For as long as history has been recorded, wedding ceremonies have been some of the central rituals that have impacted people’s lives across the ages, and across the globe.
Recently, there’s been a growing “minimalist wedding” trend, which is essentially based around the idea of skipping a ceremony and party altogether, getting the wedding done at the registry office, and investing all the “saved” money into something like a mortgage.
While some people do go too far with unnecessarily lavish weddings, for all the wrong reasons, getting rid of the rituals surrounding weddings altogether is a clear example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
There are reasons why things like engagement rings, religious services, bridal gowns, and all the rest of the traditional wedding paraphernalia exist in the first place – and, for that matter, have endured for so long.
Ultimately, these rituals may well have the power to add a significant dose of meaning and depth to the lives of the people who engage with them. So, here are a few reasons why the rituals surrounding weddings actually matter – and why you shouldn’t be too hasty to kick them to the curb.
We humans are primarily emotional creatures – and symbolic gestures mean a lot
It would be difficult to make a convincing argument that humans are primarily “rational” creatures. In fact, it would probably be far easier to make the argument that humans are completely irrational creatures, when push comes to shove.
On a day-to-day basis, it’s primarily our emotional reactions to things that have the biggest impact on our behaviour and our sense of the world around us. We get angry at people who cut us off in traffic, we become sad when we hear about some human tragedy in the news, and end up overwhelmed by sensations of love and warmth when in the presence of our dearest loved ones.
The desire to completely cut out all the ritual elements involved in a wedding, for the sake of doing something purely practical and utilitarian, is often framed in terms of being a “rational” choice. “We could save this much money instead, and then invest it in…”
But when all is said and done, we are primarily emotional creatures – and symbolic gestures mean a lot in the context of our emotional lives, even if they seem meaningless and unnecessary when viewed strictly from a rational perspective.
The rituals and symbolic gestures we engage in, in all areas of our life, have a lot to do with evoking certain emotional states, resonating with certain parts of our inner selves, and orienting us towards the world in a meaningful way. A wedding ring isn’t just a shiny piece of metal and a stone that may cost a lot of money – it’s a symbol of a continuous and unbreakable bond. And, although we may not be fully aware of that in a conscious sense, the symbology is bound to have a potent impact on our subconscious minds.
It’s often said that the subconscious mind communicates using symbols and images – and that this is why things like mythology and poetry have such an ability to tug on our heartstrings and influence our emotions.
It seems like a wise idea to assume that there is plenty of depth and meaning to our primary rituals, beyond what we may immediately guess using reason alone.
The rituals in our lives often help to give us a sense of the weight and significance of key milestones
Life can become pretty mundane if we let it, and the days can all seem to bleed together into one virtually indistinguishable sequence, if steps aren’t taken to commemorate and reflect on the key events in our lives.
One of the primary roles of rituals – such as those involved in a wedding – is to help to draw us out of the “ordinary” and “mundane,” and to give us a deeper sense of the weight and significance of key milestone moments.
The historian of religion Mircea Eliade wrote that the primary role of ritual was to allow the “sacred” and “timeless” to shine through the everyday, profane, and mundane.
Whatever your specific religious or spiritual beliefs may be, it’s hard to deny that having a traditional wedding ceremony and reception just gives more gravity and weight to the moment, than simply turning up at the registry office does.
However you look at it, these kind of rituals set things apart from the ordinary. In the context of a wedding, this is a great way of reminding yourself of the importance of the commitment you are making.
It’s easier to forge and hold onto powerful memories when they are anchored to certain rituals and symbols
If the rituals surrounding weddings can serve as a very effective way of tapping into our emotions and magnifying and drawing them out, while also reminding us of the deep significance of the event itself, it pretty much goes without saying that the same rituals will also help us to forge and hold onto vivid memories, right?
As everyone’s probably noticed at some point in their lives, the older you get, the more time typically seems to accelerate. One reason that’s been proposed for this is that the older we get, the more we tend to get into certain grooves and routines, and to just act out the same patterns day after day.
And, of course, if you are doing more or less the same thing every day, you’re likely to have fewer outstanding memories to reflect on – which contributes to the feeling that time is racing by.
When you go through with the rituals and traditions surrounding weddings, one consequence is that you break the monotony of everyday life in a big way – and dramatically increase the odds that you’re going to have vivid and powerful memories of the event to cherish and reflect on well into the future.
Well, at least if you don’t go too overboard with the champagne.
There’s something to be said for enjoying the opportunity to try something completely different from your everyday life experience
Sometimes it’s just fun to do things that you wouldn’t normally do, for the sake of having the experience, and seeing what all the fuss is about, right?
Although this isn’t exactly the most meaningful reason to take the rituals surrounding a wedding seriously, it’s still worth taking into consideration.
The opportunity to have a big wedding celebration isn’t the kind of thing you’re going to experience every day. So, may as well take advantage of it when you can.