Wedding Bells–Can You Hear Them?
Why do I love June, July, and August? They’re sunny and hot, and I love just about everything that’s sunny and hot! But in addition to being my favorite time of year … during the summer months, if you listen closely, you are never out of earshot of wedding bells.
The Possibilities Are Endless
Weddings. Brides in white, long, fitted gowns; grooms in dark suits or tuxes. Old, cherished traditions—and a bevy of new ones. Couples hopping onto the train downtown to meet up with the justice of the peace, two witnesses in tow. Same sex couples finally having the same marriage choices. During this time of year, love is in the air, commitment signed onto paper, and the possibilities, well, are endless.
Many of us have had made or attended our own children’s weddings. Others have been to their friends’ kids’ weddings, or those of nieces or nephews. We’re making the rounds for the next generation, and, honestly, it never gets old. The joys, the hopes, are as strong as ever. And the dreams are alive and well.
What Is It about Weddings that Makes Us So Emotional?
This past weekend was a big one for Steven and me. On Saturday, Steven’s older son and lovely fiancée, tied the knot!
The wedding was a joyous celebration of beautifully matched couple declaring and sharing their love.
And … I cried. My eyes get watery, whether I personally know the bride and groom (or the two brides/two grooms) or not. I’ve often wondered what that’s all about. What is it about weddings that makes us so emotional?
How Can One Not Get Swept Away?
Crying at weddings is universal. Such an unabashed celebration of love and union—of course, will elicit great emotion! According to Inside Weddings there are certain wedding moments that almost guarantee to bring forth tears:
- The processional. There’s nothing like watching the bride take that walk, often accompanied by her dad–and just the right tune–to wake up those tear ducts.
- The vows. Whether the couples write their own or choose the more traditional—just saying their vows aloud for all to witness is a moment of tear-inspiring awe.
- Moving toasts—especially when those giving the toasts choke up themselves.
- Others’ tears—the bride’s, the groom’s, the parents’, siblings’, friends’. All I need is to see another cry, and I am not far behind. How can one not get swept away with emotion?
It’s the Innocence That Gets Me Too
I thought about what, for me, is most powerful. It’s the vows. They get me. The promises of love and kindness and union forever. The hopes spelled out, the depth of feeling pronounced for all to hear.
I think it’s the innocence that gets me too. Marrying couples are not “innocent” in the ways our parents may have been on their wedding days. (Although I would bet my last dime that my own parents would have to go back at least one more generation to find that kind of “purity.”) Yet, there is, on most wedding days, a suspension for the couple of the “knowledge of the apple”—the knowledge that the challenges and rocky roads may shake their union, at times, to its very core. Or … maybe not.
Maybe it is exactly that knowledge that makes the vows, makes holding on to the innocence in the face of it, all the more powerful. Even with that knowledge, couples take the plunge, led by their full, beating hearts.
Rituals “Re-Mind” Us of Our Wisdom
I’m a sucker for a wedding ceremony—traditional or otherwise. I love the ritual, whatever it looks like, of announcing/pronouncing one’s love and intentions to the world! The ritual itself can bring one to tears.
Rituals hold great power. They connect us to those who’ve come before and those who will follow when we’re gone. They connect us to a force that’s greater than ourselves. Joseph Campbell, scholar of the myth, had quite a bit to say about the ritual: “A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life.”
So … rituals “re-mind” us of our wisdom. But, is getting married wise?
“The Marriage Rate Is the Lowest in at Least 150 Years”
Many today would answer that question with a resounding “no.” According to Jay L. Zagorsky of the Ohio State University, “The number of U.S. marriage ceremonies peaked in the early 1980s, when almost 2.5 million marriages were recorded each year. Since then, however, the total number of people getting married has fallen steadily. Now only about two million marriages happen a year, a drop of almost half a million from their peak …
The drop in marriages is even more dramatic when the rapid growth in the U.S. population is taken into account. In fact, the marriage rate is the lowest in at least 150 years.”
Are Couples Who Marry Just Lemmings Blindly Throwing Themselves into the Sea?
We all know the dismal statistics out there on lasting marriages, too. Many of us see ourselves in those statistics. Those of us who remain in long-term relationships are in varying degrees of, shall I say, “marital bliss.”
Weddings can also break the bank! According to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study, “the national average cost of a wedding is $33,391.” And that was two years ago!
With all the odds stacked against them and the challenges that lie in wait, are couples who marry just lemmings blindly throwing themselves into the sea?
Could that be the real reason for the tears?
No. I don’t think so. We all know the power of love and intention. And while I don’t think we would cry at weddings had our hearts never been broken, I think the tears come from a more hopeful place.
It Takes Courage to Mount that Horse!
There is not one of us who hasn’t had to brave some tough times in relationships. Yet, we swim against the tide, breathless with the faith in love, in promise, in each other.
