May 1, 2005

Living together, having a big wedding.

Apropos of the runaway bride story:

Am I the only one who thinks a big wedding is inappropriate for two people who have been living together? I think it would be tasteful to have the wedding performed privately, down at City Hall some day, and then announce the news in an invitation to a big party that occurs on another day and that specifies no gifts. There is no new household being set up, and you should be glad people want to take the time and make the effort to attend a party celebrating an existing relationship.

It seems to me that the idea of a big wedding ought to be about the beginning of the couple's life together. In fact, the really cool thing about a wedding back in the old days or for traditionalists these days is that the couple has not yet consummated the relationship. When that is the situation, there is an excitement and the reception takes on a wonderful glow: look, they're finally able to have sex and yet they are hanging out, dancing here with us! If this is not the case, how can the couple imagine they're putting on a show that justifies everyone watching and celebrating them for hours?

UPDATE: Interesting comments section! Let me just quote something I wrote, somewhere down in the thread:
Do I seem like a "social con"? I guess I've got my own distinct mix. I'd say I respect the genuine traditionalists, that I don't seek a traditionalist life for myself, and I tend to scoff at the fence-straddlers. People who live together and then want a big traditional wedding are very conspicuous fence straddlers. Be something! Stand for something! Think! That's my message.

58 comments:

M. Jeeves said...

"look, they're finally able to have sex and yet they are hanging out, dancing here with us!"

you said it! I've often been amazed at now narcisstic brides and grooms can be (asking over 500 "friends" to spend hard-to-come-by dollars on plane tickets and gifts for a couple who are already bickering about the garbage).

Of course, this one takes the cake.
On the other hand, I don't think they'd been living together for long. Is there some length of time that makes this ok? Why would it? Does anyone really need 28 attendants? 500+ guests? 8 bridal showers? It's hard to be close to that many people.

The whole story does make for great Southern Gothic images.

What I'd really like to know: did she just get tired of the bus trip when she hopped off in ABQ? It's a long way back and forth to Vegas and the route isn't exactly direct.

I'm sure she discovered that the real world is a lot more harsh than playing the starring role in a big wedding. It's even more harsh than the one she has now.

Eric said...

The reason, in my opinion, it's appropriate: Because our society places such an emphasis on the institution of marriage as something meaningful.

Three examples of how people perceive marriage as important: (1) As you pointed out in your Feingold post an "oath" of marriage is important (I took issue with your analogy, but not that a marriage "oath" has significance). (2) The institution of marriage is important, why else protect it so vigorously against the gay assualt (I don't recall what your position on this is, so this isn't about you)? (3) Certain tax benefits.

If our country placed less emphasis on "marriage" as an institution, I think you may have a point. But we are all hung-up on how important marriage is, so regardless of the pre-marriage living arrangement, memorializing (legally, spirtually, etc.) a couple's commitment is a huge event.

Two final points: Isn't the appropriateness of a big wedding something that is up to the parties involved? I don't know that you or I can sit and judge whether a wedding is "appropriate" without knowing all the facts. If all we know is that they are living together, that is an incomplete picture.

Finally, shouldn't we be encouraging big weddings in all situations? Imagine the benefit to our economy if everyone had a wedding party of 30 and hundreds of guests.

tk said...

As a southerner who has had the misfortune of attending too many of these unconsumated receptions, I must disagree. Too often the cake was cut and the couple was out in under 20 minutes leaving guests who travelled far with gifts for those pure-hearted, toaster-less souls to wonder why they bothered. I find that to be rude and exceedingly self-absorbed but also to be pretty prevalent amongst the "saving it for the wedding night" set.

Although, Professor Althouse, I must confess that I am biased because I am engaged to mysterious UW blawger, The Rising Jurist, a former student of yours who turned me on to your blog. We have lived together previously and will live together again when I join him in Madison this August. We also hope to have a nice but normal sized wedding next fall. tRJ and I view our wedding not as a time when *we* are to be celebrated but as a time when we can throw a big party for all our friends and famiily that have shared in our relationship over all these long years (and, trust me, it has been long). Since we no longer live in a close-knit society in which loved ones live just down the road, this is the only time that we'll ever be able to bring together distant family and friends for one very happy occasion.

At any rate, I enjoy your blog immensely. It helps me prepare for the future culture shock that will be my moving from the South to Madison.

Thanks and keep it up!

Ann Althouse said...

Eric: If tax consequences and the like were what mattered, why don't people throw huge parties and demand gifts when they incorporate their businesses?

