Have you ever accidentally stumbled into a wedding? Caught a glimpse of a big white dress while on your way to the dry cleaner? Happening upon such an intimate moment can feel like seeing something you weren't meant to see. It is intriguing and exciting and a little bit forbidden.
But what if you were meant to see?
Public weddings—a wedding taking place in a public location, open area or that is broadcast by the media—seem to be growing in popularity and frequency. Who hasn't seen a televised proposal or wedding? There are even TV shows created to conclude with a marriage proposal. Why is that? Some say it is because couples want someone else to pay for the extravagant wedding of their dreams. Others say these are couples attention-starved or itching for five minutes of fame.
But I think there is more to it than that. Much more. I believe they are giving us a gift of love. As I see it, a public wedding is the best love story in the world, being played out in plain daylight. It is an instant of tenderness. A hint of hope for the disheartened. It is a reminder to cherish existing love that has temporarily lost its sparkle. A flash of joy so intense it makes you believe anything is possible. And that is a remarkable gift. Because, let's be honest. Who couldn't use a little more love?
A wedding is meant to be a meaningful celebration with those closest to you, a time to rejoice in the beginning of a new family unit and a bright, boundless future. Now imagine a wedding day filled with cameras clicking and flashing, boom mikes inches from your face and reporters scribbling as you recite your wedding vows. Complete strangers whooping and hollering at your first kiss. It certainly isn't for everyone, but those lovers brave enough to share their elation have the power to drag the rest of us out of the haze of day-to-day doldrums and rekindle the love that lives within even the most skeptical of hearts.
As the wedding and etiquette maven for Wedding Paper Divas, I get to experience the love of strangers every day. It is the very best part of my job. On Valentine's Day—the most romantic day of the year—I was lucky enough to attend four weddings. Three lovely couples were wed in front of reporters and camera crews at the iconic Empire State Building in stunning ceremonies designed by famed wedding designer, Preston Bailey. I had never met any of the couples whose nuptials I witnessed. Yet there I stood, basking in their joy, as each of the very public weddings was simultaneously publicized, broadcast and shared across the world. As I watched the ceremonies I couldn't help but be reminded of my own wedding day, and the flood of happy memories made me lament the fact that my husband was 3,000 miles away. You better believe I tried (unsuccessfully) to hold back tears at every one of those gorgeous weddings.
Whether an invited, remote or involuntary guest, there is still the matter of decorum and etiquette, which will very likely stray from tradition. What if you wandered into a wedding in the middle of Times Square during rush hour? How would you respond? There are a few important things to keep in mind as you witness an exchange of vows:
Be respectful: The wedding may be on display for passersby to observe, but those involved are real people, in the midst of one of the most important moments of their lives.
Enjoy the moment: If you unexpectedly find yourself at the wedding of strangers, take a moment to drink it in and savor the sweet sentiment.
__Share Responsibly:__As a general rule, wedding guests are discouraged from posting pictures and experiences on social networks. Public weddings, on the other hand, are more likely to welcome social sharing. If you choose to share the experience, be on the lookout for an official wedding hashtag and avoid being disruptive or intrusive as you snap that Instagram-worthy picture.
If you are fortunate enough to witness a public exchange of love, remember it is exactly that. Not an invitation to crash a wedding. As a lover of love, I hope this trend of public weddings is a lasting one, and that it continues to uplift and delight us all.
Huffington Post contributor Amber Harrison is a wedding etiquette expert at Wedding Paper Divas, an online destination for personalized wedding stationery.
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