Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Perfect, schmerfect!

by Carol Burnside

Have you ever watched one of those reality TV shows about brides, a Bridezilla type show? From the way those spoiled brats—ahem—women act, you’d think that the success and longevity of their marriages depend on the details of their weddings being perfect and that their lives will indeed be ruined if the ceremony isn’t elaborate enough or done exactly to their specifications. Their singular focus on the ceremony rather than their relationship and commitment to each other makes me doubt their marriages will last.

I was a typical young girl who dreamed of a church wedding, with me in a long, flowing white gown, veil and train, my faceless groom in a spiffy tux, and a heart spilling over with joy. Real life was a church wedding with all the trimmings, including a beautiful, handmade dress and veil (sans train), tuxes popular in the 70’s (‘nuf said?) and reservations in my heart as well as those of my family. None of those reservations were spoken or examined, and the marriage ended before my second anniversary. Believe me, it’s demise had nothing to do with whether or not the ceremony was perfect.

Less than a year later, after being reunited with my high school sweetheart, I stood in front of a Justice of the Peace in a long dress ordered from a catalog, my groom in an everyday suit. The JP was an older women who’d forgotten the appointment, and had been in her nightgown when we arrived at her home that evening. She excused herself then returned with her “marrying robe,” which was reminiscent of a judge’s robe or something you’d wear in a church choir.
This time around there was no family, no witnesses, no flowers, photographer or reception. None of that was as important as the swelling of love and the deep need we felt in our souls to weather the storms of life with each other. The legal ceremony was a mere formality to the overwhelming commitment I felt to my groom and he to me, yet the joy I’d dreamt of so long ago was there.

This year we celebrated our 29th anniversary.

My brother didn’t get it right the first time around either. Late in life, he met a lovely woman with whom he has a lot in common. Their marriage took place in Vegas with a live video feed for friends and family who wished to witness the event, but they didn’t need us there. Their love and commitment when they looked at each other showed clearly, even on my computer screen, several states away. He seems truly content for the first time that I can recall.

We’ve all heard of couples who got married while scuba diving or skydiving, or while enjoying their favorite sport. One couple in Texas even married via a blog, where a marriage license followed by a public declaration and verification by witnesses constitutes a wedding. Both posted their “vow” via blog posts, then friends and family commented with congratulations to their post. Are they any less married or more likely to succeed? I say it all depends on what’s in their hearts and minds.

In some parts of the world, there are still arranged marriages. Most of them seem to work. Why? I believe it’s the careful process with which the family members choose the mate and the seriousness of commitment shown by the couple.

I’ve had my say, now it’s your turn. Click on “comments” below and have your say. Was your wedding traditional or something else? Tell me about the most unique ceremony you’ve ever heard of or witnessed. And if you’ve ever encountered a Bridezilla, now’s the time to dish! Ditch the names and give details.


Mary Marvella said...

MT Ex and I photographed hundreds of weddings and I guess right about some that didn't make it Past a year or two. Two couple had been together since high school and college and more. Both had lovely weddings with all the trimmings. Some didn't make it long enough to pay for the wedding albums. Others lasted long enough for us to photograph their children and are still together.

I had a nice little church wedding and reception and mine marriage lasted 30 years. Hey, you never know.

Anna Steffl said...

Had a regular wedding, but it was too stressful to be enjoyable(probably just my personality to be stressed out). Still married 16+ now.

Have been to one over-the-top horse drawn trolley and fanciest hotel in town affair that ended in a very foreseeable doom. Been to a couple plain-jane disasters-in-the-makings too.

Certainly the commitment to the ceremony doesn't equal the commitment to the marriage!

Terrific post. Now, I need to go back to bed.

Sandy Elzie said...

Thanks for a great post and for being transparent.
Hubby & I had a small family/close friends wedding, small reception at church and another with meal at home.