And who are "the parties" involved when a big wedding is done? Just the couple? No, everyone who's invited is concerned. When you put on a big event and ask people to come, you need to be offering them something, not just serving your own interests.

Finally, you're asking me to base my opinions of what is appropriate on what people currently think. That's not my game at all. I'm trying to change opinion on this point.

Frankly, I think whether people marry or not (or have sex or not) is their own private business. I wouldn't attach government benefits to it, and I wouldn't expect other people to celebrate it. (This would solve the gay marriage issue, which I sense is at the core of your comment.)

Maybe we should give big parties to people who accomplish something substantial as a result of their coupling: like raising some good kids. But the fact that two people want to live together and have sex? What makes them so f***ing proud of themselves? I say it's ridiculous.

M. Jeeves: Yes, "narcissistic" is the word.

Ann Althouse said...

Tngirl: You've identified another way to give a bad wedding. I'd just say as a general rule for anyone giving any party: you've taken on the obligation to make other people happy. If you imagine you've summoned them over to make you happy, you're giving a rotten party. It's a difficult trick to enjoy your own party, if you take this basic advice seriously. But that's what it takes to be a great host/hostess. Good luck planning a great wedding.

mcg said...

"look, they're finally able to have sex and yet they are hanging out, dancing here with us!"

Funny you should say that, that's why my wife and I skipped out of the reception early before any official sendoff. We didn't even have one planned, frankly. But I would definitely reject an accusation like tngirl's that doing so was rude. Our guests were having so much fun that, by then, they did not miss us. And that was the idea: the wedding was for us; the reception was for them.

Renee said...

I'd just say as a general rule for anyone giving any party: you've taken on the obligation to make other people happy.

But there's the rub. It used to be that the bride's parents were the hosts and the party didn't really get started until the bridal couple left.

Since weddings have turned into spectacles of self-glorification with brides demanding to party until the last bride's maid is standing and the staff is hauling out the trash, they have been ruined for me.

Call me a romantic, but it is more in keeping with what the tone of a wedding should be for the couple to at least pretend to be anticipating consumating their marriage rather than to party until they are too drunk or too tired to bother.

Tara said...

I used to think like you that the beginning of a committed relationship (at least, a higher level of commitment) is a strange time to throw a big party. After 15 or 25 years is something real to celebrate. Now a lot of my friends are getting married and it's hard not to get caught up in their excitement. It makes them feel bad if I'm not excited, also, and I feel like a scrooge.

The most fun wedding I've been to was relatively large but it was over shabbat and held in a summer camp before the camp season. Younger people stayed on the grounds and others stayed in hotels. People arrived Friday midday to afternoon and left Sunday morning (the actual wedding was Saturday night). We got to spend a lot of time with the couple and with each other, and the whole thing felt like a joyous reunion.

I kind of think that 28 attendants is ridiculous for a wedding whether the couple has been living together for six years or their wedding is the first time they're meeting.

If the wedding couple are going to skip out right away, it's not worth it to travel to a wedding unless you know a lot of the guests. A big fancy cocktail party isn't worth the effort and money. I'm not sure a couple who wants to rush right out should have a big wedding anyway,, are there really that many people who need to see you saying vows??

Ann Althouse said...

So there's a difference of opinion about whether the couple leaving early is bad, but here's what I'm seeing. Years ago, as Renee says, it was expected that the couple would leave early, because they hadn't had sex yet and the reception was really the party thrown by the parents. (There'd be some things the couple would have to do-- first dance, bite of cake, throw the bouquet.)

But now, the couple wants to be at the whole party and is even expected to be because it's more special than the sex at this point and because it's not the parents' party. This seems caused in part by the fact that the couple is older (parents out of the picture or unwilling to pay). But another social trend is that people aren't centered in the same town, so they've got to travel. Now it's a big expense and effort to show up, and they expect the couple to interact with them.

DannyNoonan said...

Do you think it's wrong for a person to have a birthday party on a day that isn't their actual birthday?

I'd tend to look at a wedding in this kind of situation as a party celebrating a couple's relationship. They just waited to make it "official." Lots of couples do this and to me it makes a lot of sense. Living with someone before you marry them makes sense to me. It's a good way to find out whether or not you are compatible with that person. A couple that lives together should want to bring all their friends together to celebrate just like any other couple. I think it would be weird if they had had their party when they moved in together. Having it when they get married seems to make much more sense to me.

Dean said...

