But Cookie Cutter Weddings Taste So Good

I got married fairly recently (baby was born 9 months after the wedding, and she’s not yet a year old) so the wedding-planning experience is still fresh in my mind. One irksome tendency among women posting on message boards like The Knot is the denigration of traditional weddings as “cookie cutter weddings.” If you didn’t choose a unique “theme” for your wedding (like “boats” or “King Kong”), if you held it in a normal venue (i.e., a church), if you wore a white dress from David’s Bridal, then the implication is that you accepted empty forms instead of expressing your own authentic individuality. Worst of all are the couples who don’t write their own vows; their very affections have been defined for them by others.

But I think writing your own vows is, in many cases, less sincere than using the ones from the Book of Common Prayer (though there are circumstances in which writing your own may be warranted: for instance, if it is expected in your culture, or if you are a non-Christian for whom the traditional vows would be dishonest). During emotionally powerful experiences, it is common for people to lament the indequacy of language: “words fail me,” “I cannot express how much . . . ” It is for moments like this that liturgy and ritual are given to us. Ritual becomes a kind of “structured silence” in which our own mental chatter ceases, instead allowing a greater power to speak through us. To refuse ritual, to insist that you are still perfectly articulate and self-sufficient, is to deny the sublimity of the experience and thus to be less “true” to what is really going on.

Of course, the institution of marriage is not defined by the individual wills of those who enter it. That’s one reason to retain the traditional vows. But I also think that the inner experience of love demands rituals commensurate with its true power.

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One thought on “But Cookie Cutter Weddings Taste So Good

  1. To refuse ritual, to insist that you are still perfectly articulate and self-sufficient, is to deny the sublimity of the experience and thus to be less “true” to what is really going on.

    Agreed. We’ve been to weddings over the years that were – well – over the top, to put it charitably. I’ve never had a problem with folks doing whatever they care to at the reception, it’s their dime and I don’t have to stay, but the ceremonies are unfortunate in their sheer lack of soberness. Is it any wonder the vows aren’t taken seriously later, since they weren’t ever serious to begin with?

    I’m a big fan of “cookie cutter” weddings, myself. We’ve already told our daughters that we’ll do something nice, but it will be wedding at the Church, reception at home. It’s your life, not prom, surely dignity plays a role. We went to a wedding in a tiny town about a year ago. The couple were married in the tiny church with a very traditional ceremony (not Catholic, but High Church-y), and then served cake and punch on her grandmothers porch. It was so sweet and authentic (I hate the trendy use of that word, but it fits). There was no question what we were celebrating, which is not always the case at weddings these days.

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