Saturday, May 07, 2005

one last post on the bride...

I can't believe that the media is still talking about the Runaway Bride. Must be because of idiots like me who just can't seem to let it go...

And speaking of the Bride, allow me a few final observations.

Jim Shea of the Hartford Courant empathizes with the
father of Unwilling Wilbanks. He says,

"...Harris Wilbanks (Dad) had two thoughts once ET phoned home:
Thank God she's all right. And, I should get a restraining order on myself."

If you add up the cost of the wedding hall, banquet, caterers, DJ, limo, etc... and the VERY likely fine to cover the cost of the search effort while Daughter Disappeared was shooting craps in Vegas, I'll bet Dad is himself thinking of hopping on a Greyhound to parts unknown.

But, as we all know, the financial encumbrances are only one layer of this spoiled wedding cake.

In a recent statement, Jennifer Wilbanks asserted that it wasn't the wedding she was fleeing. Sadly, I'm inclined to believe her. Weddings nowadays are hardly worth running from.

To see where I'm going with this read Eilene Zimmerman's piece in May 1's NY Times. (Here, admittedly, I digress from the case of the Feckless Fiance.)

Perhaps the way in which the choice of celebrant is approached says more about what weddings really mean today than any of the other decisions that go into planning the celebration.

Not that any one element of the ceremony, or even the ceremony itself, necessarily reveals the full significance of marriage - although we catholics believe that the sacramental liturgy does precisely that. But the choice of minister or officiant tends to say a lot about what the couple understands their wedding to mean.

During my missionary stint in Latin America, I knew many couples - catholics in predominantly catholic countries - who chose not to be married by a catholic priest because they understood what that would mean: indissoluble, forever, sacramental, total, "as Christ loves His Church...", etc. To choose a priest would be to choose something much larger than just the dude in the flowing robes. He stands for a meaning that goes far beyond his possible friendship with the bride and groom, or his being part of the traditional decor that some like in churchy weddings. That's part of why it is not even essential that he be a friend of the couple he marries.

Zimmerman's article about nontraditional officiants is quite suggestive. You'll have to read it all to get the full brunt, but a few bytes merit repetition here.

Given as examples of trendy marriage officiants:

  • Chris the lifeguard ("we were getting married at the beach, we wanted something light, yet official, so having a lifeguard seemed to fit")
  • Ellen Sweets, the food writer (yup, Sweets)
  • Jeff, a producer for VH1 music channel ("some were afraid I would turn the ceremony into a comedy...") Fear not, Jeff, by the time you were picked, it already was.

The criteria for choosing a nontraditional minister is equally varied:

  • 'whatever most personalizes your wedding'
  • 'whatever makes sense for you as a couple'
  • 'a good friend'
  • 'someone who reflects your identity' (kind of like choosing a screen saver for your pc or a tatoo for your arm...)

Apparently, traditional officiants fit none of these dubious requisites. What all the nontrads named in the article have in common is that they were "ordained" online in a matter of minutes.

I must really ask my superiors what the !#%@&!!#@! I was doing for thirteen years before being ordained, when it was only a mouse click away...

Not everything is as rosy as it may seem with the online ministers, however. The article cautions that:

  • many charge between $350 and $800 per service, although one popular minister (a geography professor) asks only for a bottle of tequila as payment
  • some have felt that, notwithstanding their officiants particular charism, "the solemnity of the act may have been compromised" (Hmmm... hard to imagine.)
  • some officiants are found not to have been ordained after all (Impostors!! What an outrage!)
  • not all online officiants necessarily show the same level of professionalism
  • not all states recognize marriages performed by online ordained officiants as legal
  • some ministers have arrived late or even drunk (geography prof?) to the ceremony

What then does marriage mean?

What could ordination possibly mean?

I think I just gave myself a headache.