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What's A Shadow Wedding?

Marta Block


Just when you think you’ve seen every wedding trend and tradition from apron dances to hashtags along comes something new.  Shadow weddings have been making the news this summer. So what is a shadow wedding and do you need one?

A shadow wedding is a pre-wedding event that attempts to go beyond the big white dress and the cute photo booth props to get at some of the harder truths of marriage.

The couple, and a few carefully chosen friends, dress in casual clothes (or in some cases in their worst clothes, the things you hope no one ever sees you cleaning house in) and holds a small ceremony where you use the structure of vows to talk about your absolute worst relationship issues.

The trend is primarily being promoted by a married couple who also happen to be a therapist and a life coach. They offer a counseling service to guide you through the process. Of course, you can also do this on your own, or with your own therapist.

So, is it a good idea? Maybe, depending on the couple, but for most couples, I don’t think it’s necessary.

I’m all for anything that takes the focus of wedding planning away from planning some sort of magical “perfect” day. I think couples should plan weddings together, not to create something perfect, but because any big project, like a wedding, is great training for what life together is like.

Are you frustrated that you can’t get your fiancé to agree on the DJ that you like? You have to find a solution because five years from now you’ll need to agree on which preschool to send your child to. Annoyed that your fiancée keeps asking you what color tablecloths you want when you don’t care? Find a solution, because being married requires that you find a way to at least be respectful about what interests each other.

If you go about your wedding planning in a thoughtful manner, you will work out more problems in your relationship than you knew you had! So why create a separate, potentially painful event, to do this?

Involving friends is also problematic. Once you invite people, you need to provide them with a place to sit and something to eat, then you need someplace for them to sit and before you know it, you have a whole second wedding reception. None of this even covers the emotional toll it might take on your friends to ask them to sit and listen to you talk about your worst relationship problems a week or so before you ask them to celebrate your wedding.

If the idea of a shadow wedding really appeals to you then by all means, have at it. But, if the idea of it makes you want to run in to the shadows then don’t worry, you can have a meaningful wedding experience without it.