Why We Stare at Brides


By Mark JudgeBarbWire guest contributor

It didn’t start out as a social experiment, but it became one.

A young woman from the neighborhood was getting married. The family invited me, and asked that I take some pictures. They had an official wedding photographer, but I’m a photojournalist and would get some backup shots. This was fine with me — I actually prefer that role, as I think that people look much more natural and beautiful when they are not posing.

So I was a participant in the ceremony, but also something of an outsider. I could be close to the wedding party, yet also watch those watching the ceremony, which was at Georgetown University in Washington. It was a position that left me with a question.

Why are we so mesmerized by wedding brides?

I realize all the usual, and correct, answers. She’s beautiful. It’s an important day. People like to see happy things.

But all of this could apply to seeing a group of women out on the town celebrating a birthday. People are not mesmerized by a girl’s night out. They are mesmerized — some seem frozen in place — when they see a bride. It was a rich and funny experience to be a fly on the wall and watch people abandon their shopping bags, friends, and even smartphones (other than to take pictures) and simply stand and stare. And stare. And stare. And stare.

They stare, some of them with deep longing, because that in a world that insists on being more and more secular and selfish, a woman on her wedding day is a shocking countercultural totem of resistance. She is a defiant sign that immortality can be touched when you make yourself a gift to another human being. The groom does this also, of course, but men tend to be more violent, promiscuous, and in in the evolutionary order of things, more expendable. People might notice the groom, say he looks handsome, but they positively forget themselves when they see a bride.

Women are more moral (look at the prison population), are the primary transmitters of life and culture, and just smell better. There is just something divine about them. As pornography, dressing down, and feminism keep trying to drag them down to the guys’ level, the wedding gown reveals their true selves. And in the metaphysical scene of things it is much more crucial to human flourishing than “equal pay for equal work.”

Real men know that the woman’s true self is worth loving, protecting, and dying for. The best women call us out of ourselves. They teach us discipline, self-sacrifice, and giving ourselves up for future generations and for love. And not romantic love, but the love, as Pope Benedict XVI once put it, that goes all the way to the end; the love that endures through sickness, depression, disease, even indifference. That is why we stare at brides in their white. We stare in awe and in gratitude.

The night after the wedding, I went to see a great band from Austin, My Jerusalem, play at the historic State Theater in Virginia. I was mulling what I was going to put in the wedding video I was putting together for my friends. Then the band provided the answer, in their song “Mono.” Here are the opening lyrics:

You’re gonna die in this room
In your twin size coffin tomb.
When all your friends have bailed out,
Who will rescue you now?

The sheets, they make you itch
And bedsores make you twitch.
And you just can’t figure out
How you’ve gotten here somehow.

I wanna be the one who rolls you over.
I wanna be the one who rolls you over.

Not your typical wedding vows, but it hits the mark.

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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  • RCQ_92130

    One of the best lines ever put to paper:

    “Women are more moral (look at the prison population), are the primary transmitters of life and culture, and just smell better.”

    • SouthernPatriot

      Great line, succinct, and poignant. I am reminded by the later part by my wife every moment of every day. How she puts up with me is just another proof there is an Almighty God.

      • RCQ_92130

        Thanks for the smile!

  • Opposition Research

    Now that, sir, is one beautiful article.

    • Mic T.

      If only the BarbWire writers would write more contemplative articles like this, rather than just hating on people.

      • Opposition Research

        Funny, just 90 minutes ago, I was out shopping and I saw some Spirit-filled Christians.

        They were two Mennonite women. They were warm, friendly, visibly assured in their faith. Nothing like the chronic anger, hostility and paranoia that I see so much of here.

        Mennonites shine by their own light. They see no need to bash other people. It’s hard to find people who understand the Christian faith better than Mennonites. They rock.

        • Truth Offends

          Do you support laws that would force these “warm, friendly, visibly assured in their faith” Mennonites to participate in the celebration of homosexuality (i.e. provide services for faux-marriage; make wedding dresses for two lesbians)?

          • Opposition Research

            There’s a big part of me that wants to take your side.

            And then, I see the apparently intentional disrespect behind putting “married” in quotes, and “faux-marriage,” and it gives me enough cause to believe that the deliberate disrespect wouldn’t end there, if the law were changed to allow such refusal of services.

            Funny thing about legalism. It leads people to resort to strained “legalese” interpretations of Scripture aimed at somehow changing the clear and intended meaning of the Golden Rule.

