Goin' to the chapel and we’re gonna get ma-a-a-ried/Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get ma-a-a-ried/Gee I really love you and we’re gonna get ma-a-a-ried/Goin’ to the chapel of love
When the Dixie Cups first sang the song back in the early ’60s, Chapel of Love was legit, a true-blue song about love and marriage that every girl, if not every guy, could relate to. But when Bette Midler redid it in the ’70s, it had already become camp in a decade in which not everyone believed that true love had to lead to the altar. However, when Vancouver child-care worker Mary-Ellen Mattice, on her wedding day last year, boogied wildly to Chapel of Love in her maid of honor’s living room in anticipation of the evening’s event, the song had come full circle. Marriage, after a brief banishment to the land of the uncool, was back: Bells will ring, whoah, whoah, whoah, whoah and the sun is gonna shine, I’ll be his, and he’ll be mine .... Mattice was nevertheless not playing it perfectly straight. She had, after all, been the ultimate free spirit of the ’70s, packing up her schoolteacher’s job in Toronto and alighting in Vancouver where, at the age of 30, she finally fell in love with fellow child-care worker Stewart Smith. When, a year later, they decided to marry because, she said, “this felt like it could go on forever,” they did so with her parents’ fervent blessing and in an exquisite ceremony concelebrated by three Roman Catholic priests and held in a chapel in a small Toronto convent. As a chorus of nuns sang “Alleluia” and the happy couple slipped away to begin their “new” life, one wedding guest remarked tersely: “That’s it. Finito. The ’70s are over.”
These small moments of epiphany no doubt are occurring in a lot of people’s lives this month as they realize, through their own actions or those of friends and family, that getting married in these increasingly conservative times is a groovy thing to do. Whether it’s a Return to Romance, as this year’s fashion magazines are gushing, or “Custer’s Last Stand against an unstable society that is abandoning traditional mores,” as York University sociologist Frederick Elkin more soberly
sees it, there has been a 25-per-cent increase in the number of marriages since the mid-’60s and, along with it, a dramatic increase in the marketing hype that surrounds “tying the knot.” Lavish formal weddings, complete with top hats and tails, are returning, hotels such as Toronto’s Royal York and Calgary’s Palliser are reporting that glitzy hotel receptions have doubled in the past 10 years, Canadians are buying more diamond engagement rings per capita than any other country—and de-
signers say that the elaborate white wedding dress of silk and organza is back in vogue.
Of course, there are certain concessions to modern times. Toronto Star fashion writer Jane Hess asserts that wearing a formal white wedding dress need no longer symbolize purity but “commitment to one’s lover.” That’s handy, because as Dorothy Derry of Vancouver’s Lady Eve Bridal Boutique reports, 40 per cent of her clientele is already living together as man and wife—a state of suspended grace now seen more as a preamble to marriage than an end in itself.
Voltaire’s maxim that “marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly” has never seemed so apt in these “playing it safe” times. On the other hand, what greater act of personal courage could there be than to march bravely into matrimony despite the attrition rate? Younger couples, like Toronto’s Sandra Dever, 23, and John James, 24, exchanged vows in the same church in which her family had been
married for generations, partly because, says Sandra, “It was a lot less hassle to get married than to live together.” For older couples — now entering their 30s — it’s decision time about babies.
Another impetus for marriage could be described as the “roots” factor, with individuals who had casually waved away the past now hungry for some tradition or meaning in their lives and not simply tradition imposed by their parents. However, parents are still picking
up the tab, even for some older women who have been out in the work force (and living with their lovers). Says Oshawa social worker Jude Vick, 25, who married Peter Vick, 29, last month: “I was upset about my parents paying, but I know they would be hurt if I didn’t let them.”
Whatever the compulsion to do so, the current trend toward marriage—and formal marriage at that—has sent photographers, bridal consultants and caterers into a tizzy. Bridal magazines after lean times are claiming more success. Bride and Groom has just expanded into Winnipeg and Vancouver and a new national magazine, Today’s Bride, was successfully launched this year. Perhaps the newest commercial foray is the heavily publicized bridal fashion and trade shows held at major hotels throughout Canada. One Toronto audio-equipment store, Mann’s, has even begun a groom registry, which owner Don Mann is attempting to franchise across Canada.
On the bride’s side, the onslaught against her pocketbook—and that of her parents—has intensified, with major department stores such as Eaton’s gearing a huge portion of their advertising in the summer months in a “subtle” way toward the bridal market. Explains Angela Caruso, the glassware, crystal and gift buyer for Eaton’s central division in Toronto: “The word ‘bride’ may not appear in order to attract women who are at the pre-engagement stage of life.”
While many women, not yet sucked into the white lace vortex, carry on, blithely unaware they’re at the “preengagement stage of life,” others seem only too conscious of their status, especially if they have been living with the same man for several years and want what one 31-year-old Toronto woman delicately described as a “resolution” to the relationship. That’s when women enter a stage yet undiscovered by department store buyers called “the ultimatum phase,” which either precedes or pre-empts or precludes the altar phase. Women, it seems, now do more actual proposing than do men: Sandra Dever says cheerfully that her husband John “would probably say it was my idea to get married, but I think we decided together.” And while Jude Vick maintains that after living together for 18 months their decision to marry was “entirely mutual,” she was also very aware of how happy such a decision would make her mother: “She had the fear I’d wake up at 30 and my man would be gone.”
That rationale was greeted with worldly skepticism by one slightly more seasoned 29-year-old woman currently awaiting not the marriage banns but her decree nisi: “What makes her think marriage will change that?” <£>
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