My wife is currently away to attend the wedding of her nephew and to visit with her Florida relatives. Even though she has no formal role in the rituals, I can tell from her daily reports that she is ecstatic to be a part of the fanatic chaos evident in even the most well staged nuptials. Women and weddings are like cats and catnip; they can’t resist getting right there in the middle of it, rolling around until they are saturated and drunk with it. Vera Wang is their patron saint and Modern Bride their bible.
The prospect of being a bride changes women. The most lovely, angelic and intelligent young women who would on any other day give Mother Teresa a run for the Peace prize, can transform Hyde-like into a tyrannical, controlling diva, determined that no force in nature or humanity will keep them from having “Their Day” precisely as they have envisioned since they were four years old and saw their first Bride Barbie. Equally as puzzling is that the other women involved in The Ritual not only allow this bizarre behavior, but condone it — nodding knowingly to each other while the men can only stare on in horror. I’m convinced that this is precisely the reason why it is considered bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day. Any man who saw the woman he was about to marry behaving like a raving lunatic would probably slip out a side door, buy a false identity and try to lose himself in the Amazon jungle, hoping she would never be able to track him down.
But, if you think about it, how can we blame brides for behaving badly? They have been conditioned since birth that someday it will be “Their Day” and the expectations that have been created almost assures that the least deviation from that plan would result in behavior worthy of exorcism. Even the mothers who would otherwise deny their daughters baby dolls and Easy-Bake Ovens™ with the intention that they’ll grow up to become strong, independent young women unencumbered by female stereotypes, yet still have this blind spot called The Wedding, where her daughter will be ritualistically deified, if only for one day. And next to the Bride herself, there is none more terrifying than The Mother of the Bride denied her vision of The Wedding. Her daughter is entitled by right of sex to this moment of Goddesshood, and more so if the mother herself was denied her own moment in the sun.
Even before they even have an inkling of what marriage is all about, little girls are indoctrinated in The Ritual. They begin first as flower girls adorned in beautiful dresses and strewing rose petals in the path of the bride. They are first in the procession and for that moment the center of attention from a church full of people. Like the first snort of cocaine, they are hooked, forever after jonesing for more. As they get older they are promoted up the nuptial ladder where they serve their time as receptionists and junior bridesmaids, roles designed to ensure even more exposure and participation. Then finally comes the day when they are chosen to be a part of The Wedding Entourage as bridesmaids — the attendants and ladies-in-waiting of the royal Wedding Party. And if they are lucky they reach that holy of holies, the Maid of Honor, just one step short of the Bride herself. By this point, young women have been so conditioned, so indoctrinated, that given the choice between World Domination and The Wedding, they might choose Domination, but only because it means they could have The Wedding televised around the world by satellite in High Definition and Surround sound and covered by TMZ.
We should probably note at this point that in no way does the groom have anything to do with the wedding. Other that being the reason for the wedding, the groom is completely superfluous. In fact, it would probably be even better if there were no groom until the last moment, should he get the idea that his opinion means anything. More consideration is given to the selection of hors devours for the reception and arrangement of flowers in the sanctuary than is given for the selection of the groom. The groom can be chosen on the way to picking up the bridal bouquet, and the only requirements are that he cleans up well, can articulate his lines during the ritual, and fits into the tuxedo and accessories that were carefully assembled to match the bridal gown and wedding cake, right down to his underwear and shoe laces.
It should also be noted that it may be best to enlist the aid of the Best Man to ply the groom with liquor the night before The Wedding and afterwards, during the reception, until he is unable to walk without assistance. This will ensure that he is kept distracted from the fact that he is to become bound to this woman, legally obligated to provide her with sperm to produce her children and to feed, clothe, shelter and educate said children in perpetuity unless these children wander away from home and don’t find their way back. Along with this, he has also promised to love, cherish (i.e., be subservient to) and be a beast of burden forever (i.e., always be available to carry in the groceries from the car and hold her handbag when she tries on clothes in the store, even when it doesn’t match his shoes). In return, she has promised to give him sex when she feels he has earned it (see previous duties of the groom).
Why, you may logically ask, would a modern woman wish to engage in the archaic rituals of marriage when almost every aspect of it presents the bride to be property to be bartered and sold? In the giving of the bride her father passes ownership of his daughter to the husband. The wedding band binds the woman to her husband as a symbolic hackle and chain to prevent his property from escaping. The rice bestows fertility on the woman so that she can provide her husband with many sons. The bondage of the garter, the veil and even the marriage license itself. Why would a woman want to participate — much less celebrate — in her own sale?
The answer is that no one pays any attention to these symbols any more, as if they ever did. Most of these rituals are performed with tongue planted firmly in cheek, merely a part of the show, with the possible exception of the romantic aspects, as depicted in Harlequin Romances and Brides Magazine. For the bride, she is permitted to live the role of Princess Diana if only for a day; a day for which she has been programmed, has planned and expects to have cherished memories for all of her life — at least until she does it again. If the groom —normally clueless and totally bewildered by the pageantry — is even aware of the ancient meanings of these acts, he should realize it is all a sham. The Best Man and the groomsmen are only there for the booze and the groom for the wedding night, although even that ritual is moot considering that the bride and groom have probably been living together for the past year and a half, and the Wedding Night is nothing different, except that they are now legal, which if anything takes some of the fun out of it.
And if the groom is aware of the symbolism, he at least has that moment of faux ownership. The smartest women know that to keep a man in line, you have to let him occasionally think that he’s in charge. Giving him a large portion of Preferred Stock in her company only lulls him into a false sense of ownership and entitlement, just enough to get him through the ceremony and maybe the honeymoon, where he finds that his shares do not constitute a controlling interest, but only enough to make him obligated to support the company until death – or divorce in a no-fault state – do they part.
For a man, marriage is a whole lot like buying an expensive car. You may think you own the car, you have the pleasure of driving it, and the envy of all the other guys, but in reality the car owns you. You have to keep up the maintenance, the insurance and constantly filling up the tank if you want to go anywhere. In the end, you have a Title of Ownership and an instruction manual. For me, I’d settle for an instruction manual. Then I might have a reference to give me some idea why I’m in trouble all the time.