Irrsinn.net: taking joy in human unreason

On weddings and rings

I spent time with a couple of friends this weekend that will, within the next couple of years, likely be getting married and starting a family. They spent much of our time together talking about houses and children and wedding rings, which brought me to an interesting revelation.

I care not one whit about wedding rings. Dresses, either, but the ring was a big topic of discussion.

He’s planning on getting her a ring from Tiffany’s. It’s important that the diamond not be synthetic, because their love is real and the ring should be, too. Nor should the ring be less than about $1800, because their love is worth a symbol of at least that much monetary value. The ring is from Tiffany’s because their rings shine across the room, and that’s important.

I was so disappointed.

I know that this really boils down to my “people vs. stuff” issues — I care very little for “stuff” and even less for “stuff” that pretends to be symbolic. I have no need of a reminder of my love for my SO or my friends, because I already think of them often (even if I don’t email or call). I have no need of a public status symbol — no, you may not call me “Mrs.”, and I’ll tell you if your attentions are unwelcome (you can believe that!).

In fact, I realized that night, talking with WO, just how foreign all the trappings of traditional American weddings are to me. I didn’t know, for instance, that there are traditionally three rings: the engagement one with the rock, and the matching pair of his-and-her simple wedding bands.

I certainly had no idea they were so expensive. My friend will probably spend upwards of $3000 on her engagement ring, given what they were looking at in Tiffany’s.

That’s a lot of money. I still don’t quite — emotionally — understand what that money’s being spent on.

My thoughts on weddings are simple. Their purpose — to me — is to make public, to your “community” (with “community” being selectively picked, rather than everyone and their uncles you don’t want to offend) your vow to the person or people you’re marrying. Then you go celebrate that vow and everyone’s involvement in that, and trust that your friends/community will support you and yours when times get rough, just as you have and will for them.

That involves no broomsticks, no rings, no fancy dresses, nothing old or new or blue. Nothing but a nice room that will fit everyone, some well-picked words, a big-ass cake for everyone to share (tiered cheesecake, for instance), some punch (spiked or otherwise), and hot music of our choice for dancing. Just like almost any other celebration.

It’s a reason to come together and celebrate with those you love. How did we end up so wrapped up in rings and dresses and reading canned vows?

  • Dr. 7

    How did we end up so wrapped up, etc? Three part answer:
    1) General human suggestibility.
    3) Human tendency to adhere mindlessly to established traditions, particularly when doing so means simply going through the motions of ceremony without considering (and thereby frequently losing) the meaning.

    And what comes between those two things? Two simple words which, if said with the proper Chicago accent, would sound right at home on the SNL of yesteryear:
    2) De Beers

    (Obviously, I chose to focus on the ring aspect here as well, although #3 could be applied to pretty much any aspect of the modern wedding as well as various and sundry other traditions, ceremonies, and rituals.)

    In other news, I’m wearing a tiny fez!

  • @Dr. 7:

    Damned diamond companies. I want no part in their games of driving prices up and using blood diamonds.

    As far as mindlessly adhering to traditions… I don’t know how mindless it is. People get really wrapped up in weddings — surely there’s some thought behind that, right?

    …Maybe…?

    Can there be pictures of the fez?

  • Dr. 7

    By mindless, I’m referring to the mindset of tradition for tradition’s sake. For instance, someone could easily get wrapped up in the process of picking a china pattern, but I would bet that in a majority of those doing so haven’t given any thought as to *why* they’re doing that in the first place. Honestly, how many people use china enough to warrant getting it? I’d say the number is far fewer than the number of couples actually getting married, yet picking a china pattern is a wedding tradition (and I’ll be honest here, I’m not even sure what the fuck a “china pattern” is). Take, for example, this site: http://usabride.com/registry/a_china.html. On the 2nd page of their guide, they have a list of questions to ask yourself when selecting china. Notice the absence of such questions as “are we ever *really* going to use this?”, “why do we have to get this as part of the wedding process?”, or “couldn’t we get something more practical now and get china later if we decide we really want to use it?” If you’re someone who would actually use the stuff, by all means go for it. But I, personally, have seen far more instances of such items being acquired at the time of a wedding, then stored or displayed while waiting for a “special occasion” that never seems to happen. Seems pretty silly and wasteful to me, and if the people who picked that china out were really honest with themselves upfront, they could probably have foreseen that they’d have been happier in the long run putting the hundreds of dollars that these dust-gathering cost toward something more applicable to their day-to-day lives, like a nice TV or a new car. But instead, they’ve got something they’ll probably never use unless the Pope(TM), Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth II, and Elvis all decide to drop by for a bite on the same night. So, long story short (riiiiiight….), that’s what I meant by mindless adherence to tradition.

    Also, as you pointed out in the initial post, what *really* does an artificially-expensive ring have to with being in love and making a commitment? Nothing, except for the fact that diamond companies have done an incredible job of marketing to inextricably link love and shiny rocks in the minds of the masses. And, though expensive, the purchase of such an item is an easy way to be able to send a certain message without having to put much thought into it, since “that’s how everyone does it.” Again, to me, that’s mindless. I’ve probably rambled enough by now, eh?

    I suppose pictures of the fez could be taken, provided I’m not under it at the time. I’d have to bring it home though; it’s at work right now and there are, of course, no cameras allowed. I might have a picture of one of my monkeys wearing it rattling around somewhere already, I’d have to look.

  • I love you, Dr. 7. 🙂

    I didn’t know so many people got into china for weddings. *sigh* Honestly. I definitely agree with you, though. “That’s how everyone does it”, especially when combined with “can we do it flashier/bigger/&c” is a dangerous combination.

  • I want in on the conversation! Would you like a picture of me in my fez? I may have one somewhere…then again you may have to wait until July when I get it out of the closet again.

    I find handfasting to be more interesting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handfasting (I’m too lazy to HTML link it.)

    I’d have to agree with Dr. 7 that a LOT of people go through the motions because that’s what’s expected of them. You’d be surprised what some people will do because “it’s expected.” One of my ex-coworkers used to say “I’m going to start having children before I’m 30. ” Why? “Well because it’s expected that as a good Catholic girl that I’ll have a big family.” But you don’t like kids… “Well it’s expected.” And that was her basic logic… she was educated and “intelligent” (think annoying Rose student/alum who constantly has to prove intellectual superiority).

    Most of the reasons behind our traditions are lost to time. In the States why do we have to have a marriage license for an event that was(is) clearly a church institution? You have to get licensed to do it…like driving a car. You require permission from the state to get married. Tell me how that makes sense.

    Rings are easy to show off. That’s all I’ve got for that. The explanation “we” (preachers, other wedding guys) use now has to be an amalgam of cultures that have mixed together here. I did a search on Wiki and it looks like weddings are all over the place depending on the dominant culture.

    Personally I really like the weddings that are “This is X and this is Y. They wanna get married. X: I love you Y. Y: I love you X. Do you? Yes. Do you? Yes. I pronounce you married. Now kiss.” (edited to provide for a more flowery approach) And then we go to the wedding reception where there’s lots of booze and food and we party. Those are the best. So we agree on that.

    I think most people want something beautiful and memorable, but end up with something big, “grand,” and showy losing the meaning in the process. Simplicity can have beauty.
    (Basically I just rambled, but I’m sure I have at least one point in there some where.)