          • Truth Offends

            You didn’t answer the question.

          • Opposition Research

            Actually, I did. You’ll just have to take it or leave it.

          • Truth Offends

            The answer to my question would be either a yes or a no.
            I’ll take your response as a “yes”.

          • ngn

            Not wimpy at all. Answer is Yes. They have to abide by public accommodation laws just like everyone else. Christians aren’t above the law.

          • Truth Offends

            I’ll add you to my list of anti-Christian bigots.

          • Opposition Research

            All that ngn said was, “They have to abide by public accommodation laws just like everyone else. Christians aren’t above the law.”

            Truth offends, or something like that.

          • Truth Offends

            Truth does not offend me. I seek truth.
            The truth offends those who hate truth, and those who try to suppress the truth.
            You said “All ngn said was…”
            But, that is NOT all he/she said! He/she ALSO said that “yes,” he/she supports laws that would force Mennonite-owned wedding related businesses to provide services for faux-marriage.
            But, you omitted that part. You tried to suppress the truth.

          • ngn

            I’m not anti christian. I’m just following the law.

          • Truth Offends

            You said you support those laws.

          • Opposition Research

            Oh, as you already know, it is a clear answer.

            But let me simply it for anyone out there who lacks the ability to draw logical conclusions:


            Tell you what, though — I’ll change my answer to “no,” if you, and a number of others, answer “no” to the question, “Do you think that the law should prevent same-sex couples from marrying?”

            Answer “no” to that, and I’ll change mine to “no,” too.

            Why does this make a difference?

            it’s because the idea of “protected classes” is that they need protecting from a significant malicious segment of society. If this site is any evidence, there is enough abundant malice to warrant extending protected class status.

            But if enough of you answer “no” to my question, then my answer will become “no” as well, because that would be evidence that religious freedom, rather than malice toward gay and lesbian Americans, is the motivating factor here.

          • Truth Offends

            No. You’re answer to my yes/no question was NOT a clear answer. It was a non-answer. And, I am able to “draw logical conclusions,” but I try to avoid assuming my conclusions are correct. (See my prior post where I ask if I can take your non-answer as a yes.)

            Homosexuals are the most celebrated group of people in America today. They don’t need to be protected from anything (oh, except maybe they need protection from being *offended* by some Mennonite Bed & Breakfast owner, or a baker in some small Pennsylvania town, or a farmer in NY). If there’s any “abundant malice” involved in this debate, it’s on the side of the anti-Christian bigots who want to force the entire nation to not only affirm homosexuality, but to also celebrate it.

          • Ray – Jesus is the Son of God.

            I have to wonder if we will ever see Obama’s wedding pics.

          • ngn

            If they offer the services to the public, yes

          • Opposition Research

            I would actually be rather surprised if the average committed Mennonite would refuse.

            I realize that the Conestoga Wood company, a co-plaintiff in the Hobby Lobby case, was owned by Mennonites.

            However, I doubt that they were motivated by any form of malice. Committed Mennonites, generally speaking, just aren’t malicious.

            I know that this concession will go in a bunch of ears (eyes?) and out the other, but I agree that it’s offensive to order people to purchase goods and services directly out of pocket. There is enough to object to there without even invoking the religious freedom argument.

            (That’s one reason why I support a Single Payer health care system. I mean, human life is sacred and all that.)

            So, what appears above is sort of a loaded question. It assumes that the average Mennonite would share the active hostility to same-sex couples that I see here.

            I think that’s a premature prejudgment of Mennonites themselves. Their general temperament just isn’t malicious by nature.

          • Ray – Jesus is the Son of God.

            God forbids sodomy.

          • ngn

            then you shouldn’t be doing it…shame!

          • ngn

            then you shouldn’t be doing that, shame on you ray

  • Norm

    I have often thought that women understand the indwelling of the Holy Spirit more naturally then men because of having already had another spirit living inside of them for nine months. I wouldn’t build a theology on that but I have often thought it.

  • Bongo Mawongo

    When I was young and single, I always stared at the hot, single bridesmaids.

    Weddings are a great place for a young man to make a one night stand pickup maneuver.

    The bridesmaids usually get drunk and they realize their clock of usefulness is tick, tick, ticking, so they’re quite susceptible to just about any phony line.

    And they are taught to always smile no matter what someone says to them at the wedding.

    I’ve made many a score at weddings, but now that I’m older and have been married for way too long, I no longer go to weddings. No need to do that.


