Siege Diaries 6/15/2020

One year ago.

Yesterday, walking through the park that abuts my development on the east side, we ran across a pure white pigeon or dove.  It seemed remarkably tame, and I wondered if perhaps it was one of the variety that is sometimes released at weddings.  And that got me thinking about weddings…

The pandemic has forced a lot of couples to postpone their meticulously-planned weddings–although some locales are still issuing marriage licenses and as more things reopen those services will likely be some of the first to return.  I’ve heard stories of couples in quarantine who have exchanged physically-distanced vows with just a couple of friends witnessing, or have moved things to videoconferencing, to keep to their originally-planned date (even if the paperwork needs to come later). I even heard of one couple who simply exchanged their vows with each other in private–which, according to medieval theology, was a perfectly valid way to perform the sacrament of holy matrimony.

Last Friday the province began allowing weddings of up to ten people. That’s still a very small group.  Couples are having to decide whether they want to solemnize now, without most family and friends present, or to postpone indefinitely, with no guarantee of a future date.

Weddings have always been huge in many cultures–I remember attending a Greek wedding as a teenager and being astounded by the extravagance and sheer spectacular size of the thing.  But even outside of these traditional “big wedding” cultures, going into debt for the “wedding of your dreams” has become almost expected in popular culture.  Multiple showers, stag-and-does, and bachelor/bachelorette parties, destination venues, lavish dresses, decorations, food, alcohol, photographs–and yes, sometimes, the aforementioned dove releases–all of this formerly the purvey of the very wealthy, but more recently, as more couples marry older, something worth taking out loans to pay for.

None of those big weddings have happened in the past three months.   And who knows when–if–they will again?  Couples have lost money, and are mourning what never was.  And as much as I snickered at overblown weddings and how they seemed to focus less on the actual act of marriage than on the party and the “stuff” surrounding it, it’s bad enough to go into debt to get married;  it’s even worse to go into debt to not get married.

Every time I pass an empty banquet hall, I wonder.  Will people emerge from the pandemic even more determined to pursue their visions of wedding perfection? Or will frugal or creative weddings that can be planned and executed quickly and cheaply suddenly become trendy in upcoming months?

Those kinds of weddings have always been with us.  They just don’t get the press.  I think I’ve mentioned before how frugal my own parents’ wedding was.  There are no photographs.  I know the witnesses were my mom’s brother and sister, but I don’t know where the ceremony took place.  It was a Saturday, so it most likely was not at a courthouse, but beyond that, all I know is that the marriage lasted 51 years until my mom’s death.

And I’ve probably mentioned my own wedding, which cost us about $1500, including the honeymoon (three nights at a B&B and plays at Stratford), where I made my own dress and my husband’s doublet, along with all of the flower arrangements.  We used a chapel at Hart House, one friend played the harp, another friend took the photos, and we had a picnic reception.  And we’re still married after nearly 29 years.  There was one point at which I felt a little sad that I didn’t have quite the traditional ceremony many of the members of my extended family had had–but then I realized that those weddings really weren’t me.  In an interesting premonition of the future, my wedding was one of the first projects I ever managed.

My own circle of friends has always favoured creative, rather than excessive, weddings, in keeping with the generally artistic, DIY kind of people that I consider my community.  Like my own wedding, these were affairs where friends helped out with sewing dresses or baking the cake or providing the music.  They often used less-traditional venues, with other friends officiating, and almost always avoided the wedding-planning industry.  And several have simply gotten married at City Hall without much fuss.   And the majority of couples who took this route are still together.

A year from now, will banquet halls be full of masked, physically-distanced wedding parties?  Will destination weddings with only a handful of people present be more popular?  Will there be drive-in weddings?   Or will everyone suddenly be livestreaming weddings?   Who knows?  I do know people are going to keep getting married.  It will be interesting to see how the modern idea of the wedding evolves in the next couple of years.

Just one year ago, I was at Fallingwater, my favourite place in the entire world. We were in Columbus, attending the Origins game convention, and I’d taken a day trip out a few hours to the east to see it again.  It is still fresh in my memory.