PBP - Ceremonies are Bullshit
I seriously don't know why I keep thinking of Star Wars when I write these.
A ceremony is a ritual done to commemorate something with an audience. It usually marks a transition in someone's life, but it can also be done to formally express gratitude or gift someone with something.
I also find them kind of pointless.
I haven't gone through gifting ceremonies, tea ceremonies, or anything like that. I've only gone through life transition ceremonies. Maybe it's just me, but it's been my experience that ceremonies are more for the audience than those participating. Even worse, most of the audience is bored until they find something to criticize.
I've graduated from middle school,pbp-ceremonies-are-bullshit-fn1 high school, college, and graduate school. At no point did I want to go to the graduation ceremony. When I got my Master's Degree, I got my degree mailed to me. I opened the envelope to make sure my name was spelled correctly, then put it back in the envelope and filed it.
As for high school, it was the last official time the class would be together. I guess the same is true for a college graduation. For me, these weren't choices; they were something I had to get through to get a job. For college, I basically had to get a job to pay for college until I'm 40, which is the most counterintuitive thing I've ever done.
However, these were joyous occasions for my family. That is why I attended these ceremonies.
On the other hand, in the 8th grade (the final year of middle school), I submitted a project to the Science Fair. I won 1st place in my category and Best in Show. During the fair, the science teacher came up to me, handed me the two ribbons, and congratulated me. The fair wasn't stopped. No announcement was made. That was the end of it. I ran over and told my parents. My Dad, proud, pinned the ribbons to my project.
That memory is burned into my brain. It was genuine. My Dad and I made something awesome together, and others noticed.
Middle school graduation was a huge block of time that required rehearsalspbp-ceremonies-are-bullshit-fn2 and all the pomp and circumstance. It commemorated that I managed to go three years without fucking up too badly. Although both events happened within a few months of each other, I only really remember one of them.
Let's look at the other end of a lifetime: funerals. There is no way that ceremony is for the person it is commemorating (barring religious reasons, of course). It is for the attendants who want to see the deceased one final time. For this reason, I understand the point, but I don't understand the grandeur.
Why do you need tons of flowers? Why does everybody have to sit there in silence staring at a body? Why does everybody have to drive past the person's house? What is the point of a "prayer card?" Why do we stare at the body for multiple days? Naturally, these questions will change with regards to religion and social customs. These are just for the funerals I've attended.
Now, here is the one where I'm currently stuck. My fiancée and I are of different beliefs, and both vary from our families'. What do we do? Originally, we were going to elope, but that would hurt our families. Eloping wasn't because of faith, however; we both just hate the traditional wedding.pbp-ceremonies-are-bullshit-fn3
So, we asked friends what they did for their weddings. The narcissists we know loved their weddings because all attention was on them throughout the entire planning process. The others wanted something else, but ended up doing something traditional because of their families. This is especially true of those with different faiths.
So, I asked, "If it was everything you didn't want, why have the wedding at all?"
After hesitation, the answer was always, "Well, you don't want to regret not having one."
"Would you have regretted it?"
After a couple of minutes, "My parents would have been upset."
My favorite explanation I've heard so far has been, "The wedding is for your family. The honeymoon is for you." That so succinctly illustrates my point. There's a reason the ceremony is 20 minutes long and the reception is 4 hours: people like to celebrate. Everything leading up to the food and fun is just filler; you're going through the motions to avoid being stigmatized.
Religiously, Christians can get married with only three people involved: the bride, groom, and priest. Hellenists need two: the couple. The couple is making a promise before the Gods. No one else has to be there. The law requires witnesses, but the faith does not.
And THAT is where my reasoning that ceremonies are bullshit resides.
Social Stigmas and Standardizing Superfluous Shit
I'm going to use weddings as the example for this because it's what I'm currently going though and weddings seem to be the worst offender of this.
Weddings are extremely expensive. A very cheap one here in New Jersey is around $10,000. If you're having under 120 guests, there's only about 5 or 10 venues that will even talk to you (NOT an exaggeration). Booking a restaurant for the event and piecemeal planning it all yourself is even more expensive.
Because of shit you don't need.
My fiancée and I are pretty resistant to sales tactics, but we can see why everyone falls for everything that has been hurled at us as "necessary." Somehow, there's a lot of decisions and pressure. Honestly, I have to commend those who managed to keep their wedding costs low.
"Save The Date"
This is a completely bullshit product.
It's common to send a pre-invitation to a wedding before the actual invitation. Why? When you are asking someone to save the date, isn't that already an invitation? The only difference is the address of the venue, your RSVP information, and a couple hundred dollars.
Why do I need so many flowers? Why is a bouquet of flowers over $200, closer to $500? I can get the same bouquet for $50-$75 at a local florist that looks exactly the same. Is there some extra lace? Is the lace made of gold? Did Athene herself craft this lace!? (In that case, you are seriously undercharging.)
If you look at a modern wedding album, you will notice that they all look the same. You can almost Photoshop the couple's faces on to another wedding and no one will know the difference.
- Picture of the rings on the wedding invitation? Check.
- Picture of the bride staring into a mirror? Check.
- Picture of the bride's dress being zipped up? Check.
- Picture of the bride through a crack in the dressing room's doorway? Check.