Save money on the wedding and spend it on the honeymoon. This does not apply to those whose parents are paying for the wedding, although it could.

Frankly, I think whether people marry or not (or have sex or not) is their own private business. I wouldn't attach government benefits to it, and I wouldn't expect other people to celebrate it.

An interesting idea, Ann, I'll have to give that one some thought. I did read a proposal on dKos (some time back) that would give marriage to the church for each individual church or denomination to conduct and place civil unions under the auspices of the government to solemnize any kind of relationship.

I have wondered at the purpose of a wedding when two people have been living together already. Some of the comments have enlightened me. And, of course, there are those wonderful tax benefits, etc. to consider!

At my daughter's wedding, people grumbled because it took so long to get the post-wedding pictures done! They did this before the toast and cutting the cake.

tngirl:

It sounds as though it will be your first time to Wisconsin. As a Southerner, I can say that the folks up here are pretty nice; they have an accent and talk fast, but you'll get used to that ;^).

Ann Althouse said...

Danny: When I was writing this post, I felt like it was something from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and the birthday thing your raise actually is. I think Larry David's position is that you have a three day window. But let me say that in reality no one in the history of the world has ever celebrated or even thought of celebrating his actual birthday. You're always looking back on a day in the past and remembering it. If you can find anyone who cares that it's the anniversary of that event -- other than your parents and your friends (while you're still a kid) -- you're lucky. But don't push it.

Anyway, about weddings, and responding to your point, Danny. I'm just saying that it's a different sort of event to get married when you're already living together and giving my taste tips for the occasion. You really used the expression "makes sense" a lot in you comment! But does a big traditional wedding "make sense" in this modern context. It may "make sense" that people still want the same celebration, but I'm saying it would be more tasteful to do something else. To me, it "makes sense" for people who feel motivated to do one thing to think through whether it's in good taste and will be a good experience for other people.

Ann Althouse said...

Dean: I've been making this point about de-linking government and marriage for years. I can't find my old post on the subject on the blog (because I've written about marriage so much). It's not going to happen, of course. But maybe some day taxing will be dramatically changed and the question of marriage will fall out automatically (e.g., flat tax, sales tax).

Funny you'd say people in Wisconsin talk fast! If you were coming from NYC, you'd say prepare to hear everyone tell you you're talking too fast.

DannyNoonan said...

I think my angle on this is much different from yours because I don't look at a "traditional wedding" as traditional. I look at it as a good excuse to have a party regardless of the party's similarity to other parties. A party for the sake of celebrating, not for the sake of tradition. To me, "tasteful" only comes into play with regard to the style, music, food and other trimmings at the party.

I suppose I'm no where close to being married yet. And if I were, I suppose the future Mrs. Noonan might be more concerned with tradition than I am. But I'm guessing that if/when I meet a young lady that is kind enough to marry me, I'd like to throw a big party for all of our friends and family no matter what the living situation happens to be.

Ann Althouse said...

Danny: A good party is a good party. Too often, weddings don't really cut it as parties, though. All I'm saying is that if the couple is already living together, they don't have an event that is intrinsically exciting.

Dean said...

Funny you'd say people in Wisconsin talk fast! If you were coming from NYC, you'd say prepare to hear everyone tell you you're talking too fast.

I was just speaking to the slow-talking southerner stereotype. I've heard some New Yorkers talk fast, but the fastest English speaker I ever heard was Australian.

Back to the point at hand. I think the bigger reason for the couple remaining at the reception is the fact that people have travelled far to get there and the couple probably wants to spend time with them before everyone departs. Like a high school or college reunion?

Simon Kenton said...

I remarried recently, after 18 years a bachelor. The illusion that a wedding and reception have anything to do with the couple is for the very young. What is happening is that the families are merging, and society is resorbing its errant ones. The couple may symbolize this, but are pawns for larger forces. Continuity, being strands in the social loom, assuming a position between photos of stilted but beaming dead black-and-white relatives and puzzled polychromatic little ring- and flower-bearers: you are being ensconced in your time and milieu. Something much more like an imprimatur than like a futuntur is stamped on you.

In the matter of gifts. We had just merged two medium-sized houses into a small big house, and in the process distended the coffers and bulged the spoilbanks of the county dump with load on load of American dreck accreted over decades. We told everyone, "No Gifts!" and this mostly worked. But we did get one gift repeatedly. I had told my new-wife-to-be that I wanted the reception staffed with off-duty Hooters waitresses and fed with a barbequed pig. Very sweetly she agreed about the pig, but told me the Hooters waitresses would have to wait for my third wife.

