The Shortest Wedding I’ve Ever Attended

On Saturday I witnessed the shortest wedding ever attended. It began promptly at 2:43 and ended at 3:00. It didn’t feel rushed, and it felt fairly personal. I think the couple only included the core elements they wanted in their wedding, for which I applaud them.

I’m sure there have been much faster weddings in history. Doesn’t Vegas have a drive-thru wedding chapel? But this wedding was notable not just because of its truncated length, but also for its flavor. It made me think about what I would want in a wedding–specifically, three aspects stood out to me.

  1. weddingIt wasn’t all about the bride. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a wedding that didn’t feel like the bride was way more important than the groom. A lot of it comes down to the procession. Usually the groom isn’t part of the procession at all. He just stands at the front of the room and waits. The bride, on the other hand, is ushered down the aisle with such pomp and circumstance that she even has her own song. This has always felt really odd to me, and it sets the stage for the wedding to be the “bride’s day” instead of a celebration of love and commitment between two people. Thus it was really refreshing for both the groom and the bride to walk down the aisle with their parents at the wedding I attended on Saturday.
  2. They wrote their own vows. I went to a wedding a few years ago where the couple’s vows consisted of the top 10 reasons they loved the other person. Like most weddings, I only knew one of the people getting married, so it was enlightening to see why my friend loved the girl so much and why she loved him. I understood their love and their relationship better from those vows. The couple on Saturday did something similar (but shorter), and I really appreciated it. I would love to write my own vows someday. I’m Catholic, but I don’t want for my love to be expressed by a book written 2,000 years ago. I want my love to be expressed in my own words to the woman I’m about to marry. And I want to say it–I don’t want the priest or justice of the peace to have to explain to everyone in the room why I want to marry my wife. That’s my job. And I hope my wife would do the same for me.
  3. They eschewed tradition. A friend of mine got married a few years ago, and they did this amazing thing near the end of the ceremony where they planted a tree in the ground. Like, they got out a shovel, dug a hole, and physically placed a fledgling tree in the ground. It was beautifully symbolic of the relationship they were starting that day, one that they wanted to grow into something much bigger and different with the proper care and attention. There were religious elements to Saturday’s wedding, but for the most part it was clear that they selected elements of the wedding that were important to them, and they cut everything else. Like I said, I’m Catholic, and I’ve been to lots of Catholic weddings. Some of them feel completely appropriate for the couple–perhaps it’s a couple who attends church together and has faith at the foundation of their relationship. In those cases, a religious ceremony is a great fit. But there are many couples who really aren’t connected to religion at all, and yet they go through the motions of this ceremony that doesn’t feel at all connected to who they are as a couple. I think it was just a good reminder to me that I should make my wedding my own–our own.

If you’re not married, how do those three points sound to you? If you’ve already celebrated your wedding, are there certain elements of the wedding  you wish you would have done differently?


15 Responses to “The Shortest Wedding I’ve Ever Attended”

  1. Emma says:

    Yes yes yes! I love personal and genuine weddings. I also despise the stereotype (and practice) of focusing on the bride. Although our ceremony was not religious, we adopted the Jewish tradition of having both parents accompany both of us down the aisle (my parents walked me, his parents walked him) so everyone had a role. We loved it. We probably wouldn’t do anything differently right now, but give me 10 years and ask me again.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Emma–I didn’t know that was a Jewish tradition, but I love it!

      (makes note in calendar for July 9, 2023)

  2. Dustin Schwartz says:

    Some notes from my own experience (almost one year ago):
    -When your wife has spent a lot of time in her younger years fantasizing about the perfect wedding, it takes a lot of gall to tell her that the wedding isn’t about her. The expectations of in-laws can also figure in heavily, if you’re not planning on burning those bridges right out the gate. Perhaps these are lesser factors the older you are when you get married (we were both 23).
    -I considered the question of writing our own vows. In the end, we chose to use the time-honored church vows, in what I regard as an attempt to give them gravity through the combined weight of history and tradition.
    -One thing that we did differently than what I think is “standard” is that we lit a unity candle but then left our individual candles lit. For me, it symbolized that even though we are joining together, we retain our individuality; as a person of faith, to me it also signaled that God still views and interacts with us as individuals.
    -I think it’s great when folks “own” their wedding. At the same time, I have heard/seen a lot of “personalized” wedding elements (vows, symbolic traditions, etc) that were totally bizarre, and that I really wasn’t comfortable “signing off” on as a wedding guest.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Dustin–I really like the idea that you all kept your individual candles lit. The idea of retaining my individuality in addition to becoming one with someone else is really important to me too.

  3. Ansley says:

    I really loved my wedding for several reasons.
    1) It was at the beach. I love the beach, Scott and I took our first vacation together at the beach and it’s naturally gorgeous. No need to spend tons of money on fluff!
    2) I stuck to my guns and had the music I wanted at the reception. THe music was the source of MANY arguments between my mom and me. “You need more Christian music” she said….”That’s inappropriate!” she said when she heard Big Booty Ho (she might have been right about that)….but in the end, a trusted friend and I did the playlist and it was awesome. Oh, and free 🙂 Hello, technology!
    3) It was personal. We only invited family and very close friends. So, when we said our vows on the beach that evening, all of our loved ones we clustered around us in a circle, hearing every single word. I loved that most of all and, even though it wasn’t traditional, it was tender and meaningful and powerful. Loved. It.

    Planning a wedding, however? Absolute torture.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Ansley–Oo, I really like that people clustered around you as you said your vows. That is really beautiful.

