This April Fool’s, Jacob and I pulled a prank that we had eloped. We even Photoshopped some pictures, all of it inspired by some jokes about us having stayed in an actual B&B/Chapel while traveling in New Mexico. A lot of people believed it because it seemed like something we would actually do…but some people were relieved that we wouldn’t do something that “irresponsible” or “exclusive”. If anyone knows me well, you’ll know I can’t stand weddings for a lot of reasons, so the latter reaction made me want to revisit this topic.
I always thought eloping was spontaneously running away and not telling anyone, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Eloping is more like… unconventional, small, cheap. And after looking at all the beautiful photographs of National Forest elopements while we were working on our prank, I couldn’t help but think Why would people NOT want this? Elopements sometimes have just a witness and a photographer besides the couple and the person ordaining it, but they can also have a couple dozen guests. I think it would be challenging trying to come up with very many people I would even want to invite… Besides, isn’t the ceremony about the couple, not the guest list? I have no interest in making a guest list…You can come to the after-party if you’re nice to me.
I remember sitting at a pub in Talkeetna, Alaska with Stubbs, the manx cat and “town mayor”, and the bartender, watching Bridezilla for the first time. We were gaping at the screen, thinking there was no way it’s real. And maybe it’s not. But just the fact that we can watch these crazy, screaming women obsess over dresses and venues and menus and whatever other stupid detail and we can actually believe it’s real – that’s disturbing. One woman had even booked her wedding venue for 5 years out because of a waiting list – and she didn’t even have a boyfriend. Like I said: disturbing.
It’s because we’ve developed into this greedy, it’s-all-about-me, consumer society, so we throw the elements of traditions into a big mess of egocentricity. Because we’re made to believe that’s normal. We, as girls, grow up with Disney princesses and Barbie dolls and are made to believe we will become someone’s wife before we are encouraged to imagine ourselves as scientists and doctors. Our Wedding Day becomes a measure of whether we are enough or not: Marry too early, marry too late, or be still waiting to be married and something’s wrong with you. Say you don’t want to get married and something is wrong with you. Date someone for too long before he proposes and something’s wrong with you. Date someone for too short and get married and something’s wrong with you. But even if you pass all those tests, you’re expected to invite your whole family, have the dress, have catered food, make cute save-the-dates and invitations, reserve a venue, have a photographer, provide alcohol, and go through a bunch of meaningless traditions…
I thought marriage was about a couple realizing they want to commit to each other permanently? To me, it’s not a public affair; it’s personal. To me, you don’t need a thousand people toasting to you. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to put on an extravagant event to (start your life together in debt and) satisfy others that you’re serious, that what you did was enough. If you have to do all of those things to validate a marriage, you shouldn’t be getting married.
Maybe I grew up too much around the Hindu tradition to understand the religious commitment people make in the Christian church and in Christian marriages, but as far as I’m concerned it’s irrelevant; traditional Christian wedding or not, marriages happen all the time for the wrong and even non-Christian reasons, and marriage licenses just chucked out the window regardless of how much money and time was put into being married traditionally and in a church. Human beings are such hypocrites!
Not having the “proper” wedding, not marrying in a “timely” fashion, not having kids or enough of them or soon enough,… We still live in a society when these things shouldn’t affect our status, but yet we’re made to believe they still do. It’s like the fact that homosexuals, bisexuals, transpeople, etc. still have to “come out”, afraid to disappoint their friends and family for not being enough – but why should anyone have to do that? Why can’t we just do what we want to do? These life choices are for ourselves, not for proving ourselves to anyone else’s standards and beliefs.
henna – one tradition that I grew up loving
And with that, let’s visit some of the “traditional” elements of marriage and weddings just to see how absolutely ridiculous they are…
1. Engagement Rings (and even wedding bands)
Although there are a lot of stories about the origin of rings, the common theme in all of them is this: women are property. Men are essentially buying women from their families and the rings mark the women as their property or, in some cases, the rings are believed to symbolize shackles of past tradition. There’s a story that a royal engagement centuries ago led to noble people giving rings with rare jewels in them. Regardless, engagement rings are a symbol left over from the enslavement of women by men, and the amount of importance women place on such rings today is despicable. If the size or lack of a diamond (ring) will alter your decision to marry someone, you need to take another good ten years of being single to grow up a little. Furthermore, now the “common” folks who can’t even afford nice jewelry are shelling out dollars to fulfill this unnecessary expectation our consumer society places on us – and to make those jewels affordable, how do you think they do it? Well, either your diamond is a Blood Diamond (or was essential produced by slavery and/or mineral exploitation in poorer countries), or it was grown in a petri dish. I met a couple who grow diamonds. So, yup, your diamond’s probably not even real. Thus, between the symbolism, the cost, and the high chance of losing such a tiny thing, I am in favor of discontinuing the ring tradition and, oh hey, what says “this is permanent” more than a couple of wedding band tattoos? Going tribal’s back in style.