Renewed our vows at the request of our kids when they were 9,10 & 14.
(They were bummed that they hadn't been able to attend the first one!)

We've married off two medium sized wedding, one blow out affair..(no bridezillas) ...small one lasted about 7 years, the hoopla is in it's 18th year. So, I agree, it's the committment and love of the couple, NOT the size or type of ceremony.


Marilyn Baron said...

I don't watch reality shows so I can't comment on that but I had a traditional wedding and yesterday we celebrated our 35th anniversary.

Marilyn Baron

Debbie Kaufman said...

We were definitely a traditional affair except that hubby and I paid for the wedding and we had a watcher for my mom just in case she had too much or not enough to drink before the ceremony. :)

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Some great thoughts. Hubby and I married in a small church wedding, and we're 11 years thus far. My parents went to the JoP and have been married for 35 years. My parents-in-law had a bigger church wedding and have been married for 34-35, too.

I've been to all kinds of weddings, including one where the bride and groom shared their talents in the middle of the ceremony and one between two high school kids where the bride was barefoot--but not pregnant. . .yet.

I agree that it's all about commitment. I can't condemn big weddings because I just attended a huge one, and I could see and feel the love. I do think that the commitment of the families of bride and groom play a huge role in the success of a marriage--that's the central theme of all of the successful marriages I've experienced or witnessed. That also explains the success rate of arranged marriages.

Thanks, Carol--

Dianna Love said...

I hope this post works. I tried a couple times earlier this week only to find out my gmail password didn’t work.

Good stories Carol. Congrats on a long and happy marriage.

I never wanted to get married. Really. Never dreamed of the wedding and all that. I was the original runaway bride. I backed out of 4 engagements then met Karl and said my vows. That was 24 years ago. I didn’t want to do the big church wedding either, because I was 29 when I said “I do” and just not into all that hoopla.

But, I was marrying an only child whose mother had waited for that day so we did the church wedding, the dress, the tux, the rehearsal dinner, everything – and we made it fun so we enjoyed our wedding and so did all of our family and friends. I would have been fine with a JOP and no pre-wedding fanfare, but our friends here in Atlanta and where his mother lived wanted to give showers. I appreciated all that effort and enjoyed my day with everyone.

But I told him that was the only wedding I would ever consider. If it didn’t work no one would talk me into it again. I would be with Karl today, wedding or not, so I think it comes down to the commitment in your heart. How you bond that commitment is a personal choice. I don’t personally understand the announcements at football stadiums of “will you marry me, [insert name]?” on the big screen, but I’m sure there are couples who will never forget seeing their love declared to the world and cherish that memory.

I’m a “to each their own” choice type of person who cheers individuality. I can’t watch the TV bridezilla things – they aren’t real to me, just people desperate for 10 minutes of fame.

Linsey Lanier said...

Interesting, thought-provoking post. It's definitely the love and commitment that matters. My DH and I planned a wedding for about a year, then gave up and went to the courthouse. We've been together for over two decades as well.

We used to watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette series until we got sick of hearing the contestants go on and on about their dating anxieties. I believe only one couple from that show is still together.


Carol Burnside said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies!

I feel like some of you got the impression I was down on traditional weddings. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that a big wedding is less desirable in any way. I believe they're wonderfully romantic and can be a great way for the couple to showcase their committment to friends and family. Any kind of wedding can be a lasting bond, IMO, because it's the love between the couple and their level of commitment that truly matters.

Thanks for sharing all your stories. I've enjoyed hearing about them!

Ana Aragón said...

Hey, Carol,

I described my wedding earlier in the my younger sister's wedding (she's daughter #2), she and a younger sister (daughter #3) got into a knock-down drag-out about...nothing. No one remembers what precipitated the argument, but sister #2 was very high-strung about the wedding going just right. As a result, the bride went down the aisle with scratches on her face and arms, covered by globs of make-up. The wedding pictures had to be airbrushed.