  4. Katy says:

    As an unmarried person, I like the idea of incorporating non-traditional ideas into the ceremony, and tailoring it to fit the couple rather than just follow along to what everyone expects at a wedding. When the time comes for me to make decisions regarding my own wedding I’d like to think that my future husband and I would be able to plan a wedding that reflects us better than just following a predetermined script.

    One of the most unique weddings I’ve ever attended (it was also the longest, a fact that was made even more evident by the ceremony taking in a packed church without AC during a St. Louis summer) was my sister’s wedding 15 years ago. The only “traditions” they really kept were the bride walking down the aisle and it taking place in a church. Instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, they each selected a couple of their mentors to serve as witnesses. and instead of saying the traditional “I do’s,” they wrote their own vows and then prayed over them together (out loud). I remember many people from both my family and my brother-in-law’s family making a big deal about the wedding being so non-traditional, but I’m proud of my sister and her husband for sticking to their beliefs and not caving about what they wanted their wedding to be like.

  5. Sara says:

    October 2012 was my second time getting married, but my first real marriage. (My first “marriage” at 18 hardly counts.) Personally, I’d have gone to the county building and gotten married by a Justice of the Peace with our closest friends/family and been done with it. Neither of us wanted anything religious, but my husband wanted something a bit more traditional (dress, tux & ceremony). I relented and got an actual wedding dress (I never wear dresses). My friends and even his family definitely made it clear that I was the focus as the bride. I’ve never been super comfy being the center of attention, but trying to get them to lay off was more energy than it was worth.

    Anyway, we took the wedding to the state most of his family was in. We brought 6 people with us. We had no groomsmen or bridesmaids. The officiant was a nondenominational reverend (bartender who took an online course) who is a friend of my husband. The officiant’s girlfriend did my hair & makeup.

    The wedding was held at my sister in law’s gigantic house, complete with caterers and a tent for outside. The family insisted on decorating with flower garlands and fancy linens. They kept asking me what color I wanted the wedding to be. I had NO clue – I just wanted to get it over with! So they went with their own judgement. It was beautiful, simple and fast. I think the whole ceremony lasted 5 minutes. It felt like an eternity because I was overcome with emotion and cried through the whole thing.

    The strange thing is that for weeks everybody was asking me if I felt different or what had changed since the wedding. Well, nothing has changed. We’re as good to each other now as we ever were. Neither of us has sprouted a second head. This marriage is very real and is for keeps! 🙂

    At the risk of rambling, I avoid other people’s weddings like the plague unless they’re close friends whose relationship I can truly stand behind. My oldest friend of 30+ years married a guy I didn’t think was right for her. They’re still married, but they’re fairly miserable. I relented and attended the ceremony, but I told her in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t be in the wedding party. Gads I’ve rambled and gotten off topic, haven’t I? Sorry!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Sara–That brings up an interesting point about close friends marrying people who are not right for them. You obviously want to be there for them, but is there a tactful way to tell them that you think they’re making a mistake? Fortunately I haven’t seen that happen to a friend yet.

  6. Colleen says:

    My husband and I got married almost one year ago (hard to believe!), but I can still remember our wedding day like it was yesterday. It was a great day. We had a traditional church wedding, because our faith is very important to us and that’s what we wanted to do. While we kept all of the traditions within the ceremony, we added special elements to make them unique: we selected songs, music, and readings that had special meaning to us; we asked important people in our lives to be lectors; our mothers lit two individual candles representing our two families and then we lit our own unity candle; and we took roses over to the Blessed Mother statue, as well as over to our own mothers. Our priest who celebrated the Mass is a good friend of the family, so that was special for us, as well. I also did something a little different when I walked down the aisle. Since I didn’t have my dad to walk me down the aisle (he passed away), I walked down the first half by myself — this was kind of a way for me to give respect to my dad and what would have been his place of honor in walking with me — but then my mom met me at the halfway point, and she walked me down the rest of the aisle and gave me away.

    My husband and I both wanted to make our reception simple, classy, and enjoyable for everyone there. The dinner music started out with “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast – we thought it would be a cute touch. Then we chose all of our own dinner and dancing music; we created favors that included a poem/message from the two of us inside; we chose meaningful first dance and wedding party songs; and my mom and I chose a special song to dance to together. Our friends from Zumba even put together a danceable routine to a fast Elvis song that we dance to in class, and they brought glow sticks (and silly Elvis-style glasses for me and an Elvis wig for my husband!), so the whole crowd could join in. It was a lot of fun!

    It was a wonderful day – it’s fun to reminisce! 🙂

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Colleen–It’s a really touching tribute to your father that you walked halfway down the aisle alone.

  7. Carole says:

    I always thought the perfect recessional music for a wedding would be Handel’s Hallelujah chorus. If I ever get married again, I’m soooo gonna do that!

  8. Jen says:

    We wrote our own vows and cried when we read them. The ceremony was the most meaningful part for us. But the parts I loved most were the two moments when we were alone. Right after my new husband and I said our vows we were ushered away to a private room where we had a small private meal as husband and wife (only to be interrupted by curious guests). Then the last part of the night when all the guests exited to light sparklers and we were the only two in the room dancing to Daft Punk, last song of the night. Never mind that our wedding was televised as part of a reality wedding show (though that’s a whole other unique story). It’s fun to think about and keeping it unique to the couple, is, I think so important. Traditions can be really beautiful too, I always liked the idea of signing the Ketubah, like a wedding contract of sorts, at Jewish ceremonies.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Jen–That’s really cool that you had some quiet, private moments with your husband during the wedding. I really like that.

Leave a Reply