Category Archives: Marriage/Wedding

The Pious Doth Protest Too Much

There’s an awful lot of talk about equal marriage being incompatible with religious beliefs.  The president has even been speaking with religious leaders to alleviate their (and his) fears.  I’m not entirely sure I buy it.

I believe that people have found comfort in defending their stance with their religious convictions.  I mean who would argue with someone’s religious convictions or even suggest that religion, by its definition, is a way to exclude people who are not like us?  Not I.  But does anyone, even the most pious of Americans, believe that legal civil rights have anything to do with religion?  I can’t begin to understand how.  I’ve heard people claim a fear that their religious institution will be “forced” to perform marriages.  How?  They are not forced to perform marriages now.  I can’t walk into a religious institution with a willing heterosexual accomplice and force clergy to perform a marriage ceremony.  Religious institutions, again by their very definition, are allowed to exclude whomever they please.  (If you don’t believe me, just try getting married in a conservative synagogue without paperwork verifying your worthiness.  Even then it will be up to the discretion of the rabbi whether to cue the chuppah.)  So no one is going to be forced to do anything.

Then does just the idea that people are doing something that you believe your religion does not celebrate send a person ’round the bend?  Maybe.  People are entitled to interpret their religious doctrine anyway they please.  Whether I think intolerance has never been the teaching of any religion is immaterial.  But ya know what?  It turns out that church and state are in fact separate. There are several religions that ban pork from the human diet.  Yet the U.S.D.A. gives legitimacy to pork producers, manufacturers and distributors.  What would help anyone feeling that the United States government is on the verge of offending his or her religious sensibilities is to cease from seeing marriage as a religious rite, and see it as a civil right and legal construct.

Consider that in many religions the birth of a child is celebrated in a house of worship.  Not all babies are welcomed into that house of worship.  They must be of proper lineage and deemed worthy.  Yet, our government issues all babies birth certificates.  Why?  Because we have chosen, as a people, to have a government that ensures basic rights and freedoms of every citizen.  It all starts with the birth certificate.  Having a birth certificate is not a ticket to the alter/bihma it is a ticket to; social security, public education, voting and, with any luck, a marriage license.


Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Marriage/Wedding


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I Spy

I fancy myself somewhat of a student of human nature, with a major in motivation.  I’m fascinated by what compels people to behave in certain ways.  I find myself devising plausible scenarios when people behave in an unorthodox fashion.  That older woman biting my head off when I tried to be of assistance?  Well, in my little fiction, she has just been informed by her ungrateful children that they are moving her into a nursing facility.  She knows she can take care of herself and doesn’t want anyone suggesting otherwise.  See?  Isn’t that more palatable than “people are just nuts?”  Of course some people are just that.  Nuts.  I don’t spend my days making up little stories about the man on my corner peeing into the telephone kiosk (it’s not just Superman that mourns the end of the booth, ya know.)  I accept that there are those around us that live in an alternate reality.  But most don’t.  Most of us are socialized people living mostly well adjusted lives.

Like the good student I am, I conduct research (a.k.a. eavesdrop) and devour data to develop and support my theories.  It’s not all drudgery however.  For example, the wedding announcements can be fun and educational.  These pages are to me, what petri dishes filled with rapidly multiplying cells are to a biology student.  Where to begin?!  A cursory glance (which may be dictated by a pressing Sunday morning schedule or hangover) of just the photos is a good start.  About 40% of the photos don’t warrant a second glance.  But the rest are a veritable National Enquirer of intrigue.  My personal favorites are when the two can’t even stand to be near each other for the photo.  Their heads actually crane towards escape.  But fun as photo analysis is, and trust me it is, it’s for amateurs.  The real meat and potatoes is in the narrative, that is where the cavalcade of clues convene.  Thankfully, there are a fair amount of lovely stories that foretell great promise.  I do enjoy trying to discern the family’s take on the nuptials.  On average I surmise that every month, two of these families are sitting shiva.  But far more often, after reading about the families and the intended, it’s seems the marriage was always an inevitable.  The neurosurgeon/lawyer’s medical ethics professor daughter marrying the medical school dean/foundation director’s Doctors Without Borders son?  Yep.  There is even a seasonal predictability; those in their 20s-30s marrying in summer, more mature couples in fall and winter.  The only real surprises are when the announcement mentions the couple courting while married to other people (wince.)

