I love attending a wedding, as I wrote in Wedding Rings and Canoe Paddles. As a psychologist, my days are often filled with the sadness and problems of life so it’s joyous to take time out to witness the joining of families, friends, communities, and in this case countries. There seems to be so little opportunity to come together with old friends and family, separated as we often are by geography and busyness. A wedding is a wonderful chance to pause and celebrate the expression of love, to honour a shared history, to laugh, to cry and to reflect on the odd things that happen. This international wedding was no exception.
The Bride and Groom, Chelsea and Sean, live in New York, the bridesmaids in Brisbane, New York, Dubai and Cairns, the groomsmen in New York and Dubai, the Mother of the Groom in Florida the Mother of the Bride in Los Angeles and the Father of the Bride in Cairns. The guests were predominantly from Australia and the USA. That’s a lot of coming together. We attended the Cairns wedding and there was a second wedding in New York.
This is a couple who don’t live where either of them grew up, where either of them went to university, where either of them started work or near any family. They have worked hard to form and maintain friendships and family relationships across the world. This wedding celebrated and strengthened these connections.
So what traditions did this international couple keep, or make their own?
Pick an outstanding location to celebrate
Weddings used to be held at local churches and dull community halls but now weddings are held in spectacular locations. Sapphire Ridge at Palm Cove, tranquilly nestled in the rainforest with panoramic views across to Palm Cove, was gifted to the couple by the Father of the Bride’s partner, who owns the venue. The Father of the Bride and his partner worked tirelessly to ensure the bridal party and guests enjoyed the full ambiance and hospitality of the location. One up to the Australians, surely the American wedding could not be held in a more spectacular location.
Make a spectacular entrance
The Mother of the Bride was escorted to the ceremony by her son, who is also the bride’s twin brother, the Mother of the Groom by a long time family friend, and the Bride by her father. Of course, the Bride was glorious in her simply elegant long white gown, the Bridesmaids beautiful in their short maroon (Queensland colours) dresses and the Groom and Groomsmen dapper in their blue suits with matching maroon ties. Everybody looking their best, beautifully accessorised with radiant smiles.
Surround yourself with love and good wishes
This is really what it’s all about, welcoming the couple into the families and community. The bridal party was made up of close friends and family, and the guest list chosen carefully. The tradition of giving the bride away was updated, with the marriage celebrant asking the community to give the couple to each other and we all enthusiastically yelled out “We do!”
The Mother and Father of the Bride, now long divorced, sat shoulder to shoulder united again in their love for their daughter.
The Mother of the Bride and the Mother of the Groom embraced and laughed often, both delighted at the increase in their families and their new friendship.
Set aside a seat for those who can’t be with us
Beside the Mother of the Groom was an empty chair where a black New York Yankees baseball cap was placed. The Groom’s father had passed a few years ago and the cap represented his presence. We passed the tissues at his absence on the day, but his presence in his son’s life was celebrated.
Create new traditions
The Mother of the Bride started a new family tradition. She purchased a white lace handkerchief for the Bride to carry. The handkerchief was returned to the Mother of the Bride so she can make it into a babies bonnet. Maybe we witnessed the start of a tradition that will be handed down through generations.
Say what you mean
Both the Best Man and the Head Bridesmaid spoke of the love and affection they held for the bride and groom, and the wishes they had for the couple’s future. This modern wedding had no place for a simpering bridesmaid’s response, instead, a powerful woman spoke of the value of friendship, community and love.
Celebrate with food, wine, dancing and swimming
There was an endless stream of the best Queensland food, shared as groups formed and dispersed. Old friends re-connecting and new relationships made. No sit down formal dinner to stifle the conversation. The wedding cake was a croquembouche which the guests, inelegantly pulled apart and devoured as the night progressed.
The Bride and Groom danced together, then the Bride with her father, the Groom with his mother, the Mother of the Bride with her son. Then the dance floor erupted. We left the reception with the Mother of the Bride and the Mother of the Groom, carrying our shoes, when the groom’s party stripped down to their matching jocks and jumped in the pool.
Lay down your weapons
Australia is not a gun carrying society and I have this stereotypical view that most Americans have a weapon concealed on them. I jokingly asked the American guests whether there would be guns at the New York wedding, While gratified that most said “probably not” none gave me a definitive no. Carrying a weapon is a tradition I hope we never have in Australia.
I observed that the other weapon against a cohesive society, the mobile phone, was only used for capturing pictures of the day. The guests were certainly not seen with heads bent over their phones to manage their social anxiety and ignoring the people next to them. They were connected and talking to each other while making new memories.
Every wedding needs at least one odd event
Too much wine and celebration led one young man to chunder off the balcony, thankfully unseen by me. The next morning he returned to reclaim his missing false tooth from the debris in the rain forest.
Honeymoon with the International wedding guests
You can’t desert your guests when they have travelled so far to see you and when you see them so infrequently, so the newlyweds organised after wedding events. We joined them for a post wedding brunch where we introduced the Americans to Aussie meat pies and they rated our bacon as the best in the world. The next day was a trip snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. The American contingent finished their trip with time in Sydney before returning to start all over again with the New York wedding.
Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Hooley.
The Groom remains bemused by the Australians refrain of Mr and Mrs Hooley Dooley. Hooley dooley is a colloquial expression meaning delightful surprise. May they have a hooley dooley of a life.