Concerning secular chapels, racy white wedding dresses and other non-religion news

A long, long time ago I was fascinated by a New York Times story about a hot trend in the Big Apple -- all of those folks lining up at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. I started work on a post, but one delay led to another.

So deep into the GetReligion file of guilt it went, until a saw another wedding story with a sexy, literally, new news angle and the two got hitched.

On one level, the Marriage Bureau story had a simple business hook, and a valid one at that. You can see that in this fact paragraph near the top:

Weddings at the Manhattan bureau have increased by nearly 50 percent since 2008, according to the city clerk’s office. The increase has been coaxed by two changes in recent years: the legalization of same-sex marriage and an effort by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2009 to reimagine -- and relocate -- the bureau to rival Las Vegas as a wedding destination with pizazz.

Then later there were references to events inside and outside the "chapel." Such as:

Around 11:15 a.m., the pair entered the chapel of Angel L. Lopez, an officiant who had performed 86 weddings by the close of business. (A colleague handled another 15 during Mr. Lopez’s lunch break.)
Mr. Lopez stood behind a lectern on what appeared to be a doormat.

Interesting. Now, if one looks up the word "chapel" in a dictionary, one finds something like this:

* a small church
* a room or small building that is used for private church services or prayer by a family or group
* a room or area in a church that is used for prayer or small religious services

So when is a "chapel" not a "chapel"?

In other words, you can take the wedding out of a religion setting, but that doesn't mean that people want to stop thinking about this as more than a legal transaction in front of a state official (on a doormat). The bottom line: Is the goal to look religious, to gain the visuals of a sacred blessing, while avoiding the doctrinal details? How. American. Is. That?

I thought of this story in the guilt file when I came across -- Hey! It was in the Times morning email summary! -- a story under this eyebrow-lifting headline: "Racy Bridal Trends Veil Little." 

Here we have the secular trying to dirty dance with the sacred. The hot trend, right now, is for brides to show as much sexy flesh as possible -- at their own weddings.

On one level, the old Gray Lady's edgy Fashion & Style mavens grasped that something strange was going on. Read this carefully:

In an unusually provocative bridal season, not every designer was as circumspect, the game being to hint at decadence while keeping one eye firmly trained on decorum. Vast swathes of the population, after all, don’t need reminding that marriage is a sacrament. The wedding has long been held, metaphorically at least, as a celebration of chastity, a virtue represented since Victorian times by a bride discreetly veiled in white.

Yes, the word was "sacrament." And there's more:

Weddings, moreover, tend to be family affairs involving in-laws, pint-size flower girls and ring bearers, and doting grandparents all in rapt attendance. Not that you’d suspect it from the more fanciful offerings that were unveiled this week in showrooms, restaurants and industrial lofts all over town.
Though bridal designers like to insist that there are no trends in their collections, some obvious directions emerged. A few echoed the ready-to-wear runways: rows of fringe, deeply plunging V-necklines, thigh-high dresses and clusters of lace-embroidered lingerie looks, to name but a few.
But in more brazen instances, and there were many, bridal designers seemed to have taken their style cues directly from the red carpet, a runner awash this year in all manner of see-though confections.

Children? Grandparents? The goal is to strut your sext stuff in front of your grandparents and the kindergartners carrying the flowers and rings?

Like I said, I was surprised that the Times team played the sacrament card in this story, which would certainly appear to be linked to efforts to spice up weddings rites in an age in which the brides and grooms have been already been cohabitating for a matter of months or even years.

But I was left with what I thought was a crucial question: Where are these sacramental rites being held? In a real church or merely a "chapel"?

There is the follow-up story! Have we reached the point where clergy are going to have to print up dress codes for brides? I would bet the moon and the stars that some churches have already taken this step.

Go to it, scribes. The art for that story will be real and it will be, uh, spectacular.

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