Thursday, August 29, 2013

White Tulle and Hard Cash

My recent reading lists and browsing history would make anyone who has known me for any length of time slightly suspicious, and perhaps worried that I left my personality and sanity somewhere on the Yamanote line, to continue revolving in circles until found by a kindly train conductor.

As a highly trained ethnomusicologist, and hence someone with a strong grounding in antropology and human ritual, I tend to pick up on patterns in my surroundings... which have now been artifically amplified by Facebook. And there is indeed a pattern which has, for a rather unusual reason, caused my ears to prick up and sustained my attention enough to devote quite a bit of research to the question it spurred.

My question, should anyone wish to answer it, is: 'What, truly, is a wedding for?'

I come from a line, on both sides of the helix, that has somewhat shunned the 'traditional wedding' (whatever that may be is another big question), and this distinct lack of interest has been passed on to me. I do not dream of a white merengue gown that extends two metres from my body, and am left unfased by the idea of wedding colors, chapels, rings with large clear stones and all the other paraphenalia that seem to be a requirement for these events.

It seems to me that the intense focus on the 'production' is more than a little dangerous.

After diving into the literature, I found that many other researchers who have researched the subject in infinitely greater depth than myself agree. The degree of mental energy required to plan a modern wedding is immense, and it detracts from the important fact that after the wedding you have a marraige, which should (hopefully) last much longer. Somehow it makes more sense to me to focus on preparing for marriage, and all the wonderful and difficult things that means, instead of spending half of your annual income (or, in Japan, your friends and colleagues' income) on a rigidly scheduled party.

Another aspect I find immensely troubling is the thinly veiled promise given by the industry that, if you have a 'perfect wedding' it will lead to a perfect marriage...

Huh?! How many huge, million dollar weddings have flashed across our computer screens, just to end a few months or years later?

Monetary investment does not produce a couple who can disagree civilly, support each others ventures and work well in tandem. Perfectly retouched wedding pictures (and engagement pictures, trash the dress pictures, day after pictures...) do not a perfect marriage make.
The obsession and, frankly, rather self indulgent affair of being a bride/groom is front and center, and the transition to being a good partner to your significant other is ignored. It is all flash and minimal substance.
I have a feeling the wedding industry is taking a lot of people for a ride.


  1. Oh for sure, the wedding industry is essentially selling a frivolous experience. Though, for some people, there is the religious aspect to consider as well, the reception a.k.a. after-party, is just that, a party. In much the same vein as birthday parties, graduation parties, etc, a reception is a party in nice clothes, which is always a great opportunity for dressing up, for a reason, and taking selfies.

    While I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to indulge in the pageantry, as long as you can afford it, going into debt for something that barely lasts a day is a bit ridiculous. It is a great opportunity to get the families to interact with one another, but maybe that's more important for international couples than people that live in the same area.

    In my opinion, nothing really changes once you're married, it's just an agreement legally binding, and only really necessary for couples looking for a tax break or a green card/visa. Otherwise, just being together is enough (at least I always thought so). :)

  2. Hiya Alyse :)
    I am not as much concerned by the economic factor, rather than the the idea that this big expensive party/ceremony will result in a perfect marriage... because it is very misleading and I find a lot of people somehow believe in it.

    I agree with you that being together and agreeing to respect and grow with the other person is paramount :) Naturally, never having signed any of those papers myself, this is all pretty hypothetical :p