Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weddings do not make a Marriage

Kim Kardashian is getting a divorce. After just 72 days of marriage that began with a wedding estimated to have cost $10 million, Kardashian is divorcing Kris Humphries, citing "irreconcilable differences."  How exactly one can determine that differences are irreconcilable after only 72 days, is beyond me. Either something truly awful was revealed on the honeymoon or Kim Kardashian really is as superficial and vapid as she appears on T.V. 

I regularly hear, "Marriage is a sacred union." By a casual look at the news, i find it difficult to reconcile "sacred union" with a spectacle costing millions and with the resulting marriage only lasting 72 days.  If actions speak louder than words, and there is not more to this story than presently known by the public, then Kim Kardashian's marriage was not sacred.  Marriage is not, in and of itself, holy.  Some alliances can be unholy, even an alliance going by the name "marriage."

If marriage is holy, Indiana woman Linda Wolfe, who married (and divorced) 23 times, should probably be beatified. No one does holy that many times! St. Francis couldn't compete.

Britney Spears married Jason Allen Alexander. That marriage lasted 55 hours, and her record label later released a statement claiming that the whole thing had been "a joke."  If a wedding can be a joke, then it is not necessarily sacred. If marriage can be a joke, then marriage is not, by definition, holy.

A married couple may feel that they've been blessed to find one another, they may experience their wedding as a spiritual event, and they may even understand their marriage as a sacred institution.  But marriage, in and of itself, has never been sacred.  All marriages are not Holy Matrimony.  

Marriage is a tax shelter and a smart way for a couple to combine assets. It is certainly a civil institution. In Kardashian’s case, it appears to be a good way to make a quick $8 million. The wedding was said to have cost $10 million, but grossed $18 million in sponsorships. In Kardashian's case, it also appears to have been a good photo-op.

Marriage as an institution, in and of itself, is not sacred. Love is what makes marriage holy. But, not any ole kind of love.  Romantic love is fleeting.  Lust is even more fickle.  Steadfast love, committed love, is what makes a matrimony holy.  The promises one typically makes at a wedding are meant to ensure that the love in question is not merely of the romantic or erotic variety.  Many take the vows of marriage, however, not as the most sacred promise they are likely ever to make, but as audible window dressing for the photo shoot.

Today, the NY Times printed a story about a photographer who was sued by a groom. Written by JOSEPH BERGER and Published on November 2, 2011, the Times article begins: “Of all the many things that make up a wedding, few are more important than the photographs.”


There are many things that make up a wedding, but if the photographs count as one of the most important elements, then let’s not use the word “holy,” or “sacred” as an adjective to describe it.

Many spend hours, beginning in childhood, planning “their big day.” It is an event focused solely upon them. It involves everyone they know. A birthday comes close, but is not generally as costly or as well attended or (generally) as frequent. As a social occasion, a wedding is “tops.” It doesn’t get any better than this. The flowers, the dress, the tux, the reception, the photographs--none of these “essential elements” of a wedding-as-social-occasion will make a marriage holy.

Berger, in the Times, writes: “Long after the last of the cake has grown stale and the tossed bouquet has wilted, the photos endure, stirring memories and providing vivid proof that the day of one’s dreams took place.”

“One’s dreams took place.” You’ve got documentary proof that your dreams of your “big day” were actualized. If the purpose of a wedding is to actualize one’s dream of the ultimate social occasion, then photographs to document the moment are certainly among those most important elements. If you are going to spend all this money on a “moment”--you want some proof that it actually happened and is not merely a memory that may fade. Did that really happen or was it just a dream? When you spend that much money on a party, you may want to re-live it from time to time. Photographs make that possible.

Social occasions may or not be holy or sacred. Either way, photographs are immaterial. Photographs are not going to make it holy. For Holy Matrimony, you do not need a photographer. Contrary to popular opinion, photographs are not among the most important elements for Holy Matrimony. In fact, they don’t even make the long list of important elements. Photographs of the wedding are incidental to and unnecessary for Holy Matrimony.

The photographer that got sued did not miss the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings. The photographer did not miss the exchange of vows. The photographer did not miss prayers said for the couple. The photographer did not miss the blessing that was pronounced by the cleric. The photographers had missed the last dance and the bouquet toss.

The disgruntled groom is seeking $48,000 to re-stage the event, ostensibly to get photographs of a dance and a bouquet toss. The photographers have spent $50,000 on legal fees defending themselves and it hasn’t even gone to trial yet. All this for what? Why is it so important? I can assure you that it is not because without photos of the bouquet toss, the marriage would not be sacred.

To understand the difference between marriage that is truly holy and marriage that is not, is to understand why Kim Kardashian's wedding was probably never holy, and why countless couples around the world, who love each other despite spending far less than $10 million on a wedding, create something that is truly priceless.

In Kentucky, we don’t allow same-gender couples to marry. Kentuckians were worried that doing so would “undermine the sanctity of marriage.” Kentuckians are, however, fine with no fault divorce. Apparently, getting a divorce with ease does not undermine the sanctity of marriage.

Adultery, I also note, is not illegal in Kentucky. When the amendment in question passed, my wife was heard to say: “Same-gender couples are not a threat to my marriage. Single, heterosexual, young women could be.” She proposed that a constitutional admendment making adultry a felony would do far more to protect the sanctity of marriage than prohibiting other couples from marriage.

I suspect that what undermines the sanctity of marriage in our culture is weddings. We confuse weddings with marriage. We should leave the wedding-as-spectacle to those who may one day find themselves a king or a queen. Leave the dreams of being a princess or prince for a day behind. You will never be able to compete with Charles and Diana on the extravagance of your “big day.”

Essential elements for a Holy Marriage: (1) a couple, (2) vows of life-long commitment exchanged, (3) steadfast love, (4) prayers and or blessings for the marriage, (5) and lives lived fulfilling the most important promise you are ever apt to make.

Dresses, flowers, rings, receptions and even photographs are optional. They may even undermine the sanctity of your marriage and you may want to avoid them. They are not evil in and of themselves. All can be said to be “nice.” But, if you equate “Holy Matrimony” with a wedding spectacular, then they all can be a distraction to what is really most important.

I note that the groom who sued the wedding photographer is now divorced. The law suit has lasted longer than the marriage. The bride has even left the country. More focus on the marriage and less on the wedding, might have helped. For marriage to be holy takes intentionality. Its easy to get distracted by the paparazzi.

My advise, elope. Quietly take care of the legalities required--i.e., a marriage license. Bride and groom and two of their closest friends then gather in a place the couple finds holy, exchange vows, pray for the strength and the wisdom and the courage and the patience required to fulfill those vows. Have a cleric pronounce God’s blessing upon the marriage. Leave, resolved to live a life fulfilling the promises you made. Forget the flowers, the photographer, the caterer, guest lists, and seating charts. Don’t make Kim Kardashian’s mistake.