I haven’t written a thing for 3 weeks, because I’ve been on honeymoon! I have just gone through one of the key human rituals, marking a change of life and of status – I got married – and I haven’t had the time to think let alone write! This is mainly because of all the other rituals that have grown up around this key ritual, not because of the wedding itself. For instance, there is the ritual of taking your mum to see the dress, the ritual of indulging in time-consuming beauty treatments, the ritual of the hen night, the day itself (which nowadays seems to be a lot more about the party than the ceremony) and finally the ritual of taking a honeymoon.
Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed getting married and all the little rituals that contributed to the build up. For instance, I had a brilliant hen night – although I kept being aware of the phallic symbolism and my mind kept wandering to the reason for all that symbolism and ritual such as the good natured humiliation of both myself on my hen night and my groom on his stag night, (that’s what writing this blog has done to me!) But for me the ceremony and, yes, the party were the key things. I could have been just as happy without a hen night and without a honeymoon. It was having all my friends and family together to witness our committment before God that really made me grin like a lunatic all day.
It might seem like stretching a point to call all these things rituals but I feel that these newly constructed “must-do” activities have all built to add importance and significance to the central ritual itself – the marriage in the church or registry office – because in our culture apparently simply standing in front of your partner and promising to stay together for the rest of your lives before God, your family, their family and all your friends just isn’t significant enough any more.
Modern society associates cost and extravagance with value. To be worth something, an event or object has to cost a lot and has to be extravagant – hence expenditure on uncessary stuff and lots of it BECAUSE IT’S YOUR WEDDING DAY (cue girlie screaming).
So is it surprising that a substantial part of getting married involves spending vast sums of money? I don’t mean the outlays that would always be required when setting up a big event – drink, food, invitations etc – I mean all the other stuff. For instance, designer shoes (no one is going to see them), a special perfume for the day, special socks for the groom and party, just married flip-flops (I kid you not), designer jewellery, and favours for the tables (Why? Can you remember any favours from any of the weddings you have been to?…)
Our affluent culture expresses itself through expenditure and parched of the normal ritualistic experience of the rest of the world – their religious or social observances – it has to bump up the gravitas of the rituals it still holds on to, such as weddings, through attributing them as much “value” as it can afford by splashing out ridiculous sums of money on them.
Let’s be clear – my wedding cost about the same amount as an average wedding, so it was a lot of money! And I don’t regret any of that expense, but I could easily have spent twice as much and at times I felt under pressure to do so despite the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. I just think it’s sad that society feels sometimes that our simple vows are so irrelevant that they will only be important if made on a sunny day in the perfect dress, perfume and designer clothes.
*Yes that is me and my husband in the picture.