Thursday, August 27, 2009

Views on the Ceremony

We are off to our fifth wedding of the summer this weekend. Lisa, Jon's only sister, is getting married! She is marrying a really great guy named Tony. He seems to love and support her completely and is a good fit in to the family too. He scored best uncle points by picking a booger out of Livi's nose on his own initiation and even with out a Kleenex! Yay Tony! Her other uncle's responses would be to ignore it (Jon's brothers), be totally repulsed by it and run screaming from the room, like a little girl, if I even thought about picking it without a Kleenex (my brother), or calling on her neglectful parents to wipe their child's nose (Josh, Vanessa's husband).

We are all very excited about the wedding... a little nervous too.  Jon is officiating! He has never officiated a wedding before but he claims that he is not really nervous. I am trying my hardest to not be either. When he tells me his inspiration for the sermon is Moulin Rouge, how can I not be though? I do have complete confidence in him though. He hates cliched, cheesy wedding ceremonies as much as I do, probably more, so I'm sure it won't be either of those. He really is a very gifted and creative speaker, just like his dad. It is going to be awesome! Too bad Lisa and Tony probably won't remember any of it :)

In thinking back to all the weddings I have been to this summer, and in my life, I've realized how amazing or how bad they can be. Most weddings are nice. Two people are publicly displaying their love for each other. Yay! But, most weddings also lack beauty. I don't mean aesthetic beauty. It is relatively easy to add some color to things and make it look nice. I mean the kind of beauty that you get the honor of witnessing when two people thoughtfully make a commitment to each other that you are confident will hold true.

I tend to think that couples don't consider the true depths of what a wedding symbolizes. I know most couples are young and blinded by love. They are only focusing on the excitement of a big party and, if they have religious values that call them to maintain abstinence until marriage, the wedding night! I truly wish that more couples would refocus their attention from the party side of a wedding and concentrate on the ceremony. I think a truly beautiful wedding has a thoughtful, symbolic, authentic ceremony.

In assisting in some way or another with a few weddings over the years, I have seen a blatant disregard for the ceremony. No thought is put in to it. In discussing a wedding ceremony with a mother of the groom I was told that "they (the couple) have more important things to worry about. The ceremony is the pastor's responsibility." Needless to say, I was shocked and slightly disgusted.

I understand that most people only get married once or twice and feel a little lost and overwhelmed in planning their weddings in the first place. Because of this, most people opt for some variation of a traditional ceremony and add a few niceties that represent their personalities and values. The sad part is, the only reason they opt for the traditional elements is because it's what everyone else does. They don't use these elements because they have thoughtfully considered the meaning and symbolism behind them. The ceremony is the important part people! It is where the commitment is made. Isn't that what a wedding is all about? It is not something to hurry through or just get over with. It is the part of a wedding that should be combed through, word by word, symbol by symbol, to be molded in to a representation of the commitment you are proud to make.

I don't want to sound like I am against tradition. I think tradition can be beautiful and even more symbolic than unique elements. Tradition holds so much history. There is something sacred in participating in something that millions of people have done for hundreds of years. Tradition can and should be thoughtful though. Why do we exchange rings? Why do we kiss at the end of our vows? Why do we choose to have a sermon or homily from the officiate?

I know I am very critical of wedding ceremonies... some might say too critical. That is only because I think they are so important and not given the attention that they deserve. I am also a strong woman, raised by a single mother, in a house filled with estrogen. Traditional wedding lingo is very patriarchal. Phrases like "Man and wife," "Who gives this woman away?" and "Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Jon Bartel" offend me. It is essentially saying that the female is a possession, the male is of more importance and stature and gets to maintain his identity as a man while the females new identity is the man's wife. She is no longer a female in her own rite. If a woman agrees with this way of thinking, than by all means go ahead with it. I think the real reason people use this lingo is because its the way it's always been and they don't think about it.

My personal preference is to see the couple holding hands during the ceremony. I don't think this is a conscious choice not too. I think it probably wasn't discussed previously, they are nervous, they want to hold hands but aren't sure if they should, so it just ends up looking awkward. Do what you want! Hold hands!

I don't like cheesy, cliched bad sermons. I realize this is inevitable. I've been spoiled by listening to Dad, Jon and too many intelligent professors. Why are so many pastors so abhorrently bad at speaking in public? I also hate going to a wedding where the sermon or homily is directed at the congregation. I went to a Netherlands Dutch Reformed wedding once where the pastor used the platform to preach an "evangelizing" hour long sermon about how the people who didn't attend that church were going to burn in hell. Okay, I realize that is a very extreme example, but the principle holds true. In Christian ceremonies, we generally ask the person to officiate and marry us because we have a relationship with that person. He or she knows us and we want them to speak to us, not the community, and bless us in our ceremony.

