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Wedding Essentials

Joined: 6/22/2009
Posts: 52
Tradition Plays a Role in Informal Weddings

When asked what essential elements I would recommend be included in a wedding of today, and what traditions might be appropriate I thought, wow, traditions - that's an ideal way to help structure a contemporary wedding. And here I am in the glorious Catskill Mountains away from my library of reference books. What follows therefore are my raw and unresearched thoughts about old traditions and modern informal weddings.

The guidelines which govern wedding etiquette are as flexible or inflexible as you want them to be. Personally, for informal weddings, I prefer to be more flexible. There are many different variables to consider today. For example, many people marry later in life; couples often pay for their own weddings and don’t want to ‘blow’ a whole lot of money on a party when they could be using the same money to make a down payment on a house; and then there is the omnipresent societal undercurrent to buck the old system to begin with. But even in the case of a modern informal wedding and for this discussion, the fundamentals will fall into the categories of commitment, ceremony, and celebration.

Commitment, by definition, is the keystone of the marriage and it is important to have a thoughtful and clear understanding of exactly what this really means. Marriage is in fact a legal contract between two people making each one the primary custodian (following one’s own self) of the other’s life - forever. And as this primary relationship develops, it includes all of the facets of life which are represented in the wedding vows - all areas of basic importance which we encounter throughout the course of a lifetime.

I recall a close friend of mine remarking to me after her husband retired, “I married him for better or for worse, but not for lunch.” May I say that first of all, ‘lunch’ is a very real part of the deal, and secondly, it’s not really much of a trial in the overall scheme of things. This is where the old adage, ‘look before you leap’ comes in handy.

The ceremony is the most ritualistic element of marriage. It symbolizes the beginning of a new life together, not only the bond between two people individually but also the bond as a couple with their creator or a higher spirit. Without the acknowledgement of these bonds, the ceremony would have no real meaning. This ceremony can take place within the confines of a church or other place of worship, outside in a grassy field, or at any mutually chosen location. The vows can be administered by a church official or by a justice of the peace, as this is after all a legal ceremony above all else.

It is customary for the bride to wear white. This symbolizes, among other things, after the groom kisses the bride, the creation of a new life bond, its purity and its hope. Although in ‘the old days’, female guests would refrain from wearing white, so as not to compete with the bride in any way, today this custom no longer applies. A white dress or garment accented with a brightly colored belt or jacket, for example would be totally fine. At all weddings, invited guests make a special effort to wear clean and festive clothing in colors reflective of joy and celebration.

The celebration following the ceremony is a festival or a feast of sorts. Let’s face it, achieving this milestone in one’s life deserves a party. The circuitous route navigated to get to this stage, when looked back upon, is phenomenal on many levels.

Two of the first things that comes to my mind as components for a great wedding celebration are champagne and wedding cake, both traditionally symbolic of nuptial festivities. Nothing makes for merriment better than bubbles and sugar. The tradition of toasting the bride and groom with champagne or any sparkling non-alcoholic juice occurs just after the cutting of the wedding cake by the bride and groom. The style and flavor of this cake reflects the personality and taste of the bride, and as such typically range from dense fruit and nut cakes to multi-tiered spectacular castle-like creations. The cake cutting is followed by the final tradition of the bride ‘throwing’ her bouquet and her garter for the bridesmaids to catch. Superstition maintains that the lucky recipient will be the next to wed.

Most importantly, weddings are all about the bride and the groom and the recognition and initiation of their new life together. They can be both the hosts and the guests of honor. There will hopefully always be some traditions which will carry on through the ages. I hope you can identify with a few of them here. Fundamentally, tradition honors the respect we have for the past; it validates the present; and it assures us of continuity into the future.
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