Weddings as Art

A wedding service, like good art, is an act more profound than is readily apparent. Whatever it is that happens at a wedding makes things more than they usually are: words are more than words, a dress is more than a dress, and a woman and a man are more than mere women and men. In a wedding “I will” is a covenant, a dress is the clothing of righteousness and chastity, a ring is a near-eternal bond, and the one who is (for a moment) Man takes the Other back into himself as more than before. Adam feels his once-aching side and stares at his Helper God has given him: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken. I will love her as my own body.”

In all of this a man shares in Christ-likeness to the Church, and the gospel is shared through a fusion that is due both the graciousness redemptive nature of Creation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the couple.

I am not sure what a Sacrament is, but I don’t fault Catholics for thinking marriage is one. Whatever it is that happens at a wedding is some sort of holy mystery.

This is not to say that the wedding, and the marriage, are entirely mysterious and mystical. I remember talking with Mike when he came back from his honeymoon. “Mike, is there a qualitative difference in your relationship with Courtney?” He thought for a long moment, and throughout the conversation he never settled on an answer.

“The fights are the same, we are the same people, and we both brought our individual struggles into the marriage,” he told me.

This is a relief to me; it means I am the same man now as the man that Kelly will be married to after the wedding, and she the same woman. (Though there is some fear and shame associated with that thought). It means that all the work we’ve invested into the relationship will carry over. And it means that our marriage has the potential to be wondrously ordinary.

What does any of this have to do with planning and executing a wedding?

First of all, I think that it reinforces the fact that there is such a thing as getting married well. To get married well means that what marriage is shows up in both the universal and personal senses. The universal sense is the institution and tradition of marriage that those involved (all present) will participate in. It is the sense that I will be the Man, and she the Woman. The personal sense is the uniqueness and characters of those involved. Things will have Kelly’s flair, her mom’s practicality and consideration, and the boisterousness of my friends. The people will not see Adam as they see me, they will see me, and possibly Adam in and through me. There will be mistakes and they will be welcome because those involved in the wedding are imperfect and they are welcome.

The consequences of denying either the universal or personal nature of the wedding are either a wedding that is completely untraditional (and thus Unchristian), or completely sterile.

Secondly, I think that if a wedding is like art (or liturgy) special care should be taken in considering where the participants’ attention is focused by the service. In this way, planning the service should be akin to writing a story or painting a picture. The primary questions surround the climax of the artwork. What is the climax of the wedding service? Kelly and I talked about and soon we both settled on the vows, which culminate in the kiss. Therefore, the rest of the service should build up to that moment; the observers’ attention should be focused on what regards the importance of that moment.

Practically that means that the universal and personal importance of that moment should be highlighted throughout the ceremony. For example, Kelly wants to walk down the aisle to “Be Thou My Vision,” which means that themes of the song should be considered and continued throughout the service. In other words, it needs to mean something to the whole of the service. Dan’s message could reference the importance of proper sight in love, and reliance of God, or quote from the song. The activities in the foyer and the programs shouldn’t be distracting from the walk down the aisle, but preferably they would augment it.

If a wedding should be treated as art; some of it should be discreet and subtle. For example, if we should decide to follow the themes set out in “Be Thou My Vision” the connections should be there for the observer to put together themselves. The presentation of the theme(s) of a wedding should be diametrically opposite to that of a prom.

Now very little of this seems to be practical; at least in the sense that it contains the nuts and bolts of the wedding. Truth be told, I am not sure what it is that I want, but I am pretty sure how I want it. I am pretty certain that you can do just about whatever in a wedding and get away with it, as long as those involved with the wedding maintain a proper attitude. This attitude applies to the planning part of the wedding, but it centers around the day of the wedding. Attitude is contagious and more important to the “feel” of the wedding than the church and its decorations.

There are some things that I am pretty sure that I don’t want. Most of these dislikes were born from weddings I have been to where I thought that the thing detracted from the point of the wedding. First thing, I want to encourage people to live in the moment and not for photographs. This means that I do not want the photographer to run things. I also don’t want any pictures presented in the wedding to be distracting. This is tough to say, but it’s very possible that a good slideshow might not be as right for a wedding as a bad one- or no slideshow at all. The activities/displays in the foyer follow the same principle – the attention should be on what is happening/about to happen and not on distracting (but cool!) stuff. For example, one wedding I went to handed out CD’s: a nice idea, but one that really distracted people. It’s a shame that that is what I remember most about the wedding.

As you probably see from this, I am open to other’s ideas and preferences. I just want the main thing to be the main thing; and if the main thing is good and in order, I will be happy.

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