I am just back from attending a wedding over the weekend. It happened this way:
As the family sat down to our evening meal there was a sudden commotion in the yard. Venturing outside we found men on horseback, lanterns and torches held high, circling the cottage. Without warning their leader rode forth and swept a young woman into his arms. With his soon-to-be bride settled in front of him, he galloped off, followed by his kinsmen. Just as the groom rode with his bride, his men did not ride alone, for each had been joined on horseback by maidens, there to attend the bride and protect her honor during the coming ride.
It was a very traditional marriage, except of course, that none of this actually happened.
It was actually a lovely wedding. The ceremony was held on the beach at sunset. There was a bride and a groom and Pachelbel’s Canon playing in the background. It was everything you could expect of a traditional wedding ceremony, except perhaps that it wasn’t very “traditional” at all.
It was neither an arranged marriage nor was there an abduction and chase. The groom did not pay any bride price to the family of his new wife. At no time did the groom’s mother bless the fertility of the union by crumbling a small cake over the head of the bride. None of these things happened despite thousands of years of ‘tradition’ leading up to this moment in time.
For all the shouting of politicians and the men behind the pulpits, there is no such thing as “Traditional Marriage”. The “Whys” and “Hows” of marriage have changed dramatically over the centuries and will continue to do so as we move through the modern era.
The truth is that, as a culture, we seem to pick and choose our traditions with no real thought to their longevity. Occasionally, people with an agenda will play fast and loose with history and religious texts to support their position. Maybe some of them even believe what they are saying. History, however, seldom supports them.
The most important thing here, the one true fact that we miss with all this debate over “Traditional Marriage”, is that two people (any two people) actually love each other enough to commit their lives, one to the other. This is something that should be celebrated instead of being made into another excuse for divisiveness and hate.
I don’t know how many thousands of people (worldwide) got married this weekend. I don’t know what traditions those people did or did not observe. I only know that I was happy to be asked to celebrate the union of two of them. I honor them for being so sure of their love for one another. I worry for them, because they are so young and have so many trials ahead of them. Love, Honor, Concern – maybe these are the only wedding traditions that really count.
On the other hand, maybe some of the old traditions really are worth bringing back. I mean, doesn’t a brisk ride through the countryside at night sound a lot more appealing than worrying about what kind of centerpieces you should have at the reception?