I attended a wedding this weekend, and have been reflecting on the service. Specifically, I reflected on the nature of ritual and custom. I often find that I take certain things for granted that are ubiquitous (and therefore, mundane). Photography can sometimes feel cheapened because technology removes the need to conserve resources like film in order to capture perfect moments. DJ-played music fades into the background because the setlist is nearly endless. And, thanks to social media, it would seem that everyone in my age bracket is getting married – my awareness of the intimate details of people’s lives blurs time together into a calendar of weekends punctuated with staged, curated pictures.
But this weekend felt different. Maybe it’s because it’s my first wedding of the summer. Maybe it’s because I’m preparing for my own wedding. Or maybe because I’ve been more mindful lately of meaning in my life. For whatever reason, the wedding this weekend felt special. I didn’t concern myself with taking photos to post online (though, I did post one during the night). I allowed myself to be fully present in the day and to pay attention to the details that infuse weddings with meaning.
There was something the officiant said that has been playing out in my mind – “and let those know, within the sound of my voice…” His voice was amplified for the benefit of those in attendance, but something about that sentiment stuck with me. The wedding was a community of loved ones who came out in support of the couple. It was a serious and sincere declaration of commitment, and a sharing of values. We bore witness to a promise, and in doing so added weight to it. It was not just a promise they made to each other, but it’s a promise made real by our attendance, within the sound of the minister’s voice.
While at the outset, I suggested that technology can cheapen moments like this, but I reflected on how technology intersected with this promise. There is the obvious case where the officiant’s voice was amplified, so in principle his voice could reach more people. But during the ceremony, there was another kind of amplification happening. The bride had family in the UK who were unable to attend. Rather than missing out, cellphones were used to stream the ceremony live to family abroad. It widened the community by being inclusive. More people were captured within the sound of his voice.
Technology wasn’t used to mediate the experience, but rather to amplify it. The promise of love and commitment was strengthened because it allowed for more people to experience it in a meaningful way.
It may sound painfully obvious to people more mindful than I, but I saw the wedding in a different light. We weren’t giving a gift because it’s expected. We were sharing so that the couple could start their new life together on the right foot. They weren’t just feeding us food because it was expected – they were sharing so that we could join them in celebration. We didn’t put on dress clothes because it was expected – we put on our best so that we could signal that this moment was special. And after dinner, the music wasn’t being played because that’s just what you do. There was more meaning behind it. The music and dancing was a way of expressing the joy within, taking the joy and putting it out in the world.
This weekend was the first time I appreciated that weddings aren’t something “you just do.” Everything has a reason. Everything is purposeful. Everything is designed for one objective: to acknowledge a promise of commitment for two people and strengthen its resolve. I had a chance to share in that moment and I was glad I could be included within the sound of the minister’s voice.
Congratulations to the lovely couple.