Read an Excerpt
Love And The World Culture Wedding
Oh, hasten not this loving act,
Rapture where self and not-self meet:
My life has been the awaiting you,
Your footfall was my own heart's beat.
Paul Valery, Poems in the Rough
When I was young, I had elaborate daydreams of my wedding. First I would be ravished by love. Then I'd concoct a public ceremony big enough and plush enough to reflect this ravishment. It would be an opulent three-day Elizabethan extravaganza of food, flowers, music, entertainments, and poetry set in an impossibly idyllic country estate. When I readied myself to marry at midlife, however, not only was there no script to match my fantasy, but neither I nor my partner wanted anything to do with conventional wedding rites.
When we thought of the conventional Western format for getting married, we just wanted to walk away from the whole subject: it wasn't for us. These rituals are somebody else's idea, not ours; inherited rules of behavior that seem unrelated to the gender realities and spiritual iconoclasm of the 1990s. This is empty and anachronistic, we thought, and we'll have no part of it.
When we started to plan our wedding, we couldn't imagine ourselves feeling comfortable and authentic moving toward this state along the standard wedding track. Bridal showers, rings, bachelor parties, fancy invitations, best man, bridesmaids, tuxedos, lace tulle, walking down the aisle, the altar ceremony, the big cake, confetti, old shoes, tin cans, the catered reception, the relatives, the honeymoon ... not for us.That's just another page out of any issue of Bride's magazine, we told each other. But then, what instead? How could we design a ceremony that reflected our feeling that marriage was a profound expression of relationship, yet didnt make us feel as if we'd bought our wedding out of a catalog?
The Plight of the Lapsed
Unfortunately our backgrounds offered usnothing practical for designing a wedding.My partner, raised Catholic, grew up in Australiawithnuns for schoolteachers. I'm a Protestant-trained American who paid no attention whatso-everto all attempts at indoctrination, and toppedit alloff with an early defection to Zen Buddhism.None of this translated into any kind of tradition,lineage, or nuptial format that felt meaningful.
Most of our friends were already married, and had been for ten or fifteen years. Their marriages back in the 1970s were part of that posthippie laissez-faire New Wedding milieu of bare feet, embroidered dhotis, petunia-strewn beards, brown rice, and guitar-picking in the pasture. That wouldn't do; in fact, remembering these youthful shenanigans brings a blush of embarrassment.
We had fallen apostatically out of the ranks of convention into the "Bohemia of the lapsed," as one cheeky friend told me. We were lapsed, a man and woman without an official religious context I was a Buddhist at eighteen, lapsed at thirty, unclaimed by any dogma at forty; she was a good Catholic girl at eight, self-excommunicated at twenty, a spiritual freelancer at thirty-five and both godless ever since, or so people would think. But we aren't atheists or agnostics. Between us we've had our share of numinous encounters and wordless insights. If you asked us to name our brand of spirituality, I don't think we could satisfy you with any recognizable tag: we're not only not Protestant, Catholic, or Buddhist, but we're not New Age, Gnostic, Sufi, pagan, Wiccan, Muslim, Jewish, Quaker, Baha'i, either; nor are we particularly Australian or American, at least not at the level of living ritual. But nonidentification doesn't spell rejection. If anything our sentiments are pluralistic and inclusive, multiculturally eclectic, globally spiritual. That's why, when we decided to cast around for inspiration, we were drawn to examine the matrimonial customs of other cultures. Not being exclusively of one tradition, we feel pulled toward what is living in all traditions and faiths, with the hope that we might reverse the cultural deconstructionism of iconoclasm and help birth a new nuptial icon out of the numerous matrimonial folkways. But first we began to wonder what the mainstream was up to these days.
Stretching the Rules
According to New York Times Magazine bridal A journalist Linda Wells, the mainstream. is stretching the rules. Independent-minded couples are incorporating the personal touch into their ceremonies. "Many women and men are rejecting the textbook wedding," Wells writes. "The event is still grand and festive, but it tends to be infused with quirks and personal style. "
Wells cites ample evidence of convention bending: a bride negotiating the church aisle in a blushingly scarlet gown (rather than the traditional white), her bridesmaids done up in black velvet (instead of pastel), her groom frilled out in a brocade vest (where's the tuxedo?). One bride, who fancied motorcycles but wanted to please her grandmother, wore a leather cyclist's jacket over her virgin white gown.
Wells reports that couples are opting to hold their wedding ceremonies and receptions at the same location, such as o n a barge moored in Brooklyn with a splendid view of the downtown urban skyscraper forest of Manhattan. "It seems at as the rules disappear, many wedding receptions are dissolving into big whoop-de-doos," reports Wells. This is good news for the guests, especially if they haven't eaten much beforehand and anticipate a decent spread; in the new "whoop-de-doo" they're likely to get hors d'oeuvres and champagne nonstop, starting the minute they walk in the door or onto the barge.
Intrigued, I began to make a Sunday morning ritual of studying Lois Smith Brady's "Vows" column in the New York Times, eager to learn which unusual, intriguingly different wedding she had visited this past week for my edification. Kathy, thirty-one, and Jake, thirty-three, got married on a posh midtown roof, part of a rentable loft called the Biodome, according to a script mostly self-written. "Your journey together has often been bumpy and especially in the last couple of weeks:' proclaimed their officiant. "This marriage is truly a testament to the effectiveness of the psychoanalytic process:' he added, referring with a grin, I hope to the fact both bride and groom had been in group and individual therapy for some time. Several of their psychoanalysts attended, offering reflective toasts on their analysands' behalf after a dinner of vegetarian lasagna, Caesar salad, and carrot cake.