(with thanks to Giles Fraser’s thought-provoking article on celebrity funerals)
On Sunday we had an open day at St. Mary’s and borrowed back from the Bucks County Archive some of our baptism, wedding and burial registers going back to the 1730’s. Apart from the reminder that so many Chesham people were shoemakers, it set me thinking about how weddings have changed down the years.
I’ve had plenty of conversations with reticent couples of my parents’ generation who remember their weddings being overshadowed not only by war and austerity, but also by a very difference approach two generations ago. They feel, with hindsight, that it was all planned and organised for you.
Here’s where everyone stood:
Top – what the Vicar wants (for instance, photographers weren’t allowed in the church! Whereas now half the congregation are filming the entrance of the bride on their phones!)
Second – what your parents want
Third – what the wider family demands and expects
Last – what we (the bride and groom) want
This is, frankly, not only totally unacceptable but also unimaginable to a couple turning up at St. Mary’s wanting to get married today. If there’s one constant from bridal magazines to friends’ advice to coverage of celebrity weddings it is this –
‘It’s YOUR day!’
‘It’s all about YOU!’
I’m pretty sure that I’ve said it from time to time when I’ve sensed wider family trying to muscle in!
‘It’s all about YOU!’ and in too many cases this is a singular you, the bride. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people says this to the bride at the wedding rehearsal or in the lead up to the big day. It’s just the line that our inner bridezilla longs to hear. And way too many grooms are too hopeless, spineless or speechless to suggest anything different. I’ve seen that look as they sit on the sofa in my study; smiling with their lips but pleading ‘get me out of here’ with their eyes!
‘It’s all about YOU!’ is really bad advice for planning a wedding and preparing for a marriage, whether ‘you’ is bride or both of you.
Adopting ‘It’s all about US!’ as your wedding planning motto is a mistake, believe me.
It will trick you into planning a wedding that is way too expensive and ultimately disappointing. Couples who put themselves centre stage and plan for a day on which they are amazing, and remembered for being amazing, suffer more stress, spend more wastefully, and come away more disappointed. Couples who aim for celebration, who go out of their way to honour and thank others, and who keep it simple, have a far better time.
Furthermore, sealing yourselves in a luxurious bubble on your wedding day, perched on a pedastal and self-showered with treats, is the worst possible start for a meaningful marriage. The last place you want to start a vintage marriage is in isolation, set apart from your family, friends and community. These are the very people that you need with you and for you. It’s their day too. During the marriage service we now ask the family and friends of bride and groom publicly to promise to support and uphold them over the years to come. We often pray for friends and family to be the support, the good advice, the model, the encouragement that newly weds will need. Friends, family and local community are not convenient extras for the big budget wedding production we dream of, they’re key players to value and honour.
Lastly, ‘It’s all about YOU!’ is particularly untrue for a Christian couple. One of the reasons a Christian couple comes to get married in church is to acknowledge that this is a small but beautiful moment in God’s big story of love and redemption. It’s a time to remember this amazing story of God’s generosity in creation, his patience for people, his choice to be born into this messy world, his love that took him all the way to the cross, his call to live for Him. We can’t think about this sublime things and not find ourselves humbled, overawed almost. We can’t celebrate these beautiful things and still want the limelight.
Planning a wedding takes patience, love, tact and imagination. You’ll have these in abundance if you remind yourselves often, ‘It’s not all about us!’