In the interest of self promotion and the absence of anything substantive to blog about right now, I’m posting my latest column from The Presbyterian Outlook. The Outlook is a bi-monthly magazine. It’s like Newsweek for Presbyterians. Yes, I know, that doesn’t sound like much fun. I should warn all my brides and grooms from the last twelve months that each of you were awesome, your weddings were perfect, and that none of you were inspiration for the column. The column is after the jump. Wedding World
Weddings bring out the crazy in people. After officiating 13 of them last year, I am self-certified to diagnose the various pathologies unique to weddings. After wedding number 10, in which I accurately predicted that the candelabra was poorly positioned beside the bridal party and would therefore be bumped at some time during the service, I thought about starting a side business as a wedding planner. A wedding planner makes more money and despite the pastor’s insistence that he is responsible for the ceremony, everyone knows who is in charge.
Nevertheless, my real wedding passion isn’t the event, its the people. In the frenzy of wedding planning, sensible people, for some unknown reason, seem to slip away to a weird world where social conventions like being nice to your relatives are suspended. In wedding world, penny pinchers that take pride in reusing ziploc bags silently succumb to the myth that the size of the flower arrangements is consonant with the love between bride and groom. Wedding world is a place where ministers might have to wear robes on the beach. It’s a place where restless groomsmen must “smile like you mean it” for 1 million pictures while wearing uncomfortable rented clothes, plastic shoes, and silly bow ties that match even sillier poofy things holding up their gut. It’s hard to smile in this condition.
And still, the collective crazy of wedding world is ultimately determined by the mother of the bride. Her myth is real. I suspect there is a book that they pass around containing careful instructions on how to agitate florists, photographers, caterers, musicians, and the groom’s family. Her power is absolute and no one, not even the bride, considers mounting a revolution. The father of the bride is the only person in a position of influence, but he is compromised by the anxiety of walking his daughter down the aisle. With no checks and balances, the mother of the bride, reigns supreme in wedding world. All of us serve at her pleasure.
More than once I’ve wondered when wedding world will collapse under the weight of it’s own excess. The burdensome expectation to be unique while remaining tasteful and chic is not sustainable. Down here in the south where new money and the immoderate self indulgence that often accompanies it is regarded with disdain, we labor as hosts with an added millstone. To throw a memorable party without seeming to exert any effort or spending too much money is an art. If a custom made wedding dress includes a swatch of grandma’s favorite hanky, the nostalgia of the hanky will be featured as a mark of frugality and homeliness. The intricate dance persists as the guests gush in response and the pastor weaves the hanky into his wedding homily as a metaphor for the faithfulness of God from generation to generation. Oh please!
In wedding world money is the main currency tendered for the price of perfection. Often though, money isn’t enough and relationships must also be put up as collateral.
Selfishly, I hope we can keep it up. My wife lets me count it as a date as long as I dance with her at least once. But I know that we can’t look the other way forever. Its not fair to the two tender souls that God entrusts to the care of the church. They desperately need us to say that commitment is not a relative term dependent on the extravagance of the surrounding party. Their commitment to each other and to God will be determined in the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments when no-one is watching, the flowers have wilted, and the tuxedos have been returned. In that moment, when you can forgive or hold a grudge, get angry or love completely, be jealous or be thankful, whose authority will they be under? Let’s hope they moved out of wedding world.