I've been to quite a few weddings in my time, both of friends and family (the summer of 2006 to winter of 2007 will stand out the most in my mind as I did 6 weddings in 9 months) and what I really have learned from all of this is that every wedding is exactly the right wedding for the couple who planned it. Every wedding has its own chaotic bits (wedding dresses falling apart, ill weather, last minute rehearsals, power outages, reception sites backing out, etc etc) but those details get over looked by the power of what happens that day: two people come together, with their friends and family, to celebrate something that really is beyond God or the State (even though that gets tied up in the whole ordeal). They come together out of love, out of friendship, or just to make sure that yes - this is in fact REALLY happening and they want to be there to say they saw it.
The weddings I went to this weekend were on opposite ends of the spectrum from each other. CJ and Elaine's wedding in Madison was everything you would think a wedding of CJ and Elaine would be. There were kazoos, jet planes, pictures of Winston Churchill on popsicle sticks, a recitation of "Mawwiage" from The Princess Bride, a song about weasels, a giant tent, a bouncy castle, and a dixie land band. CJ and Elaine have been together for 13 years before they decided to get married, and I believe that they did that because they wanted to get married on their own terms, not because it was what society expected them to do. They wanted to make their own time, do things their own way and, as Elaine told me at Adam and Kaela's wedding in 2006 "Really, we just want to have an awesome party with everybody there. Screw the marriage part, we just want to have fun!"
While some outsiders might thing that their wedding was "anti-wedding" meaning that there was no wedding planner, no $1000 wedding dress, no dyed-to-match shoes, and definitely not what anybody would find in Bridal Weekly, it was not, in anyway, anti-marriage. In fact, it was the epitome of what a marriage celebration should be: a reflection of the wonderful personalities of both the bride and the groom, their family and their friends. This includes the nerf guns.
Now while this may seem that I am belittling the "ideal" wedding that many women seem to have of a big church, fancy dress, the whole song and dance - I want to tell you about the other wedding we went to: that of David and Diana's that followed the next day and was held in Palo Alto at the Thomas Fogarty Vineyard.
This outdoor wedding had seven groomsmen, six bridesmaids, four young men holding the chuppah, and over looked the south bay on top of either a small mountain or a tall hill (probably a tall hill). It was probably the most beautiful places I've ever been to for a wedding. And I can say that, with out a doubt and with no offense meant to ANY of the brides whose weddings I have attended in the past, that Diana made the most gorgeous bride I have ever seen. It's not like I'm ranking you fine ladies for all of you look amazing on your wedding days but damn. Diana could have fallen out of the pages of any bridal magazine.
The rabbi who officiated the ceremony made sure that everybody there knew that this was not just about the bride and groom. A marriage is a community event, a celebration so wonderful that people fly from all over to be a part of it, much like they will be a part of the marriage itself, as foundation and support through all the years to come. As David and Diana stood beneath the chuppah, we were all there to be a part of that, to celebrate with them, to remember the day and be there for all the years to come.
The reception was fancy and Jonathan, Kevin, and I all sat at the "sassy" table - you know, the table that's by the bar and manages to make a deal with the servers so that a bottle of wine is always full at our table. We made a drinking game of the toasts (one rule being "drink anytime the wedding planner gets all cracked out") and even participated in the australian cheer, shouting out OI! OI! OI! at the pivotal moment. The wedding and reception was scheduled and planned with an itinerary that could fit in a binder, but looking at David and Diana that whole night you could see how happy they were. THey danced with their friends and family and radiated with joy. The wedding may have been scripted but they were the ones who wrote it, and they wrote it (at least from my perspective) with out the feeling of "well, we have to do this because it's what we have to do!" and it truly was the wedding of David an Diana - no one else could have had that wedding.
What I have learned from all of this, all the weddings I've been to, all the weddings that are going to happen, and with the advent of California legalizing gay marriage (and let's hope it stays that way! EVERYBODY SUPPORT NO ON MEASURE 8!) is that everybody can have the wedding that they want in any way that they want it.
It's true that marriage is changing these days, but I actually think it's changing for the better - couples are planning their marriages, not just their weddings. They are really thinking about what needs to happen for them, as a couple, as a unit, to happen before they agree to a lifelong commitment. These couples are not getting married because it's what society expects of them, or because it just seems like the thing to do, or its fulfilling some childhood fantasy - no. These couples are getting married because they have taken the time to think and they know what they want. As a result, their weddings - either traditional or not, radiate with the same emotion.
Anybody can have the wedding of their dreams - it doesn't matter if their budget is $2,000 or $20,000. What matters is that they are making that choice together and that their friends and family come together to support that.
Of course, after CJ and Elaine's wedding, it's going to be pretty hard to out shine that. "We could always have it on a viking long ship" Jonathan told me. A viking long ship with Hawaiian flowers (just ask my mom).