Friday, August 17, 2012

On Going to Weddings & Judging People

Children, wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.

"Wake Up," Arcade Fire

I went to a wedding this weekend, and it was rad. As weddings should be.

As a guy, I am not culturally obliged to think this about weddings, for which I am thankful. I know lots of young women who are all about talking about weddings and their accoutrements. But I also know a fair number who have no interest in the subject, or who actively avoid it because it makes them uncomfortable or annoys them. Heck, I even know one who has never been to a wedding. And for some of the gals in these latter categories, the assumption that you will, just by default as a female, want to gush about dresses and centerpieces and colors and catering must be pretty doggone frustrating.

The main thing that grabs my attention at weddings is music. I love how wedding music heightens and highlights the already heady emotions on display. And I like getting an insight into the character of the wedding couple by observing their music choices. How one communicates, say, the drama of the bridal processional, says a lot about what sort of people are getting married that day: you can go hyper-traditional with the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin, stick with a classic (or cliche, depending on your view) with something like Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, or find something totally original, like, say Bjork (note: I have seen this--it was sweet). Me, I always wanted the last movement from the Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky, a favorite from childhood, though it's probably a bit over the top for any wedding that's not super formal and intense.

Given this predilection, I was pumped to see a selection of non-traditional musical elements on the program at this wedding, as it would be (1) fun and (2) a chance to see what kind of folks these were--they were known to me, but by no means did I know everything about them.

There are a number of key feelings that wedding music can seek to highlight. You can work the solemnity angle: this is a ritual, after all, with a long history and a profound, life-changing significance; for this, people tend to choose lovely, clear, stately classical music, often easily recognizable by most attendees. There are also the bittersweet emotions on display: the parents lose their children to adulthood, the couple cease being individuals and become part of something bigger, and so forth; for this, pop ballads are best. But at this wedding, the primary emotion in the music was joy at the beauty and excellence of the occasion; in particular, I was pleased and surprised by this spirited Celtic tune for the entrance of the bridal party, and by the use of this Jack Johnson song for the recessional. I didn't agree with every music choice, but overall, they were great.

That last sentiment, "I didn't agree with everything, but..." is the big trouble with weddings for me. In addition to everything else they are (a celebration of two people's union, a chance to meet new people and see old friends, an opportunity to enjoy free food and dancing) weddings are definitely a time when I have to try to keep myself from judging people's taste. I get really riled, for some reason, if I hear a scripture read at a wedding that seems to always get read at weddings (I'm looking at you, the Love Chapter); similarly, a piece of music that appears constantly at weddings, or anything else that I've seen too many times. "Don't these people know this is a cliche? Have they not themselves seen this at a dozen weddings in their lives, some enshrined forever in cinema? This is boring and foolish." These and similar thoughts cross my mind at most weddings at least once, and I know they shouldn'tbut they do. (I also, of course, have trouble with sappy pop, or anything I see as cheap or low-brow.) I think this attitude is primarily about my deep-seated need to feel superior to other people, which is something I am fairly certain I've always had, but only recently really started to recognize and deal with.

But such thoughts are self-centered and unkind, and so I denounce them. Weddings are awesome no matter how you set them up, and so I say, go for it: play the greatest hits if that's your style, and don't let anyone tell you different! Whatever you play, I'll see you on the dance floor afterwards.

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