The New York Times ran an interesting article this weekend about a Bar Mitzvah called Seeking the Transcendent, Dodging Consumerism. Sound familiar? While I didn’t agree with every point the article made, I thought it did an excellent job of discussing the importance of ritual. If the word ritual makes you feel uncomfortable, substitute the word tradition in your head.
For a long time, the concept of ritual had a negative connotation to me. It meant mindlessly going through the motions, or doing something just because everyone else was doing it. But as I have gotten older and less self-righteous, I have come to see that rituals have a place. We can both learn and take comfort from the fact that we are repeating the actions of our ancestors and, at the same time, molding them to have meaning for our family. As Rabbi Jeffrey Sirkman, who performed Ben’s bar mitzvah, said: “Ritual pulls us back from all the mundane stuff and helps make us more transcendent in our lives. Any ritual can have transcendent meaning, but most of the time we miss it because we’re trying to take care of everything else.” So ritual is a way to mark life’s transitions, and it is also a way to make time stop for a moment in the blur of life, to gather family and friends for a rare moment of acknowledgment.
And that, in the end, sums how I think about our wedding. Sometimes I feel like the only Indie Bride that thinks this, but I feel that thoughtful use of tradition can be as revolutionary as throwing out traditional all together. None of the stuff the wedding industry is selling holds much sway when you think of your wedding in this context. Would our ancestors care about our monogrammed aisle runner, sand ceremony, and computerized light show? Somehow, I don’t think that’s their bag. Is it traditional and transcendent to match our favors to our bridesmaids dresses? Um, nah.
Are any of you reclaiming bits of tradition – or even ritual – to make your wedding meaningful and give the wedding industry a kick in the teeth*?
*PS – when they tell you reply cards are traditional, please tell them where to shove it.