The pig was the hit of the season, the belle of the ball, wholly upstaging the late-middle-aged maridos. It was prepared traditionally, with an apple in the mouth, and candied cherries for eyes. Many of our friends are talented photographers, but it is a little like taking a reasonably good picture of a great beauty in her prime: how much talent does it take? The Pig was sensationally photogenic. Our one repeated wedding gift comprises a great sheaf, a whole electronic folder, of profile shots of The Pig.

Renee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Renee said...

Like a high school or college reunion?

Considering that it's almost always high school & college friends who monopolize the couples' attention, whether they're from out of town or not, I think you're right, but that's what the bachelor & bachelorette parties are for.

As Simon said, the function of the reception is for the two families to get to know each other. I stand by my assertion the the bride & groom should have something better to do.

Large lavish weddings are only in good taste when the bride's parents are hosting and the couple haven't been shacking up.

If the couple want to throw themselves a big party, that's what they should do, when they get back from their honeymoon.

JB said...

I don't remember where, but I remember either a conversation or someone's blog post, where someone was talking about how the marriage ceremony has become more important as the "value" of marriage has declined. In essence because marriage isn't as much of a life change, we play dress up for the wedding so that everyone feels that this wedding actually means something.

I do think there's some truth to that, as our society devalues marriage, the ceremony is the only thing left, considering that probably most of our parents or grandparents had a relatively small ceremony compared to what's expected of us today.

I think you're pretty much right on Ann, and gosh this and the marriage oath point, you sure you're not becoming a little bit of a Social Con, of course, you'd always be welcome. ;-)

lawrence krubner said...

"There is no new household being set up"

No? At least among my friends, the attitude is that you live together until you want to have children, and then you get married. Among my friends, gifts would still be appropriate, because the fact that they are marrying suggests that they will be having children soon. And we all know what an economic strain having kids is.

lawrence krubner said...

"Eric: If tax consequences and the like were what mattered, why don't people throw huge parties and demand gifts when they incorporate their businesses?"

I think launch parties are fairly common. When I started my own company, we had a party. The only reason I didn't expect my friends to offer some kind of gifts is because most of them had already invested some small sum (like $100) to help get the company going.

A close friend of mine started a farm last year (a Community Shares program) and asked the whole crowd they knew to come out for a work party, with pizza, beer, and lots of heavy lifting.

Really, I can't think of anyone who starts a business nowadays and doesn't have a party, though sometimes they wait a few months to have that party. If it is a software project, as ours was, it is nice if you wait till you have enough of the software done that you can at least show a demo at the party.

Ann Althouse said...

JB: Do I seem like a "social con"? I guess I've got my own distinct mix. I'd say I respect the genuine traditionalists, that I don't seek a traditionalist life for myself, and I tend to scoff at the fence-straddlers. People who live together and then want a big traditional wedding are very conspicuous fence straddlers. Be something! Stand for something! Think! That's my message.

Lawrence: Let these friends who marry to have children have baby showers at the appropriate time. That's about the gifts. As to corporation-forming parties. Cool. I'm for marriage parties too. I'm for parties. But, damn, you've got to make good parties, that are good for the guests and don't imagine yourself to be a show in and of yourself.

lawrence krubner said...

"But the fact that two people want to live together and have sex? What makes them so f***ing proud of themselves? I say it's ridiculous."

I'm not sure I understand this comment. Before the marriage, you could argue that all the couple is doing is "living together and having sex". But after the wedding they are supposedly doing more than that. They are building a life together.

From the traditionalist point of view, the wedding is a chance for two people to come before their God, their families and their communities and make a sacred commitment to one another. Mere sex is replaced by the bond of a sacred oath.

Do you see it the other way around? Your comment seems to imply that you do.

mcg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mcg said...

No? At least among my friends, the attitude is that you live together until you want to have children, and then you get married. Among my friends, gifts would still be appropriate, because the fact that they are marrying suggests that they will be having children soon. And we all know what an economic strain having kids is.

That's what baby showers are for. Or do your friends forego those?

mcg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mcg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mcg said...

Deleted my last posts. I decided I must be misunderstanding you completely.

Ann Althouse said...

Mcg, you wrote (and deleted -- I don't see why) "uou began by criticizing 'sham' weddings by people who are already de facto married, and now you're suggesting that even the most traditional of weddings is ridiculous... So if they are, what's the big deal of having a sham version of one?"

