The Changing of the Wed

I’ve attended several weddings this year, and for the most part the ceremonies were well-done and thoughtful of the marriage which was about to take place. I have noticed though, both in weddings I’ve been to and in ones I’ve heard or read about, that a change seems to be taking place. Many weddings today have become more about style, production and showmanship than about the important ceremony that a wedding marks: namely the public action of a man leaving his father and mother and being joined to his wife (Genesis 2:24).

An article in The Atlanic makes further note of this change:

Whereas a wedding once provided young people with a moment of transformation so powerful that even a modestly funded event was a momentous one, nowadays—with marriage an iffy bet and with most betrothed couples having already helped themselves to all the liberties of adulthood—the only way to underline the moment is to put on an elaborate and costly show. Further, there were once measures of propriety that held wedding spending in check: no large weddings for second-timers, or older brides, or couples of differing religions, or the visibly pregnant, or cohabitating partners, or couples who would have to assume large debts to throw a lavish reception, or women whose sexual history was extensive and well known. But these strictures have all eroded. With clergymen and parents no longer the guardians of wedding rituals, that role has passed to retailers and party planners, who would happily marry a pair of baboons if someone was willing to foot the bill (indeed, the summer issue of Martha Stewart Weddings included “Tips for Making Your Favorite Furry or Feathered Friend a Part of the Festivities”).

The issue of clergy no longer being the guardians of wedding rituals is one that should not be ignored. Anyone can become ordanied through an organization such as the Universal Life Church (over 20 million served!) and perform a wedding in any state. There are some accounts I’ve read that even dogs and deceased persons were ordained through organizations like this. This “religion’s” sole purpose seems to be the ordination of people for the purpose of performing weddings. While I’m all for freedom of religion (even para-religions like the Universal Life Church), I think this signals a key problem in our culture.

Those who are getting married are under no authority at all. If a pastor refuses to marry them for one reason or another, they simply go down the street or call their buddy. I do not think that clergy and parents should have ultimate authority in these matters, but to have none at all shows that couples are ignoring the wisdom of those who have gone before. There is no real ritual present anymore that couples must submit themselves to—the wedding has indeed in these instances become only a party.

The scene is not all bad, however. I’ve been to a number of weddings this year that exemplified more than just a party for which to dress up. In these weddings, the ritual was not empty, but it was evident to all that something special was taking place and that a change was underwent by the brides and grooms. My bet is that these marriages are standing on stronger ground than those for whom the wedding is just a show. Only time will tell.

2 thoughts on “The Changing of the Wed”

  1. Recently, I read a funny (for me) article, that in russia the most important thing in wedding is getting guests drunk. Anyway, most important thing in wedding should be love, and not the show. One of my friends wed couple of months ago in ceremony of only one atendee. And they are happy.


  2. I do weddings regularly and I find that a lot of people do want to do some sort of ritual, something different, but they don’t always know what to do. I’ve tried to help them with things like Wine ceremonies, ribbon ceremonies (for including kids), family candlelighting, family promises, etc.

    I find that the ceremonies which included children (to blend families) often have the most emotional impact.

    I’ve performed others though where the couple is too young and just giggles through the whole ceremony.

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