Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Not about the frills

This is my column today.

What a relief to hear no less than the prince of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, the Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle, slam the growing commercialization of weddings in this country. I’m not a conservative person, but I am not blind or deaf to situations that break social norms.

In remarks delivered at the Manila Archdiocesan General Pastoral Assembly last week, Tagle chastised Filipino couples and their wedding planners and coordinators and told them to stop all the “ka-ek-ekan” (gayspeak for frivolities) associated with weddings.

I also liked the fact that Tagle didn’t deliver his message in a scathing, fire-and-brimstone manner. Instead of issuing threats and condemnations and warning people of eternal damnation in hell, the archbishop narrated vignettes culled from personal experiences while officiating during weddings.

About time someone put people to task for the way weddings in this country have become a pabonggahan (over-the-top) contest. As a teacher, I invariably get invited to a lot of weddings of former students and I tell you, there have been many occasions when I wish the bride or groom was still my student. This is so I could tell them exactly why a wedding ceremony should not be reduced to a fashion or drama production. I know what you are thinking — it’s their wedding and they have every right to make it into whatever they want. But a wedding is still a sacred ceremony that demands a certain level of solemnity and seriousness; the fact that they invited witnesses must signify their intent to keep things at a certain level of respectability. And really, if it is held inside a place of worship and officiated by a religious person, they are also obligated to show respect for their and other people’s faith.

I don’t care what people do during the reception — they can turn it into a Halloween party if they so desire. But I have serious misgivings about watching the entourage gyrating their way from the door of the church to the altar to the soundtrack of Fame, the movie. Nor is it okay for the production people who have been contracted to produce an on-site video and several post-wedding music videos to literally direct how the priest, the readers, the entourage, and the guests should position themselves or move during the ceremony just so they could get cinematic footages. The video and the photo shoot just cannot be the main consideration in the ceremony. I consider myself to have a very open mind and to have a very tolerant attitude towards fashion trends but I draw the line at flower girls dressed in evening gowns with plunging necklines and bared backs — these are kids, for crying out loud.

I’ve been to a wedding where the church decoration included live rabbits hopping around in keeping with a spring motif (I understood why the priest rushed through the whole ceremony and completed it in 45 minutes flat). I stood as sponsor in a wedding that had over a hundred members of the entourage — almost 30 flower girls and around the same number of bridesmaids (the march alone took more than 30 minutes).

I see the wisdom of having the groom and bride recite vows they themselves wrote; I can tolerate plagiarism during weddings, but one wishes some would bother to have their opuses edited for clarity or grammar. And then there are the consumerist flourishes — butterflies, confetti, bubble machines, snow makers, little animals running or flying around. Again, I don’t mind if these are featured at the reception...but at the church? Come on!

These flourishes may be important, but not really as important as the ceremony itself. A wedding is still about the vows, the sacrament, and yes, about faith. Everything else is just the proverbial icing on the cake. And people should be reminded of that.

I do understand the need to make weddings special, unique, memorable, etc. I know most people wish to get married only once in their lifetime so they want to make sure their weddings are events that they will remember forever. I also understand the need to inject their own personalities and their personal styles into the event. The key is to go for simplicity, elegance and sincerity; it’s a wedding, not a Fourth of July celebration.

If we come to think about it, it’s not the frills and the extravaganza that people will remember about a wedding — it would be the warmth, the affection, and the happiness that envelop the whole proceedings.

And by the way, I don’t really diss the Catholic bishops all the time. See, I agreed with Tagle this time around.

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