This is an article by the most intelligent wedding officiant out there, Elizabeth Oakes. She has a web site called Marriage To Go and you can always see her purple PT Cruiser driving around the Westside of LA! She has an incredible wedding related column with The Examiner that everyone should have as an RSS feed. Here is one of our favorite articles:
The instant you announce your engagement you’ll be serenaded with a a little number called, “You Haff To” and it goes something like this (if you know it, sing along!):
“Oh, you HAFF TO be escorted down the aisle by your father/ Oh, you HAFF TO bear your drunken Auntie Tess/ Oh, you can’t defy tradition, though you’d rather/You HAFF TO or you’ll have a wedding mess!!!….”
(then, on one knee, like Jolson)
“….just like miiiiiiine!”
It’s an old refrain, a sad song, really, usually sung by people who know only one type of wedding: the kind they grew up with, or the one they were pummeled into having themselves. Here’s the scoop, kidlets: you don’t HAFF TO do anything no matter what anyone says, so please take the Haff-To Zombies with a grain of salt (admitting of course that you don’t haff to because I say so either, to be fair.)
But, after many years of working with couples beleaguered by Haff-To maniacs, I can say to you with confidence:
Five Ways To Screw Up Your Wedding, Part Three: Have A Wedding You’ll Hate!
In initial meetings I hear glum, sardonic-sounding clients tell me how they really don’t want to have such-and-such sort of wedding, but they’re going to anyway because the family (or incipient spouse or friends or whomever) demanded it. The wedding that is insisted upon is usually the “traditional” Big White Wedding with all the trimmings, but the client confides that he/she would really rather have a civil ceremony with just a few close friends, or have a cocktail party wedding with little black dresses and smart-looking jackets, or fly to Hawaii…or…or…or. This sends the Haff-To Zombies into a frenzy!!! and they attack these crazy newfangled notions of a wedding without considering that a) maybe the couple doesn’t want to have the same wedding the zombie did, and b) maybe the zombie’s wedding wasn’t so hot even though it followed all the zombie rules. These zombies are engaging in a bizarre reflex behavior, a self-delusion that they are the guardians of “tradition” (we use the word “tradition” advisedly in this column, since most of what people think is “traditional” is not–that’s fodder for another post.)
Anyway, this thoughtless enforcement of a questionable wedding status quo is a testament to the effectiveness of wedding marketing; it’s also a testament to the effectiveness of peer pressure and family/social guilt. I do understand that family relationships are complex and yes, you may want to defer to the wishes of others under some circumstances, but even so remember remember remember: you don’t haff to.
There are three trajectories once the Haff-To Zombies start singing the Haff-To song and your internal guilt/peer pressure switches have been activated:
Trajectory 1: Be tough and have exactly the wedding you want, no matter what anyone says.
You have every right, as long as you’re paying for it (this gets a little more complicated if your parents have ponied up the money.) It is true that, on a ritual level, weddings mark the dividing line between your life as a child–where you are told what you have to do–and your adult life, where you make the decisions about your own actions and take responsibility for them. Sometimes your wedding is the place where you introduce this idea and the boundary behavior (as shrinks call it) that make that changeover clear. Sometimes purposefully drawing this line is important, depending on how enmeshed you are with your family. Feelings may get hurt, but that may be a necessary price for your freedom from controlling persons. In my experience it is often true that controllers who choose to act hurt rather than being happy for you on your wedding day probably are not going to be made happy by ANYTHING you do, even if you completely give in to them. This is one of the trade secrets of controlling persons, acting as if nothing you do ever makes them completely happy. Don’t fall for it. It’s your wedding. You drive.
Trajectory 2: Compromise and incorporate some of the Haff-To suggestions.
As long as you’re dealing with reasonable requests and not total control freaks (whom, to reiterate, will not be satisfied no matter what you do) this is a feasible position to take. The questions to ask yourself are: how much ground do I give? Will incorporating this element make me cringe during my ceremony?
Common Haff-To tropes include insisting that a “real” father–maybe an absent biological father instead of a supportive stepfather–walk the bride down the aisle, or inclusion of religious content that is not consistent with the belief systems of either party to be married. These problems can be solved creatively by thinking outside of the Haff-To Box
(well, by understanding there isn’t a Haff-To Box, really.)
So for example, a bride can be escorted by anyone–both parents, both dads, brothers, a phalanx of flower girls strewing marigolds, the groom, or by no one at all. Yes, last I checked, women can walk down wedding aisles quite nicely all by themselves, ever since footbinding was outlawed anyway.
Trajectory 3: Give in to guilt and peer pressure; drink the Haff-To KoolAid® and have the wedding everyone is nagging you to have.
You’ll hate it, you’ll regret it, you’ll resent all those people who talked you into it, and if/when you divorce and remarry you’ll say (as many do, almost verbatim every time): “I want something intimate and meaningful and more in keeping with my wishes this time, because last time I had that Big White Wedding and I don’t remember it, didn’t enjoy it, and clearly it didn’t guarantee a successful marriage.” That’s from many horses’ mouths, people; it’s scary how often I hear it.
And a note to grooms here: I mostly hear this complaint from males who got dragged through a Big White Wedding that had no redeeming value for them. And you have my sympathy, but dudes (and I am wagging a knowing wedding finger at you in emphasis): you did it to yourselves. A wedding day is supposed to be important and meaningful for BOTH parties involved and, despite what the Marital Industrial Complex has told your bride, it’s NOT all about her. SPEAK UP. Indicate early on what your wedding preferences are and, if you’re being hauled by the collarbutton through a planning process that takes no notice of your wishes, state your objections strenuously. Refuse to go through with it if you have to. I mean, you know….. first try negotiating nicely and all, but this might not be fruitful. I’ve dealt with determined princess brides who have drunk the Big White Wedding KoolAid® and I know they are often not easily persuaded.
Anyway, you CAN have a great wedding experience, and you should! You’re entitled and allowed, but make your voice heard and your votes are counted. As we say in the wedding sector, your happy marriage starts with your wedding; don’t be a pawn during the ramp-up process or you can look forward to a lifetime of continued pawniness. You can start small if you like–why not float a trial balloon on a little issue first? say, your choice of tie (or no tie at all, if you hate them.) Quelle scandale!! Zombies, attack!!!