DEBORAH CROMBIE: My lovely daughter was married a week ago last Saturday, and it was not the wedding that we have come to believe is conventional.
My daughter did wear a bridal gown (I never imagined I could be so emotional over a DRESS) but other than that it was design-your-own-wedding. The groom wore waistcoat and slacks but no tie or coat. Venue, a ranch. An afternoon private ceremony on the barn porch with family and matron-of-honor and best man. No walking down the aisle. The bride had two sets of parents in attendance. The wedding vows included some references to the Green Bay Packers...
Then, in the evening, a big party with barbecue. There were multiple bundt cakes instead of a wedding cake. Everyone brought their favorite snapshots of the couple. Instead of a guest book (and who ever looks at those after the wedding?) the couple had the guests sign stones, which they put in a big glass hurricane that will go on their coffee table.
My best friend since elementary school did all the flowers, and they were spectacular. My husband took the photos and did a bang-up job.
The bride and groom were relaxed and happy, and everyone had a great time. The only thing that went wrong was that we ran out of champagne...
And yes, the bride did wear her cowboy boots with her dress. This was Texas, after all...
So, REDS, is this weird? Do you think it's important to stick to tradition for big life occasions? Have you? (And who invented all those rules, anyway???)
RHYS BOWEN: I had a very low-key wedding because we got married in Australia and really had no close friends or family there, except for my uncle and John's cousin. And we were leaving the next day on a ship bound for Hawaii. So I made an ivory linen short dress and coat, John wore a dark suit. But both my girls have had the traditional wedding with all the trimmings, and a lot of fun it was preparing for them too.
But my son is getting married soon and he and his fiancée wanted a wedding "in nature". So they have rented a rural property with lots of land, above Clear Lake. There is a cabin that sleeps 20 and some yurts in the grounds so that everyone can stay the night. They plan an outdoor ceremony then a barbecue and a ranch-style breakfast the next morning. Should be fun, but I'm wondering what one wears in the middle of "nature"?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Rhys...fig leaves? ;-) I feel as if I've told my wedding story before...my husband's assistant planned most of it. I won't say I wasn't interested in the proceedings, but once the venue (The Boathouse in Central Park) and the date had been chosen I started to glaze over when asked questions about how I wanted the napkins folded and whether or not there should be sprigs of rosemary all over. Fact is, I went to a basketball game that day. Didn't even get a blowdry. Luckily the game didn't go into overtime. As it was, my matron of honor was hyperventilating waiting for me to arrive at the Plaza. Knicks lost to the Cavs. To add insult to injury the Cavs were staying at The Plaza. Other than that a good time was had by all. Gondola rides on the lake, lots of bubbly..some traditions must be upheld..
HALLIE EPHRON: Rhys, you'd better pack sturdy shoes and rain gear.
It rained on my wedding day. It was a small gathering at my parents' New York apartment, about as far from nature as you can get.
We were a fairly oblivious couple, but hey, it was the 60s. My adorable short white Mexican lace "wedding dress" came from a store in the Village and I completely forgot about buying anything to wear on my head or music to "walk down the aisle" (aka emerge from my parents' bedroom). My dad ran over to the local public library and borrowed a record with Mendelssohn's Wedding March.
I had a wonderful time helping my daughter plan her wedding. It was sort of a hybrid. Outdoors, clambake, on an island off the coast of Maine, her sister and a friend officiated (ministers for a day), but the bride wore a gorgeous wedding dress and the groom was oh so handsome, clean shaven, and in a suit. Many of the guests came in shorts and played foosball and horseshoes after. It was lovely and it was exactly what THEY wanted -- which is, after all, what really matters.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, Rhys. I'd say a floaty dress, and flats. And I hope not Wellies. Take bug spray. And a shawl. Watch for poison ivy. (Hush, Hank, it could be gorgeous.)
I remember my mother and I talking about this at one point..the reason there are traditions is so that people have a structure for what to DO. If you veer off into newness, people start worrying. Like Rhys asking what to wear. In a more traditional wedding--even at someone's home--it's predictable and easy for guests. I always read in the NYT about weddings in the deep forest or at ski resorts. Sigh. Just send me the photo, I say.
My first (!) wedding was in Acapulco--both our families went and we were married at my parents' vacation home. We went to the town market and swooped up millions of fresh flowers that morning...and were married by a somewhat-suspicious looking minister I swear right out of --oh, what's that movie? Night of the Iguana. I had the slinkiest white dress, just a long tube of sculptury white, which I can't even imagine my body fitting into now..
My second (!) wedding was at a gorgeous mansion in Dedham MA, so wonderful, and we were married in a rather Chinese-y ceremony by a friend who was made JP for the day, and then by my then-husband's Tai Chi master. I was in Carolina Herrerra, a curvy heavy white silk jacket with a peplum, and a huge white chiffon skirt. Oh, I LOVED it.
Shall we go on to wedding three? I forgot what we were even talking about here...
I guess the key of any event is to make your guests comfortable--and to remember your goal. Debs, sounds like you did that!
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I do think it's important to stick with tradition, for the reasons Hank enumerated: when people have an idea of what to expect, it releases them from the anxiety of wondering what to wear, how to react and wondering what will or won't be appropriate. Part of the problem, as near as I can tell, is that the modern wedding-industrial complex encourages brides and their families to view recent innovations as rock-ribbed verities, without which no wedding could possibly be valid. Thus things like the mandatory bridesmaids weekend, the gift that covers the cost of the plate, the calligraphy place cards, the wedding video, etc., etc., etc.
You want real tradition? Both sets of my grandparents were married in a minster's parlour, with the bride in a new dress that she would continue to wear for Sunday Best in the years to come. That, brides of America, is how the vast majority of weddings happened 80 years ago. Even families that could afford to have a white dress and a party kept it to close friends and family. I have a wonderful 1920's era Emily Post ettiquette guide, where she outlines the most elegant wedding: vows at the local church in the morning, followed by coffee, punch, petit-fours and finger sandwiches at the bride's parents' house. No sit-down dinner, no DJ, no limousine or horse-drawn carriage to whisk the newlyweds away - just a bride and groom very eager to be off as quickly as possible, because in those days, the best part wasn't hanging out at the reception videotaping a choreographed dance with the wedding party in order to get more hits on You Tube.
DEBS: Rhys, fig leaf, indeed! And yurts? Really? You'll have to give us a full report!
Last spring I did a panel at an event with Judith Martin, a.k.a. Miss Manners, where she spoke about her latest book, Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Distinguished Wedding. (She is very sharp and funny, by the way, if you ever have the fortune to hear her speak.)
I meant to buy the book, but life sort of got in the way... But now, looking over the a list of her main points in an Amazon review, I think we--and I should say THEY, as the bride and groom planned everything and we just helped out as best we could-- hit the mark on them all. It certainly fit the sentiment of Julia's lovely definition of tradition.
The couple's biggest concern throughout was that the guests should feel comfortable and enjoy themselves. The wedding was a celebration, not a production, and if they continue in life with as much kindness and consideration as they showed that day, I think they are assured much happiness.
So, Gentle Readers (to quote Miss Manners,) what traditions do YOU feel are the ones worth keeping?
(Oh, and Julia, thanks for reminding us why the bride and groom used to be so eager to get away:-))