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Which is more important: the party or the guests?

The Village Wedding by George Hemming Mason, 1868

Here we are in the month of June and wedding season is upon us. As I began my daily constitutional of coffee and the crossword I ran across a Carolyn Hax advice column that addressed the issue of destination weddings. The questioner considered destination weddings incredibly narcissistic and was feeling pretty angry that a family member had chosen that option for her wedding. 

Ms. Hax gave a good response as far as it goes but I think she left out a very significant factor:

I realize this goes against human nature at the molecular level, but please consider not having an opinion at all.  
Instead: Are you able to go? Yes/No. Do you want to go on the given terms? Yes/No.  
And then either go or don’t go accordingly. If you can stop yourself there, without judging anybody, then you can emerge from this without emotionally downgrading someone you love or spending a nickel unwillingly spent.
This detached analysis is easy when it is a friend or acquaintance who is sending you the invitation to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a trip to a destination not of your choosing. But when it is family, there are long-term consequences to be considered. It is not hard to imagine a sibling or parent accusing you of not really caring for the family if you don't accept the expense and move mountains to be at the wedding.

This sort of emotional blackmail is grossly unfair but that does not make it uncommon. There is no way to have a wedding without some terms. There is going to be a date. There is going to be a geographic location. There is going to be a venue. There will be conflicts with any of these that prevents a guest from going. Anything added on to these basic constraints will exclude even more attendees.

What I think Carolyn Hax should have pointed out is that the more conditions and terms a bride and groom put on their wedding, the more exclusive it becomes. The bride and groom are making a statement as to what they value: the wedding event or the guests. If they design their wedding to be so expensive that they cannot afford to have the entire family there they have indicated that the party is more important than family attendance. Making the affair a black-tie event will leave out those who have no interest in renting a tux or procuring an evening gown. Making the event a no-children gala will give parents pause as they determine whether attending this wedding is worth the price of a babysitter. And if the excluded children are family members, it speaks volumes as to how much the bride and groom value family relations.

I have attended weddings that were simple church ceremonies with the reception being a potluck dinner in the parish hall. I have attended a wedding where the bride and groom were married on horseback in a riding arena. I have attended weddings that were so elegant they could have been scripted right out of Hollywood. I can assure you, the joy and celebration of these weddings had no relationship to the amount of money that was spent on them. Every bride and groom is free to select the type of wedding and reception they want. I do not begrudge them their choice at all. They should just realize that their choices have consequences and send a message to their invited guests as well as to their uninvited friends and family regarding what they truly value.


Robert Collins said…
I had two weddings. The first was the extravagant expensive wedding my wife always wanted. The second was a simple wedding in the chapel of our parish when we had our marriage bless as we came back into the Church.

With the first I was filled with anger because nothing went according to plan. Everything went wrong. Even life-long close relationships were destroyed as a part of that wedding. You can clearly see this in every picture by the look of anger on my face.

In the second I was filled with love as I (again) pledged my life to my wife. It didn’t cost us a thing yet we gained so much more.
Ultimately, it comes down to whom the wedding is for. If it is the bridge and groom standing before God swearing a covenantal oath to him and each other it will be the most beautiful ceremony of their lives. If it is all about the bride’s big day and all about “look at me” no amount of artificial beauty will make the day what it is meant to be.

The tragedy of today is that on a day that is meant to be about sacrificial love, the love of other above self, has become the most selfish, self centered day of their lives. It is not surprising that a huge amount of marriages fail when they begin so wrongly.

Excellent article. I am so happy I took the time to read it.

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