Weddings and Anniversaries and Funerals — oh my!
It strikes me that there are many relatives and family friends that I have of recent times only seen at funerals and weddings. As a child I can remember seeing them at other times. Relatives might come and visit during the Summer or we might visit them on family vacations when visiting my grandparents. But as our family grew older the side trips to visit these more remote relatives grew fewer. As we grew older we might only see these relatives when we went to church with our grandparents while we were on vacation. The faces were familiar at church and around town (My Father’s parents lived in a smaller relatively closed community.) even if I didn’t necessarily know the names or connections — many were second or third-cousins, great-aunts and great-uncles or cousins once or twice removed as well as family friends.
Later in life going to church while on vacation seemed to be of less importance as we spent more of our time simply visiting the closer family. Dad came from a fairly large family and we were lucky to go on family camping trips with most of his siblings and their families. We’d take over a corner of a campground, sometimes in a provincial park, and have an impromptu family reunion.
It seems to me that since my first cousins have become adults, we have all grown apart somewhat — they have their own families and in-laws now. My aunts and uncles for the most part are grandparents and soon are to become great-grandparents. There are many in-laws and many more second-cousins going the other direction down the family tree and more cousins levels removed. Everyone is busy with their closer larger families.
It seems though that at the last times I saw my great uncles and aunts and my second-cousins and cousins-once-removed, etc… was at my grandparent’s funerals. Before that, I had seen them at my grandparent’s 50’th wedding anniversary and a few of my first cousin’s weddings. Before that there were weddings of various uncles and aunts. (My Father and Mother were among the eldest in their respective families so I was old enough to remember a number of the weddings of my aunts and uncles.)
I think that over the years I have heard people lamenting over the purpose of the large elaborate weddings so many families plan. I think that I have realized the purpose. They serve as a bonding, not just of the couple but the family, not just of bonding two families, but of each family bonding with themselves. These large gatherings act as family reunions.
Actually in a “standard” family there are 4 family reunions as a wedding is essentially the bonding of 4 families.
I know on the surface it seems like it should just be the Bride’s family and the Groom’s family — but as I see it, the Bride’s family consists of two families: there are her Father’s parents’ family and her Mother’s parents’ family; likewise there are the Groom’s two families.
If you consider these 4 family reunions going on, plus the potential 4 groups consisting of the Groom’s friends, the Bride’s friends, the Groom’s business associates, and the Bride’s business associates… you can see how the Bride and Groom are kept busy hoping during the wedding to pay attention to their guests — not to mention the scramble to pay for the wedding.
Is it any wonder why cultures tending to large families have wedding traditions of weddings that last more than a few days. We might not have the large families here and now, but we are having families that are more complicated; with divorce, remarriage, common-law, adoption, surrogacy, open adoption… and multiple generation beyond 4 living generations expanding family size. So things get complicated, if not as large.
The wedding in any case is a time when the Bride and Groom can introduce themselves to the families at once in one place rather than travelling afar to do so. For the rest of the family it is a chance to reacquaint themselves with each other. The wedding is a chance for a family reunion. It is a chance to catch up on what is happening and perhaps share some old stories. Sadly it might be the last time some family members ever see each other and for others the last time until the next such occasion.
It is the value involved of bringing families together that is a perhaps unexpected benefit to the large expense of such a large gathering. Wedding invitation lists can grow very quickly as well. …10 members from each set of family starts at 40, then if there are 10 friend each, (+ 20) and lets say 5 business acquaintances each (+10) and add that to the Bride, Groom, Maid of Honour, Best man (+4) and let’s say since we are talking a very small wedding 1 bridesmaid and 1 groom’s man. (+2) (76) So a small wedding can very easily have 77 people to it. (Remember the person officiating.) I see how weddings easily grow past 100 people and thousands of dollars. Anything extravagant pushes the price up.
Families also gather at christenings and other rites of passage and religious rites if your families practice such. There are also in some families actual family reunions that are intended to bring members together. Some can be quite large.
The largest gatherings aside from a few of the weddings have been my Father’s parent’s 50th anniversary and my Grandparents’ funerals.
Sadly funerals are one time drawing families together where they might stay in touch a while before and after the event — perhaps even more so than weddings or other events.
I know that many people dread family gatherings for their own reasons — some younger folk perhaps because they might find them boring — others because of complex family issues and stress caused by them — but sometimes it might be worth going to if you have any interest in hearing family history. It would be interesting if there were more time to take advantage to talk to more family, to hear more family stories. Great-uncles and great-aunts might have the most interesting stories to relate about grandparents and even great-grandparents.
Perhaps having an interest in heritage and family history have increased the value I place in living history and gathering it. I wish I knew more of our family stories, but my grandparents and Father have passed on — luckily I can still talk to my Mom and other relatives.
Family reunions like anniversaries and planned reunions might not happen in some families so the ones planned around weddings and funerals hold a definite purpose. Perhaps there’s reason to hold a secondary specific reunion dinner or event just to get together without the pressure of that other event which brought folks together.
People are important.
You are heritage.