Spring has nearly sprung and all over Australia people will now start looking forward to the light, the sun and the warmth of summer, as well as the joys and celebrations that come with the Xmas holiday season.
As well there will be many ‘spring’ brides looking forward to the happiest day of their lives.
They have spent months enacting the pre-performance rituals for their wedding; including buying the clothes to be worn, the invitations to send and the plans for the day.
To start the season of spring my family is certainly looking forward to such a happy event; the ceremony surrounding the marriage of the eldest of my three sons to the lovely girl of his dreams. Being together as one is really all about give and take.
As twentieth century poet, prophet and philosopher Khalil Gibran so wisely observed …
… And stand together yet not too near together; For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow*
Soul mates and partners for life is what all brides and grooms and same sex couples coming together are both looking forward to being following their wedding.
Although first of all they have to run the gauntlet of pre-wedding nerves and all the emotional feelings of expectation and exultation that lead up to the day of the ceremony.
Why do we do it?
Why do we mark the occasion by dressing up, exchanging vows, feasting together and dancing into the night?
The rituals of tradition surrounding the wedding ceremony are very important in all cultures. They have been an integral part of human societies evolution for thousands of years.
It is all about symbolically performing ‘rites of passage’.
It is also about making a declaration before your personal society of friends, family, close colleagues and interested parties, one that is meant to be meaningful and lasting.
Weddings in our contemporary day and age are certainly big business.
In Victoria in Australia, the National Trust has a historic Wedding Dress show Love Desire & Riches at Rippon Lea, its sensational Victorian Gold Boom mansion.
The fabulous collection of wedding resses on show represent 200 years of a Bride’s dreams, wishes and hopes.
At the moment in England the V & A museum also have their sensational blockbuster Wedding Dress 1775 – 2014 show
So here comes the bride dressed in her lovely finery which today as in times past, can cost a fortune or not.
Here comes the groom, he’s looking very spiffy in his new suit, shirt and tie perhaps purchased for the occasion.
Here come all the attendants looking glamorous and pledging to bear witness to the joining of two hearts.
They are also looking forward to having a good time; dressing up and chilling out to the cool jazz pop band shipped in for everyone to ‘let it all hang out’ to after the ceremony is out of the way.
Run sheets for managing today’s wedding events by ‘wedding coordinators’ or producers can be up to twenty pages in length!
They include seating plans instructions for the bride, groom, attendants, ushers, parents, caterers, florists, bus drivers, chauffeurs, event venues, cake makers, chefs, hairdressers, manicurists and make up artists.
Then there is the photographer, the priest or celebrant, not forgetting the artistic director of the whole affair.
What we all need to ensure any wedding runs smoothly is an outrageous over the top wedding planner like ‘Franck Eggelhoffer’, portrayed so deliciously by actor Martin Short in the laugh out loud Steve Martin movie ‘The Father of the Bride’. He became an iconic character through his portrayal of Franck, despite swans and tulips on the pathway being overkill for most.
Today there are many types of weddings either civil or religious. There are also tons of movie weddings to learn from, including an English favourite Four weddings and a funeral.
“I am as ever in bewildered awe of anyone who makes this kind of commitment…I know I couldn’t do it, so I think it’s wonderful they can.” noted actor Hugh Grant so convincingly.
Each culture on earth has its own traditions surrounding the ceremony, one that ultimately cleaves two people together as ‘one flesh’, well at least they were the words according to old Christian communion books.
Many have said they were going to love honour and to obey, till death to us part and other such idealistic pledges.
It’s the tradition many older guests and people at any wedding ceremony today will have adhered to.
It is not surprising for many these hard words proved too much to fulfil, because at the end of the day we are all subject to our humanity or our ever-changing philosophy on life. Some have also been guided by a moral compass, where they draw a line in the sand.
Within the church the wedding ceremony has changed dramatically in the last fifty years, following centuries of rigid tradition when no one would have ever questioned the meaning of the wording or intent.
Nowadays couples craft their own words in contemporary English.
Basically however, for most Christians it is still a pact that once sealed is not meant to be broken;.
Customs associated with the weddings differ in societies and cultures, but perhaps one main common element across them all is the use of a ring,
It is meant to signify that the two hearts of the couple being joined together are connected.
Wedding attire also changes from culture to culture. Colour for some is an important consideration.
A white dress for western brides is a tradition not really old at all in human terms, one that is meant to signify purity, although these days perhaps it’s more appropriate for most brides to wear cream.
Red is the colour in India and it works well with the happy colourful event that is regularly beamed into our living rooms via visual media.
Over the centuries people have married for many reasons that are social, emotional, financial, spiritual, religious and legal.
Today many of these issues are still at the heart of the wedding ceremony.
We humans are a fundamentally social species and so a wedding ritual is significant, because it allows us to celebrate with those we love.
It also offers us a chance to have our relationships recognized with respect by the people we respect the most in return.
A wedding is the place where a couple pledge a troth of trust.
After it is over the co-joined couple will laugh at each other’s corny jokes and also stand by each other when things are tough and not quite going according to plan… they will cry, laugh and be both sad or happy together.
The ceremony is really about two people declaring the love they bear for each other and looking forward to making lovely music and many happy memories together.
After all memory is at the essence of who we are and the wedding ceremony is all about the giving of service, one to the other.
It doesn’t matter if the guy is perfect or the girl is perfect, or both the guys or the girls are perfect.
It is about the couple being married being just perfect for each other.
Marriage is a social institution and marriage equality fundamentally a question of fairness for all.
A good marriage, well perhaps the best definition is the one that says it requires falling in love many times, although always with the same person.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. **
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
*Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet