Tuesday, October 28, 2008

tossing traditions

I object to the traditional "bouquet/garter toss" that often takes place at weddings. As I've mentioned before, I go to a lot of weddings, so during wedding season I often find myself explaining why. I've listed my primary reasons below.

Reason #1: Trivializing marriage
In my opinion, deciding to get married is a serious relationship change and both parties should spend a lot of time carefully thinking/talking it out and making sure it's what they both really want. The idea that something as trivial as catching a bouquet or garter could affect such a serious decision at all...well, it seems silly and even insulting to rational adults. Basically, it makes light of the institution of marriage, at an event intended to celebrate a marriage.

Reason #2: Trivializing other committed long-term relationships
This is very similar to Reason #1, but I want to mention this angle specifically because I think it often gets overlooked. People are expected to want to catch the bouquet (and to some extent, the garter). This would seem to indicate an absolute belief that marriage is the "best" relationship state for everyone. I object to passing judgment on people's life choices. Many adults are in committed long-term relationships. Some of them don't believe in marriage. Others are gay and are not allowed to be married in their state/country of residence. Others may feel that they (or their partner, or their relationship) are not ready for marriage at this time. Why would any of these people want to participate in these rituals?

Update: A friend just made another good point corresponding to Reason #2. The bouquet or garter toss defines people who are in committed long-term relationships as "single", thus trivializing those relationships and portraying them as "lesser" states compared to marriage. The obvious solution would be to allow people to define their own singleness, but what ends up happening is that purportedly "single" people who don't consider themselves single are pressured to participate anyway.

Reason #3: Awkwardness
One would think that at a party, the objective of the hosts would be to maximize the enjoyment of the guests. At a wedding reception, the bouquet and garter toss are often the most awkward moments for said guests. I'll focus on the bouquet toss first...

There's this outdated notion that all women want to catch the bouquet because all women desperately want to be married as soon as possible. In this day and age, that's simply not true. Some women are happy to be single, and some aren't. Some women want to catch the bouquet, and some don't.

I think we can define three groups:
A. Women who are happy about being single
B. Women who are unhappy about being single but don't believe in bouquet tossing
C. Women who are unhappy about being single and do want to catch the bouquet

Women in Group A are happy about being single, and thus don't want to catch the bouquet. Women in Group B are are unhappy about being single but think bouquet tossing is silly and thus don't want to catch the bouquet. Women in Group C are unhappy about being single and do want to catch the bouquet. So, the argument could be made that bouquet tossing is for Group C, right? The problem is, Group C women are unhappy about being single. Making them stand up in front of a large group of guests to "fight" over a bouquet only emphasizes their singleness, which is pretty much guaranteed to make them unhappier. Thus, by definition, no one is ever all that happy to catch a bouquet.

In reality, nearly all of the women who participate in the bouquet toss are usually present due to peer pressure or a sense of duty/friendship. I've attended multiple weddings at which everyone ducked the bouquet and it fell on the floor. Talk about awkwardness! More frequently, some poor bridesmaid will sacrifice herself and catch the bouquet so that the bride will be satisfied.

I've decided I'm not even going to get started on the garter toss. My thoughts are pretty much summed up by "ick". It's sad that sexism is so unapologetically rampant at weddings.

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