There was a time when the ritual that joined a pair in holy matrimony had some rigid guidelines, established by custom, honored by parents (those footing the bill) and agreed to, if sometimes a little hesitantly, by the couple involved.
A matrimonial sea change has swept in over the last few decades. Couples often wait longer to marry, sometimes postponing the event until after they have started a family. The desire to make the day a special celebration remains, but now it seems, most anything goes.
A 21st century wedding can be wildly elaborate and occur at an exotic island destination or it can be down-home simple, skipping many of the frills and expectations of the past. The old rules are out the window.
Only the essentials remain: Two people who want to announce to the world their wish to spend their lives together and an “officiant” certified to perform a ceremony to make that happen.
Venues are often unexpected spots. A marriage can take place anywhere from a church mosque or synagogue to a barn or brewery, a community hall or at the end of a dock with pleasure boats drifting by. One couple tied the knot in the bride’s “happy place,” the size eight shoe aisle in a T.J. Maxx store. Another couple chose a shark tank. An Australian couple got naked in front of 250 guests and two brave souls chose an outdoor setting followed by a bungee jump to complete the ceremony.
Prior to the big day, many couples send out a “save-the-date” announcement and let people know via the Internet about gifts that would be welcome and where they are available online. This avoids a whole lot of trouble from physically purchasing, wrapping and delivering a gift that may or may not be welcome, to the opportunity to give intangibles such as a contribution to the down payment of a home. The couple may also suggest a contribution to a honeymoon, such as a special meal or excursion. One couple promised that a percentage of monetary gifts would be donated to their favorite charity. No longer does a stack of gifts pile up at the site of the reception.
Other simplifications may include emailed invitations and even thank-you notes. Bridesmaids often forego the traditional “alike” dresses in lieu of outfits that blend with a color scheme but are not exact replicas. High heels no longer required. Groomsmen may choose to wear ties that are alike but not worry about tuxedos. Long and sometimes tedious receiving lines have given way to informal hugs and greetings as the reception gets underway.
Couples often write their own vows. The tradition of not seeing each other on the day of the ceremony until the appointed time no longer applies. Chances are the couple will be working together to complete final details.
Food can be anything from an elegant catered, white-linen-tablecloth-sit-down meal to steaming hot pot pies delivered via food truck and followed by ice cream bars or popsicles for dessert. Wedding cake can arrive in the form of decorated cupcakes or not at all.
A recent trend, the “weed wedding” incorporates such items as a bridal gown made from hemp, floral arrangements that combine flowers and cannabis buds, meals inspired by cannabis and favors such as weed lollipops, edibles and engraved pipes for the guests to take home.
One Chinese bride made a statement and set a Guinness world record with a train more than 600 feet long, held up by dozens of her friends. An Ohio bride asked each of the 110 women in her dance school to be her bridesmaids. She set a record also.
Another bride allotted an entire year’s salary to the purchase of 99,999 roses delivered to her in 30 cars. The number 999 is a symbol of good luck in her Chinese culture. She donated 20 percent of the cost to charity, no doubt insuring her of more good luck.
Today’s engaged couples are more relaxed about the business of tying the knot. They have the freedom to do as they please, to get ultra fancy or embrace simplicity as they plan for their big day.