Modern weddings have increasingly been taking the form of mass weddings in recent months, and Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon has not been the only one to officiate weddings for multiple couples at the same time. Rev. Moon is known for match-making couples in “matching ceremonies” by pointing them out to one another, subsequently solemnizing weddings for the couples in massive assemblies, often located in large stadiums.

Many ministers with Universal Life Church and its derivative online churches have shown interest in this unconventional yet increasingly popular type of modern wedding ceremony.

This past Valentine’s Day, nearly one hundred couples converged just outside Ptarmigan Roost Cabin, at an altitude of 12,050, in the Colorado ski resort of Loveland, as part of the 19th annual Valentine’s Day Marry Me Ski Free Mountaintop Matrimony, either to be married or to renew wedding vows. One of the Universal Life Church’s own ordained ministers, Harry Heilman, performed the ceremony. The crowds were drawn to the event by combination of Valentine’s Day, the long Presidents’ Day weekend, and fresh snow.

Are mass weddings a sign of the increasing degradation of the institution of marriage, or of its growing convenience and continued modernization? Perhaps this is too serious a question for so lighthearted an occasion, but it is nonetheless an interesting one to ask.

For some (and I won’t say “yesterday’s bride and groom”, because many still feel this way), the unique nature of the traditional wedding ceremony consists in its emphasis on the public declaration of love between two people, on whom the eyes of the entire community, the church, and even God, are set. For the traditional bride and groom, the day is a special one because the entire event is focused on them—it is “their day”, so to speak. But for other couples, the anonymity of the mass wedding is perhaps an outlet from the stress and anxiety that the ceremony itself places on bride and groom, an opportunity to eschew the old, burdensome trappings and melt into the crowd. Mass weddings like the Loveland event, furthermore, might even recall a primitive, communal urge to forget one’s individuality and get lost in the crowd, as it were.

For others yet, it may simply be an easy, no-frills way to obtain legal benefits, rather like drive-through wedding chapel officiations—characterized by entirely practical considerations.

Will the mass wedding trend evolve into a kind of modern-day festival in which couples rebel against the staid and solemn ceremonies of a bygone era? At any rate, the increasing popularity of such events shows how rapidly the face of marriage is changing—from drive-through ceremonies to sky-dive wedding vow exchanges and same-sex unions. It may simply be the natural course of evolution for marriage, which is constantly metamorphosing and adapting to reflect the individual personalities of those being married. As marriage becomes less and less an instance of property exchange and alliance-building shrouded in awe-inspiring mystery, and more a legally sanctioned declaration of love, couples will be finding new ways to challenge what constitutes holy matrimony.

Perhaps events such as the Valentine’s Day mass wedding at Loveland are just the forerunners of things to come.

Summit Daily News

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