In a recent discussion online, one DJ commented saying, “The reception is a celebration of the friends and family of the couple and not the couple getting married.” I had to disagree with him, and gave a brief answer why, but thought I’d take this moment to dig in and talk about what a wedding really is – ceremony, reception and all. Bear in mind, this is going to be a long post, but I feel it’s important to understand weddings if we are to provide entertainment for them, and in my case, not only provide entertainment and act as a proper master of ceremonies, but also act as an officiant who actually performs the marriage ceremony.
So, first let’s talk about the ceremony. At the most basic level in its original terms, the ceremony is a religious joining of two people to one another for the rest of their lives. It really is that simple. It’s wrought with symbolism taken from many traditions over the years and it’s presented as a CEREMONY. It’s CEREMONIAL. Let’s example the meaning of ‘Ceremonial’ – “Relating to or used for formal event of a religious or public nature.” WOW. That nails it pretty well. Even when the truly formal nature is removed from the ceremony in terms of attire, location, or even its most basic terms, it’s still of a religious or public nature. In the case of a wedding, unless the plan is to keep the wedding and the fact you’re married a complete secret, it is public in nature.
But deep down, the wedding ceremony is so very much more. In this single moment often shared with our family and friends that are closest to us, it’s a testament to love, caring, devotion, and at the most basic level changes the very essence of our lives, not for a day, but truly for the rest of our lives. Traditionally, this was shown by committing yourself to one another before a supreme being – be it the Christian God, the Jewish G*d, or any of the many gods of various mythos throughout history. It meant you cared enough about another person that you wanted to announce it to not only the public, but to the heavens as well.
Even when you look at the most fundamental level of the music used in a traditional wedding ceremony, you can see the wedding’s religious nature and also what the reception means. What do I mean? The traditional wedding march and the processionals, from Canon in D by Pachelbel, to the Bridal Chorus from the opera Lohengrin by Wagner (more commonly known as ‘Here comes the bride’) these tend to have a very formal ‘feel’ or ‘tone’ to them as they lead into the wedding. However, if you look at the most common recessional for the end of the ceremony, Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ you’ll find it almost celebratory in nature. It’s a transitional piece to denote the end of the religious ceremony and the start of the celebration, often referred to as the ‘reception’.
Reception, if you look it up, you’ll see a variety of definitions but there are a few that catch our attention. The first, “A social function, especially one intended to provide a welcome or greeting” and the second, “a formal party for guests, such as one after a wedding” all come from the core meaning, “The act or process of receiving or of being received.” Traditionally, receptions were the formal presentation of the bride and groom to society following the wedding ceremony. Yes, FORMAL. In the past, it’s why morning dress or white tie is common at many of the most regal of weddings. It’s why the semi-formal attire of a tuxedo is the traditional attire at weddings. And even amongst peasants in the middle ages, when they got married why they and their guests often wore the best attire they had when they were getting married or attending a wedding. The formal nature of the reception is where we have ideas like receiving lines, the tradition of no one dancing before the bride and groom, the grand entrance and many others. You can still see this formality in the etiquette and procedures used at military and governmental functions like the Inaugural Ball, Marine Corps Ball, and other affairs of state.
However, when you look closer at a wedding reception, past the formal nature of the things we do, we see that a reception is a celebration. It’s a celebration of the commitment that two people have made to one another. It’s a celebration of two families now having ties to one another. It’s a celebration of pride, love, joy, and sharing. It’s a celebration of the start of a couple in their new life together. This celebration, when you return to the formal nature and the traditions of the past, has the bride and groom as the guests of honor, the parents of the bride as the hosts, and everyone is there to celebrate what most or all the guests just bore witness to just before – the wedding ceremony.
Returning to the other DJ’s thoughts,”The reception is a celebration of the friends and family of the couple and not the couple getting married.”, you can see how I come to disagree with him. The family and friends are celebrating the bride and groom’s commitment and love to one another. They are the reason everyone has joined them to celebrate. Without the wedding ceremony and the formal overtones it’s not a reception, it’s just a party.
Unfortunately, I see this mentality quite often these days. DJs simply don’t understand, nor care about receptions and give them no more concern than any other party. Unfortunately, without understanding there is much they are missing when it comes to weddings. They sacrifice the importance of the wedding and what it means to simply being ‘another gig’ or perhaps nothing more than yet another excuse to ‘party’. Check in and I’ll discuss this in our next blog….
Personally, regardless of the informal nature of the reception, there are formal ties and basic things that should be a part of your reception, not because tradition or formal protocol requires it, but because it’s expected by your guests and more importantly allows for creating great memories. Great memories… hmmm… stay tuned to our blog and I’ll cover this soon, or check out our website’s ‘Real Weddings’ section to get some ideas on what we mean by ‘great memories’.
In the meantime, if you have questions or comments on the formalities, protocol, or other things that comprise a wedding ceremony or reception, we’d love to hear them!
But deep down, I’d love to know what you think – Is a reception a celebration of friends and family? Or it is a celebration of the commitment two people are making to one another? Do you agree with how I’m thinking or am I way off base and out of touch with the reality with regards to the importance and purpose of the modern wedding reception?
Please share your comments below and let us know…
First Day Entertainment is a wedding entertainment company providing a DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and officiant for weddings, celebrations, and charity events throughout Pensacola, Mobile, Destin, the Emerald Coast, and beyond. They specialize in creative entertainment for discerning couples – coupling cultural, religious, and personal tastes into your wedding entertainment – with a purpose.