Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Weddings and such

Since I have The Exponent as a Mormon blogging outlet, I haven't needed to do much here. (Self-promotion: if you teach YWs, The Exponent now does YW lesson plans as well as RS lesson plans and I posted this one last week for an October lesson.)

But I read the Slate article, Sorry Your Friends Can't Come to Your Mormon Wedding and had lots of thoughts.

First, let me give some background. I got married ridiculously young (20) and got extremely lucky in the craps game of finding a spouse. Really lucky.

Also, I grew up Mormon (still am!) and the thing about Mormons... well, we really get ourselves involved in "marriage." See exhibits: that polygamy thing we try to ignore and Prop 8 (which the Church is also doing a pretty good "ignore" on).

Anyway, I grew up with lessons that emphasized getting married in the temple over not. Which is funny because my own parents did the "get married civilly, then a temple sealing a year later" route themselves.

Mormons like to tout the "families are forever" message as one of the most important aspects of the religion, and to be able to have an "eternal family" you need to be "sealed" in the temple. This typically revolves around the marriage relationship: couples are sealed together at marriage (or afterwards) and then children are sealed to the parents, thus keeping the family "together forever." The Slate article above demonstrates that in places in the world where weddings must be public, a Mormon couple can be married civilly then sealed not long afterwards. In places where governments don't require that, there is huge pressure to be married in the temple first and not have to wait a year for the sealing. One drawback: only other adult temple-worthy Mormons (temple worthy means you are baptized and pass an interview with 2 local leaders), so that leaves out a lot of people- even younger siblings (my sister was my 1 bridesmaid and she couldn't attend our sealing).

My family who came. Four of them (McKay and I and my parents) saw the sealing. Four out of nine is a failing grade.
To be honest, I'm not particularly close with a lot of my extended family (and admittedly, even siblings), so it didn't bother me too much that some people sat outside during the sealing. After all, it was just what you did. Although, now that I think about it... wow. HARSH. I need to go and apologize to the grandparents. During the sealing there was some obvious imbalance. The side of the room that my family sat one was very empty. There is the cultural pressure to be sealed first to "prove" you hadn't sinned. If you had premarital sex, you wouldn't be "temple-worthy" and would probably get civilly married and sealed a year later. Without that cultural pressure, would I have gotten married civilly first? I don't know, maybe. I hope the Family First Weddings site get a lot of traction and the policy changes because it is so obviously policy and not doctrine.

Another thing I never gave much thought to was vows. The sealing is specific and the ceremony has to be said exactly how it is said, but no one talks about what is said. I didn't know my vows ahead a time and it would have been impossible for me to know. Of course, I was practical about vows and it really didn't matter to me. In fact, I didn't get why people cared to write their own vows: no matter what you say, marriage is the same on paper. I could write my vows to say that every night after dinner we'd play laser tag, but once the marriage certificate is signed, I would get the same legal results of any other marriage: visitation rights in hospitals, legal requirement to support subsequent children, tax benefits of filing jointly, etc. So really, who cares about what the vows say? As shallow as it sounds, it wasn't until the "Royal Wedding" and hearing that they wrote their own vows that I finally "got it" and realized: oh! it's supposed to be a way to confess your love to the other person in front of your friends and family. The whole purpose of weddings just went right over my head. I probably should have just gotten married at the courthouse.

Not totally related to Mormon-ness, but sort of... When it came to the other aspects of getting married: wedding colors, bridal party, venue, photographer, etc., I felt like I had to prove that I wasn't a bridezilla. Except for the colors (purple and light blue), everything else was done so that I wasn't a burden on my parents. The photographer was a NASCAR photographer, so no experience with weddings, but he was cheap!
Look! The temple is sideways! That's because you have to pretend we're racing around in circles at ridiculously high speeds. 
I wish I had gotten better pictures, though. I lied to my parents about the cost of my wedding dress and made up the extra out of my own pocket so I could have the one I wanted.
I look like a cupcake and I rock the cupcake look. Poofy!
My sister was the only bridesmaid and she got to pick a dress that was on clearance on the Internet that matched the colors. I didn't get my hair professionally done- I got up at 6 in the morning to do it myself and it was so humid that day that by the end of the pictures it looked like I had dreads (which are fine, but not the look I was going for) and I pulled it back for the reception to hide my amateur curling job. Also, I forgot to wear the very expensive wedding hat my mother-in-law bought for me. Yeah, I was just impressing all the people that day...

