January 21, 2020

Wedding traditions must adapt to the changing times

First in a series

The bride and groom usually consider the wedding day to be their own special day, but immediate relatives and close friends wouldn’t dream of being left out of the hoopla and momentous decisions. Society, too, has an interest because marriages signify the hope of new families.

The rules surrounding weddings change as society changes, but tradition calls for certain expectations of the bride and her family.

Q. My boyfriend and I will be married right after college graduation. My parents have limited the amount of money they are willing to spend on our wedding. My father says he has already spent a bundle on my education and doesn’t feel he should be expected to come up with more.

A. Your father’s reasoning reflects a contemporary change in lifestyles. Previously, a young woman went from her father’s house to that of her husband. Her parents’ sole responsibility was to prepare her to assume the role of a dutiful wife. Part of that responsibility was to pay for the wedding celebration and help the young couple set up their household.

In today’s more complex society, parents realize that daughters need to be able to fend for themselves emotionally and economically. When resources are limited, they often choose their daughters’ educations over their wedding days as wiser investments. They reason that with this practical preparation for making their own way, daughters will be able to pay for their own weddings or be willing to accept modestly-planned celebrations.

Purse strings can be long and binding. Parents who retain economic control over daughters also retain emotional control, setting requirements and conditions that the daughters and their fiances are expected to meet. For example, they may require that a daughter’s choice of mate meets with the full and unqualified approval of her parents.

Your father and mother have given you a generous wedding gift, the freedom to make your own choices.

Q. A long white gown and veil hold no interst for me, but my mother insists that I will later regret not choosing traditional bridal attire. My grandmother has suggested that such a rejection would be scandalous because the lack of a white dress announces my lack of virtue.

A. In this culture, it has long been accepted that the color white indicates purity. The origins of this tradition are obscure, probably dating to a time in pre-recorded history when white paint was applied to the bride’s body on the eve of the wedding ceremony. Of course, this color association is not universal. For example, in India, the bridal color is red, and white is reserved for mourning.

As we increasingly become a multi-cultural people, it is important that we respect and recognize those customs derived from cultures other than the dominant one. If a dress decision today leads to a future regret, it will be that family members were too rigid to compromise and therefore diminished the shared joy of all concerned.

Q. The pride and happiness I experienced in locating just the right dress for my wedding has been spoiled by my cousin’s request that she, too, wear the dress for her wedding which will take place later this year.

The dress is expensive and was custom-made for me. I paid for it with money I earned and went without small pleasures for a long time to afford it. Some day, I would like to offer it for use by my goddaughter, my daughters or granddaughters.

My mother insists that I lend the dress to my cousin because it would be selfish to refuse to share the beautiful wedding dress with her only sister’s child. She is afraid that my aunt and my cousin will never speak to us again if I say “no”.

A. Your cousin’s request was presumptuous and rude. Charitably, we can only deduce that she was so enamored by the beauty of your wedding dress that she spoke without thinking.

If your aunt and cousin are angered by your refusal to allow your wedding dress to be used for purposes other than the ones you have mentioned, the insensitivity exists on their part. Your mother’s desire to keep peace in the family is understandable, but she should respect your feelings and refuse to buckle under the emotional blackmail of relatives.

Lee Ryckman is a free-lance writer who lives in Bangor.

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