This week's AVQ&A question generated an interesting range of disagreement among the A.V. Club staff. A reader asked what poetry readings and music we did (or would like to) include in our e weddings.
The divide appeared between the respondents who suggested personalizing the ceremony through the choice of music and readings that had personal resonance, and those who advocated a more traditional approach. I was firmly on the side of the latter. And maybe I should explain that I've seen wedding planning from both sides now -- from the side of the couple to be wed, and the side of the officiant. (OK, there are probably other sides too. Mother of the bride comes to mind. I can wait on that.)
I didn't really have a philosophy about ceremony components when I was getting married. I was only too happy to let my mother handle most details about the program. But now I'm pretty sure that weddings are not expressions of personal style, but rites of passage with cultural significance.
Some writers also made the point that weddings with any kind of guest list at all imply an responsibility to those in attendance. Foisting off oddball songs, poetry, or ceremonial elements on them; insisting that the music for the reception be drawn exclusively from artists and albums that meet your aesthetic approval; and generally assuming that their support of your nuptials implies an obligation to "respect" your particular taste in entertainment or quirks of spiritual practice; all constitute, in my opinion, a failure of hospitality.
I understand why people want their beliefs and playlists to take center stage at a wedding ceremony. It's billed as your one shot at the spotlight, and it's hard not to want to take advantage of it by staking your pop-culture flag. But it's really not all about you. It's about the generations that are passing the torch to you -- respect for what a wedding means to them is much appreciated, and doesn't represent a compromise of your values. And it's about appreciation for those who witness and celebrate the moment. Give 'em a mix CD as a reception favor if you really want them to know what music means the most to you. Otherwise, make the ceremony short and stick to the general area around the classics, then throw a party everyone can enjoy -- you and everyone who did you the honor of accepting your invitation.