Dreads gone! Also, when it was time to cut the cake, I kind of went ahead without McKay because I had never really been to many weddings and didn't know how it was "done." I just wanted to share the wealth of cake! Also, people get upset if you cut the cake by yourself. Tradition!
I was totally fine with a reception in a boring church building- and part of the room was under construction... yes. I let my mom pick out the centerpieces (I actually liked them- no qualms!) but food was finger foods, no dinner. Music was off my brother's iPod. I attempted to turn it into a party, but it just wasn't. I felt most badly for my high school friends who came. They probably expected a WEDDING PARTY and I gave them a half-done cultural hall with appetizers and an iPod. They were the nicest people and gave us gifts from our actual registry, too. And not the cheap gifts! I feel like a loser to have done that to them.

See the wood behind me? Yeah... that's not supposed to show. Yay construction. Yay "cultural hall."
Our second reception was similar- I let McKay's mom pick out everything because I didn't want to be a burden. It was fine for a Mormon affair, but it didn't scream "wedding" and I worried that all these random family members I was meeting for the first time would think that that reception was a reflection of the things I liked. No, it wasn't. Also, unfortunately (through no one's fault), I started my period the day of that reception, so I was crampy and bloated and in all the pictures I look worried. Honestly, during one dance, I asked McKay if he thought no one would notice if I went into the bathroom and just cried for a while. They would have.

My worried look is seen here, but you can see it in pretty much all the pictures from the California reception.
But what can we do? I guess all I can do is do better for my own children, if they decide to get married (right now Margaret doesn't want to get married because she'd rather live with us in our house forever- haha!).

And I think this leads me to another thing I've decided. I want us to have a vow renewal. Probably at our 10 year. This past August was our 7th anniversary, so we've got 3 more years to save and plan. "Save" because I'm thinking that if I want my extended family there, we're probably going to have to pay their way- after all, they already came out for the first one. Or maybe it'll just be a small thing with McKay and me. But I'd like to do things on my own terms without pressure for anything. And I want a party- an actual party where I'm actually happy and not stressed about periods and hair that doesn't do anything because it's too humid in August in Illinois. Basically, this is a long post saying I want to actually celebrate the awesome thing McKay and I have and have the small people we've welcomed in to our family present. And I'm a little vain. And I think Mormon weddings need to change. I'm happy I'm married and that we have a life together, but we probably could  have started it off with a little less NASCAR and a little more fun. I need a party.


  1. My husband is a born and bred Utahan, and when he saw where we were going to have our reception, he was practically paralyzed. Why? He grew up going to cultural hall and home receptions (including his sister's). Our reception was going to be in a fancy reception center because I was not going to have basketball hoops in my pictures.

    He got over it, and loved that we had our reception in an indoor garden reception center. I *know* people thought I was being spoiled, but I don't care. My parents wanted to give me a nice wedding and they had enough money to give me one (within reason of course). It helps that I'm their only daughter.

    My mom and I did squabble a little over the photographer--she wanted to have an aunt do them, while I wanted a pro. I won by saying that certain relatives would hijack the picture-taking if said aunt took the pictures. I have no regrets.

    I hope you have an awesome ten-year celebration. You deserve it :)

    1. I was the oldest of my family and my parents were converts, so I had NO Mormon wedding experience at all before my own wedding. Well, that's not true- I had gone to one nice reception at a nice reception place a year before I got married. But I really just wanted to make it easy on my parents and cultural halls are free. We only spent a couple thousand on the wedding total, which is good for our budget (I have a close friend who spent scores of thousands of dollars and took out a loan for her wedding), but I could have spent a little more. But the party will rock. I want to make my dress. :)

    2. I just want to sneak in one defense of the Mormon way: You totally *can* know the vows before you take them. It was important to me so I did. I went to the temple the weekend before we got married and did vicarious sealings. Probably they should encourage more prospective brides to do that.

    3. You're right- I forgot about proxy sealings. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance for those beforehand- endowed Thursday, married Saturday. The wording for proxy sealings is slightly different, though, so it's not 100% the same. But it would be better. I know that they didn't want to give me a recommend "too early" for whatever reason. Who knows? I do think, though, that if they are going to have one policy to allow sealings right after a civil marriage in other countries, then we should be able to have the policy all across the board. It obviously doesn't affect anything eternal and important to do that.

