Even Mendelssohn’s substantially more dramatic Wedding March, composed for A Midsummer Night’s Dream—which in many ways is a superior composition—doesn’t carry the cultural weight of the rather simplistic Wagner. Even now that selecting music for the processional is the norm, all are measured in deference to the Wagnerian standard.
The very existence of that ‘standard’ demonstrates the importance we place on making an entrance. For brides, especially, a great deal of importance is placed on this one arrival from a very early age, and brides certainly agonise over selecting the right music to set it off. Like most celebrants, I keep a playlist of suggestions to help with this process.
As some traditions fall into decline, other traditions take their place. Hopefully, more meaningful ones: traditions that not only reflect who we are as individuals, but our social values. It is, perhaps, easier for same sex couples to face these changes: we have no choice but to face the traditions head-on and decide whether they’re relevant, and how to interpret them. Straight couples, though, can just coast along ignoring the incongruities between the traditions and the way we live.
Let’s ignore the fact—for a moment—that I always found the grooms more attractive: if the genders are equal, as they certainly are in the sight of Australian marriage law, then it simply makes sense that the groom and the bride should both make an entrance. She is no more nor less important than he is, and this day should be no more nor less important to him.
The traditional purpose of a processional was less to do with making an entrance than it was to do with a father presenting his daughter to the groom he chose. Depending on the culture, he may have purchased the marriage for his daughter with a dowry, or he may have accepted a dowry in exchange for his daughter; but in either custom the processional was that moment when the groom first saw his bride. In modern Australia, that would be bordering on an illegitimate marriage! Most couples have not only met; they’ve kissed, frolicked, maybe had a baby or two, and cohabited. The processional, in twenty-first century Australia, really is about making an entrance.
So let’s consider some new options, appropriate to that purpose:
- Rather than walking, dance
- Enter one after the other, with or without attendants
- Set out the seating with two aisles, and have both parties approach from different directions
- Don’t have any seating: have your guests form a circle with your celebrant’s help, and make an entrance together
- Have your attendants wheel in a big cake, and jump out of it
- Have a helicopter drop you into the ceremony!
The possibilities really are limited only by your imagination (and of course your budget, since few of my couple could fork out for that helicopter!), but I urge you to think outside the box! Make your entrance meaningful to you, and it will shine for all the right reasons.
Next month, I am planning to examine the tradition of ‘giving away’ the bride in a little more detail.