Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: The problem with modern weddings

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Shelley Bridgeman questions the logic which allows women to abandon principles, beliefs and independent thought when opting for the cookie-cutter wedding experience. Photo / Thinkstock
Shelley Bridgeman questions the logic which allows women to abandon principles, beliefs and independent thought when opting for the cookie-cutter wedding experience. Photo / Thinkstock

Weddings are funny things. They frequently inspire women - let's say it's the woman rather than the man who usually stage manages such events - to abandon whatever principles, beliefs and independent thought they possess and opt for a cookie-cutter experience.

Raunchy hen night? Check. Spend the night before apart from your betrothed even though you've had two children together? Check. White frock? Check. Rows of prissily dressed bridesmaids? Check. Nice colour theme? Check. Obligatory speeches? Check.

Surely I'm not the only one to find such tightly scripted homogeneity off-putting. Where's the differentiation? We all live such diverse lives, have such different dreams and aspirations, how can a one-size-fits-all wedding day possibly suit everyone? It makes no sense.

And don't get me started on the hypocrisy so often displayed. It's like we adopt a faux identity for the event, become some other person for a day in order to wedge ourselves into unyielding conventions that otherwise wouldn't sit easily with our authentic selves.

Jeans-and-tee-shirt girls choose to wear dreary meringues. Atheists embrace Christianity in order to secure a photogenic church as a venue. Happy-go-lucky types turn into Bride-zillas. Casual folk become stiff and formal. Free spirits subscribe to outdated traditions.

Authenticity and being true to ourselves was important when my husband and I married. We didn't believe in pomp and undue ritual so the marriage itself contained just the bare minimum words necessary to complete the formalities. Guests who blinked may have missed the low-key 6.30pm ceremony which was conducted by a Justice of the Peace and held at Auckland's Regent hotel (now the Stamford Plaza).

I eschewed any traditions that referenced the oppression of women. I didn't wear white but rather a pale green silk suit by Annie Bonza. I shunned the veil which to me has a similar subtext to and all the appeal of the burqa. And no one 'gave me away'; it was 1993 and women were no longer regarded as possessions.

We had two clear goals on our wedding day. Firstly, we simply wanted to be married to each other and we didn't feel the need to hire the services of a wedding planner or dive unthinkingly into trite and clichéd rituals in order to do so. We didn't even use the event as the launch-pad for some extravagant overseas trip but chose to spend three nights at a Taupo lodge instead. I remember just wanting our married life to start for real rather than be delayed by the traditional no-holds-barred honeymoon.

Our second goal was to share and celebrate the occasion with family and friends. So, all our decisions were based on facilitating this pair of objectives. We had no inclination to mindlessly tick off the obligatory boxes.

It's refreshing to see occasional bursts of authenticity amidst the stereotypical weddings. A photograph in a recent NZ Woman's Weekly showed a farm-style affair in which the men in the bridal party wore black singlets and Jandals while the reception was held in a woolshed. This couple gets full marks for lack of pretension and refusal to conform. And sixties model Jean Shrimpton described her no-nonsense wedding reception in a recent Sunday article: "We had champagne with fish 'n' chips, but the only guests were our two registry office witnesses."

Carolyn Bourne, the UK woman who spectacularly berated her future daughter-in-law in an email that went viral, wrote: "No one gets married in a castle unless they own it."

Beyond the snobbish undertones there's an inkling of relevance to this comment.

When a couple stretches themselves financially and throws untold money at their dream wedding to get the limousines, the fancy frocks, the posh reception and exotic honeymoon, it must be such a letdown to wake up in their normal lives and regular homes when their short-lived fantasy is over.

That's yet another reason to keep it real.

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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