I don't think it is much of a secret that my biggest dislike in any religious wedding ceremony is the signing of the marriage certificate. It actually hurts me to see this in a religious wedding ceremony. I don't know why so many people do it! If you want a spot to play special music, just play special music and stand there listening. You are always just standing there listening by the end anyway. I'm not saying don't sign the papers. I'm saying don't sign it as part of your religious ceremony. Non-religious wedding ceremonies are another topic. The legality for a non-religious ceremony is a priority. The point of a religious ceremony, though, is to publicly declare the commitment you are making to each other before God and your community of friends and family. Government papers have NOTHING to do with that commitment. Why taint a beautiful, spiritual ceremony with the involvement of a corrupt government?

Jon and I were very certain we did not want any part of the government in on our day and ended up going to a marriage commissioner a few months after our wedding ceremony. The only reason we signed the papers at all was because some family members had problems with us not being legally married and it was cheaper than doing a legal name change... and I really wanted my name changed. (My maiden name rhymed with my first name. Thanks mom!) The only time I have EVER used the legal marriage date has been on our taxes once a year. Because I don't think of that date at all as my marriage date, I frequently forget about it and had to look it up for this years taxes! My best friend chose to sign the papers too but not in the ceremony. She did it right after the ceremony, in the back room, while all the guests were leaving the sanctuary. My sister signed them the day before, I think.

In a lot of parts of Europe they hold two separate ceremonies, a religious one and a legal one. Why don't we do that? Why must Church and State be so intermingled in here? Separation of the two would fix the whole homosexual marriage problem too. If religious professionals would give up their rights to legally marry people and only preform religious ceremonies it would go a long way in ending the argument. Religious professionals would be under no legal duty to go against their beliefs or values. They would only be under their churches affiliations. The people that pay them would decide whether they would be expected to preform homosexual wedding ceremonies or not. Homosexual couples would be free to receive the same legal marriage rights as any heterosexual couple. I think this would fix a lot of the problems that both gay couples and religious professionals are facing.

I have been given the argument that, in the Bible, Jesus tells us to hold to the laws of this land as long as they don't interfere with the laws of God. The laws of this land couldn't care less if you signed the papers to make you legally wed at all, let alone on your wedding day. To live common-law has the EXACT same repercussions and rights as to be legally married. To all you boyfriends and girlfriends living together thinking you aren't ready to make the marriage commitment yet... you are already as good as married in the eyes of the government. That further supports my point in that it is not the government that solidifies a marriage commitment. It can cost as little as $300 for a quick, legal divorce these days. It is very easy. (Yes, I looked it up) It is the contemplation and thoughtfulness that couples put in to their public declaration before God and their community that makes the commitment.

I think I'm done my little rant now. I do hope that it makes a few of you think and encourage any young nearly-married couples you know to put some extra thought in to their commitments. At the very least, I hope couples start to educate themselves as to the symbolism behind why we do things the way we do in wedding ceremonies and maybe add a few little unique touches. My favorite parts of weddings are always those unique, special touches that couples put energy in to thinking over and putting in to reality. That is when the true beauty in a wedding shines through.

3 comments:

LeAnna (and David) said...

Thank you for this. I am going to talk with David, and then our priest, and see about having the actual certificate signed after the ceremony. I too think that Canada should have separate signings.

The only part of my wedding day that I really care about *is* the ceremony. The readings and music and the parts of the mass. When I think of my dream wedding, it is the idea of receiving the sacraments with David on that day, the blessing of our rings, and the spiritual seal on our commitment to each other. Right now we've been reading our scripture & prayer reading options as devotionals together, discussing them and so on. It's been awesome.

One statement I loved from someone's ceremony was: "since a woman is not a possession to be bought or sold, let it be known that I, N, come to this marriage freely of my own accord". I probably won't have that in our ceremony, but I at least get to say that I have come freely! And although I want my parents to walk me up, I don't think there's going to be any "who gives this woman to be married" unless my dad is hurt by the omission. David did not ask dad's permission to marry me because he feels that to suggest I'm property.

Long response, but I've been thinking about our ceremony a lot >:)

singular said...

In this time of wedding planning this is a great entry to digest.
I have always disliked the signing of the documents, but had never really thought about why. It makes me really want to talk through with Paul how we deal with that.
I was recently at a beautiful wedding....the ceremony was an exact expression of the bride and groom and their love for one another. it was amazing. It was the first ceremony I have attended that I thoroughly enjoyed, because it was so beautiful to be a part of.
Can't wait to hear Jon tomorrow; he will do a great job!
Tara

Anonymous said...

Yes, Josh and I signed the papers the day before but our pastor kept the actual date of the wedding on there *hushed* :)
~Vanessa~