That's a good and observant question. I'd say that weddings are romantic fantasy shows, not practical necessities. People in the traditional situation -- especially virgins -- look right putting on these displays. Others are miscast and should choose a different, better role. Hence my taste advice.

JB said...

Do I seem like a social con?

Sure!

Although, I really don't know, I think you summed it up well when you said that you respect the genuine traditionalists, and have a problem with the conspicuous fence-straddlers.

I will say this much coming off of 3 years of law-school, a respect for genuine traditionalists, is not one I saw very much, so maybe it's a matter of one's milleu.

I remember discussing these type of issues and generally people just scoff, after all, "What right do you have to judge someone else's lifestyle?" I appreciate the refreshing honesty.

Not that social cons like myself aren't hypocrites now and again, but perhaps one difference is that of apology vs. excuse.

Timothy said...

Some of the biggest and best parties I've been to have been wedding receptions for couples who lived together (or at a bare minimum, knew each other in the Biblical sense already). I tend to not obsess about the sex thing and instead focus on visiting with friends and relatives, and having a good time. If you can't have a good time because the bride and groom have slept together before, then that's kind of sad ...

Ann Althouse said...

Timothy: I could have a good time if it's a good party. And, again, I don't care what people's private sexual habits are. I just don't think a traditional wedding ceremony is intrinsically entertaining when the couple is already living together. And I think a big wedding ceremony (as opposed to a reception/party) is not in very good taste under the circumstances. Especially the bizarrely huge ceremony planned by the "runaway bride."

paul2005 said...

This shows a predisposition to dabble with trivia. Who cares about sex - it's not a mystical thing you know - it's perfectly normal. There is no moral superiority to not having had sex before getting married.

It's a c-o-n-v-e-n-t-i-o-n which not everyone chooses to follows. Much like some countries choose to drive on the left, others on the right. Get over it - it's trivial.

Ann Althouse said...

Paul: Oversized weddings are a cultural phenomenon worth criticizing. Why should noticing that something is "conventional" be the end of the discussion? But the expanding big weddings of today aren't even a convention. It's a new development. I guess I don't see your point at all, though I seem to detect a lot of defensiveness in your comment and in those of some of the other people who object to the point I made about good taste. I think people are defensive because they want everything they want including not to be criticized.

Ann Althouse said...

And, Paul, you're just not reading my comments competently. I've said about ten times that my point isn't about sexual morality and I don't care about what people do in private. At least do me the courtesy of reading what I've written before commenting.

Joseph White said...

"I'm for parties."

Announcing the formation of the Party Party, an independent political party for those who love parties! What are we for? Parties! What do we want? Parties! When do we want them? Now! Okay, maybe on Friday, because I have to work tomorrow.

lawrence krubner said...

"That's what baby showers are for. Or do your friends forego those?"

Hardly the same thing. There should be some moment when a community of friends and families can celebrate the establishment of a new household. If the couple in that household want to wait a few years before holding that celebration, it seems to me to be wholly their decision.

I could agree with a criticism of huge weddings, but mine would be a general criticism, and not limited to certain types of couples.

M. Simon said...

I once had theopportunity to observe the mating rituals of the upper class south second hand (as a totally outside observer). I got to observe several frat parties as a commercial traveler.

The women were all looking for the best ride. i.e. for the most part love was secondary to the commercial transaction.

The men for the most part seemed like stupid sheep anxious to get fleeced.

fdvss said...

I think you're all leaving out the greed quotient here. M. Jeeves said this gal had 8 bridal showers? And almost 600 guests? Good Lord, how much china and silverware does one couple need? And can I just guess she didn't register at Target and JC Penney?

the Rising Jurist said...

Did Althouse just bash my wedding plans? "Tngirl: You've identified another way to give a bad wedding." I can't tell.

Either way, the Tngirl/tRJ wedding will be a 10-minute ceremony followed by a full-on hoedown and it will be advertised as such. Anyone who comes can expect to be well-fed, well-kegged and well-entertained. Anyone who leaves disappointed has only themselves to blame.

Ann Althouse said...

RJ: I was referring to the reception where the couple is "out in under 20 minutes leaving guests who travelled far with gifts for those pure-hearted, toaster-less souls to wonder why they bothered." (Though others have commented to say that that is in fact traditional and appropriate.)

Suzie Nolen Bennett said...

Many of the comments I've read here seem to assume that most weddings occur between 20-somethings intent on spending as much of Daddy's money as they can to throw what amounts to a reunion for their college buddies; that guests at a wedding attend and bring gifts because they feel an obligation; and that throwing a wedding at all is a waste of money, time, and emotional resources. I call such weddings, "first weddings." It's no surprise when such couples don't last long past the first child.

