In June, I joined thousands of people, maybe millions of people, in the role of being a wedding guest. My view of weddings is akin to the author who wrote “I’ve married 200 couples in my day. Do I believe in marriage? I don’t know. I suppose I do. M marries N. Millions of them. The cottage, the go-cart, the Sunday afternoon drives in the Ford, the first rheumatism, the grandchildren, the second rheumatism, the deathbed, the reading of the will. Once in a thousand times it’s interesting.” Perhaps a bit cynical?
The role of a wedding guest is not an easy one. You are called to be a witness to the creation of a new family. You are called to bring joy to the occasion and you are called to present the couple with a gift of some sort. You are also called to be kind, gracious and understanding. You are called to be supportive of the new couple.
At times you are called to be an in-law. You must present yourself in a dignified manner at least until the wedding couple leaves the reception or dance. Then you are free to resume your normal behavior until the next thick envelope arrives announcing your requested presence at the next wedding, of the same couple with different partners the second time around.
The United States has a divorce rate of 50%, but we are being saved by the millennial generation, according to a study by the World Economic Forum. As a wedding guest it is considered bad form to rise from your chair to toast the newly married couple and inform the couple that you wish them well but remind them that 50% of marriages lead to divorce. But I am now attending weddings of millennials and I am pleased to see what is happening.
They are getting married when they are older and have finished school. They are more casual about the wedding routine. For better or worse (no pun intended) weddings are now more relaxed. More and more couples are forgoing expensive wedding dress and tuxes to purchase formal wear that can be worn later for formal events. I view this as a positive step.
Also is a trend to shorter wedding ceremonies. I encourage a 30-minute-and-out rule. Start at 4 p.m., done at 4:30 p.m. and, if you please, no pictures after the wedding and no bar hopping. Also, if it is not too much to ask, please no garlic in the mashed potatoes? I view that like picking up a butter sandwich in grade school only to find out it is mayo.
We also tend to give the gift that keeps on giving — money and a card. Someplace in the house I think we have our wedding cards but the money was put to good use. When we got married in 1971 the result was two coffee pots that are avocado green and two irons. The first was in service for 35 years. We are on the second iron now. The avocado coffee pot(s) are also still around. The gifts that keep on giving.
I applaud the relaxed attire for the wedding service from the guests. In the June wedding I noticed attire ranging from three-piece suits to blue jeans and a Harley-Davidson cap. Although I do agree with the Miss Manners rule of etiquette that asks that hats and caps be removed in church. To be a complete Scrooge is it possible to keep babies at home during the service?
My wife is a strong believer in if you are asked to the wedding you don’t skip church and just go to the reception. My wife also insists on saying goodbye to the people who have invited us to the wedding. She informs me that is good manners. I believe that but sometimes it turns out to be the Lutheran/Norwegian variation of the long goodbye which usually includes another cup of coffee or piece of cake. My wife is more civilized than I am. She also makes for a better wedding guest. She will say I am exaggerating but it is true.
Best wishes to all the summer brides and grooms. Live long and prosper.