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Kirby: Wedding traditions are nice, but love is still what counts most

Published July 25, 2013 5:54 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I'm in Canada to see my niece get married. The in-law clan will gather this evening to watch Sarah be "given away" to Nick.

Like many wedding traditions, the concept of "giving away" the bride is archaic. When Nick first appeared in Sarah's life, the male clan members grudgingly agreed not to hurt him. We didn't give her away so much as we let him stick around.

Now it's going to be official. Preparations for the wedding have been proceeding at breakneck speed. And I mean this literally. As with most complicated rituals, tempers fray as the marriage moment draws nigh.

This is not your typical Utah wedding reception. The customs and traditions are different. Unlike what I'm accustomed to at home, there's no basketball court involved in the reception.

Also, we're in a whole other country. I'd tell you how big Sarah's ring is, but I don't know how to convert a Canadian metric diamond into normal American carats.

There are other dissimilarities. The wedding doesn't start for another few hours, and yet some of the participants are already inebriated. There will be dancing, some of it bad.

And the reception is a genuine sit-down, invitation-only dinner with actual cloth napkins. There will be none of this pop in, drop a gift and eat a piece of cake.

There are some similarities in closely followed tradition — rings, white dresses, tuxes, bridesmaids, reception, aisle walk, flower girl, etc.

I have a Y chromosome, so a lot of sentimental feelings escape me. This is particularly true of serious estrogen festivals such as baby showers, proms, the Twilight series and weddings.

It's the shared traditions of wedding that give me pause now, traditions that no longer mean anything other than that's the way it's always been done and it's what the bride wants.

For example, bridal bouquets. These originated as clutches of strong herbs (and later flowers). The idea was to frighten off evil spirits with the smell. I don't know if this ever actually worked, but since I'm still here, Sarah's bouquet is for looks only.

Receptions/showers. These were once held in order to gift the bride and groom items to start their new household — pots and pans, food, shawl, possibly a chicken or two — because most newlyweds were poor.

Sarah and Nick will have a reception even though they already have everything to start a household, including the actual house. They've been living together for three years.

Fortunately, cash has been an acceptable/preferred wedding gift for over a thousand years. This spares us the trouble of wondering what to get them and/or locating a chicken.

When Sarah comes down the aisle, she'll be wearing white even though white has traditionally been a marital declaration of purity and virginity, except in Asia, where of course it means somebody died.

All a white dress means tonight is that Sarah will look fabulous in it when we finally get to see her. The men will fall silent and the women will cry.

Speaking of meaning, the word "bride" reportedly comes from the Old English word for "cook." Regardless of hallowed tradition, that's not a meaning any young woman wants to be identified with on her wedding day.

I don't recall most of the traditions from my own wedding. Thirty-eight years later, they aren't what matter. All that does is the reason most people get married in the first place: love.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.