I've worked in the wedding industry for many years and yes, I've seen plenty of what I just described. However, I've also seen as many weddings that were just the opposite: the commitment of two people (not gender-specific) to each other and each other's families, celebrated with the people who care about them. These couples are much more fun to work with (and their weddings tend to be smaller, by the way).

It seems like any wedding with 25+ attendants went out of control long before the bride hopped a bus. She's probably not the only member of the wedding party who snapped - just the only one who made the news.

drecks said...

I think it's worth noting that your critique seems to have many parts, not all of them consistent.

Part of your critique is directed towards "big" weddings in general, especially those hosted by brides and grooms who have engaged in premarital sex or have cohabitated before marriage.

Part of your critique is directed towards brides and grooms who have engaged in premarital sex or have cohabitated before marriage and have "traditional" weddings.

Part of your critique seems to result from attending weddings in the past that you viewed to not be entertaining.

Finally, part of your critique seems to result from the recent mega-wedding left behind by the "runaway bride."

But you muddle these all together and it just ends up sounding, well, an angry cocktail with a slight twist of pettiness.

First, the problem with having a "big" wedding.

Since "big" is an obvious subjective term, I don't know the limits of size which give rise to your ire. You seem to be working off of the recent news of a 600 guest wedding, so maybe that's what you're referring to when you're using "big."

Since "big" is such a relative term, it may be more important to clarify the personal relationships (or lack thereof) the bride and groom or their families have with invited guests.

A wedding that happens to be "big" because somebody is blessed with large families and numerous friends is certainly quite a different affair than one stacked with business associates and acquaintances of acquaintances.

Second, basically you generally seem to throw out the idea a few times that "traditional" or religious wedding ceremonies are distasteful or inappropriate if the couple to be married has engaged in behavior that goes against "tradition" or religious teachings.

For example:

I think it would be tasteful [for cohabitating engaged couples] to have the wedding performed privately, down at City Hall some day, and then announce the news in an invitation to a big party that occurs on another day and that specifies no gifts.

and

I'd say that weddings are romantic fantasy shows, not practical necessities. People in the traditional situation -- especially virgins -- look right putting on these displays. Others are miscast and should choose a different, better role. Hence my taste advice.

To my knowledge from the religious perspective, engaging in pre-marital sin, whether it be cohabitating or having sex, does not deny you from having either a religious ceremony or a traditional ceremony. In the context of the Christian faith, sinners are forgiven (if they seek such forgiveness) and they are certainly welcome and actually encouraged, to have their church or religion sanctify their marriage.

For some, the act of getting engaged can spur a rededication to their faith. To argue that it would be more tasteful or appropriate for these couples to have a "private" ceremony in a secular atmosphere like City Hall is pretty close-minded and doesn't respect the ebb and flow relationship people are bound to have with their religious faith. What would Christianity be if it did not offer people the ability to return to faith, sins forgiven?

Anyway, a born-again Christian (or any person with a reaffirmed devotion to their faith) with a sexual history could certainly see a religious wedding ceremony as a "practical necessity."

Maybe you should consider this before you flippantly deride a non-virgin bride or groom as "miscast" in their own religious ceremony.

(Sidebar-How the hell do you know the sexual history of the wedding participants anyway? Do you ask around? Do you check to see if the wedding dress is white or ivory? Presenting yourself as a virgin and actually factually being a virgin are entirely two separate things. And trust me, nostalgia for the good 'ol days is littered with plenty of don't ask, don't tell pre-marital sex encounters...)

Is getting married for you all about having religiously legal sex? You talk about receptions having an "excitement" and a "glow" because everybody (or at least you) are thinking about how the newly married couple are going to have a proper romp at some point. Acknowledging the obvious reality of certain people's motivations to get married, that's a bit crass, isn't it?

I don't know, I could go on and on about this...and obviously have. Ultimately, I think there's something a bit queer about advocating the denial of a traditional or religious ceremony to a couple because of their nontraditional or religious transgressions, while hammering away at other people how your point doesn't refer to sexual morality.

It does. You argue that the "taste" and format of a wedding ceremony should be altered according to a person's sexual history.

How does that not refer to sexual morality?

In the end, I hope that you hold to your own pleas and "stand for something" and forcefully reject any invitations you might receive to "big" weddings or "traditional" weddings that you prejudge to be "inappropriate" or lacking "taste" hosted by cohabitators or sexually active couples.

