Weddings are interesting ceremony that reflects the tradition of the family or should I say families. Whether the wedding is in a church or temple or a house or a vineyard, many parts of the ceremony remain the same year after year. This beautiful wedding reflected a lot of traditional and non-traditional elements. For example, the location was a property whose business is catering to weddings and receptions. This wedding was conducted at an outside area where a very large oak tree, probably several hundred years old, stood with its branches reaching far into the sky and over the yard. To the delight of all the weather was perfect. It rained a few days before and so everything that should’ve been green was green. And it appeared to me that the oak standing so stately in the yard, represented that of a family. It was even more representative of two people coming together as one couple to start their family tree. The ceremony itself was short but it contained many of the traditions of my family.
Like many ceremonies the arriving guests were directed to the seating on one side of the aisle or the other. And each family member from the bride and the groom’s family were seated on the appropriate side rather than altogether. The many guests were left to decide which side to sit on. When the guests arrived it was the seats in the back that usually filled up first. This reminded me of going to church and watching the many people who don’t regularly attend church fill up the back pews.
One of the interesting observations was the people attending the wedding and the diverse styles of clothing. The tradition of the immediate family members wearing some sort of formal or business attire was observed. It appeared that all of the women who attended the ceremony dressed up and looked beautiful, whereas many of the men were dressed in more casual attire. I felt sorry for some of the women who had decided to wear heels to the wedding. This is because the seating area was set up in the lawn and grass area of the event. And because several days before the rain had softened up all the dirt, many of the women wearing heels found it difficult to walk. The small pointed heel quickly sunk into the ground. But as I said before, women look great when they wear heels. Another thing that I noticed was how close each of the chairs were set next to each other. There is only an inch or so between each chair, which makes it hard to be comfortable when you brought a big purse or a camera with you.
I also found it interesting how the tradition of having music at a wedding has progressed. In my past, most of the wedding ceremonies used organs or pianos to place a very simple and basic music. Most the time the music was designed to be background music while the many guests found their seating location. Then there was the grand and louder music that announced the arrival of the bride. As time progressed, those people who could afford it would hire live musicians to play. As time went along there was a use of radios and tape players to provide the music. Most recently, people seem to use a disc jockey. I am amazed on how the disc jockey can provide so many modes of music with just a few electronic devices and some speakers.
The real advantage of a disk jockey is that later on at the reception there is a multitude of different songs played at the request of the participants. Technology has made it possible for just a single person to provide the many different kinds and styles of music at a wedding without having a large cost factor.
Let me get back to the beginning of the night when the different families are seated on the different sides of the aisle. For me it was the first time I got a look at the grooms family and friends. It is hard not to profile these people as they walk in. But I also know they’re probably going to be on their best behavior and look the best at this moment. As the seats filled up from the back to the front it soon became time for the immediate family to take their appropriate seats in the front rows. And this part is a of my generations tradition. There was the coupling a bridesmaid and best man leading several other couples down the aisle to stand on the appropriate side of the groom. Because most of the weddings I go to occur among younger people, the procession of young men and women walking down a isle together always gives me hope. The groom usually is the first to stand next to the person who is marrying the couple and then comes the procession of couples. Once that group was set up next to the person marrying the couple, the people on both sides of the aisle stand up. Then all eyes are upon the bride and usually the father who’s giving her away. It is always interesting to me that we continue to use the term of the father and the mother of the bride giving the bride away. It is my experience that once the daughter or the son is married they quickly get closer to the mom and dad for their advice and support.
There are those weddings where; the minister, the priest or the person who is marrying a couple, go through a long explanation of what a wedding represents. In my experience, a Catholic wedding is incredibly long and there’s a lot of standing up and kneeling before you get to the exchange of vowels. I also noticed that a Hindu wedding is equally as long and elaborate as the Catholic wedding. The only difference for me is the language that is spoken. Both of those traditional ceremonies speak in their own language. This makes it a little hard for those of us who do not speak that language, but the love and the commitment of the ceremony transcends the language.
