Tag Archives: South Africa

How we’re crafting the ceremony: Opening thoughts

As I write this, there’s just a little over three months to the wedding. How did that happen so fast? Combined with the fact that my very first bridal blogger-in-arms, Rogue Bride (you never forget your first), already had her wedding a few weeks ago, it’s starting to feel kind of serious. I’ve suddenly spent less time wedding theorising, and less time wedding fantasising via other blogs than I have since…oh who knows how long, and more time making spreadsheets, putting together a playlist, researching beach games to have at the reception, and thinking about the ceremony. The other day I had my first two official wedding nightmares of things going wrong on the day. A rite of passage, folks! Anyway, let me talk about how we’re approaching the ceremony.

First of all, Miss Manners’ take on it is that personalising your ceremony, especially if that means making it less solemn, is an affront to the dignified tradition of wedding ceremonies. She’s all for just going with whatever traditional wording your belief system/culture has always used. Once again, Miss Manners is halfway right.  Tradition is a strong way of imparting meaning (I also discussed that here). And that’s all well and good for people who readily identify with a given belief system. But for those of us who don’t, we’re forced to reinvent things, one couple at a time.

For instance, I don’t believe in the supernatural (including souls/spirits/ghosts, any kind of higher power, and the idea of fate). But I was raised in a Protestant community in South Africa, and between M and I, the majority of our extended family have this belief system. The customs associated with the culture are still my customs, and they can still have meaning for me even without the supernatural beliefs. I am very fond of Christmas, and damned if I’m not going to participate in giving presents just because I don’t consider Jesus my saviour. I just leave out the praying and the church-going (singing carols is still fun though). So what I want to do is adapt the Anglican, or really just general western, wedding ceremony, by leaving out the religious bits, thus rendering our wedding recognisable, traditional, and hence meaningful to everyone, while also not feeling like a charlatan.

Part of this is about the general tone the ceremony will take. Sometimes, I think the tendency towards ceremony is like a personality quirk. Kiwis tend to be  irreverent about these things, while South Africans tend to the opposite. I often read online about couples that wanted to make sure their wedding ceremony wasn’t serious and stuffy, and they consider it a success that their ceremony was filled with lightheartedness and laughter, and vows like “I promise to buy you chocolate when you’re upset”. I think it’s to do with feeling comfortable, and maybe if you’re not raised in it, ceremony is not something you feel comfortable with. The way I grew up though, in order to acknowledge that getting married is a big freaking deal, it’s serious, there needs to be some solemnity to it.

Then on the other hand, just secularising a religious ceremony isn’t going to cut it, because there are sentiments we want expressed that aren’t included in the traditional texts. Or are even the opposite of the traditional themes at weddings. Like, our love is not unconditional, and I don’t aspire for it be. I also don’t buy the idea that a successful marriage is about sacrifice, or is an exercise in tolerance. And I want to talk about being each others’ highest priorities, and how we are going to be a team in everything in life. So I need to find readings that reflect this stuff, without being publicly mushy, which I think is also a personality quirk that some people have and some people don’t.

And then we also need to acknowledge the fact that by the time this ceremony happens, we will already be legally married. I don’t want to mislead people about what is actually going on. So I need to find some wording that talks about that while still saying that actually though, its this emotions-only ceremony that is the one that matters to us.

Finally, on that note: some dress news. I went three times to try on that Karen Millen dress. The second time, some embroidery was coming undone on an elbow. They sent it back to be fixed, but it wasn’t fixed properly, but it was fixed enough that people wouldn’t notice. The third time, I took the fiance with me, and some embroidery was coming undone on the chest. Plus it became apparent we’d need to remove the shoulder pads, and then M said it looks like a doily. He says that about anything involving lace or embroidery, but he had a point that maybe I didn’t look my best self. And of course, that sucker was expensive. So I’m not getting it. The hunt resumes.