Monday, September 04, 2006

Wide World of Weddings

The Washington Post Magazine this weekend ran a multiple article set of stories about weddings. One was about a large traditional ethnic wedding. Another story is about a redneck wedding (although the Post is too polite to use the “R” word, it is implicit). The final one is by a staff writer and her struggles with a wedding planner on the archetypal over-the-top wedding. As someone that hasn't been in the market for wedding services in a long time, sticker shock is the biggest factor. The Latin wedding cost $30,000 and even the redneck wedding, where the biggest expense behind the live band was the keg rental, ran six grand. The wedding planner alone in the third article cost four thousand dollars and the tone of the article suggests it wasn't money well spent.

These articles, a recent chat narrative on the Achenblog, and my own upcoming twentieth anniversary made me think back about weddings I have been to over the years. I’ve been to between a dozen and twenty weddings, which doesn’t seem like a lot to me, but it’s enough form impressions. I’ve been to weddings in public parks, on the beach, elegant churches, and rental halls. I even crashed one wedding long before Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn ruined that gambit. At all these weddings, the location or the cost of the food rarely has any correlation to the quality of the celebration.

Everybody has a stage in their life when they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time shopping for wedding gifts as all their friends pair off and get hitched. My wife’s college was a small Baptist-affiliated school in western North Carolina. For several years, we found ourselves driving days to get to weddings where the ceremony lasted less than ten minutes and the reception was held in the church basement. We went to these not for the booze, since they were usually dry, but to celebrate with old friends.

The funnest rehearsal dinner I have ever been to was at the wedding of one of my wife’s closest college friends. The venue was at the groom’s mobile home where he lived with his daughter from a first marriage on a huge chunk of land in the Appalachian foothills. Like the Jeff Foxworthy joke, the directions to the house included the phrase “turn off the paved road.” The food was chicken stew that was cooking in a cast iron kettle hanging from a tripod over a wood fire. The event, like most of the western Carolina weddings I have been to, was dry, but the combination of fun people, great location, and cool fall weather just gave everything a glow of relaxed festivity. The most important part of wedding are the memories. Although in my next life, I have vowed to cultivate more friends that are heavy drinkers.

Blatant Comment Whoring™:
What was the most interesting place you have been to for a wedding?


sage said...

that iron kettle chicken pot sounds a lot like a "chicken bog" which is more of a "Down East" dinner in the carolinas, a big pot with chicken and rice and sausage.

As for my favorite wedding memory, I'll have to think about it for a bit, I've been to too many weddings, maybe it was the one where the groom and family got stuck in traffic due to an accident and the wedding was held up for nearly 3 hours--they allowed us to snack at the reception! Here from Michele's.

Anonymous said...

I've been to very traditional weddings for the most part. Only two weren't held in a church. Those two were held outside. One in my aunt's large backyard. The other at a local public garden.

Michele sent me.

Anonymous said...

I havnen't been to many, but the most fun was in a little Indian village north of the Arctic Circle. The bride and groom had lived together for 12 years and had three kids together. They wore traditional Athabaskan clothing and then there was a big potlatch with moose and caribou after. And fiddle dancing!! It was the best wedding I’ve even been to!

Impetua said...

We had our second wedding in the lobby of a big auditorium, surrounded by others doing the same. You could hear all kinds of ceremonies going on all around and the occasional "Mazel Tov!" and breaking glass. This was right at the beginning of the month or so that gay marriage was legal in Multnomah County. It was then declared unconstitutional and we got our sixty bucks back, but we stay together because of the baby. :)

Anonymous said...

It is so common in my area for those Baptist "have the reception in the basement" weddings. I hate those things. And it would be regular, nice middle class people doing it. Why? It is less common with the internet and more cable shows showing them the correct way I suppose.
When my husband and I married (last year) we were planning a private wedding and then a large Country Club reception with a great band but the list kept getting larger and I just wanted something more us. So we took our immediate family to our favorite get away spot in the Bahamas and had the perfect destination wedding for us. I couldn't believe that we had 40 friends fly over and attend! It was great.

