BIR: Weddings and Receptions are NOT just for the bride and groom

In response to this thread:

in which many people, including the OP, seem to believe that the wedding ceremony is primarly executed for the pleasure of the bride and groom, I humbly submit:

BIR: The purpose of a wedding ceremony and reception is primarily NOT for the enjoyment of the bride and groom.

Frankly, the prevailing attitude of it being the couple’s day just baffles me. Maybe it’s cause of my cultural background. (Note: I generally get kind of annoyed at posters who manage to bring their ethnicity up every third post or whatever, but I feel like it’s relevant here). My family is Indian, and anyone Indian who expressed such a sentiment would be looked upon with shock and dismay. Weddings are HUGE in Indian culture, and generally they are considered to be a party for the families and community, which is what I thought they were in American culture as well. That is, a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to make public their lifelong commitment to one another and to invite others to celebrate with them. However, the “others” aspect of the ceremony is crucial; the guests (family and friends) are integral to the function of a wedding/reception, and indeed, the planning of the ceremony should be undertaken with their comfort/pleasure in mind. For example, let’s say the couple is vegetarian, but most of the guests are nonveg and prefer nonveg food; in this case, the food should be primarily nonveg to suit the desires of the guests. Or, if the guests can’t really travel but the bride and groom would like a destination wedding, then the wedding should be held where it’s more convenient for the guests.

What is the point of a wedding if not to announce your commitment to the public and celebrate with loved ones? Why even bother if the day is “about you”? I would really like to know what the purpose of the whole shebang is in that case.

I’m sorry if this comes off as hostile, I honestly just don’t understand it. Anyone else hear me on this one?


I think we are experiencing a difference in cultures here. Yes, in North America the family, relatives and guests are very important at weddings, and it probably wouldn’t hurt if their needs were made more important, but the wedding ceremony and reception really are all about the couple here. The family and guests are there to celebrate the couple making their personal commitment public and legal.

Which is not to say there is no consideration giving to guests; there certainly is, but the primary concern is what kind of party the couple want. I’m also speaking from a Western Canadian perspective; this could differ widely across North America.

I know what you mean but I think you’re taking it too personally. The people who responded to that thread are speaking from their cultural perspective-by and large many of the values the Indian community hold aren’t relevant to their frame of reference so there is no point getting offended. I can count X number of time people on this board have stated that "Parents doing Y’ for their children = children are all leechey failures (Y = paying for the wedding, paying for college, letting them live at home). Part of the misunderstanding comes from the impression that the kids who receive these benefits have no duties-people don’t get that a) You’re sort of culturally and psychologically bound to the idea that you’ll do the same, if not MORE, for your own children and b) You have ongoing duties to your parents as they age.

Personally I think the Indian model lends itself to more upward mobility from generation to generation-since the children don’t have to struggle for basic subistence, have an enormous amount of support regarding education, and have more time to concentrate on securing upper middle-class professions. Then again, only time will tell if the first generation values stick with the second, and for how long.

You have to keep in mind that the Indian community, for better or worse, is just different. They had a different family structure for a long time. This has both its pros and cons-you can’t really say one is superior to the other. I see Americans as more selfish towards their children, but in general they also tend to be less stifled by their parents and more independent.

You are basically right but you have overestimated x 2 the number of people weddings these days are focused towards. I worked hundreds of the fanciest weddings anyone has ever seen when I was a college student in New Orleans and somehow much of American society has gotten adapted to the fact that it is “her special day” and hopelessly intermingled a beautiful ceremony with a perverted type of debutante party. The whole thing is to barf and I wish that die hard feminists would step up to the plate once and for all decree that no woman’s life is summed up in a few hours of buffet foods and non-offensive 70’s - 80’s dance music. The wedding industry in America is out of control and someone needs to sit down and have a heart to heart talk about how all this came to happen and how to put the focus on the actual marriage back in the wedding. Many women start to die a slow death the day after their own wedding and that isn’t the way it should be.

My parents gave me some advice about our wedding; your primary concern is ensuring that your guests have a good time.

Words for brides and grooms-to-be to live by.

