Ladies and gentlemen, the season is upon us. The most wonderful time of year when joy fills the hearts of young boys and girls. Things twinkle and shine in the sunlight and moonlight alike.
You know what I mean.
Time for young people to get engaged so that they have the requisite nine months to plan their June weddings. History informs us that a proper engagement used to be a year long in order to show modest and proper society that the impending matrimony was not required because of a “delicate condition” for the bride. Now, this has been whittled to nine months for some. In modern society, of course, there are many who put the baby before the bath water – er, uh, wedding.
Nevertheless, the kickoff to any length of engagement, however, consists of engagement pictures at the beach against the backdrop of gentle surf or in the park amidst colorful fall leaves that pop up in social media newsfeeds and emails and save-the-date cards. Blushing brides to be “can’t believe it” or “just knew it” – depending where things stood over the summer.
Before I go any further, let me admit here and now that there was a time – not so long ago – that I sided with Edna when she told her doctor that, “a wedding is one of the most lamentable spectacles on earth.” Not unjustly, I was accused of being anti-marriage the first years that I taught women’s literature and issues. I have since mellowed. The institution is not for me, but I respect those who have entered in to it and kept it going: my parents (52 years); my sister (16 years); my best friend from high school (21 years); my best friend from adulthood (28 years).
Likewise, I respect my friends who have entered and exited – some gracefully and some awkwardly. I have done both: an awkward exit in 1994 and a fairly graceful exit in 2009. Now, I see young people getting engaged and married (and have children) as a perk of having been a teacher. Hope springs eternal, and my earlier-in-life cynicism is replaced with some hope for the institution of marriage. (Another thing that gives me hope is the fact that my friend since middle school just married his husband in Arizona, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Still there are some problems:
1. The pictures of the ring – the pictures of the girl smiling (finally! her life is worth living!) – the pictures of the girl and her friends looking at the ring – the pictures of the girl and her betrothed with the ring hand prominently displayed on his chest. Where is the focus? (Yeah, yeah, my cynicism seeped through a bit there.)
2. The pictures from the girl’s Pinterest board being sent to her bridesmaids asking advice, asking bridesmaid to do a task, asking bridesmaid, “Why doesn’t he like this? It’s sooo cute!”
3. The loss of every other focus of life besides a wedding that is almost a full year away. These are women, many of whom have/had meaningful and fulfilling lives prior to the engagement. Now, instead of posting about, say, well – ANYTHING ELSE – they post about an event.
At the crux of it – the wedding is just that: AN EVENT. Ceremony + Party = event. These are often touching, meaningful, fun, silly, and/or thoughtful events. But so is a rock concert. A baptism. A book club. An evening with Netflix. Too many of these women are focusing too exclusively on the event. Where they posted about fun outings with friends and their special person before, now it’s all about the wedding. Where they mentioned work or family or pets or community involvement, now they post pictures of rings and dresses and hors d’oeuvres.
Yes, I am focusing on women because I have younger friends who are male and who have married. They are not guilty of the social media wedding overexposure of which the women are utterly guilty.
The wedding needs to be about the two people at the core of the event.
All the other stuff – are you ready for this? – Does. Not. Matter.
Let me take a timeout to offer another confession: since about 1995, whenever I have been invited to a friend’s or former student’s wedding, I have never looked at a registry. I don’t know what china pattern I will encounter at their homes or if their towels will be monogrammed. I gave a card and a generous gift certificate to a nice, local restaurant. I do not give a wedding card, either. I give a pretty blank card with the message, “Use this to remember why you got married.”
I’ve only been invited to a few weddings.
The thing is: I may still not like weddings very much. I don’t like the pictures and gushing over an event or a piece of jewelry. But, if people have the faith and love to try marriage – I’m all for it.
But, how about letting your social media and interactions focus on the fullness of all the parts of your life. Sure, the person and relationship and impending nuptials are part of that, but not exclusive to everything else. No ring pictures. A picture with the person you are committing to and a comment about some of his/her best qualities.No bitching about centerpieces or dress alterations or showers. No wedding day countdown. If you must do some kind of public countdown, spend the months and days leading up to the wedding enumerating why you love and admire the person who will be at the wedding with you and the next day and the next day and the next day…
After all, once the ring is smudged, the dress is properly preserved, and the cake is digested, it is the person that remains.