Upping the ante on social-networked weddings went into overdrive in ’09. One bridal party danced its way down the aisle and into YouTube stardom in a choreographed ceremony set to Chris Brown’s “Forever.” A couple of other dudes proposed, and were accepted over Twitter. And, earlier this month, a groom updated his relationship status on Twitter and Facebook, at the altar … before kissing the bride!
Whatever. It’s their (or their parents’) $80,000 ceremony. They’re free to exploit it on the Internet all they want. Who gets hurt?
Well, I’ll tell you who gets hurt. The Institution of Marriage, that’s who! It began innocently enough, with Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance mobs crossing over to YouTube-televised wedding receptions. Now, apparently, you’re not legally married unless a kajillion jerks Google your love.
Sure, making your wedding an Internet meme seems as harmless a fad as bungee jumping after saying “I do” or exchanging vows in the shark tank at Sea World … until you see where it’s leading to. And where it’s leading is to the most recent viral wedding video making the Internet rounds. In it a groom, totally dressed as Superman, valiantly defends his reception against General Zod and company (sans that Pat Benatar-looking lady) in a scene re-enactment from the 1980 sequel “Superman II.”
Even before the rogue Kryptonian commanded, “Kneel before Zod!” it was clear that a whole lot of people I previously disagreed with are right.
Well, half right. Marriage does need defending, and if required, a constitutional amendment to do just that.
But let’s be clear. The Holy Sacrament and/or inalienable civil right of marriage doesn’t need defending from Adam and Steve. It doesn’t need defending from PGA champions with itchy texting fingers.
Marriage needs defending from the chicken dance that is now American life: the Internet. Yes, the entity that would cause society to crumble should it drop a connection (leaving us unable to log on to Facebook) is the very thing making the overpriced sacrament of marriage into amateur improv nite.
In the days of dialup, what young man would consider wearing tights, a cape and underwear on the outside and play make-believe in front of not just his parents, bride and in-laws, but all of YouTube and beyond? For that matter, what bride would still be on the premises when the collective called “scene”? (And yes, the bride remained, red-faced but still there, and not at the lawyer's office signing the annulment papers.)
Check it out. Your wedding is already your “LOOK AT ME” day. You don’t have to wear red underpants on the outside of your tights to be the center of attention. Not on your wedding day. You do that on another day, when you’re not the center of attention, so you can then be the center of attention.
Instead, YouTube is locked in a post-modern "Newlywed Game" of one-upsmanship. It’s no longer enough to choose siblings or BFFs for maid of honor, best man and the rest. You’re going to need a reasonably talented bridal party if you want a shot at making your wedding video go viral on YouTube.
OK, to be fair, Kevin Heinz and Jill Peterson, of “Forever” wedding fame, said on their TODAY show appearance that they weren’t seeking instant Internet fame when they planned, and later posted, their down-the-aisle dance routine on YouTube.
“I danced growing up and was a dancer through college and loved dance as a way to express yourself and share joy,” said Peterson, who told host Matt Lauer she spent just 30 minutes with her bridal party planning the moves. “So it was something I always thought about doing.”
And according to Heinz, “I put it up (on YouTube) because her dad had been really harassing me to get it out to some of his other family members, and it exploded.” The original video has received more than 33 million views to date. It’s also worth mentioning that the couple is using their viral fame to seek donations for the Sheila Wellstone Institute to support violence prevention. So that’s cool.
Heinz and Peterson may go down in Wikipedia history as the first couple to move the wacky dance choreography from the reception to the full-on ceremony. What’s not so cool is that, despite a satirical “divorce” version of the video on CollegeHumor.com and a reference on “The Office” during Jim and Pam’s wedding, we’ll probably spend the next decade trying to digest an onslaught of videos attempting to top their feat.
So it may not be completely fair to blame the originators, such as the criticism received by Matt Kiesler who tweeted “To @emilychang – After fifteen years of blissful happiness I would like to ask for your hand in marriage?” The reply, one minute later: “@maxkiesler – yes, I do.”
Other responses ran the gamut, as illustrated by Wired’s “Underwire” blog headline titled “Sweetest Tweet Ever” to another titled “Is Romance Dying? This Twitter Proposal Suggests So!” Though originally reported otherwise, it turns out that this wasn’t the first Twitter proposal … and certainly not the last. "Underwire" also reported proof that another couple became engaged over the microblogging site just weeks earlier, sans the attention and the criticism.
Even with piles of criticism, the wedding party can remain blissfully unaffected, as seems to be the case with Dana Hanna, the man who created a “viral storm” when he interrupted his vows to update his Facebook and Twitter statuses before kissing his surprised bride, Tracy Page.
“Standing at the altar with @TracyPage where just a second ago, she became my wife! Gotta go, time to kiss my bride. #weddingday”
Following the controversy, Hanna tapped out this tweet:
"To all the criticizers of my video out there questioning my sanity: You don't get it. I was having fun at MY wedding! Loosen up, have fun!"
Well, he’s got a point there … I guess.
Thing is, the definition of marriage is fluid. It's changed and evolved throughout the centuries. But do we really want it to change and evolve into lulz? Must we all attend your special day via Internet meme ... and not even get any cake?
Friend Helen A.S. Popkin on or follow her on , and she promises not to post the video of her shark tank wedding at Sea World.