Once the vowels are exchanged the tradition of picture taking begins. Usually the pictures are of the bride and groom. Then those participants of the wedding party and groom are taking. Then the pictures of the families on both sides with the wedding party and the bridegroom are taken. It seems to me that many times the taking of the photos takes longer than the actual ceremony. That is probably because the ceremonies rehearsed and getting all the people into the picture can sometimes be like herding cats. Eventually there are photos taken of just about everyone. For those people who can afford it they hire somebody to take the pictures. For others a friend or family member will suffice. The interesting thing about photos is that it is just a snapshot in time. So no matter what happens to those people in the picture, you can always look at that photo and remember that moment in time. It is rare that anyone in the picture is frowning and so almost all the faces are smiling. Some pictures who showed tears of joy and others will show how young we all used to be.
After all the photos have been taken the bride and groom will join the rest of the people who attended the wedding. Most of them are already seated at a table and the organizer of the event is trying to get those people ready to eat. The bride and groom appear and after a few words are spoken along with some great applause the meal is served. Then there’s that awkward moment where somebody with a microphone tells everyone it is time to eat. At some events the people are served at their table. But they are done so in an orderly fashion as to not offend the family or the bride and groom. Many others use a buffet. It usually takes time for someone to be first in line to eat. After a few brave souls walk up and immediately get their food, a long line of people follow them. I must admit some frustration when getting in line and following someone that has a hard time figuring out what they will eat. Now that I’m older I am lucky enough that have my wife goes and gets a plate for me so I can continue visiting with those in attendance.
Even though there is no actual assigned seating, people usually begin setting with those people they know. But it doesn’t take long before the different families begin to intermingle. The isle that was present during the wedding ceremony disappears. Members of the different families begin to introduce themselves and start to share stories. This is the beginning of the birth of a larger family. The bride and groom are usually served first and they try to eat their meal. But it isn’t long before their up and walking from table to table to speak to the people who were there. I could hear from the different tables the sound of laughter and I could see the bride and groom were having a good time. While the guests are eating music can be heard in the background.
As part of a tradition, the bride and the groom share the first dance as husband and wife. This is usually followed by a dance of the bride and her father and the groom and his mother. In some ceremonies there are additional named dances. Finally with a formal dance schedule out-of-the-way, the music and the dancing floor are opened to all those who attended the ceremony. It has been my experience that the first few songs develop only a few brave souls will walk out on the dance floor. It is also my experience that it doesn’t take long before the dance floor is full of people. Not just husbands dancing with wives or boyfriends dancing with girlfriends, but now young children dance with their older family members. I particularly enjoyed the line dancing at the ceremony. Where the younger dancers knew all the moves, the older dancers or the very young dancers try to follow along. Usually during the parade of songs there will be a slow dance. Older couples finally get on the floor and dance. There is also the adult who picks up the small child and swirls them around as if dancing like a couple. For many children this is their first experience on the dance floor. It is a beautiful moment that I always enjoy.
During the hours after the ceremony there is a lot of visiting. And as I looked out amongst the many guests I felt a time of peace and love. I’m no hippie, but there should always be a time of peace and love. I also took the chance to look at those loved ones I’ve known for years. For example, two of my sons and my nephew stood next to each other talking. As I looked at the group I realized that I was looking at three grown men, two of them holding their babies. As I look at their wives I was amazed at how beautiful they look. Even though they had been married for years and have gone through childbirth, they look as beautiful as the day that I was introduced to them. Of course looking at the babies reminded me of when those young men were also babies. And I stood holding them and my arms as they stood there now. I was thrilled again to hold and say I love you to my nieces, who have grown into beautiful young women. Yet in my eyes they are still those little girls who called me uncle smacaroni. I also looked at those family members and friends who have been there for so many years. Many of them, including me, have put on a little more weight and the faces have gotten a little older. But as I look at them on this occasion I saw them as they were years ago.
There is nothing like a wedding to revitalize the feeling of love that one person has for another. In my case I was able to look at my wife, who I still love dearly and remember our ceremony. And it was nice to stand by her as we engage in conversations with family members and guests. There are always moments when one person has to lean on another. During this wedding it was nice to be able to lean on my wife and hold hands while we watch the bride and groom exchange vowels.
It is no exaggeration to say how proud I was of my niece and her new husband. And they gave me another shot of hope along with the opportunity to meet with family members that I normally don’t get to see. Life goes on and I look forward to the next wedding and the opportunity to feel peace and love.