Carson said...

Hi Jennifer,

It's amazing how those bloopers and unplanned moments end up being the things you laugh about for years to come. Perfection can be cold.

Nicole North said...

Very interesting post, Carly! I definitely prefer real romance to a giant expensive performance.

Natasha said...

Wow, Carly. My daughter got married two years ago and it was nothing like that! It was pretty traditional and lovely and romantic and we didn't have to mortgage our house to pay for it.

Carol Ericson said...

Ha - speaking of reality TV, I attended a wedding last year that was actually on a reality TV show - Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? But I enjoyed the wedding itself - the bride was Indian so they had a Hindu ceremony in the afternoon (which we attended) and a traditional ceremony that night (which we didn't attend). There was a lot of hoopla, but it was beautiful and fun.

Ginny said...

Wedding from Hell seems appropriate. Two years to plan? Holy cats! You were right in saying the happy couple can relive the wedding through photographs and movies. A very cold ceremony indeed. I'm surprised the church officials allowed the picture and movie taking at the church. A lot don't.

MY wedding pales in comparison. Planned on the spur of the moment. (no, I was not pregnant) My soon-to-be hubby was on his way to Korea and we wanted to get married before he left. Thus, the ceremony was at the local church, about twenty people in attendance who all went back to my mother's home where we had cake. I think there was some sort of alcohol, perhaps beer, but don't recall as I don't drink. Simplicity still reigns, at least IMO. Good column, Carly. Enjoyed hearing a blow by blow description.


Carly Carson said...


DH has attended a couple of Indian weddings. He says they have hundreds of attendees and are huge events but, as you say, lots of fun.


Thanks for persevering! It wasn't actually in a church and I think that's why the photography was so obtrusive. As you say, they wouldn't allow that in a religious building.