The modern wedding and its origin

Wedding season is upon us and Facebook is inundated with wedding and engagement photos. Everyone and their mama is getting married or engaged. It’s great to see “love is in the air,” and humans finding other humans to coexist with, for what they perceive as forever. Though some weddings are beautiful, it does often feel a little absurd and laborious. I prefer the smallness of weddings that take place in a grassy field or in city hall with a few guests sans social media. But that’s perhaps impossible as social media and weddings are closely linked now. I would argue, it doesn’t make the occasion monumental when you have ten other people doing the same thing with a different set of photos. It is an exhausting endeavor.

The idea of marriages comes from ancient societies that wanted to secure offsprings, property and the protection of bloodlines.

I wonder what makes June such a popular month to get married. I get that it’s warmer now and people are on vacation, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a wedding in the fall or spring when it’s not unbearably hot?

I remember when my cousin came to visit in the spring, it was relatively hot because it’s the south. We bumped into a few weddings while walking in the French Quarter. The first one was in Jackson Square near the fountain. My cousin chose to bypass the guests sitting on the sides and take a photo of the bride and groom. While walking by Pirate Ally we saw another couple with their daughter listening to a minister say their vows. My cousin took a photo with the couple and their daughter, a small girl who was wearing a frilly white dress. Walking along the busy Royal Street, we saw a couple dancing, post-wedding in their own second-line. I found these encounters amusing and random. My cousin saw the weddings as a sign. I considered it a probable sequence of events, since many people celebrate their wedding in the French Quarter.

“During the Indian ceremony, we were on another floor where half the room was open to a balcony, letting in the cool fresh air.”

Earlier in the month, I went to a wedding in Florida. The groom’s family was Catholic and the bride’s was Indian-Jamaican. The ceremonies happened one after the other in an unexpected combination of perspectives on wedding ceremonies. On the one hand you had a wooden alter with hanging purple and pink flowers, the words of an ordained minister who was the groom’s grandfather and a traditional wedding melody at the end, followed by a Beyoncé song unexpectedly and somewhat awkward. During the Indian ceremony the bride wore a long red dress embroidered with gold designs and a red saree. There was a mandap (alter) with two low chairs, a red carpet, yellow curtains and bead necklaces hanging on the sides.

At the beginning of the ceremony a troupe of dancers and drummers went around dancing and playing music behind the groom, as if walking him to the altar. Then at some point he met the bride in front of the altar and they sat down, and had a Mangala Sutra link them together to symbolize bonding.

Early on Europeans, considered marriage a civil institution. After Christian theologist began writing about couples getting hitched, the Christian church became involved in the ceremonies.

Towards the end rice and popcorn was thrown at the bride and groom. Although, I could not hear much of what the priest was saying, (a fault of the microphone being to close to his face and his accent), I enjoyed watching the ceremony. The bride kept her red Indian dress the entire night, foregoing the white wedding dress. It was clear the Indian ceremony had more of a festive energy, and even the few mishaps were not awkward, but the former ceremony was framed in an ominous and devout tone: “As god is our witness,” someone said, so that it made you feel constrained. During the Indian ceremony, we were on another floor where half the room was open to a balcony, letting in the cool fresh air.

During the Florida wedding it was admirable to witness traditional elements or religious practices mixed with a modern take on marriage. Seeing these two young people from different cultures come together based on love and friendship found in a college campus is emblematic of a 21st century wedding. Not that everyone has to espouse a similar interpretation, but it’s worth taking note of how far we have come as a society. In a traditional Indian marriage  the bride would have been given away to someone who the parents picked, someone from the same religion and nationality.

The concept of marriage has always varied by culture, and it’s significance and meaning have  changed over the years.  It’s unrealistic to be attached to the idea of a “traditional marriage,” since it continues to be redefined. Marriage wasn’t always synonymous with love and friendship as it is now. Initially ancient societies used marriage for the purpose of securing land, wealth, bloodline and offsprings. And it wasn’t until 1563, when the Catholic church began calling marriage a sacred ritual to be performed in church. Flash-forward to today and we are discussing marriage equality for gay couples. I see marriage as a civil institution that is meant to protect and offer benefits to couples under the law. I don’t see it as a religious ritual, nor do I think it’s unreasonable to remain unmarried, since it’s not longer a pre-requisite to having offsprings.

Two people getting together, believing that they are perfect for each other, while not fully knowing each other enough to predict how it will turn out, is a risky bet. You’re essentially putting all your hopes on one person. I’ve been listening to Alain de Botton as of late, on love and marriage, just to give a final bow on the wedding season. In his essay, “Why you will marry the wrong person?” He writes, “Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”

“But those moments when you don’t understand each other, is perhaps the best part, because you can learn something about your partner that may have remained hidden.”

“Healthier, happier lives,” in the background.

Marriage is a risky proposal whether you are in it for love or reason. Nowadays there’s usually a combination of both. Getting married solely for reason seems devoid of feeling and it takes us back to a time when people married each other for economic interest and status. Nowadays most people follow their instinct when searching for a partner, which takes us away from the archaic days when we had to marry for titles and wealth. Still, if you are getting married on pure whim and feeling, it can increase the probability that your mistake will be greater, because love can be fleeting and you have to wonder what it’s based on and if it has longevity. How you feel about your partner may not be the same 10 years down the road.

I think people inherently know that relationships require work and that it’s not always going to be filled with happiness and compromise. But those moments when you don’t understand each other, is perhaps the best part, because you can learn something about your partner that may have remained hidden. You know, you truly love someone when even your arguments are interesting and memorable. Though your partner might rile you up into a ball of cat fur, the reconciliation makes it all the worthwhile.

Finding a partner doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be compatible with you, but the success of your relationship depends on how you manage those differences, and learn to sensibly resolve conflicts. There’s a way to ameliorate those variables when searching for a partner, since people tend to go with those who are closest to their ideal version of a partner. I don’t think that version is stagnant, since it’s constantly being altered and questioned, because what you think you may have wanted in someone isn’t exactly what you need.