Bride meltdown and its solution

Oh dear, the bride from Duluth, Georgia with the “social event of the season” wedding wasn’t kidnapped but ran away to New Mexico. By bus. I’m sure Greyhound won’t use that image in their summer TV ads.

I wasn’t going to mention this story but PeaceBang did and I wanted to add a Georgia native’s two cents. (But she’s right about it being “a friggin’ coronation” — that’s how they’re done, God help the poor dears.) But . . .

  1. If you’re going to do something boneheaded, don’t do it in metro Atlanta, unless you want CNN to broadcast it to the world.
  2. There is no life in Duluth, Georgia, much less Society. The town’s sole reason for being is to give a scenic approach to the Mall of Georgia.

Making fun of Gwinnett County aside, I do feel for brides and grooms who get snookered into what has been aptly called the “Wedding Industrial Complex.”

Ministers and churches are often lumped into the Wedding Industrial Complex; I think this is unfair. In my experience, far too often couples — and here I mean unchurched couples with no relationship to the parish — think of the venue and officiant last and least. The usual workflow order is reception site, clothes, flowers, music and — oops! — wedding venue and officiant. By this point, they’re often looking for a bargain and sometimes I’ve been asked to “cut a deal.” I never do, given the flowers are always more than my fee and I know I have more experience than 90% of the wedding planners out there.

Inflexible? Perhaps, but I’ve never met the romantic, woe-be-gone couple of lore — she’s got a terminal illness or he’s being shipped overseas next week — who really needs a freebie or sliding fee, and listening to my colleagues, they’re pretty rare. Not that there’s room for change, so keep reading.

As for the situation today, I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of professional wedding advice-givers. The wedding book people are the worst. They set up the fantasy of “I can have it all; I can do it all; It can be all about us” but when it’s over, you have an expensive blowout that looks conspicuously like everything else this season.

In my experience, wedding couples “want to do it right” but having few models than the Chuck-and-Di wedding and its celebrity copycats (and we see how they turned out) weddings tend to turn out wrong. Pretty, perhaps, but too frequently cumbersome and ostentatious. Without the background and production values, “royal” weddings are usually invitations for disaster, if not tackiness.

The best weddings I’ve seen are the ones where expectations are modest, where the couple members have an equal stake in the successful outcome of the wedding, and where creative thinking has more of a role than “let’s blow the family fortune.” But who’s going to make that point?

Clergy should step up and show leadership in weddings. Perhaps someone should write a book.

Outrageous, gut-knotting extravaganzas are hardly the way people of faith should be celebrating the union to two people. Proportion is what’s called for. More jolity than pagentry. I well recall the advise Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners) gave. Paraphrasing, the wedding celebration should be the best kind of entertaining you have.

If you party a certain way, eat and drink a certain way, dress a certain way, and reunite families in a certain way, you already have the notes for how elaborate a wedding might be. A friend got married in a very chi-chi wedding, but that worked because her family is social and has experience in society functions. But if you rarely entertain, or if you idea of a good party involves a day at the lake or tailgateing, then perhaps you should really make it personal and take a hint from your own life.

The fairy-tale wedding is a fairy tale. I once looked in the wedding book of a precessor in my last pastorate, in particular, the World War Two years. I imagine wartime Washington was tense for engaged couples — Seth Brooks was doing several weddings a week — but the record book shows that there were a number of different standards given. You can tell from the locales. Some were married in the sanctuary, others in the minister’s office, some in a private home, and other still in the minister’s apartment. (The parsonage wedding was once common I gather.)

And I bet there were as many “happily ever afters” from the small non-church weddings as came out of any sanctuary.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

6 thoughts on “Bride meltdown and its solution”

  1. Honestly dear…. let’s talk about writing that book. I’ve been wanting to for just YEARS. I love your proposed title, “THE FAIRY TALE WEDDING IS A FAIRY TALE.”

    We’ll have *so* much fun on the book tours!!

  2. After my brother’s wedding extravaganza, my step-mother (a native of Nashville) said, “What ever happened to saying the vows in the chapel, and then having some cake in the church basement? How much did we all spend on that 4 hour banquet at the country club? Makes me glad your father and I just went before a judge, and then vacationed in Texas. THAT was more fun.”

  3. I totally think you guys should write the book. My husband and I did the South Georgia Special route when it came to our wedding, sanctuary, social hall with finger foods (self-catered from Sam’s-those little pinwheel sandwiches are good!), 2 hours total fun, and then we were out of there. It was awesome, and we still talk about it three years later.

    But as I saw at my photographer’s office, more and more girls even down here are going to 20,000 route and surprise, surprise, their celebrations (at least in the pictures) seemed fairly homogeneous. Same placeholders, flowers, creative photos of the 16 bridesmaids and driving off in the rented bentley.

    Seems like ours felt very, well, religious, like a christening or something with the family gathering afterwards. I have to wonder if theirs did as well.

    Write that book! It is much needed. I would have bought it to make sure I didn’t go overboard.

    Anna

  4. The book is a wonderful idea, and if you scout around, I bet there are others who would love to participate. A collaborative endeavor.

    Our family got wed on our front porch steps the day we consecrated and moved into our new-bought home. It was an all-family ceremony, to include the children. We all took vows and were blessed. It was really wonderful. And unless you count the cost of the house, it was free. The officiant’s a close personal friend and did the ceremony as a gift to us.

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