Otherwise, it could appear a bit hypocritical to attack those brides and grooms you dismiss as "very conspicuous fence straddlers" for either merely bowing to or sincerely choosing to embrace convention and tradition on their wedding day.

boringmadedull said...

Warning! Reactionary Post!

At this point, there probably isn't much left to be said.

However, if you have been living together, a big wedding is unseemly. It's better to marry than not; put on a nice suit and hit the JP or county clerk's office. Go to vegas and get an elvis impersonator.

Generally speaking, I think that the wedding ceremony & reception is over rated. Focus on the marriage. That's what counts, not the party.

Ann Althouse said...

Boring: Why is that reactionary? I think the big wedding trend is retrograde -- completely post-feminism. It's quite hard to see whose interests are served other than the wedding industry itself.

amanda said...

I just came across this and read through all of these and find it quite distateful to assume that all couples who have "shacked up" do not deserve the chance to celebrate with their family and friends. If someone doesn't want to celebrate with the couple then they shouldn't go-- simple as that. The couple (or the parents) spends thousounds (tens of thousands) often times to pay for the wedding/reception, so as a future bride who is currently "shacking up" if I someone didn't think it were appropriate for me to have a wedding that I want and DESERVE, then I would rather they not celebrate with them.

Today it is socially acceptable for a couple to marry in their thirties, so to assume that all of these couples are holy and pure is pure naive! I'm only 25, but I'm working the corporate ladder, and there are some places where it isn't exactly fiscally responsible to want to live in your own place when your fiance is living/working in the same town.

I don't know about you but in the DC metro area, it just doesn't make sense.

I won't have 25 attendants, only 4 on each side. Twenty-five even for a virgin who hasn't left her parent's money is still tacky. But both me and that tacky bride with too many friends deserve the wedding we want, especially if we are paying for it ourselves.

I'm happy to know you aren't on my invitation list.

--PS - If someone on my list wants to come and celebrate, but can't afford a gift, that is fine. It isn't about the gifts, it is about having a great time and allowing friends and family to celebrate the couple.

blogme said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
PunkGeisha said...

I have to agree with amanda and completely DISAGREE with Ann Althouse. Weddings are a celebration of love and togetherness.

I wonder what kind of plastic bubble Ann is living in to think that 2 people can not get married if they've already slept together or lived together.

No, I don't think it's appropriate for 2 people to live/sleep together before marriage but I won't look down upon them or condemn them for it either.

Might want to do a reality check Ann - this is no longer the 1800's and people do live together before marriage. That doesn't make a wedding a "de-flowering pageant".

scrlet said...

Isn't it amazing what you run across on the internet?
I was looking for some information and/or advice on living with my boyfriend and wind up finding out that people think that in doing so I have no right to a big wedding.

Ouch!

Having dated for 2 years and living 4 blocks apart, we've reached a point where we feel that it is valid next step. I merely wanted advice in order to make sure that this works as well as can be expected (bumps/storms are a given in any relationship).

But in doing so I must give up any dream I may have of a huge wedding ceremony and perhaps even forgo the white dress. Shall I pick scarlet?

However, if we maintained our seperate residences, determining each night where to stay, I could have it all, despite being no more pure than having lived together.

That seems odd. Given that living together is a step towards marriage and we are a few years away from that because I am not ready to begin that part of my life yet. Yes, I know living together is a big step, hence the reason we are now researching and discussing it 6 months ahead of time. But I still view marriage as a huge and different step. It is because I value marriage that I think that living together is an important step.

What kind of wedding do I want? I don't know. I just want him and my family and friends and a sense of joy and commitment.

But if I want to wear a white dress, invite my 4 best college friends, my best HS friend and my cousin who is like a sister to me to stand beside me, I'll be damned if I'll invite anyone who will sniff,
"Hmph, you know she lived with him. If she won't wear the scarlet at least she can do is not make us suffer her wedding ceremony and just give us food and drink."

Anonymous said...

As a parent my question is, do I need to pay for the wedding even though the 'happy couple' have been living together and the groom makes more money than we do? They say that they want a small wedding, but I'm still wondering about our obligation to the wedding.

bride2008 said...

