Sunday, August 21, 2011

Marriage (or just Weddings) in Mainstream Culture

My husband’s recent post, “materialism, materialism and marriage,” and my own experience shopping for a wedding dress, make me think back to our general experience in planning for the wedding. I have contemplated all of the effort and money that is too commonly put into the wedding itself, and how typically disproportionate it is to the time and preparation put into the marriage. I think many people forget that there is a distinct difference between planning a wedding and preparing to be married, and it frequently looks like too many people put too much emphasis on the former and not enough on the latter.

Sometimes the two seem to become connected in rather inappropriate ways. One example of such a connection is exhibited in the NPR article, “Why are Wedding Dresses So Expensive” (1). I showed it to Matthias who mentioned it in his previous post, before I posted it on facebook with sarcastic remarks on how our priest failed to properly assess my fittingness and disposition to marry by inquiring the amount I spent on the wedding gown. My husband should probably know about this, since the gown was on clearance and the veil bought off ebay. Joking aside now. The things that are pointed out in that article point to a societal separation between weddings and sacramental marriage, and a focus on weddings as events of great (monetary) value in their own right. Christine, in her comment on Matthias’s post, puts it pretty well. Weddings have become a ritual in “self-realization” and “adulthood,” and mark an entrance into another stage of life (but not necessarily the rest of your life together).

The term, “wedding” unfortunately, seems automatically to mean the reception in many people’s minds, not the ceremony in which you actually become married. A number of the people who asked me where the wedding was going to be, after my response indicating the particular church, indicated that what they meant by “wedding” was actually where the reception was going to be held. As if where we were actually getting married to begin with hardly mattered. As if the sacrament were only a brief prelude to the “real” wedding. Likewise, the questions about how the wedding planning was going also revolved around things related to the reception or other extra things. Did we choose the menu, the cake (we did cupcakes, actually), get a photographer, get a DJ, is the dress done? No one (except our priest and music director) in these “wedding-planning” conversations asked if we had chosen the readings for the Mass, or the music for the Mass, or anything about the Mass.

The popular ideal for a wedding seems to be about making it a perfectly designed and choreographed production that will amaze your guests. One of the biggest wow-factors of a wedding is the gown, so we end up with articles like the one mentioned above, and we observe a culture of glamour, rather than sanctity, surrounding weddings and their preparation in mainstream culture.



  1. "we observe a culture of glamour, rather than sanctity"... brilliantly said...
    Thank you for your thoughts on this. I admit that, many years after my own wedding, I love watching the silly shows about dresses and catering halls. But that said, these things have only such a tiny bit to do with what marriage is - only to the extent that they are signs and symbols to us of something special, and shadows of that eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb to which we are all called.
    It would be truly wonderful if men and women would spend more time (and money) on growing in faith and love together, than they do on shrimp cocktail and seating charts.
    My concern is the number of churches which are separating the sacrament of Marriage from the Eucharist. While not liturgically necessary, I could never have imagined forgoing the sacrament that truly indicates what marriage reveals- the love of the Bridegroom for the Bride - the eternal gift of self that Christ models for us.

  2. Thanks for your comment Christine!
    I'm curious about how you say, "My concern is the number of churches which are separating the sacrament of Marriage from the Eucharist."
    Can you elaborate on what specifically you are referring to?