at the Daily Beast offers a fascinating meditation on the contemporary practice of the marriage rite. The whole article is worth reading at:

Seligson’s reflections parallel closely the observations I quoted from David Brooks in yesterday’s post that we are living today with “the assumption that individual preference should be supreme.”

Seligson describes her own wedding saying,

When I got married last October, all I heard were variants of “This is your day. It’s all about you.” These messages made me uncomfortable, both because they promoted entering a weird bridal vortex of solipsism and because, as the wedding drew near, it became clear that this was pretty much entirely untrue. In the best possible way, our wedding wasn’t about us—it was stitched together from what all three sides of our family (two being mine, since my parents are divorced) wanted and valued. It was about honoring thousands of years of Jewish tradition and providing some nachas, the Yiddish term for parental joy, to our parents, grandparents, and other assorted relatives and guests.

But Seligson suggests, the “It’s all about you” and how it looks concern in the wedding ceremony seems to have preempted any concern to honour tradition or to affirm in the ceremony any connection beyond the immediate relationship of the bride and groom.

in the U.S. we have taken the wedding materialism and layered on it a sheet of narcissism and self-centeredness, messages that certainly resonate in a country already prone to rugged individualism.

Seligson explains this phenomenon saying,

the slick marketing by the wedding industry explains only part of it. The rise of the “me wedding” has as much to do with waning religious affiliation. After all, it’s religious elements that have tempered individualism for centuries.

The bride- (and groom-) focused insanity is certainly a byproduct of our increasingly individualistic society. Young people are becoming less tied to religious institutions—Pew Research found that today one in four millennials claims no religious affiliation, a record high—introducing a whole new set of values and social mores when it comes to marriage. Nothing signals this more than the wedding officiated by a friend who was ordained as a Universal Life Minister on the Internet a week before, or by couples writing their own vows, another hallmark of the “I need to express myself” wedding.

The wedding ceremony it seems has become another victim of what David Brooks identifies as the loss of “the mediating institutions of civil society”.

Seligson concludes her refelctions on weddings with a stirring challenge.

Perhaps the patina of selfishness that is seemingly justified in the moment by the feeling of “It’s my day” is really an excuse to insist on having it your way, a sort of childhood last hurrah. And who wouldn’t want a last go-around with unrepentant, puerile me-centrism? But if we believe that marriage is a step toward full adulthood—and that adulthood is a developmental stage defined by becoming less self-centered—shouldn’t the messaging surrounding the wedding reflect that? Why are our values about marriage, chief among which is compromise, and the “my way or the highway” values of the wedding so in tension?

Maturity depends upon recognizing that we are part of a web of connections that extends beyond our individual lives. We are the beneficiaries of a long heritage of love and human goodness that transcends our own little world. The skills and tools we need to navigate the adult world are mediated to us through our acknowledgement of the value of human community.  A world that caters to little more than how pretty the ceremony looks is unlikely to find its way to deep sustaining relationships in the challenging terrain of marriage.