“There is no day without its moments of paradise.” Jorge Luis Borges
Wedding bells are in the air! Well, maybe not bells, but the strain of spring and the excitement of love and growth. (And there is the old noon Mill whistle sounding from the Museum.) Spring is a popular time for couples to get married, and we can all appreciate why Spring anticipation adds to the excitement of joining forces in new ways. Our very own Matt Friedly and Deanna Gregory got married last Sunday right here in Saxapahaw, where they live and work, and, along with their family and closest friends, they invited the whole Village to celebrate with them. That’s just how they are.
As we all talk about the saturation of rain, the joy of seeing seeds germinate, daffodils bloom, and tree branches blossom, I’m also thinking about symbols and their meaning. Thinking about culture and identity, about community and celebrating while sharing the happy occasions of weddings can unveil many beliefs, customs, traditions, artifacts, and, especially, stories. We customize our wedding rituals in ways unimagined centuries ago.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Whichever culture we focus upon, our human timelines and traditions reveal our networked history in fascinating ways ( just as Nature does). Records seem to show that the oldest documented wedding ceremony (between one man and one woman) was in Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago. The binding of families, of producing heirs, and managing family life was recognized and codified as an ongoing “institution” in time. “Practicality” ruled. The sacramental nature of wedding ceremonies was written into church law in the 1500s. Being humans, we like rituals and ceremonies marking or celebrating our life cycles and milestones. Inherent in the definition, “traditions” are customs (beliefs) that gain significance as they are passed along through generations, and reviewing the history of wedding traditions is a constant revelation. One very old tradition starting in England and France describes the nervousness of the bride in anticipation of wedding guests tearing pieces of her dress for good luck. Then there is the honeymoon tradition of the husband taking the bride to an unknown place so that her “tribe” couldn’t locate her. One of the best I read was the reason bridesmaids wear the same color dress: so that the “exes” would not be confused, and to ward off evil spirits.
When colonists first came to America, at a time when polygamy was still accepted in many parts of the world, the couple’s new identity was officially recognized under a legal doctrine called coverture, under which the two people were now legally considered one person. The bride took the husband’s name, and the husband became their official public representative. (The rules applied to citizenship too; as any American woman who married a foreigner lost her citizenship.)
Time is a river, alright, and being in its current can be thrilling and also terrifying, as we know life and change can be. Most weddings are happy occasions, with their own family markers of wakes, tides, and eddies. Memories and images captured by minds and media are shared throughout time. Ask anyone. (I remember my parents’ story of marrying in a Baptist church in the Mississippi Delta, in August, with no air conditioning, and the damp heat so high that the candles in the window began to melt.) Matt and Deanna have made their own, in their unique and memorable way. Let’s celebrate happiness, as we toast those whose love grows with their chosen ceremony as punctuation and symbol.
As Spring begins, let’s celebrate! And if you’re looking for a place here in Saxapahaw to make your own wedding memories, you might like the Village options. Ask about our Catering Services and the Haw River Ballroom venue, where old meets new with a great staff and a river view. To quote Norman McLean, a river runs through it.