I love weddings. I go to about two a year—and have for the past ten years. I’ve been the Maid of Honor—the one who forgot her purse and had to hold the bride’s lipstick in her bra, where it inevitably melted and resembled more of a crime scene than a wedding getup. I’ve cried so hard during the vows other guests asked if I was in love with the groom. I’ve danced with red-faced drunk uncles, crawled up bride’s skirts to tie their trains, and stolen the aux cord from the DJ to put on Glee’s rendition of “Raise Your Glass.” I am the bride’s biggest fan, the caterers’ most enthusiastic diner, the DJ’s worst nightmare.
Yet in the wake of my embarrassing commitment to my early 90s wedding dance moves, I’ve decided to put in my resignation: I’m opting out of wedding culture.
When I say I’m opting out, I don’t mean I’ll stop going to weddings or honouring friends’ decisions to get married; I mean I refuse to participate in the performance of weddings. Being a guest requires months of effort prior to the actual wedding. There’s daily reading (and liking) of posts on Facebook exclaiming excitement about the upcoming Big Day. There’s checking Instagram for the Pinterest DIY projects to help out with. There’s the obligation to talk about the colour scheme and cake flavour whenever running into the bride or groom. Even I—unmarried, and without a wedding even remotely on the horizon—have imagined giving an elaborate thank-you speech, and discussed what song I’ll walk down the aisle to, and what flavour my cake will be. I even follow several Instagram accounts dedicated solely to engagement rings.
But I’ve decided to throw in the towel. I will no longer rifle through wedding magazines, marveling at matching gold place settings and centre pieces. I will no longer fantasize about who my bridesmaids might be and whether they will wear matching dresses. I will not plan my ceremony playlist, I will not ogle pictures of wedding cakes, and I will stop watching the aisle dance from Jim and Pam’s wedding on The Office.
But I still believe in weddings. Because at their core lies a relic: the belief that someone’s words mean something. Gone are the days where “you have my word” acts as a binding contract between two people who trust each other. Instead we have money and lawyers as incentives to uphold our promises—no more need for integrity! But at a wedding, two people stand in front of God and the most important people in their lives and make a solemn, serious, and beautiful vow to one another.
There is weight in those words: “I take you to be my lawfully wedded spouse; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health.” These vows are not for the faint of heart. To stick together through the best and the worst is a true testament of loyalty. It is the ultimate risk to promise a lifetime commitment to another person with the full intent to try and honour it for a lifetime. It’s hard to live with someone. It’s hard to think about someone else’s needs along with your own. And to promise to keep working at it is a selfless act. It’s honourable. And it is the most beautiful expression of love.
But when the dialogue before, during, and after a wedding is focused entirely on the decorations that are the wrong shades of turquoise, or the cousin who read the scripture so quickly they are gone before you even realized they were at the mic, or the DJ who has never heard any song released since 1972, it’s easy to forget how intimate and special a wedding day really is.
So when I say I’m opting out, I am making a vow to those who decide that the reward of marriage is greater than the risk. I’m promising to honour your relationship, and to pray for your strength to stay committed to your each other and your wedding vows. Because although a beautiful woman in a white dress, wrapped in the arms of a gentle man in a tux, dancing under twinkling lights, smothered in swaths of tulle makes for a stunning photograph, I think a relationship that makes it ‘til death do us part is infinitely more rewarding.