Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Disclaimer: this is a pretty much unadulterated copy of what I'm turning in for a homework assignment on cultural limits on expression tomorrow. Sneaky, you say? Certainly! But I only have so much time, so I better do double duty where I can. This is homework, you say? Forgive me, I shouldn't do homework when writing a present-tense semi-stream of consciousness reflection on browsing Pinterest sounds like a good idea.

I can’t sleep, so I get on Pinterest and look at wedding stuff. There’s lots of planning to do in the next year, and the best place to start is by looking at what everybody else has done, right? There is precedent for that method, after all.

Our expressions are just a filtered and regurgitated imitation of another person’s expressions. Classic artists recreated scenes from mythology and history—both things others did or created. Painters learn to paint based on the styles of people who came before them.

Now, thanks to the Internet, we can learn about what everyone else is doing ever more quickly. We see cool ideas, and since everyone can see them at the same time, it becomes a movement before most people know what the source was. 

So whose idea was it to decorate for weddings with burlap and Mason jars? I wonder as I scroll down. Is this going to be a tradition that will last? It’s certainly popular—there’s even a word for it now: the DIY wedding. Maybe it’ll eventually be a cultural movement that people will say reflects resourcefulness. Or maybe it’ll just be a weird thing that people will eventually get over, like wallpapering houses with arsenic in the Victorian age.

An anthropologist might look at all the frills of a wedding and identify the inherent ritual, from the truly ritualistic ceremony to the near-universal (at least in the West) extras that people have added over time (white dress, sending out save-the dates, color themes). He (or she) might also begin to notice how much the modern wedding has to do with expression—and the limits impressed upon them by social norms.

Maybe that’s what tradition is.

The white wedding dress was popularized by Queen Victoria. That was less than 200 years ago, but now it’s considered shocking to wear anything other than white. Though she chose the fabric in support of British manufacturing, we’ve attached the value of purity to it. As this theme has been played on a hundred different ways, people even begin to lose this falsely-impressed symbolism, since purity has nothing to do with most weddings. Again, the social norms of expression are key in maintaining the tradition.

The wedding blogs tell me it’s all about me and what I want on my day. It’s funny how lots of people tend to want the same things. I don’t want to be like everyone else by default, but the tradition still matters to me.

And because of it, I want to have a white dress.

And maybe a few mason jars.