Welcome to Wedding Week!
Two events coincided with the launching of Creatively Unhinged that made it simple to choose an opening theme. First, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a holiday traditionally associated with love and romance (and heartbreak and loneliness, as well). Second, just last week, the 9th Circuit decided to make history by declaring California’s Proposition 8 (amending the California Constitution to prohibit gay marriage) unconstitutional, and I realized that instead of just love and romance, there was a perfect theme:
If you’ve ever had a wedding, or planned a wedding, or been in a wedding, you’ll know of the stress caused by these blessed events. There are landmines everywhere. Will Josephine be angry if she’s not asked to be a bridesmaid? Will the dog eat the ring? Will the reception hall be destroyed the day before the event? Will Aunt Georgia kill Uncle Wally if we sit them at the same table? Will I still fit into the dress on the big day? Is the horny groomsman going to try to sleep with all of the bridesmaids, or just the vulnerable ones? Will someone get cold feet?
Weddings as an event are perfect for driving plot in a story. First, there’s a deadline involved. With the Big Day approaching, everything that’s cooking in your stressful stew will boil over at a specific point in time. Movies in particular have used this deadline aspect to increase the tension and raise the stakes in the story. In The Hangover, for example, the boys are going on a bachelor weekend just a couple of days before the wedding. When the groom goes missing, the need to find him and bring him home is heightened by the time constraints; if Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifinakis don’t find him fast, they’re in a load of trouble.
Second, weddings are a perfect showcase for character development because they hold the potential for great conflict. This is a big event in the lives of at least two people (the bride and groom). As the day approaches, will one or both of them have doubts? Will this cause difficulty between them? Will a former lover show up on the scene and bring back old feelings?
The bride and groom don’t even have to be the center of the conflict. What if the bride’s sister is in love with the groom? What if the groom’s brother will lose his chance at inheritance if his brother gets married before he does? What if the bride’s mother and the groom’s mother hate each other so much that each would sabotage the wedding in order to blame it on the other?
Third, weddings are such a great setting. Audiences are familiar with weddings, and so merely mentioning that a wedding is taking place sets a scene. Weddings are also full of bustling activity, which is fun to write and watch. Things are happening all around the characters, just waiting to interfere with their conversations or moments of epiphany. I recently attended a family wedding in the Dominican Republic, and the poor bride had so much bad luck (the bride’s sister broke her wrist an hour before the ceremony and the power went out right before the walk down the aisle, to name just a couple) that I immediately knew I was going to use that wedding as a background setting in a novel.
Finally, weddings are eminently relatable. People know what weddings are like, have been to them, or in them, and so can understand what the characters are going through. That relationship to the human emotion of the characters is your link to the audience; without it, a story doesn’t have that special something that makes people want to read it or watch it again and again.
Welcome to Wedding Week! What are some of your favorite wedding-related movies/television episodes/books?