This has been a wedding-heavy summer for us, attending four in all. It's also a middle year of sorts: We just had out twelfth anniversary, and in twelve more years our oldest daughter will be the age (indeed a little older than) we were when we got married. Thus, it's perhaps natural to find myself thinking a bit about weddings, both in general and our own in retrospect.
If there was something that I could go back and tell my 22-year-old self about weddings it would be: "This really isn't yours."
Typically one has a wedding because one wants to be married. (If you're planning a wedding with someone you don't want to be married to, stop now!) Certainly, we very much wanted to be married. And one of the reasons we wanted to be married was that we were so glad to be us. I preferred MrsDarwin to all other women, I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life, and I thought virtually everything about us was wonderful and unique. Because of all this, it seemed very important that the wedding be our wedding. If we weren't like the sea of other couples, our wedding had to be different somehow.
Luckily, finances and such necessitated that our wedding be fairly small and simple, so this didn't come out in any really crazy ways. And there are obvious places where a couple quite rightly chooses what they think is best: We picked out traditional organ music for the ceremony, picked what we thought were the best readings from the options available, etc. Others were necessary choices given the venue and scope: We were having the reception in my parents house and yard, so dancing was pretty clearly out and that fit well with my lack of dancing ability.
However, even within that scope, thinking back, we spent a lot of time worrying about various details and whether they would express us. Did the food express us? We flirted briefly with not having a wedding cake because we didn't like the taste of bakery cake and icing. Some wise relative talked us out of this by sensibly pointing out, "People like and expect cake at a wedding reception."
And that was the thing that, in retrospect, was too often not at the center of things. People weren't coming to our wedding to find out whether we liked cake, or what our favorite colors were, or what foods we would put on the buffet. They were coming to celebrate the beginning of our marriage with us. The purpose of the reception was to give them food that they would like, get a chance to meet everyone, and allow everyone to enjoy themselves. We needn't have worried so much about our preferences in it all because, frankly, what with talking to everyone and the stress of making a major life change, we never got the chance to sit down and eat or think about anything at the reception.
At a wedding, the couple is there to get married, and that's most of what they're going to get out of it. The guests are there to watch the ceremony and wish them well. And the purpose of the reception is to give the guests an enjoyable time. To that end, the traditional wedding reception social structure works pretty well, and following it with only modest tweeks to fit your preferences and needs is a good way to cut down a lot of the stress of planning the whole thing.
I still think we're a wonderful and unique couple, of course, but one of the things that I see much more clearly now is that what we were doing was something all married couples do: get married. It didn't have to be different in every way and express us perfectly, because what we were doing was actually something that gave us commonality with other married couples, not set us apart. And in that sense, it wasn't even completely ours.