This past Sunday I read with enjoyment of the couple planning to marry at the Four Seasons.  The gentlemen had been together ten years!  Somehow, I gleaned from that they had been waiting for New York to legalize their nuptials.  In my little (sorely misguided) mind, I had assumed that a restaurant wedding would be a sedate family affair to celebrate a well established relationship and their new marital journey.  Wrong.  I mean “sleeping through the final exam” wrong.  Showing up to the wrong class all semester, wrong.  The sedate wedding?  For 650?  With music by Aretha Franklin?  Did I miss something?  Should the biographies including a degree from the French Culinary Institute and some philanthropic work clued me in?  In my defense, nothing about the serving on the board of the Highline or Wildlife Conservation Society, screamed Page 6 to me.  I am left to conclude one of two things.  1) For some people a six figure wedding (including the cost of the publicist) IS a sedate and solemn affair OR 2) the wedding announcements are not a good primary data source.  I am not willing to consider the possibility that it’s time I changed majors.  It’s simply not an option.  The study of human behavior is how I navigate the world.  It is how I find my way and protect myself.  I’ve no doubt that for the next few days I will be stumbling about my world in a mild stupor.  In my fragile state, I will try to remember to steer clear of the phone kiosk.

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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Marriage/Wedding


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I Wanna Be A Republican?

With all due respect to The Kinsey Sicks, who, if you don’t know, is a fantabulous dragapella group who perform their own, often politically scathing songs and recorded I Wanna Be A Republican…..

Not in a gajillion years did I consider that  this thought would ever cross my mind.  But friends and strangers I have just laid eyes upon Jenna Bush’s wedding photos and I felt the veil of confusion lift and the sorrow and heartache ebb.  Yes, brothers and sisters, there exists a tasteful bride and she was/is the heir apparent to the Republican throne.  I know nothing of this woman except that, bless her heart, she’s made the most of her looks.   But I implore you to cast your eyes upon the bride and deny the existence of a fashion higher power.  He/She has been known to take on the mortal form of Oscar de la Renta at times.  But it is more than the dress that is neither a get-up suitable for a party at the Hefner mansion or for a stroll down a modern day red carpet.  Yes the dress is beautiful and tasteful and flattering and sophisticated and festive and brilliant.  But yeah as I cast my eyes upon her it is more.  On this fair spawn of conservative royalty there is nary a dangling plastic earring, a spray tan or updo.  There are some flowers tucked into her hair (no doubt by a team of no less than six hair stylists) and an almost scrubbed glow to her face.  There is no (g-d help me) “bling” on her whatsoever.  She is lovely and a beacon of hope in a world gone mad with bridal vulgarity.

So I  conclude, and don’t think it doesn’t pain me to say it, perhaps conservatives are not the devil.

Now I ask you to consider the following:
How or why is it that during a time when more and more of our country embraces conservative positions, more and more people seem to be embracing what can only be called liberal mannerisms.  The ideas are conservative but the dress and promiscuity are anything but.  What is the law of physics that is being employed?

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding


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Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Blame it on the stratospheric rise of the wedding industry, the etiquette business not keeping pace with technology or the parent as friend trend; whatever the cause there seems to be a need for modern day nuptial communication guidance.