I agree, sorry if it was sounding like I was being pissy. It’s been a tough day :). I’m honestly not offended, just really kind of surprised. But thank you for understanding my viewpoint, anu. Makes me feel a little less crazy.


Would you say that this is always how it’s been in Western/European culture, or that this attitude is fairly recent?


I definitely agree with you about weddings becoming waaay to overblown, but I will also say that Indians and people of other cultures in America are just as bad about making too big a deal out of the whole thing. While the American stereotype of overblown weddings might be the Bridezilla archetype, with Indian weddings there’s definitely this idea that you have to impress everyone with how rich you (or more likely, your family) are by having the most lavish ceremony ever, with a healthy dose of “keeping up with the Patels (Jonses).” Arrrgghhh, Indian ceremonies irritate me to no end, especially considering that the ceremony aspect seems to get more and more marginalized to make way for receptions that feature 6 ice-sculptures. So yeah, Americans don’t have a monopoly on ridiculousness in weddings, they just place the emphasis elsewhere.


Even within the U.S. there are variations in weddings and wedding-related traditions. Some of these are regional and some are ethnic and some are a mix, I think. I can think of practices that would be considered selfish, rude, and tacky to some people–but for other people, it would be nearly unthinkable to not include those things in a truly complete, joyous wedding celebration. Decisions about gift-giving, the size and scope of the guest list, the style and content of the receptions . . . all these things vary greatly and what’s “appropriate” for some people is all wrong for others.

I think the feeling that the wedding is “about the couple” isn’t universal, but it has taken on popularity as our society shifts. One factor is that as people get married later (or have second marriages), a wedding is no longer a fete that your parents & family host.

So true. Look no further than the dollar dance for an example. Heartwarming custom to some, the devil’s own faux pas to others. See also, “chicken dance” “that thing where the bride & groom smoosh cake in each other’s faces,” “whimsical cake toppers” lord, the list could go on.

I’m going to stitch this in a sampler and hang it on my wall. :smiley:

Excuse me, can you leave my continent out of this? Oh, and Latin America as well, thank you.

To me the notion that “a wedding is the bride’s big day” is as alien as the idea that “someone who’s living with his parents at age 30 is a retard, disregarding any kind of circumstances.”

Like anu-la, said, some cultures are more family- and community- oriented than others. Lots of Americans don’t even know where their grandparents were born or how they met. I know it for my great-grandparents…

Weddings are, quoting the priest from the last one I attended “not the point where J and R create a compromise with each other, but the point where they advertise this compromise to the world.” It’s about this community (friends, family, business associates) - about telling your people “hey, (s)he’s mine and viceversa! Ain’t it COOL?”

If it wasn’t so, there wouldn’t be so much angst over which weekend to choose so more of the guests can attend, or so many weddings on Saturdays (so people can rest on Sunday).

Wedding trains in Spain, Italy and many Latin American countries (hey, I’m not familiar with, say, German customs) are a lot smaller than in the US, too. Bride, groom, one opposite-gender “godparent” for each and that’s it. When my parents got married, in Catalonia there was the custom that when the groom had arrived to the church, a friend (in this case it was my uncle) went to her house to bring the bride’s flowers - this way, she wouldn’t arrive before he did. This custom has been lost for many years, which is kind of a pity really but hey, everybody has a cellphone now. And all this friend did was bring the flowers, he wasn’t a part of the ceremony itself.

Amen. This ties in with the “It’s supposed to be the happiest day of my life!” philosophy. Consider how sad that is with respect to the rest of one’s life.

Nay, a wedding, along with birth and death, is traditionally one of the three great milestones of one’s life. It’s supposed to be solemnification of and celebration of the gateway to what one hopes will be the happiest, most meaningful, and most fulfilling PERIOD of one’s life.

Happiest day? I shudder at the thought.

I agree 100% down the line with anu-lala. And this is coming from someone who understands and sees the Indian viewpoint (I am Indian too btw) but vastly prefers the American viewpoint on a good many things. Weddings mean different things to different people. In our culture, it’s a party and a get-together for everyone, and the bride & groom are actually kind of incidental at a lot of ceremonies. That certainly doesn’t make us any better!

