There are few occasions in human society during which terrible aesthetic and artistic choices are routinely made. Unfortunately, weddings are one of them. As someone who has been hired repeatedly to play music at weddings, a seemingly self-fulfilling expectation takes shape: The spouses-to-be select terrible, cheesy music in the name of romance, distribute aesthetically conformist bulletins in the same tired old font (Zapfino, usually) and apply a liberal dosage of flowers to their venue and/or attendees. Somehow, they’ve decided that there’s really nothing they’d rather do in life than impose their questionable taste on their closest family and friends.
Still, occasionally two people with actually decent artistic tastes will get married and will have classical music (or something similar) played at their wedding. But even this is usually in bad taste because the hallmark of great art – classical music or otherwise – is the ability to convey to listeners a wide array of intense emotions. During a wedding, its hosts only want one emotion (namely, “Yay, these people are getting married I’m so happy”). Nor does great art about love ever convey just a single monotonous message about it. (Consider, for example, Mozart’s Don Giovanni or Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.) So, paradoxically, great art about love is usually inappropriate at a wedding.
Is there such a thing as that fabled Aesthetically Artistically Tolerable Wedding? Probably not – after all, there’s a serious incentive mismatch between the spouses-to-be and those in attendance. Despite whatever desires for at least a semblance of artistic taste some members of the audience may have, all spouses care about is that the wedding occurs and that they get married at the end of the day. If they can feel sappy during the wedding itself by having the musicians play That Special Song (despite its status as an artistic abomination), so much the better. This is perhaps why one hears songs like Jesus and You at weddings:
When I leave this world behind
And one gives me just a little taste
When she holds me late at night
The both gave grace and it's amazing
They both have healing in their hands
And it ain't easy but they're both making me a better man
And I hear a song, sweet song, singing to my soul
I see a light house in a hurricane and it's leading me back home
When I think about the only things in life that pull me through
I hit my knees and thank the Lord, for Jesus and You
Why, one might argue, does the artistic quality exhibited by a wedding matter? After all, if Jesus and You invokes feelings of sappiness, shouldn’t it be played? Well, associating your marriage with unsubtle (and in this case, vaguely chauvinistic) art sets a precedent for your marriage’s future. If the only reason you’re getting married is to feel sappy, you’re already in the fast lane to a divorce in a few years’ time.
Of course, weddings aren’t exactly a subject irrelevant to the Northwestern community at this point in time. On the infinitesimal chance you haven’t yet heard, NU alumna Meghan Markle will marry the UK’s Prince Harry at the end of this week. With the world watching (quite literally), Meghan and Prince Harry will hardly have the latitude to choose bad music that nonetheless makes them feel sappy. Perhaps the rest of us would do well to take a page out of their book.