  2. My wedding was incredibly similar. It was first and foremost, CHEAP. I didn't want to cost my parents anything, and I just desperately wanted to be married. Our photos are embarassingly bad, my hair was flyaway crazy, our cultural hall reception was a repeat from the night before when my grandparents celebrated their 50th... it's been ten years and I still am sad about how it all went down. A vow renewal is a great idea. I wonder if I could pull it off. Honestly, I wish we would do civil ceremonies first then the sealing. They are NOT the same thing. They are not. And we need to be better about distinguishing the two. :)

  3. Missy7:28 PM

    I'd like to respectfully disagree with the tone of your post-it doesn't present a full picture of why things are done as they are, as far as civil marriage vs. sealing. There are lots of (important!) reasons that couples are sealed and not married civilly (and then sealed) if it is at all possible. I think you did a disservice to your readers in the way that you described what are some of the most sacred covenants of the LDS faith, and I feel like you trivialized them. I had many family members and friends excluded from witnessing my marriage and also the sealing of my children to our family after adoption. While it was sad they could not witness it, the covenants were important enough to me that there was no question in my mind that it was the right thing to do, regardless of who got to witness the sealing.

    1. Could you explain what those reasons are? I really do believe in eternal families and I look forward to being with my loved ones forever. But I can't see the 1 year restriction as anything but a policy, and one that could easily be changed and mean so much to many families. Earthly relationships are important, too.

  4. I feel like there is already concern that many young couples simply view the temple sealing as an afterthought in their wedding planning. So I don't believe that allowing a civil wedding first, then a temple sealing a week (or however long) later would be an improvement there. I think a better improvement would be maybe changing it the other direction (since we already do things differently form the general public). Have a small sacred temple sealing, and at the end of some sort of honeymoon period we throw a huge "welcoming the couple into society as a couple" party. I'm all for a great party, our reception was in the back garden patio of a mansion, with catering from an Italian restaurant, and actual dancing, etc. So I'm definitely not anti-party, I just think separating it even more from the temple sealing would be my suggestion for improvement, and also no matter when it is, some families still would chose the inexpensive route.

  5. Your wedding/reception description was so much like mine! Josh and I were living in UT, our parents were in WA and OR, and we were planning on getting married in the Seattle Temple. Because of distance and lack of money (and I'm the oldest of 8 kids so there was no previous wedding planning experience for my family), we did the simplest things possible and really didn't have much say as to anything with our reception especially. My dress was $100 off of the Allyse Bridal sale rack, we cut and glued our announcements together, we had a friend photograph everything (she did a nice job), and it was a little crazy because the temple staff were confused and 1) thought Josh was going on a mission, 2) were confused as to what to do with us at the veil since we were both endowed because we served missions. Also, another bride took my nice satin heels and tiara with her stuff from the bride's dressing room, and we didn't know about it til she was an hour away. At least I still had my veil for pictures (though my hair was so short it kept sliding off). Because we chose to get married at the end of the winter BYU semester, and Josh had to take a required class in Spring, we got married over the weekend, had a 2-day honeymoon, and returned to UT. We had our receptions in WA and OR at the end of Spring term. The WA reception was in a church building. My brother was supposed to set up music for dancing, but he didn't do it, so we were stuck listening to the jazz station. Not many people came because well, we'd been married 2 months already and it was 4th of July weekend. I didn't know how to go about cutting the cake either. :) In OR nothing ended up being planned that far in advance, so a sweet lady from the ward threw a reception together in a church parking lot. My parents were on their way down from OR (they had my dress) and got stuck in traffic, so there were guests there but I was still in jeans and a t-shirt, so no one knew I was the bride, and I was put to work setting up tables and chairs and stuff. It was a mess.
    BUT, in spite of all that, our sealing was beautiful and simple (we only had close family and a few close friends come---we wanted a small room on purpose), and I don't regret not having a civil ceremony first, even though I did have many friends/family who could not come. I think it would have made things even crazier! :)
    Looking back, I would have chosen to get married in UT so we wouldn't have had to travel and we could visit the temple we were married in more often. I would have then chosen to do a reception the same evening as the wedding outside or in a reception center. I also wouldn't have stood in the line for FOREVER because it's "tradition". SO boring, and I was starving----luckily some of my siblings smuggled us some food. :) We probably still would have gone back to the northwest just so our family/friends who couldn't come to UT could see us, but do more like the "welcoming party" that was mentioned or an open house of sorts.

  6. I'm not very wedding minded, either. My husband and I wanted to have a small ceremony, but when we started talking about who to invite (his family are all in Nigeria so they wouldn't be attending) it seemed to impossible to invite "just a few". So, we said we wanted to only have immediate family, which translated to just my parents who were able to attend. I wore a skirt and blouse from the department store, my mother picked up a cake and an arch to stand under at the park. She also made me a sweet little bouquet, which I forgot to take with me, lol. My mother took pictures, and my step-dad took video (with ice cream truck music playing in the background). About a month later we through a bbq and invited everyone to celebrate with us. I love our little wedding and my only regret is that we had better pictures.

  7. Vow renewal. Brilliant. *wanders off planning Firefly-themed things*


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