This summer I've noticed that a lot of young people are complaining about "wedding overdose," a condition generally described as the queasiness that results from attending or having a supporting role in full-blown, traditional nuptials on two or more consecutive weekends -- sort of the psychic equivalent of the way you'd feel if you gobbled up an entire tier of wedding cake and washed it down with Hawaiian Punch. For some reason these complainers wrongly assume that I want to hear long blasts of their anti-romantic negativism. At a party, an arm-flailing young woman will corner me, ranting about the most recent ugly bridesmaid's dress she was forced to buy and the companion hairdo that made her look like the victim of a vigilante poodle bouffer. "Heh heh," she'll then say, poking me in the stomach and expelling her syllables in a sleazy conspiratorial gurgle better suited to a 19th-century London gin addict about to wager the family gruel money on a chugging contest. "I'll bet you hate wedding stuff!"
Actually, no. Call me a simpleton or a love-blinded nut, but for the sake of a friend's happiness, I'll do whatever I'm told. You want me to shell out $475 to fly to Windy Pitte, S.D., for your January nuptials? Sure. And you'd like me to climb into this vanilla-colored rayon tuxedo with blueberry piping and shoehorn myself into these too- small Italianate hi-gloss loafers with leprechaun buckles? Noooo problem. Eh, what's that? You say all the bridesmaids are either somebody's pregnant wife or metal-mouthed little sister? Super. And the ceremony will feature the prolonged toddle of a super-cute, attention-grubbing little ring bearer? Awww right! And --
Oh, I could go on and on, but I think you get the drift: I am an untamed sentimentalist. Nevertheless, if so many people really are unhappy with today's weddings, my feeling is: By all means, let's chuck around some new ideas. To this end, I've spent the past week immersed in wedding books and magazines, and from this research three points emerged with such startling clarity that I think everybody will agree on them.
1. People in America no longer have deeply rooted folk feelings about the wedding customs they perform. In fact, they don't even know what they mean, and usually they're just following orders from pushy wedding-products salespeople. Generally the bride's mom and sis cooperate by making Dad feel like a slithering coin squeezer every time he issues a faint peep about whatever outrageous expense they drop in his lap. Furthermore, when he dares to mention something he would like -- for example, a 500-gallon margarita whirlpool with "stirring action" provided by a pair of 45-horsepower Evinrude outboard motors -- they get . . . upset.
2. As a result, Americans all too often waste many of their 25 billion weddo- dollars a year on "essential" things like embossed napkins, photographers, flowers, churches, limos and honeymoons that involve travel. (To show you just how far we've strayed: To the ancient Teutons, who invented the term, a "honeymoon" was a 40-day period in which the newlyweds did nothing but stay home and drink mead.)
3. There are ways out of this starchy rut.
All clear on where we're headed? Good. Let's discuss some alternatives.
That word, alternatives, may fill you with terror, for it conjures up the "alternative weddings" popularized in the late '60s -- those things held in canoes, pottery shops, Volkswagen garages and bird sanctuaries, in which innocent audience members were forced by ruthless hippies to recite poetry, sing Buffy Sainte-Marie songs while holding hands and listen without groaning as the loving duo read passages from tribal creation myths, Kahlil Gibran, Carl Rogers, e.e. cummings and Erich Fromm. Now, am I about to suggest a return to that sort of thing? As much as I like a good sick joke, no, because counter- reaction to '60s wedding excesses is exactly what led to the mess we're in today. Also, "that sort of thing" falls under the general heading of what, according to the majority of the people I've spoken to, is the single most disliked aspect of weddings: the so-called "marriage ceremony." I know, I know, this point sounds cold and strange -- after all, isn't the ceremony what it's all about? -- but next time you're at a wedding, take a good, long, objective look at the non-family crowd. What you'll see, friends, is a lot of yawning, a lot of glassy eyes and frozen smiles, a lot of groomsmen and bridesmaids who look sick, a lot of parents wrestling with children trying to run away, and -- this is rough, but let's be honest -- a lot of outright sobbing.
These are all traditional signs of discomfort and misery, and yet, a wedding is supposed to be a happy time! This is why I'd like to propose . . . Oh, man, I just know people saddled with bourgeois hang-ups won't like this part, but here goes: Why not hold the ceremony before the guests arrive, either in someone's home or by way of a personal-computer linkup -- whichever's cheaper? That way there would be more money for fun stuff -- like bigger pre-pre- wedding keggers, bigger receptions with bigger smorgasbords and bigger bands that play extra dance sets, bigger dinners with less time for toasting and "kiss the bride" interruptions, and bigger post-dinner sauna and pool parties.
Finally, we could use the extra time created to try out wedding customs from other lands. Here, the possibilities are endless. I've researched this, and it's no exaggeration to say that every country has livelier customs than we have, ones more in tune with naturalistic life-force vibrations. All I'm suggesting is that we do what we've always done: Steal them, run them through our Melting Pot and come up with new traditions that are "uniquely American." In Sumatra, for example, the groom's party and bride's party engage in "mock battle" by exchanging poems extolling the pair's relative virtues. We could do that, too (Guys: "When Dave grabs Nina like a tater sack/ And totes her off to their Smoochin' Shack/ The cog railway of her heart will go 'clickety-clack'/ And to the other jerks she'll never go back!" Gals: "Oh, yeah . . . ?"), then seal the deal with a water-balloon fight. On the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, wedding guests salute the couple by firing shotguns. Later, the wedding-cake plate is thrown in the air, and if it breaks upon landing, the couple will have a lifetime of good luck.
I say, why leave the newlyweds' fate to chance? Hand out shotguns, put that plate in a skeet thrower, yell "pull" and watch that bad luck get blown out of the sky. ::