Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Friday, February 1, 2008

It's a Wedding, Not a Coronation

At my age, you think a lot about weddings. Every time you turn around, one of your friends is wearing a rock the size of Gibraltar, tearing out patches of hair over whether to go with the Baby Blue napkins or the Robin's Egg, and, finally, stuffing you into a dress you'll have to fork over several hundred dollars to never wear again. How could you not think about them?

Luckily, I haven't yet encountered a real-life bridezilla. My engaged friends have managed to keep their calm, reason, and wits about them and not exchange them with the rings. But even the most relaxed bride-to-be doesn't let a conversation go by without inserting something about "the wedding," which somewhere along the line becomes her second full-time job.

Let me clarify that I'm not blaming brides for their single-minded focus. If you have a full-time job, paid or unpaid, you have to be devoted to it. And if the fulfillment of your childhood dreams rides on this one day because it's the only day that will ever be "Your Day" and therefore must be "perfect," planning it had darn well better be a full-time job. And that's where the trouble lies.

If you were married in, say, 1850 and weren't a Vanderbilt, the ceremony was held in the town church, often after Sunday service. The couple got there on their own steam, usually in horse-drawn carriages. The bride wore her best dress or a dress handed down from her mother and maybe carried a fresh, handpicked bouquet of wildflowers. Although there wouldn't have been a bridal party if the bride wasn't wealthy, she might have had a flower girl, sans color-coordinated dress, sprinkle a few petals in the aisle. Someone with a fiddle handy would have played a simple hymn, though not the wedding march since it wasn't in fashion yet, and after the exchange of vows and a plain gold band, often a modest family heirloom, they might all have retired to someone's barn for some folk dancing and homemade plum cake before the happy couple drove away in a buggy festooned with cans and noisemakers and a "just married" sign. Their "honeymoon" was a trip back to their new residence to consummate the marriage. (See "Sources" for more on wedding traditions.) The whole affair cost nothing more than the price of ribbons for the bride's hair and ingredients for the cake.

In contrast, in 2005, the average cost of a wedding was nearly $30,000! And that's just the average. I regularly hear of weddings totalling fifty, sixty, even ninety thousand dollars. Today, if you told a bride she'd have to sew her own dress, forgo shower and wedding gifts (a bride in 1850 was expected to provide her own trousseau, accumulated over the years), and hold her reception in a barn, she'd burst into tears faster than Hillary Clinton at a primary. Yet, despite their lack of grandeur, the weddings of yesteryear were as highly anticipated and joyous then as they are in the 21st century.

That begs the question: Is all the modern wedding hullabaloo really necessary? And, if not, why are single women so bound and determined to eventually walk down the aisle to the tune of $30k shaken from their pockets?

I think the answer lies in the tag lines of the contemporary bride:

"This is my day!"


"I want to feel like a princess."

Our current generation was raised on fairy tales. And not the bloody Grimm translations. The sugary, gauzy, soft-edged kind. The Disney version. And at the end of every fairy tale, the leading lady married a prince and became--well, you know the deal--a princess. It's no wonder that American women have come to associate marriage with elevation to elite status and fulfillment of grandiose childhood fantasies. Tragically, this shifts the focus of a wedding from the public celebration of a couple (Their Day) to the public celebration of a woman (Her Day). (Note that you will never hear a groom refer to the wedding as "His Day" or exclaim that he feels like a prince!)

Every time I hear a bride whine, "It's my day," I want to scream, "No, it's not! It's not about you! It's about vowing your lifelong commitment to someone else." This day of all days, the day that you devote your life to another human being, should be a day to be selfless. But the modern bride's insistence on turning the wedding into a lavish parade in which she is the showpiece distorts and dilutes the meaning of the ceremony. When you consider that most women approach a wedding with this attitude, it's easy to understand why wedding expenses have ballooned like a war budget in recent years (though perhaps not inappropriately since many weddings will end in a battle of divorce attorneys). After all, if you're going to become a princess, you have to show everyone you can spend like royalty, and that may include a $5,000 couture dress, imported vintage Champagne, and a private fireworks display.

I have to wonder if these weddings-cum-coronations aren't hurting single people, especially single women. We all know single women who are more wrapped up in planning their future marriage ceremony than in finding someone to marry. Could it be that what these women really long for is a no-holds-barred day to celebrate themselves?

Everyone has a natural desire to be recognized once in awhile, to have their fifteen minutes of fame. It occurs to me that, other than the wedding ceremony, we don't have a universally acknowledged rite of passage to honor women (or men for that matter) for who they've become and what they've accomplished. Sure, we have prom and graduation, but those are group events shared with many other deserving people, and although some people have 18th or 21st birthday parties, they're usually not the formal affairs that weddings are.

I wish that our society would institute something akin to the South American quinceanera, the coming-of-age ball that is often compared to an American wedding minus the groom. The young lady's family throws a black tie event, and the birthday girl's escort presents her to the world in her sparkling finery. Then, she dances the night away with her friends, family, and hundreds of dollars worth of gifts. I don't know if a party on this order would make a difference to an American girl, but I have to think that it might take at least some of the edge off that longing to track down a husband just to have a "special day." As it is now, engaged women are so intent on glorifying themselves that it's no wonder weddings have less in common with the primitive bonding rites they represent than with the coronation of a queen.

What do you think? Are wedding celebrations today too focused on self-glorification and not enough on the meaning of commitment?

Early Victorian Wedding Dress
Georgia Girl's Wedding Traditions
The Wedding Cake...history, customs, and traditions
Weddings Then & Now
Wedding Traditions

Fun Link of the Day


bobbyboy said...

"What do you think? Are wedding celebrations today too focused on self-glorification and not enough on the meaning of commitment?"

Absolutely! And I say that with a sad heart. It seems these days that divorce has become acceptable in our society. In another twenty years it may even become en vogue to be divorced, who knows?

Look at the effect commercials about beauty or the fashion industry have had on young girls. Girls trying to break into the industry becoming anorexic and bulimic.

I digress. The wedding should be a big day for the bride and groom. I have seen where the planning gets so out of hand that the groom looses interest in his own wedding? Where the bride might loose 10 years off her life (Bridezillas?), the show is based on reality unfortunately.

Imagine if that much energy was used to find the right mate to commit to for the rest of our lives?

Clever Elsie said...

Imagine if that much energy was used to find the right mate to commit to for the rest of our lives?

Exactly! I've seen too many people (most often women but sometimes guys, too) who just want to get married to be married. The person they marry is almost immaterial, like an afterthought. Whether it's because they want the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony or the security of two incomes or children--the reason differs from person to person--they're missing the forest for the trees.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully put, I particularly liked the lovely description of ye olde wedding. I have never understodd why people want to spend so much on a wedding for just one day. I'll tell you what Elsie, I think your idea of celebrating a single person's life is a cool idea, I think it would be great if we could reach a certain point in our lives we have wanted to reach and then celebrate it in style. For example, once I have enough properties that I can afford to spend the rest of my life in full time education and devote every working day to it, I would love to have a party to celebrate fulfillment of my dream. I think having a wedding to onesself is a bit ludicrous, but a party to celebrate a milestone would be cool. Yes, I have known vacuous women (usually under 25) who have told me about their wedding plans, the champagne fountain, the gold brocaded page-boys and so on, It's like they want to live a music video! The sad truth is they could have used the money spent to improve their new home or to buy a car. Anyway there is my two penneth's worth! C xx

Clever Elsie said...

I hope you have that party, and good luck to you with your real estate ventures!

I've often thought about getting into real estate but ultimately invested in other things. Maybe someday...