If I seem focused on weddings, it is because I have attended two the last two weekends, and such a dominant commandeering of one's social life cannot go unnoticed or unremarked upon. What has been exciting, even inspiring, is how both weddings bucked the traditional in favor of the personal. Both brides and groom "did it their own way". A report from the field, if you will:
1. One space. The first wedding used the same "event space" for rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception, the second wedding for wedding and reception. Presumably, this is a money saver, but it also addresses that dead time between wedding and reception that kills so many weddings. You know what I'm talking about--everyone standing around, waiting for the wedding party to finish taking pictures, maybe enjoying a drink and apps, maybe not. There's driving, there's parking. It's a pain.
2. Rewritten Vows and Meaningful Officiants. At the first wedding, the gay bartender from the restaurant where both members of the wedding couple had once worked ran the show. And I only mention "gay" because he gave a shoutout to this past Summer's Supreme Court ruling on marriage as part of his remarks. It enriched the experience, for me at least. At the second wedding, the newly-minted Baptist minister cousin of the groom oversaw the procedurals and the groom's father gave the homily. It, too, was very affecting (plus the fact that the Vols were losing dramatically to Florida as vows were exchanged). In both cases, the couple personalized their vows. The first couple asked each other if they promised to be each other's "favorite person for life." In the second wedding, the couple's vows portrayed different versions of their courtship in positive ways and for several pages.
3. Great food. Instead of going crazy with options, both weddings were sit down dinners that reflected the backgrounds of the couple. So while people are mingling and having a drink, two or three exception apps make the rounds (pork belly steamed buns or vegetable sushi or chicken teriyaki on a stick or fried green tomatoes with a spicy sauce--delicious!). For the dinner itself, a very small buffet with 3-5 options but all very high quality and all delicious as well. People may not remember wedding food or whether it was pricey or not, but they will remember good wedding food. And. In both cases, this was.
4. Beer and Wine only. This is just a smart economic choice and one that reflects the drinking habits of many young people. Oh, yeah, the first wedding had saki shots, too. I did not partake.
5. No band. Another economic choice, perhaps, but both weddings used DJ's, which meant that people were dancing to the exact songs that the couple wanted them to dance to, not their band playlist. And given that both weddings had idiosyncratic songs for first bride-and-groom dance ("Is This Love?" By Bob Marley and the Wailers, anyone?) and the father-bride dance, having a DJ with the songs desired was key. Now, I didn't get "Love Train" at either wedding, but I'm not overly complaining. Bottom line: people like to dance at a wedding, but they don't care where the music is coming from.
6. No Cake. Yeah, the second wedding had a very small cake for the bride and groom, but for those taking part in the celebration, there were killer cupcakes. The first wedding had killer doughnuts, which you could either eat there or box up for later. I opted for the latter while my non-drinking wife, who suffers from night blindness, drove us across Chicago. The doughnuts were a great comfort. No cake also means comfort and ease and no waiting for ceremony. And, probably, cheaper.
There were other similarities--scaled down clothing for the wedding party, novel takeaway gifts (Siracha salt, wine glasses filled with chocolate), young people only after parties--but the main takeaway I had was that young people getting married today are taking the stiffness and formality out of weddings. And this is a good thing. If a more casual wedding puts the bride and groom at ease (I was never at ease at my wedding), then everyone else picks up on the more comfortable vibe and, consequently, enjoys themselves more. How nice it is to walk or drive away from a wedding in another city that has involved some expense on your part and be able to say, "Wow, that was a great wedding!" Well done, you couples just starting out on your journey! We were happy to be a part of the official beginning.