I am not an etiquette expert.  I have produced and managed copious events, attended over 30 weddings and have been touched, tickled and traumatized by nuptial communications over the years.  There are many people touting newfangled etiquette advice.  Yes, dear reader, I have witnessed advice that gift registry information should be front and center at all times.  (Think: “letter to Santa”)

Weddings are a rite of passage fraught with meaning and sentimentality  Wedding planning usually emphasizes the party aspect of the wedding.  Yet, the most overlooked and defining aspect to wedding planning is communication.   Technology has turned us all into photographers and web designers, but technology is only a means to the end.  Even those intentionally eschewing technology and are only communicating through handcrafted invitations are well served to raise their marketing consciousness.

The number one rule to keep in mind is that an invitation is not a contract.  Gifts are lovely but are never a quid pro quo for being invited.  Inviting anyone to anything defines you as a host or hostess and you must behave as one.


Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start.

Engagement Parties are not mandatory.  Their primary purpose is to introduce the two families of the intendeds to each other.  Gifts are a welcome addition but by no means necessary.   There should be no registry at this point.  Gifts should never be opened at the party itself.  An engagement party is not a child’s birthday party or a shower.

Speaking of showers….

No mention of gifts, gift registries, or web sites have any business being included with an invitation.  When invited guests R.S.V.P. they can ask their host about gifts.  Besides being gracious, this tactic will raise your R.S.V.P. rates!

The Wedding

The number one guiding factor of invitations is that they alert the guest as to the tenor of the event.  An engraved, raise lettered invitation on heavy stock paper in neutral colors screams “formal.”  A “cute” construction paper invitation in “cool” colors communicates “come as you are.”

The invitation package should include all relevant information for the guests.  Simply putting the web site address on the invitation is lazy and a cheap ploy to link people to your gift wish list.

If you are having multiple events (i.e., rehearsal dinner, brunch, etc.) include very specific relevant information in the wedding invitation.

Communications during any and all wedding centric events is crucial as well.  Remember that the most fundamental premise is to be a good host or hostess.  Your job is to ensure that your guests feel welcomed and are comfortable.  Part of how you address this is by communicating your intentions.  Some wedding couples choose to create a program to describe the relationships of the people included in the wedding party, or to describe religious rituals that will be part of the ceremony.  Other couples have the officiant describe to the guests what rituals will be performed.  Unless yours is a wedding in a very closed community, do not assume that your guests are familiar with your practices and consider by what means you’d like to communicate.
Keep in mind that what is not said is as important as what is said.  I have been to weddings at which the officiant used the blessed occasion to spout anti-homosexual rhetoric.  Twice.  And no one stopped him or corrected him.  I have been to a wedding at which the priest and the rabbi went into fierce oratory competition during the ceremony, going so far as to grab the microphone from each other.  Very holy.
No you can not control everyone’s behavior, but you can convey your intentions and vision to those who will be involved, prior to the event.  This is true with religious or civil officiants, caterers, bakers, etc.  There are those (cough: me) who gave a list to the band leader of verboten songs (i.e., chicken dance, electric slide, and yes, the horah.)  If you are adult enough to get married you are adult enough to ask for what you want.  Politely.
There is no question that receiving lines are awkward for everyone involved.  The wedding couple does need to address each and every one of their guests however.  This must be done as a couple, doing so individually does nothing to convince the guest that you two are destined for couple greatness!  Simply put, your job is to thank your guest for coming.  You needn’t do so with a cheap assembly line gift, simply a sincere in stereo thank you is sufficient.

Post Nuptials

Oh, if only it went with out saying that a prompt, personal, handwritten thank you note was in order.  Never is anything electronic acceptable.  Well, maybe if it’s a flat screen television.  If I hauled myself to your event, or sent a gift, you can lift a pen and a stamp.  Personal counts.  This is where actually speaking to all of your guests comes in handy.  “Thank you so much for coming to our wedding.  It was so lovely to see you and I was so happy that husband/wife had the pleasure of meeting you.  I can’t thank you enough for being part of what was such an important day for us.”  or a version that also thanks for a gift, or a version that only thanks for a gift.

A note on visual communication

Photos of yourself no doubt make you happy.  They are not a form of communication and should be used ever so sparingly (like your monogram.)  Narcissism is a slippery slope.

