The Wedding: A Rebellion Against Modernity

“Should we have a wedding, or elope?”

I once asked this question, when the cost of a wedding seemed insurmountable and irrational, and my now husband and I were in the all-consuming stage of love where our worlds revolved entirely around one another. I daydreamed of Virginia elopement destinations, such as rural, red bricked, rolling hilled Abingdon; or Occoquan on the Eastern shore, its winding avenues lit with gas lights, a briny tang from the lulling river in the air. But a couple of people in my life—oddly, my feminist mother (who herself eloped)—exhorted me to have a wedding. My mother dearly wanted to see me as a bride, and lamented that one of her biggest regrets was not having a wedding. Of course, I did not dare admit to my grandmother that I was considering elopement. That would be scandalous.

I did not foresee that the decision to have a wedding, with all of its attendant costs, stresses and time commitments, would be a catalyst for a host of other maturing realizations I had over the next year of planning and preparation. Not only did I mature as a woman and assume deeper responsibilities as a family curator and peacemaker, I fully dispensed with many insidious anti-family, anti-God, and cosmopolitan modern myths.

It is no wonder the world gave me so much guff for daring to have a wedding, for daring to not be barren! I could not bring it up—whether during a beauty appointment, or conversationally—without everyone from strangers to relatives exclaiming “what an enormous financial waste weddings are,” and how they’re “just going to elope and avoid the stress,” as if those things are what a wedding means, and as if everything hard is to be shirked, and as if a wedding is not worth money, of all things on earth that exact a cost. Feminist-leaning women were the most disparaging of all, given their denial of their own happiness. I suspect the worst of the detractors were without a compass for understanding the meaning of the sacrament, yet inherently sensed it was something good and sought to tear it down.

For it turns out that having a wedding is a consummate act of rebellion—against modern solipsism, Satanic nihilism, and the destruction of tradition and European-descended families. It was a rebellion against rootlessness, against the disintegration of my Southern family, and against shame for Southern heritage. It was a rebuke of alienating individualism and a re-orientation to much maligned collectivism, properly understood as shared identity, history, and interdependence. (Ironically, my sister-in-law mentioned during her toast that she knew she would like me when she met me and I was reading The Fountainhead). I think the wedding industry is partially booming because brides, though they likely cannot articulate their reactionary sentiments, are indeed seeking to build a fortification in the vacuum of our lost traditions. Our generation, largely abandoned by our forebearers, must learn to rebuild these traditions, clearing the overgrowth away from their carved stone bier and brushing the dirt out of the chiseled crevices to reveal their faces.

Modern rootlessness is a serious problem, both for the social disintegration it leaves in its wake and the paradoxical diminishment of the wanderer. The early throes of an adventurous temperament are a far cry from the route practice of picking up and moving every few years to trail the promise of material preeminence. Following the crumbs of the job market, treasured people disappear to unreachable places for years, calling annually, or perhaps sending a card to commemorate an occasion, though even that is falling out of fashion with the cheap and easy substitute of social media. Facebook—truly the corn syrup of socializing.

Musical chairs; a revolving door; a torn map; pick your metaphor for the sad state of kinship in today’s world. We live in the age of the flakes, where plans made a mere 12 hours before must be confirmed and often modified via text message. Some friends are lost to distance, and some are lost to ideas. Over the year, I rallied friends and family who had been scattered, who had pursued their personal diaspora (growing wider and emptier), but the ones lost to ideas were lost forever. A part of me cruelly scorned my hopeful efforts as a fool’s errand, as an endeavor ultimately meaningless that would not be appreciated by those to whom I reached the trembling tendrils of my spirit to. But if we were in the habit of buckling at the cold nip of our doubts, we would never leave the cave—much less step up to the altar.

Having a wedding will test a bride not only in her ability to manage logistics, aesthetics and entertaining, but it will test her every family bond and friendship. It is a gentle sort of reckoning, that reveals fairweather friendship, and truly separates the wheat from the chaff. The social pains of the past year have been significant, but worthwhile. Intimate occasions have a way of smoking out interlopers. Friendships I thought forged for life were ruined like an expensive watch dropped once into water. Yet old friendships, artifacts of power, delightfully revive, knowing no time or distance. A year of preparation not only allows for time to envision every detail of guest experience, or the flowers in your bouquet—candlelight roses, white ranunculus, pink hypericum berries—it makes a bride reflect on her entire life, to lay to rest grievances, and to discover the grace it takes to be a good wife, and a gracious spirit.

The wedding is a bride’s opportunity to create for herself and her husband, and all of their loved ones, a memory so sublimely beautiful that it is like a dream of heaven. The dream can be revisited, at any time, at any place, glowing and good. Ideally, a bride seeks to emulate the beautiful, rather than confuse herself with the beautiful, in her painstaking efforts to create this gift for her husband and their guests. Women’s love of appearances often rightfully inspires no small amount of snide remarks from reactionaries, but I think they miss that this love is not inherently deficient, but is vulnerable to being misdirected from its higher aims of memory-making, by fadish status projection and in service to her personal myth.

