It can be hard to get up from under the duvet of expectations that blanket you when a family member is getting married. I am in this muddle myself as a MOG, that is Mother of the Groom, for the uninitiated. Some well-intentioned friends and family speak to me as if I think of nothing else, I do.
However, I do not envy the happy couple in their planning, as everyone has their own ideas and expectations for their event, and they are happy to share them. To say that our culture sends mixed messages about weddings and marriage is the understatement of the century.
The current cultural wedding stereotypes are the image obsessed Bridezilla and the reluctant Frat Boy Groom. We can agree that neither are positive images, are they?
But we love weddings! So many happy stories end in one, or at least the promise of one. We live in a country that speaks of the sanctity of marriage so much so that it only guarantees a person exclusive rights, like hospital visitation to a sick partner, if they have undertaken it.
For all this seriousness, marriage can be a frivolous affair. There is no delineation between a marriage presided over by Elvis in Vegas and one by a priest in a church. Add to this, the many cultural traditions and it is a wonder that anyone can make a decision at all.
The typical American wedding is definitely image and brand conscious. All the choices, from music, food, and attire, reflect the couples’ personal aesthetic. And really, that has been that way since I can remember; country, sophisticated or nerdy anyone?
These are all the same choices that we make in everything. American weddings come in all shapes and sizes, as behooves a freedom-loving people. You can get married outside on a lake or in a church. You could have a breakfast, lunch or dinner wedding with or without the benefit of alcohol.
I have to say, that I dread any social occasion which necessitates sobriety when there are so many strangers. American weddings can be concluded in just a few hours. Like so many festivities here, they are expensive, hyperbolic, emotional and over way too soon to be worth it, in my opinion. Saying that, we have been to a few that couldn’t be over quick enough.
The gaff that I think those weddings had in common was putting way too much emphasis on one group of guests. Weddings are meant to be communal and therefore have to hit some middle ground to be pleasing. Everything in moderation.
An Irish Wedding
That middle of the road approach is where Irish weddings excel. They are old-fashioned to an extent, but that is what makes them fun. You see that the bad groom speech coming, and you are ready for it.
The average Yank wedding would compare to an Irish one much the way Christmas does: a lot of spending and over too quick to savor. While, we have been in and out of weddings here in as little as two hours, the service is just under that in Ireland, what with Communion and all.
There are no Elvis weddings in Ireland; you’re getting married by the priest. You had better leave yourself a day if you get invited to an Irish wedding, and I mean a day. Any decent wedding starts before noon. Then you have to go to the pub for a quick one and maybe a snack while the hour of photos is going on for the bridal party.
They all know where you are, so you will be alerted when it is time to join the wedding procession and everyone must drive through at least one good size town and three villages, horns blazing, to call it a good wedding procession.
An hour or so traveling has the whole car a little sober, besides the designated driver of course, so it is a thirsty car that arrives in the hall parking lot for the reception. Thank goodness that a shot or a sherry are waiting at the door, to re-socialize the humors of guests. There is usually an hour or so of socializing before it is time to sit down for the dinner. After that, there are speeches and lots of them, and telegrams from America or Australia to be read aloud.
Then you get down to the dancing, which should get more boisterous and rowdier as the night progresses and the older crowd sit down or go home. You know that you are at a good one when the evening ends with singing, just because.
It seems that I have seen a puzzling abundance of monster and zombie stories. Sure, they are a metaphor for the phone thing and how everyone is a partially distracted cyborg. But beyond that, I think that they are connected to weddings.
I promise that I am not iconoclast when it comes to marriage. It is an institution that I have been kept in for many years, to paraphrase a borscht belt comedian.
This generation is different. They are facing, what look like some difficult problems. They are a little tribal and culture is what connects them. What we have somehow created is a fractured society where you can make your own reality.
Institutions like marriage, house-buying and child rearing have become rites of passage, that through their fanfare and ritual, morph into great opportunities for building community. Where do zombies fit? Zombies also create an opportunity for building community to fight a common enemy.
Beyond the difficulties of sustaining a relationship, the world that this generation is inheriting is full of problems that only can be solved through group effort. I applaud everyone who is making that brave step to choose a partner for their journey, and hope that we support them all as best we can.
*Lisa O’Rourke is an educator from Akron. She has a BA in English and a Master’s in Reading/Elementary Education. Lisa is a student of everything Irish, primarily Gaeilge. She runs a Gaeilge study group at the AOH/Mark Heffernan Division. She is married to Dónal and has two sons, Danny and Liam. Lisa enjoys art, reading, music, and travel. She likes spending time with her dog, cats and fish. Lisa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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