Thursday, August 12, 2010

Preserving Wedding Memories

This past weekend, I attended and officiated at my brother's wedding. One of my gifts to the united couple will be a memory box to document their special event. I am considering the elements of the wedding that need to be preserved. I think it provides a good opportunity to explore how to document a wedding and other events.

The wedding memory box can contain the following (off the top of my head and in no particular order):
photos of attendees, building, cake, food
professional photos can be placed in an album
copies of photos taken by attendees should also be preserved
copies of web sites where info about the wedding was posted (ex. photos and comments on social media sites. The couple's mailed invitation also included a link to a web site for more information. This too should be preserved.)
copy of my ceremony reading
copy of the invitation
copy of thank you card
cards from family and friends
video recordings
text copy of parents' toasts
guest book
brochure from place that hosted event
reminiscences of bride, groom and attendees
song list (CD with all the songs?)
pressed flower petals such as those carried by flower girls
bridesmaid "bouquets"
copy of marriage certificate
I can even include documentation of my brother's proposal, wedding planning information, honeymoon information...

Of course, all of these will be properly stored with preservation safe supplies. The bride will separately store her dress and shoes.

This wedding was a non-traditional one and my first inclination is to help preserve that unique feel that so wonderfully represented my brother and his wife. Easiest to remember is the bride's gorgeous dress that made her look like a Renaissance princess. But I also want to remember that each centerpiece was unique, representing one of the people seated at the table. For example, one centerpiece included a horse trophy for the horse owner, another had a plane for a pilot, another had an alien (not sure what that one was all about. I'll need to ask.) I want to remember the feather bridesmaid bouquets, the gluten free fare, the music played from a laptop computer when we walked down the aisle, the playing of "The Portal Song" when they cut the cake. I can remember these things through the photos, written reminiscences or video, but I want to be sure that everything is documented in some form.

Another aspect of this wedding that I want to highlight is the coming together of diverse communities, as is common at many weddings. In this case, the bride's family is from the south and the groom's from the north. The wedding was heavily weighted toward the sciences with a strong showing of MIT grads. There were a few children. There were multiple religions (and non-religions) represented among guests and within various elements of the ceremony and celebration. There were multiple hair colors (purple, blue, and my heavily boosted red among them.) There were those who would get "The Portal Song" and those who didn't get it at all. This all struck me as very significant and wonderful.

I want to remember the location and how events were created around it and how the setting influenced others. The ceremony was outside surrounded by a grape arbor. Hors d'oevres were served inside the Civil War era mansion, an air conditioned space where I could recover from my speech and explore grand rooms upstairs with my cocktail hour bored daughter and niece. They swirled and twirled in their flower girl dresses across wooden floors flooded in sunlight. The dinner was outside under a tent, alongside a grassy airy where I could play tag with the kids while others played frisbee alongside of us. Table were set to one side of the tent to create a dance floor on the other where the couple danced their first dance together, accompanied their parents, and then eventually held hands and whirled flower girls across the floor.

And I have to remember that my perspective is unique. There are things about this wedding that I didn't get to see and stories that I have not yet been told. I want to hear others' perspectives. Perhaps I can ask people to write one thing that they found memorable or I can conduct some oral history interviews. I can create a web site where people can contribute their reminiscences.

A wedding is a microcosm of life with people, events, and places coming together to form a story and history. We can choose to retain special memories by considering all of the elements that make up the day and ensuring that the most important and most representative are recorded for posterity. We keep these memories for ourselves and to reflect to a larger society that which is important to us. Our story also plays a role in a larger cultural story as a piece of evidence about what is important to mankind. Thoughtful documentation efforts can help better retain diverse information for multiple purposes. A wedding is just one piece of the puzzle.

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