Yet ideally, every wedding detail is a note in a score composed from her very soul, sharing her vision of heaven, through which she will enter more fully into with her husband. In an ideal marriage, the husband and wife will be the humorous finishing touches on the beautification of each other’s souls.  Placing a flower from the garden path in his lapel, she bids him goodbye; brushing a last strand of hair from her face, he turns her unclouded view to the magnificent vista where she has arrived. It is in this way that they depart one another. The wedding affirms publicly what is privately confessed, and announces the couple’s accountability to their personal collective, and their navigation towards their Creator.

No wonder about half the time when talking about having a wedding in public, one gets an earful about how it isn’t worth it, how buying a car would be better, and how only fools go through the trouble. A wedding is a heavy charge circumvented only to the detriment of the families involved. A wedding is a celebration of beauty and lifelong commitment, which understandably upsets those inimical to the transcendent. We must cleave close to the good, and close to each other, pity the littleness of those who seek to waylay us, and enjoy the great mirth of life.

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  1. Laguna Beach Fogey October 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I used to think like this. Modern marriage is a disordered institution, best to be avoided. Keep it religious. Love is our resistance.

    1. LBF has his traditions he keeps: never miss a chance to corrode with his cynicism.

  2. What is required is a massive shift in how marriage is viewed and practiced, rooting out feminism and secularism in the process. This article stresses hope, and I like that. It’s a window into the mystique of marriage that is today far from universal, but I think a lot of women still get, even subconsciously in the moment of a wedding.

    I will no doubt link to think in the article I am publishing this week on the subject of marriage. Thanks for penning this.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you appreciate my message of hope. If we all surrender to bitterness, apathy and revolution against God instead of committing to carry on in spite of being sorely vexed, then all is lost. I think despair is an unacceptable and self-indulgent proposition.

  3. I haven’t seen the anti wedding sentiment so much. Maybe things have changed. But for the past couple of decades weddings have gotten ever more extravagant, or obscenely self centered, with brides trying to outdo the latest and greatest. Ridiculous wedding shows abound on cable TV. Fabulous weddings! Get married in a train, get married on a plane, on a boat, or how about jumping out of a plane! Probably a lot of guys would identify with that one. Tens of thousands of dollars spent on one day. Not much thought spent on how to keep the marriage intact.

    If there is a backlash against that sort of thing, then good, I say.

    I’ve been married 28 years, with 6 kids. I didn’t elope, but I insisted that my wedding was small and inexpensive.

    1. I hear you with the “reality TV” weddings. I knew a bride who clearly valued the “center stage/starlet” aspect of her wedding the most, and it was painfully apparent that it was little more than a social contest to her. I think weddings are a lovely way for a new wife to demonstrate her hostessing capabilities to the delight of those who have watched her grow, but I do agree that a lot of modern brides lose sight of the point. Now, while our wedding wasn’t extravagant, it wasn’t inexpensive. I’m not ashamed about that; it was worth it. I spent the entire year spiritually preparing. I don’t think hosting a top notch occasion is mutually exclusive with respect for the sacrament.

  4. On the other hand, in fairy tales, they get married the next day, and in some ancient cultures in India, the wedding ritual has gotten blown so far out of proportion that no one can afford the time and prerequisites to get married anymore and the culture is dying.

    The wedding is a ritual to bind the community together and declare a relationship, at the cost of expedience of forming the relationship. Those have to be balanced. We can’t make weddings so elaborate that reproduction is impossible, nor can we make them so rudimentary that the community falls apart.

  5. I really enjoyed this article. It gave me a perspective which I normally struggle to see.

    We, as a set of societies, don’t emphasise the traditional rituals of life enough. Somehow we all seem to think that we are too smart and too cool to need them; but I think that these thoughts are born of insecurity and fear of failure really. The feeling of smartness is an ego defence to absolve oneself from even trying.

    I also do think that modern weddings suffer from a lack of social support. Traditionally a wedding needn’t have been very expensive as many of its components, the church, the common land, even the town hall, were upkept by the general population and so subsidised and incentived social moments like a wedding.

    Regardless, after reading this article I have a new and better understanding of my potential wife’s feelings and how we might benefit from such a day. ‘A gentle reckoning’ indeed!

  6. The communal ritual is crucial. Being the Center of Attention(!!) is not. A tremendous amount of expense is probably counter-productive for all the wealthiest of newlyweds’ families.

  7. A wedding, a real wedding, whether large or small, is important to a marriage. It is a public proclamation of a promise to have and hold for a life-time. It is, in a sense, like a Baptist baptism; not a cause of salvation, but a proclamation to the world. Elopements are often like Las Vegas marriages; things done while under one’s breath one is dissenting from the promise. And while many celebrity weddings go down the drain after two weeks, it must be remembered that celebrities are not real people; they are creations of the media and the scandal driven media. Weddings can, and often do, cost a lot of money, but so do childbirth and funerals.These are things that define the stages of life. Two of these things should happen only once, so why not make a big deal out of them?

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