- Picture of the groom leaning on a car? Check.
- Picture of the groom walking side-by-side in a field/park with the men of the wedding party? Check.
- Picture of the bride getting out of the car behind the groom? Check.
You'll also see that the couple will receive ~900 pictures because digital photography is cheap. (Again, not exaggerating.)
A lot of this is probably to justify the photographer's price.
Somehow, we're inviting 80 people and no one knows how to properly operate a point-and-shoot. Also, maybe one of them knows how to send pictures to us through means other than posting them on Facebook.
We'll hire a photographer. I don't really have a problem with this.
My real problem with photographers is that they somehow always end up in charge of the wedding. The pictures matter more than the moment in the same way that posting that you did something on Facebook is more important than doing that thing.
We just need to be careful of who we hire.
No. Just... no.
There are probably people who care about this, but it's not us. I can't really say much about it because we haven't even looked into it.
I've yet to go to a wedding where the playlist was different. Thinking about it, the playlist is almost identical to what is played at a sweet 16 party. I never realized that until just now. The only difference is to replace LMFAO's "Shots" to yet another 80's classic rock song for a wedding.
Because of this, I can almost replace the DJ by plugging an MP3 player into the sound system. When people "Charlie Brown" or whatever that song is really called, people just get up and do the standard dance anyway.
Side note: Does every DJ have a jarring transition into James Brown's "Shout," or is it just all of New Jersey's DJs?
If I had the money for ice sculptures, I wouldn't be writing this entire article.
The venue defines the cost of the wedding. Essentially, I'm spending years' worth of debt to be allowed to sit in a room for a few hours.
I understand there is set up and clean up. I've been a school janitor. It only took a small group of us to prepare and clean gyms and auditoriums for different assemblies every day. Weddings have far less people, and they generally are less messy than hundreds of kindergärtners who miss the toilets with their asses.
This is part of the venue, but is really its own item. The food is the biggest cost of the venue. You can be swindled on every non-food related item and the wedding will still be relatively cheap.
You will be paying over $100 per plate for:
- chicken francaise with rubbery vegetables and glue (mashed potatoes)
- prime rib steak with rubbery vegetables and glue (mashed potatoes)
- tilapia with rubbery vegetables and glue (mashed potatoes)
A vegetarian option (read: extra rubbery vegetables) will be available upon request, but won't be written on the main menu. Slightly upscale places may replace tilapia with salmon and/or also feature chicken marsala.
All of your money is going toward fancy-looking cafeteria food.
But wait! There's more!
There is the cash-cow of the entire experience: hors d'oeuvres and cocktail hour!
This has to be the single biggest waste of money in the entire wedding process. Add a lobster station for $15/person. Add an extra carving station for $4/person. Add better liquor to the bar for $8/person (regardless of age or ability to drink).
If happy hour is served rather than buffet style, it's always "white-glove butlered hors d'oeuvres," which is a really fancy way of writing "slow, small trays of hors d'oeuvres that never make it all the way around the room."
Nearly all of these additions are present for one hour of the approximately five-hour occasions. That's only 20% of the event. It also makes people full, so no one's going to eat that $120 main course mini-steak, either.
Also, because we'll probably be in that private bridal room before the reception, we won't be able to eat any of what we bought during happy hour, either.
What's the Point?
After all of that, what is my point?
Everything you see above is what people will talk about. I'll bet a lot of people thought the DJ replacement idea was weird. The funny part is, if we doing everything else perfectly, extravagantly, and grandiose, but substitute the DJ, all people will ever talk about is the lack of DJ.
Simply put, here's why ceremonies are bullshit: they take the focus away from what's really important, and you can only fuck it up. A perfect ceremony is a ceremony that nobody remembers. The most people will say about the "perfect" ceremony is, "It was a beautiful wedding." This will be followed quickly by, "Can you believe how terrible the food was!?"
This isn't to say that the ritual e.g. the exchange of vows and the act of marriage aren't important. They are. They problem is that they become trivialized.
For a funeral, there's a bit more time between the ceremony and people complaining that someone's speech was too long, someone said something inappropriate, or someone was wearing something odd.
To this day, the only thing ever mentioned about my high school graduation is the terrible valedictorian speech and how hot the weather was.
The funny part of our wedding is that if we carry Hestia's flame to a fire pit in the back yard, say our vows to each other, and celebrate with everybody with a barbecue, it will probably be equally as fun and memorable.
pbp-ceremonies-are-bullshit-fn1 At least, I think I had a graduation for middle school. I know they are really common in my location. I remember people making a big deal and being happy that I was going to high school. I know that even then I didn't understand the big deal. It was the next thing I had to do. It's not like I had a choice. Do many people fail middle school enough times that they turn 18 and can drop out?
pbp-ceremonies-are-bullshit-fn2 I take it back. I definitely remember this shit now. There were rehearsals for a week before the graduation. After walking single-file in alphabetical order for a week, I still didn't understand how it was called a "celebration" or "exciting" by my friends.
pbp-ceremonies-are-bullshit-fn3 Most of the weddings we've gone to are "Jersey-style" weddings. Yes, New Jersey needs its own wedding style, too, where the reception is basically an overdressed nightclub.