Oh, and it didn't last. She remarried 15 years after the divorce and is very happy now.

Great post!


Nicki Salcedo said...

Carol, I'm with Dianna. For all the romance novels I read growing up, I never imagined myself married.

I think couples have ceremonies that work for their personalities. I won't change a thing about mine. I didn't know what kind of flowers I was going to have until the day of. I told all my vendors, do what you think is best. It was a weekend filled with wonderful surprises, probably because I didn't care about anything other than what's-his-name.

Oh, that's a lie. I did care about the cake. Didn't care how it looked, just what was inside - chocolate with rum cream cheese frosting. We cut and served every piece ourselves! Thanks for the memories. 8 yrs and 3 monsters later, he's still okay. About as mushy as I'm allowed to be!

Nancy said...

Hi, Carol--what a thoughtful post!

We had a traditional wedding in the church my family had attended for three generations. I enjoyed having family and friends around us for our special day. However, I did find making all the arrangements stressful. Once was enough for all that.

I participated in a wedding similar to your second one. A friend called me at work one day to ask me what I was doing that evening. When I said I had no plans, she said, "Eric and I are getting married at the Baptist Church at 6. Will you stand up with me? And wear a long dress if you have one?"

She wore a white gown she'd bought off the rack, and I recycled the best of my prior bridesmaid outings, a dress I actually liked a lot. Another of her friends who also stood up with her did the same. The groom and his friend wore a suit, and they had flowers for all of us. Afterward, we all went out for pizza, and it was a beautiful evening all around.

Carol Burnside said...

Ohmigosh, Ana, that's a Bridezilla story for sure. I'm glad your sister is happy now. :)

Nicki, you've just proved my point. In the end, little else matters as long as you're with the one you love. Your wedding sounds lovely and just right for you.

Cool story, Nancy! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Susan May said...

Carol, I knew some of your story but not about the JP. You two knew you love each other without all the stuff
I got married in my home church and wore my mother's wedding dress. Bridemaids were family and friends the same for the groommens. It was a beautiful day and things went well. I'm glad I did it and it seems to have worked. Andy and I've been married 26 years. A long, long time by todays standards.

Carol Burnside said...

Yep, Susan, I'd say it worked!

Tami Brothers said...

Great post, Carol. I enjoyed the comments, too. I love to read about people and it's even cooler when I read something I didn't know about someone I know...grin...

Mine was pretty traditional. I enjoyed it and never knew (until weeks later) that there was some tension with my side of the family. Even though it was a small wedding (I send a huge thank you to my mother-in-law for paying for everything but my wedding dress), some of my family members thought I was trying to live above my station.

Oh, well. Life is too short to stress the little things.

Have a good evening!


ECSpurlock said...

Great post, Carol! And very true.

I come from a large Italian family and was so sick of big blowout traditional weddings after attending them all my life. I never planned to get married either, and Bill had been married once before, so we actually decided to elope! (His mother's father actually paid his parents to elope, since he felt it was a better value for the money, so it was sort of a family tradition, and they were married 56 years.) We had all the arrangements made when my family found out (because my sister had an appointment with the same hairdresser the same day, and he was a terrible gossip!) and demanded that I have a "real" wedding. We compromised with a small ceremony in the aforementioned historic Colonial inn, with the father of a friend serving as JP. And everyone who came said it was the best wedding they had ever been to because it was so relaxed. And I think that relaxed, companionable sense of being married to my best friend has contributed to our 20 years of marriage, despite my parents' predictions of disaster.

By contrast, my sister, the ultimate control freak, had every detail of her wedding planned out since high school, but never found a guy she felt was good enough to marry. Go figure.

Maxine Davis said...

Loved the post and I just love hearing about other people's wedding. I loved the JoP showing up in her nightgown.

Mine? Traditional. We paid for most of it. This is the 35th year in Dec. and we still laugh together so much and have a lot of fun - and I think that is important.