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding


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But You Say It’s Time We Moved In Together

The institution of marriage, in America, is becoming less popular.  This shift is occurring as wedding hype is escalating and equal marriage is gaining ground.  Interesting, eh?

Several European cultures have long eschewed legal marriage for cohabitation (presumably, an arrangement which more Americans are embracing.)  Cohabitation is so popular in the United Kingdom that I have heard Brits often substitute the word “partner” for “spouse” when discussing their legally wed better half.  Of course, Europeans cohabitate differently than we do.  While American are serial monogamists, moving from committed relationship to committed relationship, Europeans (by and large) treat their cohabitation as it were marriage and are in it for the long haul.  Of course, they have laws and policies which support this paradigm.  I’m not certain which came first; habit or attitude.

The American change in marital statistics is intriguing, as it seems to have happened in somewhat of a cultural vacuum.  “The number of unmarried Americans has reached a historic high, as the census also found that 30 percent of Americans have never been married, the largest percentage in the past 60 years.”  Sixty years.  In other words, since 1951.  Think of all the phenomenal cultural shifts that have occurred since 1950 (kinda mind blowing.)  Yet, the decline in marriage is happening now.  Why?  Some might point to a celebrity culture which embraces “all the benefits of marriage without the pesky commitment of marriage” lifestyle.  But I would debate that one; perhaps with the ghosts of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett.  Yes, there were many many more examples, but can you think of any couples more romantic and brimming with glamor?

I am going to go out on a (trembling precarious) limb here and posit that there is a direct link to the decline in American marriages and to the development delay of our most recent crop of young adults.

Since the dawn of time, children have been looking longingly towards the cave door.  Thousands of generations ago, adolescents were grumbling; “when I have my own fire, I’m gonna do it totally different man.”  Children have embraced their primal genetically preordained imperative to flee, until very very recently.  The result of the last twenty (plus) years of children ruled households, has resulted in (surprise!) childhood seeming far more attractive than adulthood.  Hence, the 28 year old in your basement.

Most of us grew up in a time before children’s: clothing stores, hair salons, furniture stores, and restaurants.  Seriously, where DO these kids get the cash?  There was a bold thick line between the adult world and the world in which we (as children) inhabited.  Parents’ lives ruled the household, and the schedule of the children was integrated into the household (versus setting the entire tone of the household.)  Besides the risk of raising a generation of Veruca Salts, the inherent danger in a child-centric upbringing is that it makes the adult world look pretty shabby in comparison.  If you have all the benefits of adulthood as a child (dinner, theatre, vacations, authority, power) why venture into the demanding world of adulthood?  Is it any wonder that college students are calling/texting their parents everyday?  Who the hell wants to dive into a world in which you will be ruled by children?  Am I the only one who found Lord of the Flies to be the scariest book ever?!

Which bring us to foregoing marriage, while living together, perhaps buying property and even having children.  It’s all the benefits of marriage without the scary grown-up commitment (cue Veruca Salt.)  My objection to these arrangements is purely based on legal (lack of) protection for all parties involved.  And to be perfectly honest, I always find it abhorrent to see people sleepwalking though life.  I find it hard to believe that most adults involved in non-legal relationships involving children are really being their best selves.

No one is offering predictions on where these marriage trends are going.  If the decline is in fact the start of a major cultural shift, it will be interesting to watch what occurs when the children of the cohabitants come of age.  Will they be the generation who, presumably raised in a child-centric household by adults not fully buying into the notion of adulthood, become the Eisenhower generation?  Or will marriage become as quaint and anachronistic as “coming out parties?”   Will it be left to the LGBT community to redefine marriage and make it relevant for the mid-twenty-first century?  Whatever the future of marriage, my hope is that our laws and policies catch up to those of our friends across the pond.  Children should have all the protections of the institution of marriage regardless of current cultural fashion.


Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding


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