Weddings, then and now.


We came home from Italy in time for my niece’s wedding. I really enjoyed it—it was an afternoon full of prettiness, and declarations of love, and being with family. I haven’t been to many weddings recently, so I was interested to see how much things have changed from when I was married in the 1980s. Many things were the same, but here are some of the differences:

Venue. Most people were married in church. My friends who married in a registry office (the only alternative to marriage in a church) did not include the ‘traditional’ elements of the wedding. So no long white dress, no walking down an aisle with the father of the bride, no music. A registry office wedding tending to be brief and functional, with very few people invited to attend.

Today, the possible venues are varied. My niece’s wedding was in a barn, and the layout was almost exactly the same as any small chapel, with an aisle and flowers and rows of seats facing the front. There was even a wooden lectern to rest a book on. In England a non-church wedding can’t include hymns or prayers or Bible readings, but there was music.

I sort of understand why ‘the church’ demands that non-church weddings don’t include anything religious, because God, and the worship of him, is not a game; not something to pick up and use like something of no importance. Therefore they want to regulate how their holy things—the holy book, hymns, prayers—are presented. However, I feel sad that if someone wishes to include God in their wedding but for some reason does not feel able to marry in a church, they are excluded from all outward signs of this. They can still invite God to be present, and they can pray internally, but I feel sad that English law makes it difficult for a couple to include God unless they want a church wedding. Over time, every marriage faces challenges, and wanting God to bless your vows, including him in the marriage seems sensible to me. I think a wedding is less likely to use religious things inappropriately than other places (like football matches, where hymns are allowed to be sung).

Vows. Some of the vows said at a wedding are legal requirements. These are the same wherever you marry, and they don’t seem to have changed since I was married. They have to be word-perfect, and said in the presence of witnesses and a person certified to register a marriage. In the past, at a registry office, these were the only vows said. Today, it seems popular to add your own vows.

Church weddings also include certain vows, as listed below:

I, N, take you, N,

to be my husband,

to have and to hold

from this day forward;

for better, for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish,

till death us do part;

according to God’s holy law.

In the presence of God I make this vow.

When I was married, the bride also promised to obey her husband.

Couples today seem to write their own vows. I’m not sure what I think about this. I was wondering what I would promise if I wrote my own vows. Marriage lasts a really long time. I think being faithful is important (because otherwise, what is the point of a marriage?) Promising to forgive is essential, and to try and listen. I think respect is important, and for me, being able to share anything and to laugh together lots, matters. Staying together, even when times are tough, is also part of being married.

Gender Roles. Traditionally, the bride was given away by her father, and accepted by her husband. I was completely happy with this when I was married (though actually, my brother gave me away). Today, many brides consider this sexist (not sure why I didn’t!) Even if they walk into the venue with their father, they may have words that don’t involve being given from one man to another.

There were other differences, but these were the main ones. However, the occasion was still about a couple committing to each other, it was still about love, and everyone dressed in their best clothes and arrived hoping to have fun. There was still a meal, and lots to drink, speeches (though these are not always said by males only today) and laughter.

The Cake. When I was married, we continued the tradition of having a tiered fruit cake, with formal white icing. The bottom tier was cut and shared with guests, the top tier was kept and used as a christening cake when the first baby was born. As people tended not to have children immediately, most couples removed the icing and shoved the cake in the freezer until they needed it. Eating it a few years later felt decidedly dodgy, but as far as I know, no one was ever poisoned.

Today, many couples choose not to have a fruit cake, which seems an excellent plan to me (does anyone other than my brother like eating fruit cake???) There is still a cake, and it is still cut (which is a tradition which I never liked, and I wanted to leave out from my wedding, but I was told there must be a photo!) The wedding we attended had a red velvet cake and chocolate brownies to share, which are a much better idea.

Whatever traditions are followed, weddings are still about love, and a couple committing to stay with each other. Rather marvelous I think. Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

Next Monday I’ll tell you about our return trip to Italy. It was very interesting to live somewhere different for a while, and learn about a small town in the Alps.

Thanks for reading.
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anneethompson.com

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