The most outlandish I have seen was one of my best friends had to go to a honky tonk for a Halloween wedding. OMG. I didn't know people that uncouth actually exitsted.

yellojkt said...

The chicken stew was in a heavy cream based broth. I've never seen it in a restaurant, but it was delicious. I also need to cultivate more obscurely ethnic friends with unusual wedding customs.

The "western" style wedding is overtaking Asian cultures. The wedding we stumbled across in Vietnam could have been in a VFW hall in Omaha for the style of attire. White wedding dress witha veil and tuxes and suits.

Anonymous said...

My co-worker married a Chinese/Vietnamese/American, and they had two weddings, an American-style one and a traditional Vietnamese ceremony. I saw the pictures but did not attend.

The most exotic wedding I have attended was a Haitian-American ceremony, conducted in Creole and French, with thirty or so bridesmaids and ushers who performed elaborate choreography to Motown classics and contemporary r&b as they slowly progressed down the aisle in preparation for the maid of honor, and then the bride. It was beautiful, it was over the top, it was exuberant and amazing. And the reception was a lot of fun, too.


I want to see the study that correlates the amount of money spent on the wedding with the future success of the marriage. Whenever I see people going crazy over wedding preparations, I always think, I hope they have enough energy left over for the marriage, because that's where the effort really pays off.

Anonymous said...

The weddings I went to when I was a teenager, for older cousins, were fun because I could usually cadge some liquor. The most interesting one I've been to was the reception for Chinese-Vietnamese friends. There were only a few of us Caucasian Americans, so they seated us at the same table with a young cousin who explained what the food and customs were. They served an elaborate, many course Chinese-type dinner - very formal, very delicious. The bride changed into about 6 different dresses - and the couple came and visited with each table. Much good food, much cognac. Dessert was cold red bean soup - mmm (not!).

My own wedding was very small - and I paid for it because I was in my mid-twenties and my husband and I had been living together for a few years. I'm appalled at the huge weddings that seem to be required these days.


Anonymous said...

Hi there!

This is not quite the wierdest place I've been to for a wedding, but its the wierdest experience.

I went for this one wedding, and I was given instructions (which I was not very confident of but I had no other idea so I followed them anyway). I got to the place and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that there indeed was a wedding going on.

So I walk around looking for my seat. As I do that I noticed there's nobody there I recognised. Then the bride and groom appeared. That took the cake (pun not intended) because I didn't recognise them either.

As it turned out, there were TWO weddings going on in the same building, only in different restaurants (and the directions I got was to the wrong restaurant). I ended up buying a sandwich for dinner and offending an old friend. Sheesh.


I got married barefoot, on the beach in the Bahamas, after dating that girl for almost 14 years....Our marriage only lasted two years though :)go figure...

Mooselet said...

Most weddings I've been to have been very traditional Boston Irish-Catholic affairs - I always asked if there was a mass or not and hoped I could just skip out and go to the reception instead.

My own wedding 6 years ago was in the Cayman Islands, which was great except it was supposed to be on St. Thomas until a hurricane got there first!! Since it was just the two of us no one else had to worry, but I spent 24 hours wondering if I was going to have to fly to Vegas to be married by Elvis when the cruise was over. For our wedding lunch we went to KFC - no kidding!!! I also just watched the webcam video of my friend getting married in Vegas this past weekend (minus Elvis) - my first Vegas wedding.

So many people worry about having this perfect wedding and I think they miss the point - you're making a huge commitment to spend your life with someone. Spend more time and effort on that because the $1,000 fillet mignon won't count for squat if you end up in divorce court.

yellojkt said...

Mooselet has a picture of her KFC reception here.

Destination weddings are getting real popular. A coworker of my wife is thinking of one. But it will be her third marriage and her second husband, so it's not quite the same thing as the first go-around.

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