Friday, February 12, 2010

Wedding Rant: A Case Against Outdoor Weddings

Tropical locations, manicured lawns, tented affairs with swans on the nearby lake, a backyard event, or next to a golf course. There are many reasons to want to get married outdoors. Some people like to be "close to nature" or reject the idea of a church wedding. But getting married outdoors comes with a price and, usually, a big price tag.

Keeping guests comfortable can be a challenge. Where I live in Oregon, there is a very good likelihood of rain on any given day, even in August. Wind can be a huge factor in other locations, especially near oceans or lakes. Tents can be rented, but "wedding tents" have a huge price markup (saying "family picnic" instead of "wedding" to the rental place could save you some money). In any case, every outdoor wedding should have a back-up plan for inclement weather, even in Hawaii.

The more remote a location is, the more packing in and out that will have to be done. Sure, a wedding can be as simple as people standing around, but after a long trek, many people will want chairs. If it's sunny, some will want more sunscreen. Clean drinking water should be available. Umbrellas for shade in a sunny area are much appreciated. Umbrellas for rain are also nice to have. For a big outdoor wedding, sound equipment will have to be provided and then protected from the weather and theft. There is nothing worse than attending a wedding and not being able to hear. Food will need to be kept hot or cold, covered, and monitored, so extra staff on the catering team are a must. Citronella candles lend a romantic feel, keep bugs away, and lend that obnoxious smell to the outdoors.

I can't discuss an outdoor wedding without addressing the issue of faith. Outdoor weddings are fine if the couple doesn't mind foregoing a sacramental and covenantal wedding. I realize that not everyone is Catholic, but if you are, be warned: it takes approval from the archdiocesan bishop to have an outdoor wedding (not just the local priest!), and the requests are rarely granted.

Marriage is not a simple agreement between two people to enter into a "trial period" before later divorcing. Marriage is a covenant between two people and God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all attest to this fact. Stripping away the church seems to negate the whole "God" part of a wedding. All three of these faiths also encourage weddings to be celebrated within the faith community. To celebrate a wedding at a park, golf course, or beach removes a significant part of the faith-based culture that weddings, being covenants between the couple and God, should have. Without the church, an outdoor wedding is simply a civil union, a legal contract between two people. The wedding of two people shouldn't be a public pageant, but rather should embrace the idea of a private agreement, the covenant bond. Furthermore, God isn't "everywhere all the time" as much as the grace within us that amplifies the sacrament, so an outdoor wedding is fundamentally different than a sacramental wedding. It literally becomes a legal contract, a civil union.

It's a lot of work to get married outside. It takes effort and money, plus unwavering hope that the weather will cooperate. It means giving up a chunk of spirituality that could be had inside a church. For some people, only an outdoor wedding will do. I am cautioning brides and grooms everywhere to take a long, hard look at what's important for their future (not just their special day): stress and worry over weather, planning to keep guests comfortable throughout the day, and foregoing a very special spiritual bond; or zero worry about weather, less stress about keeping guests comfortable, and acknowledging the third person in the marriage.


Terese said...

Hmmmm....interesting post. Though I think you're better off getting married "indoors" and perhaps having one's reception outdoors, I understand your point about the covenant bond, but personally don't agree with it. In any event, I want you to know that tent rental companies use a "formula" to rent out their tents. They charge by the square foot, however, something like 65-cents t $2-per-sq-foot, depending on the kind of tent. The price can go up if you need other items (windows, end walls, side walls, ballasts, etc.) So you can do comparison shopping if you know what kind of tent you want (marquee, saddle span, clearspan, pole). That's my two-cents.

Skunk said...

Hmmm, does that make my marriage less than yours, simply because it was outside? That seems a little...harsh. Not being confrontational, I just saying...

Jaggy said...

Not less than. Different than.
I know that making God the third person in your marriage isn't of paramount importance (and I respect that, I really do), so an outdoor wedding fit your purposes perfectly. Your wedding was no less valid than mine, it's just a different type of agreement.

Strayer said...

You could be a wedding planner!

Skunk said...

Which is "worse": a religious couple getting married outside or a non-religious couple getting married in a church? Okay, using the word "worst" probably isn't the best choice, but I used it for lack of a better word. I personally feel that the latter situation is the worst one, which is why I refused to get married in a church--not because I reject God, but because I feel that it would be hypocritical or false.
Again, I'm not trying to be confrontational.

Besides, trees and nature are so PRETTY! :)

Jaggy said...

Strayer: I'd love to get paid to organize someone else's shindig. Nobody could afford me. ;)

Skunk: It depends on the non-religious couple's attitude toward religion. If they're just in it for a venue and want to have a non-denominational generic wedding there, as long as the church agrees, I'm fine with it. If the couple is getting married in the church only to make a mockery of it, then that's bad. (Perfect example: those people who danced down the aisles!)

Trees and nature are BEAUTIFUL! They're fun to hike and play and explore in. They're not MY idea of what a wedding should include.