Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wondering about weddings

People marry for all sorts of reasons: to celebrate love; express a lifelong commitment; fulfil a perceived moral or religious obligation; lose virginity; monetary, legal or tax benefits; national residency; as a splendid, expensive excuse for a piss up with (or rather, for) friends; or because it’s just what couples after a certain time.

Pardon the mild cynicism. Truth is, I’m a hopeless romantic; truly, truly hopeless.

Many young girls dream about their wedding day, and I was often no different ... just a boy. Amid torturous crushes I'd sometimes imagine the girl, looking absolutely gorgeous, walking down the aisle towards me in a grand old church.

A church. Loads of people have walked away from practising religion, yet go back to it for marriage (a legal more than religious instituion these days), making vows they aren't necessarily even likely to attempt such as "accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church". No! They will choose to have children, and hopefully bring them up in accordance to the laws of love, respect, empathy and integrity. These may be the laws of Christ, but why not fspell them out, because many people have a funny idea of how Christ wanted us to act.
Even after strolling away from the Church and its ordinary old men in my teens [NB. there are some awesome people in the church - they just don't seem to have/want/need high positions], the presumption of a wedding in a church stuck with me unquestioned until a long-term girlfriend, who was headstrong and agnostic, challenged this ingrained thought. 
The doors flung wide open a couple of years later upon seeing a photos of a beach wedding that a Canadian friend attended in the Dominican Republic. It looked amazing, perfect. So wonderfully simple and beautiful, everyone happy, naked sun shining on the lovely couple.

Last Friday, I found myself in a suburban church tuning in and out of a sermon being delivered by a priest – who has vowed not to have intimate relations with another human – on the meaning of union (under God (and the law)). He meant well and had some valid lines, but it was so generic and detached I couldn’t help wondering who would think it was a good idea for him to preach at us about this occasion for two people he clearly didn't know.

For God's sake, was this primarily a celebration of the bride and groom or Christianity? I knew all the lines and gestures that were expected of the us, but stood silent and still. It seemed too artificial now. So different from the wonderful ceremony I’d enjoyed a week earlier.

We knew that one would be 'different' - this was a couple not tied down by convention and the wedding reflected their down-to-earth, genuine and loving nature superbly. Possibly the best wedding I've attended, and felt like the closest to something I'd like.

We gathered at a chapel on a small winery before a mini-celebrity celebrant, Mr Jon Von Goes (of Melbourne’s RRR radio). He was funny, entertaining and, of course, mildly theatrical and self-indulgent. For some it may have seemed more borderline novelty than unconventional, perhaps even disrespectful to the pure sensibility and sanctity of a marriage ceremony.

Bullshit. He was engaging, genuine, and talked all about the love between my two friends, having gathered a background from a couple of catch-ups over a beer. He is a performer, but he commanded the congregations attention and imagination, and deflected it to the lovely couple. I’ve never seen a priest who could do that so well. It was a genuine ceremony.

Yes, it was a little different - but we've all seen videos of some wildly odd, usually American, novelty weddings - and wasn't for everyone. For some the religious aspect is important, others just the tradition, and that's fine.

Both of my brothers acknowledged their upbringing by marrying in a church, despite neither (or their wives) being practising Catholics. Both were beautiful ceremonies, and a nice church is still to my mind a lovely place for such an occasion; just not some of the bullshit often spoken inside (yes many celebrants talk shit too). I just can’t help feeling they somewhat accepted the idea of a church wedding rather than embraced it.

Wedding dress, rainbow socks and Volleys
Although my middle brother and his Californian bride displayed some awesome subversive quirkiness that probably pushed the boundaries of comfort for a few of the more conservative (my folks) in the congregation. For instance, the bride wore rainbow socks and Dunlop Volleys (who sees her shoes anyway?); the foreboding tune of Hall of the Mountain King echoed through the church, building to its dramatic climax as they signed the certificate stirring an urge to run to the altar screaming "NOOO!"; and and a groomsman (me) followed them out of the sacred place arm in arm with one of the male 'bridesmaids' for a bit of attention and fun. This is what I remember about that day three years ago; I have no idea what the priest said (or even looked like). I may disappoint my mother if I don't marry in a church, but hell, it's my (future, yet unmet wife's) day.

And if I am lucky enough to get hitched, I know what I want the focus to be on - love, not God. Whether or not there are religious or spiritual overtones, the best weddings are primarily a celebration of love.

Maybe with greater focus on love – and, on this basis, perhaps letting same sex couple join the celebration and grow the love [*GASP!*] – we'd look a little differently at marriage and have less broken ones? Quite possibly a long bow. But my friends, the ‘unconventional’ couple with the ‘unconventional’ wedding, are possibly the most genuine couple I know and most likely to go the distance.  

So I don't know where I want to get married, but I don't think it will be in a church and by a priest.

Unless that’s what my fiancĂ© wants.

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