I am the spinster aunt of my family.
My position was solidified this weekend as my older brother got married. I was a bit of a “surprise” for my parents, and so I trail 18 years behind the rest of the family. I’m now the only unwed among us.
My role has some distinct advantages. Birthday presents from sisters with incomes are pretty good; I have numerous opportunities to build dens with six-year-old nephews. In wedding photos, however, I am rather an awkward addition. I lurk on the edge of our little cluster of young families. I tend to resort heavily to the good old remedy and social lubricant that is Cabernet Sauvignon.
This preference therefore presents me as bonafide living proof of the fact that many wedding stereotypes are breathing realities. Last Saturday also featured several creepy uncles, the whiffs of family feuds and a red-nosed old man who somehow left his chair a pile of splinters after dinner.
Yet, having attended a fair number of weddings in some form or another — the result of both a large number of cousins and a summer job in events catering — I have observed the beginnings of a welcome evolution in other traditions.
For those of you who might enjoy the details of British nuptials, this one was in Scotland and featured an audience of Highland cows, who lined up and peered over the fence at the ceremony under the trees. There was also a ceilidh, numerous kilts and, blessing of all blessings to a greedy spinster, a hog roast.
Those traditions, bar perhaps the fact that underwear is not worn beneath kilts, are warming and beneficial to all. Some classic wedding features, however, are beginning to fall rather behind the times.
I love my parents very much, and, by all means, I would want my father to walk me down the aisle. But I would not want anyone to consider that he is “giving me away.” Weddings are no longer about a little girl being handed over from man to man. I feel the event needs a tweak or two to acknowledge this.
I may only be 21, but my spinster role is firmly entrenched. Even the youngsters can smell it in the air. My three-year-old niece brazenly announced last summer: “You’re very alone, aren’t you, Melissa?” Her solution — “Why don’t you marry my daddy?” — didn’t really hold fast. I am trying to work out how to tell her that I am a strong, independent woman.
So in the midst of the plagues of convention, I would like to commend my new sister-in-law for acting as power bride. She broke tradition and made her own speech.
I saw another relative try this at her wedding a few years ago. It went badly. I think she was trying to plug for laughs, but her tactic was mostly just to insult people. It went on for a solid half hour and fell flat as a bulldozed pancake.
My sister-in-law’s speech wasn’t a call for attention or an attempt to be a stand-up comic. She didn’t pull a bridezilla or humiliate anyone. She told everyone how happy she was, expressed her regret for absent family members and gave some personal thank yous. It lasted five minutes and was a brief interlude in the general scheme of groom, best man and father of the bride, but I think it was important.
In all honesty, I consider wedding speeches generally too much talk and not enough toast. But, if we must be subjected to them, I am happy to see the process adapting to the modern day.
I feel that this is what we need right now. I believe the time for bra-burning has come and gone, but there are so many leftover social norms that still need alterations. I think more people should start considering it odd that no woman talks traditionally at a wedding — even her own. We need to work at the little things — changes seem to be pretty happily accepted. I reckon then that my niece will learn soon that getting along happily in life isn’t necessarily all about shacking up with Prince Charming.
Melissa Lawford is an exchange College junior from the University of Edinburgh studying English literature. Her email address is email@example.com.
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