Saturday was Steven’s son’s wedding. But Friday was an important day for us too. It was our 5th wedding anniversary. Our marriage was neither of our first rodeos, yet on our wedding day, we were innocents again.
Wrapped in a protective shield of love on our wedding day—this time we all hope we will remain safely behind that shield. Yet we do get tested. And tested. Still, we keep coming back. If we’re lucky and determined, we will learn and grow both individually and as a unit—and there is always rich learning to be had, even if the vows don’t last till death do you part.
It takes courage to mount that horse—whether for the first time, second, or third. It takes courage to decide not to climb into the saddle, too.
But if a wedding is in your future, or in the future of someone you love, cherish the power in that public declaration. The power of having witnesses to the moment, to the innocence and hope, dreams, commitment, and, yes, to the strength of your love.
Whether you marry in a catering hall or in city hall, at a country club or at a local pub, if you decide to make the declaration and the vow—please remember to provide tissues for your guests.
I leave you this week with a few of my favorite wedding poems—enjoy—and listen for the bells!
“HABITATION” BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire.
“PATHWAYS” BY RAINER MARIA RILKE
Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.
“LOVE” – Roy Croft (I’ve posted the first two stanzas. To read the whole poem click here)
I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
How do you feel about weddings? Do they bring tears to your eyes? What’s your favorite love/wedding poem?
As always, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment or send me an email.
Have a great week and see you next Friday!
‘—myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche’– When I got married, that’s what I told myself in simpler terms. The wedding was only partly about us; it was about and for the celebrants who would hold us to our commitment.
Congratulations on your wedding anniversary!
Thanks, Greta, for the congrats–and for an interesting take on wedding celebrants, “who would hold us to our commitment.” I guess you can call them accountability partners of sorts!
Good article, Diane. When it comes to marriage, no tears here just cynicism.
My former husband and I were married by the Justice of the Peace in Honolulu, who advised us “be kind to one another.” The marriage did not last, however, we were lifelong friends and he saved my life eight years post-divorce from a criminal abuser who ultimately murdered his final victims. The relationship was very significant even though the “marriage part” did not last.
Perhaps the hope of weddings is the hope of commitment, of integrity, of continuity, of struggle, of triumph. Perhaps the current drop in marriages is a good thing: In a tough economy, young people are thinking through choosing compatible, responsible partners for the long haul or opting out in the absence of finding one, and those who do marry will more likely succeed.
Believe there is a minority of heterosexual human couples who treat one another well, plan their lives, contribute to their communities, raise happy, stable, productive children, more so I would say, in western Europe and probably Canada, where there is a cultural maturity and educational level lacking in the USA.
Here in America our culture is blinded by patriarchy and “romance” (ie magical thinking) rather than practical long-term planning, hence a huge segment of the USA ignorant and dysfunctional and impoverished due to poor mating and parenting habits.
Road runners are an excellent example of egalitarian lifelong coupling, working and living as a team. They don’t have weddings, they just hook up for life and take care of each other.
Enjoy the weddings!
Thanks, Diana, for some really interesting food for thought! I do hope that the drop in marriages reflects more serious consideration and, perhaps, better choice. Patriarchy and “romance” in the same sentence! I guess they both involve a bit of magical thinking.
And let’s hear it for those birds!
When I tied the knot 1964, a knot that frayed after thirty some years, I felt strongly about not having a photographer there. I didn’t want the ceremony to be a show to be snapped at so I put on the invitations, no cameras. I say I put it on as I don’t remember my groom to be as passionate about the issue as I was. I haven’t thought of this for many years but your post brought it to mind.
My idea was that the ceremony was a holy one – a sacred one and that posing for pictures would interfere with the flow. We had our picture as a couple taken before the wedding in our wedding clothes which of course broke another rule.
My second wedding 2009 was officiated by my favorite cousin and attended by my good friend and her beau and took place on the back deck. It was lovely. A couple of snapshots were allowed though truthfully, I didn’t think about my objections again.
I’ve been thinking about weddings as my oldest granddaughter is having a very traditional destination wedding and I’m really excited to go and see all the family so I’m happy she has planned it this way.
I think the promise of love and oneness is deep in all of us. And celebrating that is important so thanks for reminding me!
Thanks, so much, Nicky, for sharing your beautiful wedding thoughts and history. I love your “rule breaking” and I love the idea of the “traditional destination” wedding–new rituals to celebrate “the promise of love and oneness deep in all of us.”
Love this, Diane… as you know, a subject near and dear to my heart! I always tell my couples that if they cry, I’m a goner!
Thanks, Deborah! That mean a lot coming from you! Your work helping couples create their most meaningful ceremonies leaves very few dry eyes in the house!