Well....I live with my fiance and we do not have sex. We have lived with each other for 2 years. We are getting married in May 2008. When we moved in together we had to because of finances. When you are young and starting money is not growing off trees. Yes, we may sleep in the same bed, BUT WE DO NOT HAVE SEX.... I think that people judge way to much. You may not have a clue as to why they live toghter. We had no choice. We lived in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina. Our houses were flooded and rent went sky high. We had no option to consolidate households. Unless the bride and groom are walking around with a sign on their heads that says they are not virgins you should not judge them... Nobody likes being accused for something they have not done... Right?

gecko said...

In response to the first post. Why all the animosity for a couple that would like to celebrate their vows in style? Does it really seem all that unusual and distasteful for a couple who having been living together, even for years to want a big affair? You only get married once (well, hopefully), and it seems unfair to me to deny a couple a fancy wedding day simply because they've had sex, and have already started a life together. Most brides who have a big affair and don't live together have already slept together, and many more try out living together by spending weekends at their boyfriends/girlfriends house. Most of my friends who are living with their significant others and who have not yet been married are only doing so because they can't afford to get married. Does it not seem like those who can't afford to get married are perhaps the one's who are most deserving of gifts? Did they not already try to start their lives off together without any gifts? Please! Just think about what your celebrating when you go to a wedding where the bride and groom are seemingly doing things in the right order! What are the probabilities that the bride and groom have not yet slept together? Although, Im sure some don't sleep together before hand, its my consensus that most do. It would seem as though those who have lived together before hand are just as deserving of their big day as any other....so, stop patronizing them with your ideals that are unwarranted. They make you appear bitter towards anyone who would like to celebrate their union. Lets not forget that this IS the point of a wedding, and those who have not yet tied the knot, and are doing so before living together are just as guilty of celebrating an "existing relationship" than those who live together beforehand.

Festo said...

Weddings are marvelous if done carefully according to the budget. I know a couple that was nearly selling home one month after their wedding as a result to have pleased their guests almost to the maximum!

For those who think have money, you rather use 50% of the budget for the party and distribute the other 50% to the poor who is amongst you for almost every one will be pleased of that and will never forget your wedding other wise it is almost impossible to please children of Adam.

Do whatever you do to please your Creator.

Originally Altoids said...

I have been suddenly struck with the belief that the online masses should know what I think.

I think I understand the author's objection. Traditional weddings are fraught with symbolic meaning. The father gives away the bride. The bride takes the name of the husband. The bride wears white. And who is the guy at the front, who has the power to pronounce them "man and wife"? I forgot, someone remind me.

It's is distasteful because if the couple hasn't followed any of the traditions, yet has a traditional wedding proclaiming fidelity to these traditions, that's quite a bit of false advertising. It's like a man wearing a military-esqe uniform and asking that everyone call him captain, even though he has never served. There's nothing wrong with having a traditional wedding (or wearing a uniform). There's nothing wrong with asking people to play along. It's just distasteful to live non-traditionally for years, then run to tradition and pretend for a day, because traditional weddings are somehow more respectable. Don't be a fence-straddler. Traditions are either valid or invalid.

I don't quite agree with the author on this one. I think most traditionalists are happy to see that even non-traditionalist want traditional weddings, as an admission of the enduring social power of tradition. Even if they don't follow the rules, they recognize it as an ideal, an aspiration, or, at least, as a superior life-style brand.

To the traditionalist, a fence-straddler is preferable to someone on the other side.

Sabrina said...

Personally, I think most weddings today are just a case of one-upmanship...like the bride is saying, see? I got a M-A-N and you don't! Whether one lives together beforehand or not, I'd like to see weddings on a more tasteful and simple basis and not used as some declaration of social status.

lisa said...

Living together and having a big wedding are completely mutually exclusive. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.

I suppose if you define weddings as the mark of a new life for the couple (physically), then I guess you would have a point.

But marriage (i.e weddings) are much more than that. They are a life-long commitment and a very large promise between two people. There are also many other meanings for wedding (such as tradition, legal status, etc..)

And what about couples that are too young, too old, previously married, and gay? Do they also do not deserve to have a big wedding?

Ann Althouse said...

"And what about couples that are too young, too old, previously married, and gay? Do they also do not deserve to have a big wedding?"

It's not really about what people deserve. I'm just talking about what sort of event is a good idea... is in good taste. All the couples you list there would come within my rule if the were not already living together.

I myself got married a few years after writing this post. It was my second marriage, and we were both in our 50s. We chose to get married together on a mountaintop with no one else there but us, which is a way you can get married in Colorado. I didn't want a wedding... didn't want the responsibility of making a lot of other people have a good time and so forth. I wasn't interested in spending my time like that and worrying about such things.