Saturday, January 12, 2008

wedding dresses

Over this weekend we are celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents-in-law. Today I am leading them in a renewal of vows ceremony, followed by old time dancing, speeches and a barbeque at our place. (For me, it is a fascinating blurring of my life – I do renewal of vows services as a pastor but here I am on holiday and it is with my family.) Anyhow, last night the immediate family gathered. And the young cousins, 5 of whom are female, admired the wedding dress worn 50 years ago,

“Would they like to try it on?”

“Oh yes,” the heads nodded as the young eyes sparkled.

And one by one they paraded out, female cousins fussing over trains and sleeves. One by one they absorbed the admiring cheers of proud parents, were photographed by the family photo snapper and played the digital pictures back on the lounge room TV.

And I wondered – how important might this be for their formation into adults? Are they not becoming aware – by participation, by exploration – of the importance of being married, the specialness of this day?

Now the church talks a lot about the importance of marriage. But educationalists tell us we remember much more by what we do than by what we say. So how important was this last night – actually feeling a fabric of value, actually sensing the importance of a bride on a wedding day – in communicating values?

And if it is important for their formation, should the church be involved in some way alongside a family? Should this be a youth group activity of some sort or shape?

What would happen if every five years the women in a church gathered around the younger women and together they laughed and dreamed and talked? And the men gathered with the younger men and they talked about how hard it is to be a husband, the rough edges that get smoothed, the life habits that get honed by years of commitment and loyalty?

What could be the impact of such events on the fabric (pun intended) of our society?

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM


  1. well… odds are good that the women in a church or in a close family or a close group of friends do exactly that at least a few times in their lives (if not many, many times). I loved to touch my mum’s wedding dress, and admired it thru the transparent garment bag, and thumbed through her wedding album, as did my sister. and little sisters and younger cousins certainly get to do heaps of gushing over brides, even before they become bridesmaids (offical gushers).
    many girls and women do this with babies and motherhood from quite a young age, too. women from our antenatal class have formed into a coffee group. the men seem to be going it alone…
    so, maybe this is an experience that’s more missing for men than it is for women? maybe social “practising” for rights of passage into womanhood have been retained, but the ones for manhood have been lost to a greater degree?

    Comment by kelli — January 12, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  2. I know that to reduce barriers to church we’ve taken out the dress code bit, but I do wonder whether it would be nice to one-day invite the church congregation to a wedding feast. Get some spare, smartish clothes to give to people who cannot supply their own wedding clothes.

    Dress up, come to celebrate, see the love of God for his church, share a meal including bread and wine… could bring a real sense of family and community.

    Comment by Phil — January 13, 2008 @ 1:56 am

  3. I think it depends on the person as to how exactly the experience would relate to the value of marriage. I think, though, it is much more powerful as an expression of Identity in this particular family. Identity is truly the bedrock from which the values emerge.

    The quintessential photograph for me now, looking back on those taken in my infancy, is one of me being held by my great-aunt, the oldest living member of my family at the time. It says to me, I am a part of This family. There is even more meaning for me because I am adopted.


    Comment by Dana Ames — January 13, 2008 @ 7:21 am

  4. Steve you make it sound as if marriage is all pretty gowns, laughs and dreams for women while men need to gather to talk about how hard it is – not sure if you meant to make it sound that way :). I think women need to talk about the same things you suggest for men and not just see it as a fairy tale.

    Comment by Jack — January 14, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

  5. Jack,
    well noted. I was aware as I typed it of that dimension and thought I would just “let it hang” and simply see if anyone noted it and if it became a thread of conversation.

    i can’t really comment on how women find marriage, but my reflections from pastoral work over the last year is what I wrote: that men are pretty immature and romanticly naive when it comes to marriage. me included.


    Comment by steve — January 15, 2008 @ 7:30 am

  6. The images of young girls in wedding dresses took me to a long ago summer evening with girlfriends trying on my wedding gown, taking photos of each other, dreaming, and I would have to say arguing feminist theology over why should women get married anyway. I remember the woman most fervent over this being a mechanism to control and manipulate women was the one who stood the longest in front of the mirror with a look of almost painful longing that I’d forgotten until reading your post Steve. What really interests me here is putting it within a church context with women of all ages. Of what it would mean to all to be able to talk with each other, to listen, to share stories with those who have more experience. It is something that I very occasionally have had tastes of and I know when this has occurred we have all been the richer for it. I know that for a time when we knew few married people that hearing from others would have made such a difference to know that what was happening was normal that I wasn’t alone. To know where God fit in all this!

    Comment by Megan — January 17, 2008 @ 10:48 am

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