Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The History of Wedding Traditions, or Time to Rethink the Wedding Party

Yesterday at work, a customer and her daughter came up to the counter with four wedding-related books.

"I take it somebody's getting married," I said to them.

"Yep, she is," said the mom.

"Just got engaged on Saturday," said the daughter.

"Ah, so still getting used to being engaged? I got engaged last October, so I remember that feeling well." They mentioned shooting for a May wedding; is it possible to plan a wedding in six months, they wondered? Definitely, I told them. I planned mine in three - just keep it small.

After they left, I really wanted them to come back. I wanted to talk more to somebody about my wedding to Spousal Unit. The little details we had, the big things that happened that day - I only talked to a few people in-depth about it as we were planning, in part because I knew others might want to shoot me for talking about nothing else.

You, my readers, are a captive audience. Although I guess you could surf away from this page whenever you want. The point is, I can blather about my wedding here all I want because this is my freakin' party.

But I've blathered about it elsewhere before. Instead, let's look at the reasons weddings have become the money-sucking narcissist-fest that they are today.

Diamond engagement rings are a recent thing, and a dubious ploy for economic power. The De Beers company was single-handedly responsible, in the early 20th century, for creating all the hype around diamonds, which became kind of a way into the woman's billowing skirts. The higher the price of the ring, the more he loved you (clearly), and the more safe it was to jump into bed with the guy before marriage. My ring has diamonds in it, yes, but it features a synthetic sapphire. Way prettier, I think.

The white wedding dress became popularized thanks to Queen Victoria in the mid-1800s. Coco Chanel put the final nail in the white dress coffin around the same time De Beers was convincing everyone to give a girl diamonds in exchange for less mentionable favors. This article provides some background of the dress, though don't believe its positive angle at the end: it's still pretty high pressure for a girl to get married in white or ivory. I wore blue instead, which means, according to the old poem, "Married in blue, you will always be true."

How about having a huge wedding party, full of girls in matching dresses and guys in tuxes? Traditionally, those people guarded the bride and her dowry to be sure she arrived at the wedding with her virtue and her purse intact. Spousal Unit and I didn't have a wedding party, but I think any of our guests would have readily thrown their cell phones at marauders.

Sometimes, the groom would kidnap the bride, and it was the job of the "wedding party" to keep the bride's family from finding the couple until the bride was already knocked up. How's that for a romantic honeymoon? These days, it's just a chance to remind yourselves, after all the stress of wedding planning, that yes, you had a good reason for wanting to marry this person.

Ours achieved that purpose quite well.

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