It doesn’t take much to make me sniffle; I’m a sucker when it comes to a tear-jerking ad or a sob-inducing slice of reality video. So I’ve been surprised by my reaction to the recent trend for elaborate wedding moments, whether it involves overly-demonstrative vows or flashy first dances.
As often as not, I find myself squirming rather than smiling.
Without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade, I can’t help wondering if it’s because sometimes the emphasis has gone awry, from we to us.
It seems to me that in some cases what used to be a public pledge has become a public performance. Those invited to be part of the event are no longer witnesses; they are the audience.
Rather than participating as the couple commits to one another, acknowledging what each partner is promising and offering support as they try to live out those ideals in the days ahead, guests are observers of (or extras in) the five-star Perfect Day Production.
By relegating everyone else to the sidelines, the couple makes it all about their relationship, just the “us” of the two of them, rather than the “we” of the wider set of relationships in which they will live out their love. It’s actually quite a profound reframing of what a wedding is all about—a shift from community to individuality.
All this makes me wonder whether, if their wedding day has to be topnotch show, the couple will feel the same pressure on their marriage. Will they feel able to acknowledge, to themselves and to each other, that some days the glow of love feels dim? And will they feel able to look for support and encouragement from others, admitting that sometimes they can’t do it all by themselves?
I’m not advocating sackcloth and ashes, though a certain degree of solemnity somewhere in the proceedings isn’t a bad thing. Pledging yourself to someone forever is thrilling, but if there is any depth to the declaration it might also induce a certain level of awe and even healthy fear. You are saying always, after all, not as long as it is convenient or comfortable.
Still, weddings are supremely about celebration, and there is something special about getting to share in a couple’s public declaration of their private delight. I’m not suggesting they should not savor their day in the sun—just that they invite others to share in the glow. I’ve been at weddings where watching two people commit to each other has been a sacred, holy moment and a glimpse of the “great mystery” of marriage as a picture of Christ’s love for His church, as Paul writes in Ephesians.
Perhaps the trend in Busby Berkeley-style nuptials shouldn’t surprise me. Maybe it’s just an inevitable part of a culture that’s moving towards ever more “me-ism”: for example, have you noticed how when there’s a disaster somewhere, many social media posts are not about how terrible the event is, but how terrible the person feels about it?
And we have the same thing in churches, where what used to be corporate worship has become a concert: “watch us,” rather than “look to Him.” Such a trend should not pass without a cautionary flag to remind everyone of what Rick Warren says at the beginning of The Purpose-Driven Life: “It’s not [just] about you.”