On Friday I was honoured to be part of my little sister's marriage to a wonderful man, someone she's lived with for many years and who has already become very much a part of our family. The whole shebang was very unique in some ways; but also with a large number of guests and quite traditional in others. Overall though it was a great reflection of the kind of people my sister J and her new husband T are: fun and sociable, with great taste and a sense of child-like appreciation for the good things in life. Lots of great music, food and dancing - which I suspect is really the true reason weddings were invented in the first place.
As usually happens, the heart-felt speeches and declarations of devotion and love got me reflecting on my own marriage, and the contrast in how my husband and I chose to tie the knot compared with so many of our friends and family. Ours was a small ceremony (an overstatement) held in a small courthouse in a country where we did not speak the language, with less than half a dozen family members in attendance. There was no white dress, no cake, no reception, or honeymoon; and the photos were taken by my new brother in law (and beautifully & simply done). Fresh and lovely flowers were hastily bought as an afterthought on the way to the ceremony; and afterwards we stepped into a dimly lit, warm pub and shared a chilled Scandinavian beer, before enjoying a lovely dinner for four at a tiny restaurant nearby. In a sense, the whole thing was unplanned and, some might (and did) argue, unfair to our parents and loved ones back home who would have no doubt loved to witness our "official" union as husband and wife.
But - romance and selfish needs aside - there were other considerations. Before T, I had already been engaged. Twice. And not overly keen on repeating the dramas, logistical difficulties and financial pain (not to mention politics) involved in organising a wedding. We had both been involved in other people's weddings over the years, all too aware of the stress involved and wanting to keep things low key. We'd dated for a year and had discussed our feelings for one another, knowing we shared the same important values and wanting to share our lives - but at the same time we knew we wanted to do something honest and true to ourselves. Meaningful. Quiet. No-fuss and non-conventional. We concluded that a marriage is far more important than a wedding. We're very practical; but it doesn't make us monsters.
I'm by no means anti-wedding or a marriage naysayer (I believe in the power of love .. yeah!); but I am cynical about the wedding industry. Which I'm sure anyone who's got half a brain - married or not - would agree with. Even my well educated and normally very sensible and level-headed sister, on the eve of her wedding last week exclaimed (over a very strong cocktail on Chapel St) "I swore I wouldn't, but I've turned into a bride-zilla. This is fucking BULLshit!" Plus, marriage itself can still be deemed a status of sorts and tends to draw out all sorts of judgements from the very people who often have no business casting it. I drew the conclusion a long time ago that marriage - while I still believe is a fundamentally good and wholesome place to be in any romantic relationship - doesn't always equate to a healthy and lasting union, and that some absolute gold medal partnerships are actually (gasp) "living in sin" or some other equally insulting reference to not having their relationship recognised in the legal or financial sense.
All that said, I'm glad my Dad got to walk at least one of his daughters down the aisle. The look on his face and his glorious speech made me glad my sister had a "proper" wedding with all the trimmings; not to mention the wonderful opportunity to catch up with loads of relatives and friends in one fun filled evening. It nearly made all of the cost, organisation, drama and tears worthwhile. But most importantly, it was about two people declaring their love and devotion to one another, deciding to continue sharing their lives and loved ones by maintaining their creative, fun and whole selves. I look forward to being part of it.