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Have You Ever Been to an American Wedding?

Published online: Nov 28, 2021 Articles, Lifestyle
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Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of weddings. Not so much the ceremony part, to a kid that was just more sitting, standing, and kneeling. The part of weddings that I remember were the receptions, the celebration aspect. It was a time for family, food and fun! 

I grew up as part of the Polish community of greater Chicagoland, the largest concentration of Poles outside of Poland. Weddings are a big deal for all cultures, some just tend to be a little more raucous than others. Maybe because Poles have a pretty tough history, their celebrations tend to be a bit over the top, or maybe they just like to dance and drink. 

Not being of the predominant local faith, I can’t say what goes on in the temple when folks get sealed, but I can say that the receptions that I have been to don’t come close to being even as spirited as a Polish funeral wake, let alone a Polish wedding reception. The best example of the wedding receptions I grew up with that some folks might have seen is from the classic movie “The Deer Hunter.” There is a wedding reception scene in that movie that shows how Slavic types used to celebrate weddings, or in some cases still do! Some movie websites even list it as one of the Top 10 movie wedding scenes ever.

The Gypsy-Punk Band Gogol Bordello has a song titled “American Wedding.” This song shouldn’t be confused with the Frank Ocean song of the same name from the same time period. His song is also true, just a darker look from a different perspective. The music video of Gogol Bordello’s song can be found on YouTube, and it perfectly nails the differences between the way some people “celebrate” the life-changing event of getting married. If you watch the video be warned that the lyrics are slightly off-color, but the song contrasts what might be considered a typical American wedding with a typical Slavic wedding. I personally experienced the contrast when I married my own dear wife 36 years ago! 

My wife grew up in Idaho Falls. Her parents were Presbyterians and mostly of Danish stock, neither group known for unbridled exuberance. After our wedding ceremony, her parents hosted a perfectly wonderful reception in the backyard of the family home. It was a very nice gathering that started at 2 p.m. and was over by 6 p.m. There was a fine wedding cake, pastel mints, catered hors d’oeuvers and pleasant conversations. A few college friends may have snuck in a beer or two but overall, Carrie Nation would have been pleased.

After our honeymoon, we stopped in Chicago where my family threw us the kind of reception that was more of what I had experienced growing up. If my new wife had not already attended my sister’s wedding reception just a few months earlier the culture shock might have made her my new ex-wife! True to form, our Chicago reception was larger, had loud music, polka dancing, lots of food, and an open bar. Not that it was a better reception than our Idaho Falls one, just that it met the expectations of the family and friends I was leaving behind for my new life in the wilds of Idaho. 

All cultures celebrate the union of two people differently. How you do it is up to you. It doesn’t have to be flashy, loud, or expensive. I actually know of people that got divorced before they had paid off their wedding! The important thing is that it truly is a celebration, however you chose to define the word, whether while nibbling pastel mints or toasting with vodka. 


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