I LIKE WEDDINGS. Partly, it is because I usually get paid to go. I was a wedding photographer, and nowadays I am a wedding celebrant. I also like food and parties; so, even if I am not getting paid, I get a good feed and a night out. But if I set the economics and entertainment aside, there’s still a lot that I like about weddings.
I’m a sucker for the mush and gush of weddings. Despite the part of me that’s a crusty old cynic, at heart I’m a soppy sentimental romantic. Puppies, Christmas and weddings always seem to get past my rational defences and make me gooey. However, my cynical side is anxious to make a few points; I will let it but, rest assured, this little article will return to a firm endorsement of weddings and marriage:
For a start, weddings can be calamity-magnets. My ring-side seat at scores of weddings has meant I have seen a lot of drama and scores of mishaps. I was photographing one bride in a garden, and the next moment her dress came up, right over her head and off! Rather premature, I thought. But the explanation was a wasp stinging her inside her dress. It was the only time I have ever sold the negatives for more than the prints!
I have also seen a bride vomiting in the gutter, best men collapse, grooms faint, and wedding cakes topple. I was at a minister’s first-ever wedding. He was so nervous, down he went in a faint. The next Saturday, I was at his second-ever wedding. Interestingly, it was the same wedding party in front of him, except the bride and groom from the previous week had swapped roles with their best man and matron-of-honour. Just to complete the sense of déjà vu, the minister fainted again. He finished both services, seated in a chair up the front, looking rather pale and shaky. Still, no one seemed to mind; it was a Pentecostal church, and people just thought God was doing something wonderful.
So, I have seen a lot of wedding collapses, but more tragically, I have seen a lot of collapses after the wedding as well. As a counsellor, I’ve had a ring-side seat for that as well. Divorce is now such a common feature in our culture you can get a Divorcee Barbie Doll for your little girls … it comes with half of Ken’s stuff. That’s not true, but it is true (sadly) that a significant proportion of those couples who stand at the altar, swooning with love, will one day not be able to stand the sight of each other.
Couples know this, don’t they? Surely, they know that regardless of how beautiful and expensive their sentimental extravaganza might be, a wedding offers no guarantees of quality or permanence. I’m guessing that not many people now see marriage as the only respectable cure for virginity. And it must be decades since any children were shamed because their parents did not have the same surname. When there are alternative, less formal ways that modern couples can enjoy life together, why do so many still bother with a wedding?
My cynical side rests its case and resumes its seat.
Maybe some couples do impulsively surf into marriage on a wave of hormones and misty-eyed, fairy-tale romanticism. However, I think many more are actually fully aware that they have alternatives and still choose to marry. The ancient custom of marriage says something about the intention they have for their relationship together. It has very little to do with the certificate you get from the Department of Internal Affairs, or any magic performed by a priest, or any Tolkien-like power in the rings. Rather, it’s all about the vows. It’s the commitment, not just to persist together but to actually work at a relationship: to work through those times when the romantic fizz goes flat to get the fizz back again, to appreciate or at least accept the differences, to cooperate, to fix problems, to push through difficulties.
Married love is grown-up love. More than emotion, more than a desire, it is love that is a deliberate action and best defined as always seeking the best for the other person. It is grounded in trust – trusting those wedding vows – and it grows into intimacy. Romance is lovely, but when it is coupled with trust and intimacy, you have possibly the very best thing that human life has to offer. That is why I like weddings, and why I really hope Barbie and Ken can work it out …
AFTER DECADES STUDYING FAMILY LIFE, JOHN NOW FOCUSSES ON THE ‘PRIME-TIME’ ISSUES OF LATER MIDDLE AGE. CHECK HIM OUT ON JOHNCOWAN.CO.NZ – ESPECIALLY IF YOU NEED SOME WRITING, EVENT SPEAKING, VIDEOS MADE, OR SOMEONE TO HAVE A COFFEE WITH.