2. White Dress
This is an easy one. First of all, why are wedding dresses white? Because brides are pure, virgins making vows to God (thus a tradition of Christian origin). Yet I only know maybe one girl (who is also Christian) who was still a virgin on her wedding day. So…….explain to me why women who broke that rule are still buying white dresses? And why do we waste so much money and put so much thought into a stupid dress we will (should) only wear once? Traditionally, in some cultures, the bride would be literally assaulted at the end of a ceremony so that people could tear pieces from her dress for good luck. The bouquet has essentially replaced that horrifying tradition. So, with all of these things considered, I really scoff at the expectation to have a fancy gown. Hmm, sounds a lot like my high school graduation. You see, in my private school we graduated in white gowns (and the men in suits). Folks were getting all bent out of shape about their dresses, as if we were getting married, so I refused to get my hair done and left it down, refused to wore heels (I bought white flip-flops with silver sequins instead), and refused to wear a gown (I wore a bohemian top and a crumpled skirt that fell to my ankles). The best part was, people in the crowd thought it was a fancy gown
In some traditions, the veil is a sign of respect and humility in the ceremony. However, the real origin of a veil has to do with spirits and protection. In Roman tradition, the veil was fire-colored to scare away evil spirits that might attack a vulnerable bride. However, in the majority of traditions (coming from the fact that women were property of arranged marriages), the veil kept the groom from being embarrassed at his wedding day when he was (likely) seeing his bride for the first time. The veil served to shield her ugliness. Romantic, right?
Garters were worn so that folks could check in on the bride and make sure the marriage hadn’t been consummated. As I mentioned before with the gown, the bride would be assaulted at the end of the ceremony so folks could tear pieces off of her dress. Brides today are wearing garters, in theory, so guests can see she hasn’t broken any rules before the ceremony, and she is throwing it out because, in theory, she’s appeasing the crowd with pieces of her dress that they are trying to tear off of her anyway. That doesn’t seem to be what people think they’re doing these days when they toss out a garter, but all I know is the tradition is incredibly creepy and I’m offended that others are offended when women choose to not follow these ridiculous traditions.
Brides waste so much money on dead flowers. A lot of Christian weddings still practice the tradition of the bride carrying a bouquet. Considering how many Christian also oppose Harry Potter or any “worshipping” of witchcraft, I laugh at the hypocrisy of carrying a bouquet in these weddings. The bouquets were traditionally made of dill and garlic. In the last few generations, other blooms have been added until the dill and garlic have been essentially replaced. I guess folks don’t like the smell of tradition, but that’s exactly why they carried these bouquets: The smell was to ward off evil spirits and also the Plague. So, a little Christian witchcraft. I bet Hermione would do a better enchantment than a bouquet of weeds, though.
6. Bridesmaid Dresses
Oh, everyone goes crazy over choosing her bridesmaids and having them look just right. Although I don’t really understand what they do, I do know a creepy fact about why they exist: Bridesmaids were originally decoys dressed exactly like the bride. Yup, another protection against evil spirits. Come the Victorian Era, the fear of evil spirits began to subside and instead the bride was dressed to be the most beautiful woman in the church, especially in contrast to bridesmaids dressed in hideous colors.
I’ve heard some folks say the “honeymoon” represents that last bit of freedom in a marriage before real life starts. The idea is, it’s the last chance to feel happy with each other. Well, that’s a pleasant thought… But the origin of the honeymoon is actually a little more disturbing. Traditionally, this was a month-long period during which the bride was abducted by the groom. It’s said that, in Norse tradition, the couple were in hiding and provided honey wine by different family members once a day for thirty days, or a full moon cycle, thus explaining the phrase “honeymoon”. Regardless, it’s now another reason to spend a lot of money and do something fancy.
So tell me why again people are appalled by the couples who elope? Everyone has a right to do what they want because it is their relationship being celebrated. Ridiculing people who choose to have a non-traditional wedding is, as I’ve demonstrated, actually rather hypocritical, especially considering the unknown and unpleasant origins of so many of these “traditions”. And while the whole thing was just a prank for April Fool’s, I can’t help but reflect on all the things the prank opened my eyes to…and to looking at this:
(Don’t trip! Everyone gets to stare at you! It smells like a hospital in here!..Ew)
Versus looking at this:
I just could never have peaceful, happy moments in a huge wedding where my pockets are empty and everyone is staring at me. I’m a fan of small weddings. To me, it’s the obvious choice. I vote for elopements!