I think it’s somewhere down the middle, personally. Weddings are not just for the bride & groom, but marriages are, so it pays to try to make some kind of compromise where you feel like you are having “your” day while everyone else is enjoying it too!

I posted most of this in the Destination Wedding thread, but it also seems applicable here.

It seems that in the US, there are currently two different philosophies about weddings in general, which lead to a lot of the disagreements about destination weddings, child-free weddings, etc.

The first philosophy says that weddings are for the bride and groom to affirm their commitment to one another. It’s about them; it’s their day; and they should choose how they want to celebrate. And that’s a perfectly fine and good way to think.

The second philosophy says that weddings are about celebrating family and community. It’s about blending two families and showing support for two people as they create their own family. It’s important for loved ones to be there to celebrate not just the bride and groom, but the circle of family and friends as a whole. And that’s also a perfectly fine and good way to think.

The trouble comes when the two philosophies clash. The bride may dearly want to get married barefoot on a beach in Jamaica, but her grandmother may dearly want to see her beloved granddaughter walk down the aisle. A party two weeks after the wedding won’t make up for the fact that she didn’t get to be there when her granddaughter said “I do.”

I’m much more in tune with the second philosophy. I didn’t care about having a poufy dress or a slew of bridesmaids, but it was very important to me to have my friends and family there, including my baby cousins, my frail old grandma, and my crazy uncle. They love me, I love them, and I wanted them to share this milestone with me and my husband. Fortunately, my fiance agreed and we had a warm, laid-back, family-friendly wedding that was perfect for us.

Why not blend the two? I’m a hybrid – born in England, raised in America, and a mixture of both. My best friend, who’s a blend of Swiss and American (don’t call her a cheese sandwich) was married by a justice of the peace in the middle of the week, then had a big party for both families on the weekend.

If I ever get married, the whole reason for it will to affirm the gentleman’s and my committment to each other and to officially ask for God’s blessing on it. If I weren’t interested in doing that, why would I get married? However, I’m aware that the gentleman I hope to marry and I are both the eldest in our families and we have responsibilities toward them. It wouldn’t be right to deny them or our friends the opportunity to celebrate and share in our joy. Two families are being united and respect should be shown to both. Yes, I do realize there are some families out there who may not be worthy of respect, but I hope they’re the exception.

I don’t get me-first weddings. Surely there should be enough joy to go around, even to the odd crazy relative or two?

That’s probably what most couples do. I truly believe that most weddings are happy events where the bride, groom, and their families behave well towards each other, each bending some towards the others’ wishes. It’s just that no one vents about those on the Internet.

Amen, and I’ll throw a “hallelujah” in there, too.

To answer your question, Gestalt, I think the developments in marriage in Canada (and it sounds like the U.S. is quite similar) have become more commercial as the religious part of the ceremony decreased. It used to be that two young people were joined before God, to go forth and have multiple babies and help each other survive, and that has been changed to two people (very often older) making their commitment to each other publically and legally, with no concern for future children or helping each other, which lends itself to much more of a show than a simple religious ceremony.

Let me say here that it sounds like I am down on modern weddings vs. traditional, religious weddings - I’m not. I don’t care at all if there is religion in or out of the wedding ceremony - it’s just part of the explanation for the changes that have taken place, I think.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.

When my wife and I were planning our wedding, we asked ourselves what kind of party would our friends and family most enjoy?

For a while after that, we kept getting complemented on how much fun people had.

I tried to pass this advice on to my brother-in-law’s bride, but I think her mother was determined to make it a “Perfect Day”. Poor girl - I can’t remember the last time I’d seen someone so stressed.

Where this goes wrong is when the children have become VERY different people from the family and there is little middle ground (example: parents/family would “most enjoy” a North Carolina style hog roast; children are now vegetarians. Parent’s would “most like” a formal Mass, children are atheists). Someone always ends up steamrolled and many times it is the to-be-wedded who end up with something that does not represent their values.

In this context the wedding brings out many uncomfortable feelings for the parents about how the children have grown away and possibly rejected their values. Many times this is not an illusion – the children HAVE rejected their values. Most days, this is something that can be politely ignored. On a wedding day, its all out there on display for the neighbors and everyone to see.