If marriage is meant to create families—i.e. the building blocks of society—then weddings are part of the process in which societies are built.
And interestingly enough, I find that even weddings that are not organised with community building in mind bring people together and develop strong bonds between them like few other events can.
I am lucky enough to have friends who chose to use their own wedding as an occasion to contribute to community development. One of them gave me permission to share her story, although some of the details have been removed for privacy reasons.
My friends had in mind not just an event—the wedding—but the process of putting together the wedding as part of community-building. In other words, the wedding itself as well as organizing the wedding were seen as potential opportunities to build a stronger community.
The bride and groom chose a theme—a very specific theme that both gave a pretty clear vision of what could be done while allowing for quite a number of ideas. Their wedding date was a year away; as soon as they booked the venue, they brought together a couple of close friends and a number of family members. They shared their ideas with them—both of the wedding theme and of organizing the wedding together. The bride and groom then asked each of these people if, instead of a typical, purchased wedding gift, they would consider giving them instead various elements, including but not limited to: cake, dessert table, music selection, decorations, and centerpieces.
They all said yes!
Every month, they got together for brunch at the bride’s place, then would spend the late morning/early afternoon working on whatever they had decided to contribute to. Everything, of course, was to be approved by the bride and groom, but the family and friends had a lot of latitude to explore their creativity. And while some of the things ended up pretty much the way the bride and groom had imagined, others ended up being way, way better.
The wedding itself was incredibly elaborate, while remaining humble, approachable, and relatively stress-free. No one person had to do it all, and everyone involved—having spent so much time putting everything together—had a clear idea of what was going on and would all, naturally and joyfully and easily, help things along. Because some 15 people had helped organise the wedding, they managed to involve some other 2-3 people each—meaning that, out of 100 guests, about half knew what was going on and were engaged at some level. This meant that half the guests, instead of being passively entertained, were actively involved.
The bride and groom told me that resulted in a unique feeling for them, the 15 friends and family members, and their other guests, that translated itself into a unique appreciation for everything that went into organizing the wedding. The 15 who helped closely for a year were able to go from—for some of them—acquaintances to very close friends, who continue to this day (almost a decade later) to regularly spend time together. When one of them was diagnosed with cancer, most of the other 14 as well as the bride and groom decided to have brunch at that person’s place once a month and would then spend the late morning/early afternoon helping around the house and with the kids.
There are, I am sure, a thousand ways for a wedding to contribute to building a stronger community. If yours did just that, I would love to hear from you and feature you in a blog post—so email me at saharsblog (at) gmail (dot) com!