As I wrote about in my last post about planning a wedding budget, weddings aren’t just an emotional and meaningful event for two people: they ripple out into entire communities of friends and family. I came across this adorable video from the great people at blackandmarriedwithkids.com and it just melted my heart. I have a very close relationship to my dad. He would play with me tirelessly as a girl, enthusiastically taking part in my tea parties and creating elaborate stories with me when I got tired on long hikes or drives. We remain very close and I love him dearly.
I started thinking about the special daddy-daughter bond in our culture, and that got me looking into the origins of wedding ceremonies. In the olden days marriage was viewed as a strategic transaction between families. As the head of the family the father essentially owned his wife and children. He would “give the bride away” to her new family, transferring that ownership to her husband. Now this sounds pretty darn coldhearted, but this was just the accepted, underlying structure of society. I’m sure that on top of that structure there were strong, loving bonds between families, fathers and their daughters, and many marriages were based on choice and love.
Today we don’t have the same ideas of ownership, and we consider the decision of the bride and groom to wed most important. Yet we have the same marriage ceremonies. Because of this, I’ve heard arguments that traditional weddings are insulting because they reflect old fashioned sexism. What right does a father have to “give” his daughter to anyone? And when I do think about it, I see where those objections come from. At the same tim, I think traditional ceremonies work.
Marriage does not mean the same thing as it did 100+ years ago. The groom is likely not the first man the bride has dated. It probably isn’t the first time the bride is leaving her family home. There probably wasn’t a dowry involved. Yet it is a powerful marker of a new stage in life for the bride and groom. The parents are at the very least emotionally releasing their child into a new life. It is a ceremony that marks passage and transition. The newlyweds are beginning a new family, and this has a huge impact in the dynamics of all families involved.
So why not honor all the history between the parent and child? All those years of diapers, toys, school, first loves, tears and laughter, and every thing else it has meant to raise a child into adulthood. I think it is amazingly sweet. I really enjoy this video because of the tender relationship it reveals. The bride has just the biggest grin on her face. Her dad is a talented dancer and is struttin’ his stuff. When they dance and look at each other, that, ladies and gentlemen, is pure love. And that is what a wedding is all about.