I had an interesting cultural experience recently when I attended a wedding of two friends of my daughter. Since these were not relatives, and in fact were people I hardly knew, I was able to sit back and take a dispassionate look at the state of wedding culture today. Being over 60 gives me the perspective of a parent, and the fact that I still have an unmarried daughter adds some relevance to the matter.
You should know up front that this was an Italian wedding, though not the Italian Football Wedding Pat Cooper spoofed 50 years ago. This was a classy affair in a high-rent-district wedding facility. But years ago, this would have been the site of just the reception after a church wedding. Now, it housed both the wedding and the reception. That’s because many young people no longer want to jump through the hoops required by the Catholic Church to receive the sacrament of matrimony. So they forego the sacramental church wedding and are married by a deacon or justice of the peace. That’s a fundamental change over the past 40 years.
So everyone gathers for the ceremony in a chapel provided by the facility. The ceremony is short and sweet:
Do you take him?
Do you take her?
And of course, the last thing the presider at a wedding always says no matter whether it’s in church or on a beach is, “You may kiss the bride.”
So we always have the money shot of the two people kissing just before they head down the aisle.
This time, as I watched the bride and groom kiss, suddenly the words of the Paul Williams song made famous by the Carpenters started playing in my mind, “A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.” The bride and groom bound down the aisle, but no one throws anything anymore. Years ago, people threw rice, and later, the more ecologically-minded moved to birdseed and bubbles. Now we seem to have given up on it altogether. That’s fine with me. Let the cocktail hour begin!
So we all walked over to a nearby hall where the latest wedding innovation was in evidence – stations. Where we once had cocktails at a bar while waiters roamed with hors d’oeuvres, now we have a shellfish station, a meat station, a salad station, a pasta station. At this wedding, there was even a sliders station. I think stations are a big improvement over the old days. In fact, I ate so much at this cocktail hour I would have been happy to proceed directly to the dessert table.
But after an hour of drinks and great food, we headed to yet another room where tables were set up for dinner. We were seated close to the music. The music these days is mostly deejays. All the music is in their computer and so they can please just about every musical taste. I do miss live bands though. They were often mediocre and wedding singers were hit and miss. But every once in a while you got a great band, and that’s when you really appreciated live music. No matter how loud the deejay makes his music, it doesn’t compare with a live guitar, drums or trumpet. I think the convenience of a deejay, and the vast variety of music they can play is helping them drive wedding bands out of business. Anyway, these days I’m stoked when I see that a wedding features a live band.
Despite all the changes in wedding culture over the years, most weddings I have been to recently still feature the obligatory dances with the bride’s father and the groom’s mother. And most also still have a ceremonial cutting of the wedding cake. Although the nonsense with the garter seems to have thankfully faded away.
The finale to a modern wedding is the Venetian Table, which usually features just about every dessert known to man. Here, again, we have stations like the chocolate station, the pastry station, the cake station and the ice cream station. As someone with a gigantic sweet tooth, I give the modern wedding dessert festival two sticky thumbs up. The dessert table brings the wedding festivities to a close for people my age, though younger guests dance until the deejay closes up shop.
We as a society devote a lot of time and money to weddings. In fact, it’s an industry unto itself. But at the end of it, what matters is whether the bride and groom are willing to work at being a team, respect each other and live together in harmony. Everyone who has been married knows how tough it can be at times, but if you work hard, with a little luck, you end up with a life partner. That reminds me of another song. If memory serves me it was written by Carole King. It says, “I know that each of us is all alone in the end, but the trip still seems less dangerous when you’ve got a friend.” And that’s why we get married.