It was a typical day at the office, the computer pinging with emails, the phone chirping with text messages while I sat writing at my desk. One email caught my eye from a person I love and adore, whose still-strong marriage I was privileged to preside over more than 24 years ago. She asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for The Independent’s upcoming wedding issue because she felt that my 35 years of being a wedding officiant and having performed nearly 1,000 personalized weddings warranted enough time and experience to comment on the changes in the world of weddings.
Weddings have always been a pinnacle experience in life and a cause for celebration. They summon people from all over the globe to gather in one place, causing a surge of joy, hope, and love. Its vibrancy culminates in a ceremony and celebration that are a confirmation of life, an affirmation of love and its power, and the promise of dreams being fulfilled. The couples themselves are blessed as the center for creation, the expansion of humanity, and the builders of the future. To the delight of the human heart, they represent endless romance and pure love.
Back in the ’80s, civil and nonreligious ceremonies were relatively simple and low-key. We would often gather at a park, in a backyard, on a beach, or at the Sunken Gardens at the S.B. Courthouse, where guests frequently stood around for the ceremony and would enjoy a simple meal afterward. Over the last three decades, a high percentage of weddings have evolved into spectacular artistic signature events, surrounded by professionals orchestrating, serving, and capturing every fleeting moment. Today, weddings run the gamut from the simple elopement for two on the beach to the grand, four-day-long destination event for hundreds of guests at the finest resorts in S.B. County, with a myriad of events leading up to, and occurring after, the wedding itself. It’s all good.
The Internet has significantly impacted nearly every aspect of weddings today. Pinterest is huge for style and theme ideas, decorations, food, clothing, hair, shoes, etc., while Instagram and Facebook share friends’ ideas. YouTube has examples of vows, unusual ceremonies, and choreographed bridal-party dances, plus there are blogs, wedding websites, and apps that are available to help with every stage of getting married, from proposing to the honeymoon. Couples can even have a friend or family member get ordained online and legally perform their ceremony. (Please note on the friend trend to all wedding couples: Be sure to have a backup officiant in case that person declines at the last minute. I have had to step in many a time and save a ceremony at the 11th hour). Overall, the Internet has changed the “blushing bride” into a “savvy selector.”
The biggest change that has occurred over the years has been the largely successful fight for marriage equality and gay weddings. It is a great joy that they are becoming more common. Several years ago, there was a doing away with the tradition of sitting on the “bride’s side” or the “groom’s side.” Couples wanted everyone to “pick a seat, not a side” because they love each other’s friends and families equally, and it handled the embarrassment of one side having more guests than the other. At gay weddings, this newer tradition paved the way by removing any referral to gender.
Some years ago, I switched the seating of both sets of parents to the other side of where their sons or daughters stood during the ceremony. It resulted in a face-to-face view of their child throughout the entire service, and it gave both sides a sense of joining together as one greater family while symbolizing the old adage of “Mi casa es su casa.” This practice is becoming a new tradition as many couples and their families are implementing this practice.
In my weddings, the tradition of “giving away the bride” happens infrequently. It is my perspective that when anyone loves someone, it’s emotionally, spiritually, and physically impossible to give them away. In the old tradition, the father of the bride or another father figure would usher her down the aisle. Many brides today have both their mother and father escort them, and so, too, the groom will walk down the aisle with his parents. In this spirit, I’ve introduced a different practice called “Joining of the Bride and Groom and Families.” The parents, including stepparents, are welcomed into each other’s families, and they all support the couple out loud and celebrate their union.
To me, these small but significant changes speak to the non-separatist, happy blending of couples and their families of today. There is a relaxation of lines, an embracing of family and friends, and a leaning into love over protocol. No matter what some people say, good marriages are happening, and families are more nuclear than ever.
Because I feel each couple is unique, I meet with mine several times before their wedding so I can know them clearly. I also meet their families. This always results in a momentous, personal ceremony conveying their story and their love, intentions, hopes, and dreams. The potency of the ceremony generates a positive ripple effect throughout the whole of their married lives.
This work is my great passion. My couples are extraordinary, magnificent people already wed at the level of the heart. Though planning and logistics are exciting and distinctive to my couples, the most significant and enduring aspect of their wedding day is their marriage. Surrendering their heart and soul into their union and its transformative, creative power and vowing aloud to keep it strong and safe from harm is one of the most sacred occurrences on earth. It is a thing of lasting beauty and an expression of eternal love.
For more information on Reverend Miriam Lindbeck, ordained, nondenominational minister, please visit weddingsantabarbara.com.