My sense of feeling rich in what matters hit a new height last night when I gained a new sister, the vivacious and loving Jen Zhou. My brother Jeff was wise enough to marry her. I’ve also gained a niece and nephew, Michelle and Allen. I’m elated!Here are just a few “best wedding practices” if our goal is to be rich in what matters, gleaned from Jeff and Jen’s wedding and elsewhere.
Keep your focus on relationships and community and the joining of two families. My new sister-in-law Jen is passionate about family and community, like me. Her extended family came over from China for the wedding (Jen is Chinese).
Reconsider the idea of a wedding gift registry. Maybe reject it. Jeff and Jen did, for the above reason, and the reason I outline below. “We have everything we need,” Jen told me when I asked last month what to give them. This isn’t about getting more stuff. It’s about family. We will never all be together again like this.”
I’m convinced gift registries were invented for young couples leaving their parents’ home for the first time, setting up their first household ever. These couples need virtually everything. That’s a far cry from a bride and groom in mid-life who have long owned all the household items they need.
What gift did we give Jeff and Jen, in keeping with their focus on family? The airfare for our new niece Michelle, age 14, to come visit us later this summer. More connectedness.
Consider holding the event in a home – your own, or a friend’s or family member’s home. Jen and Jeff held their wedding and reception in their home/patio/backyard. This drew all of us into the very heart of their lives. It felt very different than being in a rented venue. It was soft, personal, intimate. It made us closer to them.
Of course, not all people’s homes are big enough to hold an event. I once attended a wedding held in the large backyard of friends of the groom. He worked for Focus The Nation, a nonprofit that addressed climate change, and he didn’t earn the kind of money that conventional weddings cost. His various friends stepped up, from hosting the event to making the food, mixing the drinks, etc. It was a wonderful wedding that put nobody into debt.
Have just a small number of bridesmaids and groomsmen – or step outside that box altogether. Small numbers simplify many of the logistics that make weddings so complicated, i.e. renting the same tuxedos, deciding on the style and color of bridesmaids dresses, running the wedding rehearsal, organizing and paying for photographs of large numbers of people standing together in different combinations.
Last night there were just two bridesmaids and two groomsmen – Jeff and Jen each have one brother and one sister. Simple. Focused. When Thor and I got married ten years ago, we didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen. Nobody seemed to have any problem with this. In my earlier marriage, there were three of each, but they wore their own clothes. That saved a lot of money and stress. Sure, the photos looked less wedding-like, but the in-person experience was a good one.
Embrace all ages, ethnicities, income and ability levels at your wedding. Last night’s wedding had people ages 10 to 90, from two continents, many non-English speakers, a young man with profound disabilities (Jen’s beautiful son Allen), etc. A diverse community makes us richer and more whole.
Give and receive lots of help. If you are the bride or groom, your job is to receive help. If you are anyone else, your job is to give them help. The people getting married are like the king and queen. The rest of us are their courtiers, paying homage to them. This works especially well when the king and queen are as gracious as Jen and Jeff.