Kay Stellpflug: We are gathered here for more than just the ‘I do’ | Columns

Year 2022 has been wildly busy with a non-stop wedding season. Many events, and most of all weddings, were cancelled throughout 2020 and 2021, and wedding planners, vendors and venues are having a field day.

There used to be a wedding season. From late spring to early fall with a peaking in June, couples would wed. Now October is winning out for the fall foliage and weather that still allows outdoor affairs. But every month is now fair game for tying the knot. Date choice has also gone from most popular to most affordable to let’s get on with this, we’ve postponed for two years.

The weddings that did occur were small. Many were outdoors and creative. Quite honestly, I’ve heard a number of stories about events that were so much fun because of the casual and laid-back approach. One wedding we attended last October included a wagon ride pulled by a tractor to the ceremony that was staged in a beautiful orchard with birch trees and horses in a field as the backdrop. The reception in an open-sided barn, with goats happily playing nearby, the entire event was magical. The only less-than-perfect part was that many of the family couldn’t attend.

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I love weddings. I love the joy, celebrations, clothes, flowers and pure happiness of it all. I love the hope and dreams of walking hand in hand into the future. Never mind that they might need two cars.

I am always impressed with the mixing of family and friends, and the sacred oath people are willing to utter to enter into holy matrimony. One wedding we attended in Door County during a recent September was special for a number of reasons. As we were sitting there, teary eyed, my son made a keen observation. “This wasn’t just their wedding,” he said, “it was everyone’s wedding. Everyone in attendance was part of this.”

It was a coming together of people who all were connected by this amazing couple. It was a reminder to each person sharing the day of their commitments to the people around them — not just their spouse or significant other, but to the entire collection of humans brought together by a very special couple.

The music, words and vows were an opportunity for everyone to renew the vows we make to those around us. These were reminders of the promises we make to ourselves about how we want to behave, how we want to give of ourselves, how we want to be with spouses, family, friends, and how we want to live.

This wedding was the perfect example of collective effervescence. According to Emile Durkheim, “Rites are moments of collective effervescence, when human beings feel themselves transformed, and are in fact transformed, through ritual doing. A force experienced as external to each individual is the agent of that transformation, but the force itself is created by the fact of assembling and temporarily living a collective life that transports individuals beyond themselves. Since the transformation cannot be done once and for all and fades despite the symbolic reminders, it must be periodically redone — hence, the cyclically repetitive performance of rites.”

Dozens of traditions and customs surrounds the “I do,” and many are far more interesting than tossing a bouquet. Whether it is balancing lavash flatbread on your shoulder to keep evil spirits away (Armenian) or presenting a whale’s tooth to your future father-in-law to secure your future wife’s hand (Fiji), it is part of ritual, culture and good vibes. The one I would find most difficult to carry out is the no smiling on the wedding day tradition of Congo.

Whatever the choices, let’s hope the wedding was well worth the wait. May you all experience the beauty and transformation of ritual and joy combined. Carry it with you and share it. Pull up the feelings when you need to remind yourself how wonderful new love and hope for the future are.

Stellpflug, of Beaver Dam, is an educator and trainer in communications: kaystellpflug@gmail.com.