I’ve never liked brides’ magazines and all the sentimental advertising fluff that seems to accompany American weddings. I was an iconoclast even as a bride myself forty-three years ago. However, this column arrives on the heels of my daughter’s wedding and so I am “re-specting,” that is, “re-viewing” what may lie hidden beneath the frills, fancies, and high finances.
For one, weddings are one of the few times that the feminine is allowed to flourish and be acknowledged. There she is, the bride in white with all eyes upon her. The psychoanalyst Carl Jung may say that the bride connects to something larger than herself, the symbolic archetype of the purity of the divine feminine. Perhaps then, the bride in her luminosity carries for those present to witness, all that the feminine archetype brings to the world—compassion, nurture, the carrier of new life, receptivity, care. Remember that when I say this I refer only to how the bride carries the archetype for the community in that moment. In her everyday life, she may carry that along with much more. Or perhaps in her everyday life she eschews any connection to the feminine archetype at all.
The crux of the matter is that when we look deeply into the meaning of the wedding itself, it is an honoring of the feminine that must withstand the joys and hardships of married life and the bringing into the world new life.
As my husband and I walked our daughter to the chapel’s threshold, I watched her footing as well as mine. I will always remember a broken stone step—mind the gap, I say to myself. My daughter with sure footing reached the threshold steady and solid to walk down the aisle in solitude to her joyous groom. I hope for them a way to marry the best qualities of both the masculine and the feminine archetypes that dwell in all of us.
Meanwhile, we who witness weddings can remember how with every change there is a loss. Even when the change is magnificent, we need to let go of the past. When I say to people, “In every wedding, there is a funeral; in every funeral, there is a wedding,” they usually gape at me puzzled.
Let me try to explain. There will, I think, at every wedding, be sadness at what has ended, a letting go of what has been to make way for what will be. Surely, there is a twinge of grief to this which we need to honor. There is also the awareness, if we are not in denial, that marital bliss contains struggles and obstacles, as well as rapturous moments.
I actually find it easier to ponder the funeral in the wedding than I do the notion of wedding in the funeral. Certainly, the wedding aspect is not readily comprehended when in the throes of grief. However, eventually, even in our grief we need to find new meaning in life, and a new relationship with the loved ones who have died. And that is the wedding! There is a Jewish proverb which says: When the heart grieves what it has lost, the soul rejoices in what it has found. This proverb seems to be apropos to both weddings and funerals. May we rejoice! That’s hardly sentimental fluff.