As the winter without end rolls along, your humble wedding photographer looks onward toward wedding season and the inevitable bevy of brides who want to show off their smarts with a literary wedding theme. A literary theme can be a great way to transport your wedding guests in time and place; to lend your fête a frisson of the romance and passion of the greatest stories every told.
Unfortunately for some brides time and place are often more important than plot. So as wedding season nears and planning reaches a furious crescendo, we offer this look at the worst wedding inspirations from literature.
3. Wuthering Heights:
This Gothic romance by Emily Bronte is the tale of two lovers separated by circumstance, struggling to come together against the odds. Catherine and Heathcliff are raised as adopted siblings but driven apart by jealousy, passion and social class. All of this is set against the all kidns of fodder for costume drama and enough brooding to fill at least 10 Fall Out Boy albums.
It all seems less romantic when we learn that Heathcliff is not a cheeky orange tabby playing pranks and being Johnny Debonaire, but a monstrous man consumed by jealousy and unfulfilled passion. Not content solely with brooding on the moors, he takes up a number of endearing hobbies like kidnapping and child abuse - engineering a complete conquest of everything he thought was denied to him except the woman he loved.
In the end, Heathcliff is defeated when Cathy and Hareton close tear in the family (and I mean in the family because they are first cousins) by falling and love and pledging to marry on New Year's Day. But that is not the tragic romance that echoes through pop culture and fuels countless adaptations.
WHO SHOULD HAVE A WUTHERING HEIGHTS WEDDING: Couples where the bride secretly longs for another but is settling for socio-economic reasons. Alternately couples who have been kidnapped by a madman.
WHAT THEME SHOULD I HAVE INSTEAD: If you're absolutely enamoured with the period consider the oeuvre of Jane Austen, as an added bonus you can incorporate a horrifying 12-foot statue of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy into your decor.
An honorable mention also goes out to another Bronte sister, who produced another dark romance in Jayne Eyre. In Charlotte Bronte's novel, the titular character is a governess haunted by the ghosts of her love's past, that turn out not to be ghosts but merely the wife he locked in his attic. Though at least Mr. Rochester and Jane marry in the end, once that pesky attic wife gets out of the way by burning down Thornfield Hall and jumping from the parapets to her death.
2. Romeo and Juliet:
"But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East and Juliet is the sun!"
And just as Juliet would outshine the stars, this scene would outshine all other pickup lines for the next 500 years (until the poet Joey Tribianni gave us the lyrical "How you doin'?). Since that first performance, Romeo and Juliet have become shorthand for the power of love to conquer and obstacle. And Shakespeare's poetry in this play still has the power to move us to this very day, even if we don't get all of the good dick jokes.
It seems almost purpose built as a template for the celebration of true love (just think of all the lines you could steal for your vows). Seems is the key word, because it's not just the ending that puts Romeo and Juliet on this list (spoiler alert: it doesn't end well). Internet treasure and creator of star-crossed lovers John Green points out several troubling items in this tale of romance...
What's that? You just want bullet points?
- The play begins with Romeo pining for Rosaline, a different fair Capulet
- This whirlwind romance ignites and dies (literally) over the course of a week. I bet Romeo didn't even know Juliet's favorite Taylor Swift song (for the record it's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"). They get married having known each other for a day.
- Most of this is explained by the fact that Juliet is around 13 and Romeo is 16. Sure the idea of childhood is a recent invention, but neurological development hasn't changed in the past 500 years so teens are still pretty dumb.
- On top of that, thanks to poor communications skills (which is shocking for two people so eloquent) they kill themselves.
WHO SHOULD HAVE A ROMEO AND JULIET WEDDING: Eloping teenagers. Brides who have one cousin that they wouldn't mind their husband murdering.
WHAT THEME SHOULD I HAVE INSTEAD: If you like the bard, you could consider one of his comedies, though you should probably skip The Merchant of Venice. If it's just tan aesthetic you're after, you probably don't have to provide a text to prove your nerd bona fides, your Elizabethan costume wedding does that for you.
An honorable mention goes out to George R.R. Martin's A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series - where (SPOILERS) all the weddings are bad inspiration for your celebration.
1. The Great Gatsby:
Perhaps the only book on this list that's actually in danger of being a wedding theme thanks in part to the 2013 Baz Luhrman film with its grand parties, stunning imagery and exaggerated bombast. For many, that's all F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece is about, a slice of decadence from a gilded era of our past. The elevator pitch is equally easy as the novel is the story of how a man completely reinvents himself for love and sacrifices himself to save the woman he desires more than anything else in the whole world.
However, Fitzgerald's work has not come to celebrate the decadence of the American Dream but to bury it. Gatsby remakes himself so much for love that there is barely a man left inside of him, he doesn't even drink at his own parties and just stares out at that green light. The woman he loves is fraught with indecision, unable to choose between two worlds that will break her heart, and will not deal with the consequences of her actions (you know, killing another human being). Also everyone in the book is pretty terrible and they're all having affairs (marital infidelity is probably not a good theme for your wedding).
WHO SHOULD HAVE A GREAT GATSBY WEDDING: Boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the past. Jerks.
WHAT THEME SHOULD I HAVE INSTEAD: Many of the books that are set against the Roaring 20's inherit the themes of Gatsby, especially those written after the Great Depression. This is another era where you can just adopt the aesthetic without pinning it to the classics.
Of course, this is just a sliver of all the subtly foreboding wedding themes. I'd love for you to share your ideas for the worst themes in teh comments.