Bridal section: The summer of weddings

Last summer I will remember eternally as “the summer of weddings.” For some reason, it seemed as though everyone in the Rockford area was joining hands in holy (and sometimes not-so-holy) matrimony, and, unfortunately, I ended up knowing a lot of them. I myself have taken a casual vow to never get married (this could change someday), only because I could never forgive myself for inflicting the excruciating torture of another wedding ceremony and reception on my friends and family. But weddings are great…really.

Much to my chagrin, I was dragged to weddings in churches, weddings in back yards, weddings in trailer parks, and weddings in forest preserves. And through all the smiles, the tears, the ice sculptures, the rice (or whatever they throw instead these days) and the champagne (or Old Style, depending), I built up enough research through observations to give a few tips on what NOT to do at a wedding. Not because I feel I am a wedding expert by any means; nope, just a cantankerous unromantic citizen who doesn’t like being bored. Think of this article as a letter from your crabby Great Aunt Dotty, who doesn’t like your fianceé.

For starters, I will remind the reader once again not to allow any child younger than 6 to engage in any part of the wedding. Remember the incident of my 2-year-old niece as the non-functioning “flower girl” at my sister’s wedding last year? Didn’t work. Unless your toddler is a genius with an IQ of 120 at age 3, they’re just not going to understand why you want them to carry a shiny little gold ring down a straight line when it would be much more interesting to put it in their mouth and run in the opposite direction.

Secondly, the whole “writing your own vows” thing has gotten a little out of control. It doesn’t matter in what religion or lack-there of you choose to celebrate the sacrament of marriage, reading long, overly-detailed vows that always begin with “When I first met (insert name of spouse)” and ends with “Which is why I will love you forever,” and a kiss can get tedious for the family and friends. Chances are, they already know how you two met, and it’s pretty much guaranteed your intention is to love this person unconditionally—you’re getting married, after all. If you can’t handle the vows your priest, priestess, minister or whatever has provided you with and absolutely must make up your own, then keep it short and simple. It will carry a lot more weight that way, and your spouse will remember it better in years to come. And, if I am at your wedding, I won’t be bored…which is important, you know.

Oh, and I almost forgot about one of the most important things: Do not sell yourself short on the music! Sure, a DJ is cool for a house party or a night club, but at your wedding? Not so much. You might as well have your cousin switching the dials on the radio looking for the “good songs.” If you have to sacrifice the fancy caterer for Chinese takeout, or use your mom’s old wedding dress instead of the tailored-to-your-body Versace, do it. Just hire a good band. I’m not emphasizing this because I just like live music; well, maybe I am. But there are a lot of great bands out there ready and willing to make your wedding reception the most fun and romantic (and classy) night of your young life (see our Musician’s Directory on page V4 in this week’s Vibe Entertainment section for a complete list of area bands). It just seems a little silly to waste your money on someone spinning songs by other performers, unless, of course, you know and trust every single song on their play list.

One last note that may sound a little harsh. The “special day” is not “your” day, as some would have you believe. The actual ceremony, as far as the original idea is concerned, is for your family and friends. It is the day that you and your chosen mate premiere, if you will, your fidelity and commitment. This is not my opinion, but rather a fact of tradition. Don’t call it a “wedding” or a “marriage” if you think it’s all about you; call it a civil union. All the details to “personalize” your ceremony don’t really amount to much on the Richter scale of importance in comparison with just getting through the vow swapping in the presence of witnesses. What really matters is that you are engaging in a ritualistic and somewhat pagan ceremony to announce to the world you are no longer functioning as an independent entity, or as an extension of your immediate family, but rather as a member of a partnership that intends to never, ever dissolve. So keep it simple. Not all of us can have wedding receptions like Hollywood stars, so don’t try. Nothing is more depressing than spending all your money on a one-night party when you’ve got the rest of your lives to make that money back (or owe it to your parents).

Maybe I was too harsh before. Weddings can be a good time, and it is important to be a good friend and show up to them to support the debuting of a new life for your friends or family members. The only thing that can ever possibly guarantee the success of a good wedding is two human beings who love one another so much they are willing to make a spiritual, intellectual, and emotional commitment to one another in the presence of their community, and mean it. All the other stuff is just extras. Whether it’s a white dress, champagne and crystal reception, or a jeans and T-shirt on the beach with Coronas party, what matters most is the exchange of vows declaring undying fidelity.

From the April 27-May 3, 2005, issue

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