    • pearl87

      Wow that’s pretty cynical – and offensive.

      • Bongo Mawongo

        Glad you liked it.

        Truth and Facts are harsh sometimes.


        • pearl87

          Fact is, you’re a scumbag. Harsh, but true. I feel sorry for your wife.

      • Jamocha Quebus

        Obviously he stated his purpose to attend weddings was strictly to satisfy his penis

        • Bongo Mawongo

          You just wish you had one.

  • Randall Murphree

    How did anyone make any sense out of this guy’s conclusion? There’s no sense there.

    • Jamocha Quebus

      The faithful wife will be there for that man when he is a wreck of a man, dying on his deathbed, that bride stayed with him his entire life and saw him go from a young husband to an aged old man, and she stayed true to care for him.

      • Bongo Mawongo

        Many wives leave their husbands who lose their job.

        So much for “for richer or poorer”.

        • splashy79

          Many times the women are left, when the man dies.

      • Opposition Research

        And that’s how you uphold the sanctity of marriage.

        This article is freakin’ beautiful. After reading this, do you really still feel a need to throw darkness on people whose weddings you don’t agree with?

        “What God hath joined together.” Remember that.

        • Truth Offends

          Do you believe God would “join together” two homosexual men in marriage?

          • Opposition Research

            Well, I think that God has no problem joining together two people of the same gender. I don’t expect you to agree. That’s why we have religious freedom, y’know? Or, is that another one of those one-way streets…

            But that wasn’t the point of my remark.

            The point of my remark is that God having joined together a man and woman, on Christian terms, isn’t about to be jeopardized by a few people doing something that you don’t agree with, according to theological teachings that you dispute.

          • RCQ_92130

            >>> “Well, I think that God has no problem joining together two people of the same gender.”

            By this i presume you have some other authority than His Word. I know lots of people who have a direct connection with the Lord, but not a one – other than you – who feels their connection trumps The Word, aka Jesus.

          • Opposition Research

            Well, that’s why we have religious freedom. Way back in the day, church autonomy as it pertained to Scriptural interpretation was even a Baptist trademark.

          • Truth Offends

            You again did not answer my question.
            Here. I’ll ask it again. It’s a yes/no question.
            Do you believe God would “join together” two homosexual men in marriage?
            You said you think “God has no problem joining together two people of the same gender.” But that doesn’t answer if you think God would join them together *in marriage*.
            So, are you going to pussy-foot around the question again? Or are you going to answer?

          • Opposition Research

            One aspect of growing up and becoming an adult is realizing that the world will not cave to your every petulant demand.

            It is a full and clear answer, and you will just have to live with it like an adult.

          • Truth Offends

            Maybe this is what’s going on. You clearly support so-called “gay marriage.” You made a comment about God “joining together” two men, but won’t answer my direct question asking if you believe God would join together two men in “marriage.” (Sure, no one would dispute that God would “have no problem” joining two men in, for example, a business relationship.)
            So, I think you know that God would not “join together” two homosexual men in “marriage,” and maybe, just maybe you fear God enough to know that you shouldn’t actually come out and say that He would support that. Maybe.
            But this much is certain: You did not answer my question.

      • splashy79

        Then she is left by herself, to fend for herself, alone, when she is old.

        It’s great for the man who dies first, as it usually happens, not so much for the woman, who dies alone because most men don’t want an older woman. Guess that is her reward for her faithfulness.

        Good thing so many find they like living alone, to their astonishment. 😀

  • RCQ_92130

    Ha! So here’s a thought:

    When you see 2 homosexual guys (or, for that matter, 2 Mack Truck Lesbians) pretending to be ‘husband and wife’ ….

    do you find yourself staring and feeling good as you do with a real bride?

    Nah. I didn’t think so.

    • Opposition Research

      Funny you should ask, because not long ago, two male friends of mine got married and celebrated at one of my karaoke spots.

      I was elated. I couldn’t lavish enough good will on them.

      So sad, though, that you feel the need to dump ugliness onto such a beautiful article as this.

      What was Apostle Paul saying about what defiles a person?

      • RCQ_92130

        Q: What defiles a person?

        S I N

        Hope that helps …. really.

        • Opposition Research

          And I can’t say that I would argue with the first part of your comment, either.

          Let’s just agree that this is one right beautiful article, K?

          • RCQ_92130

            Not sure I know how to interact here with a gay activist who is courteous, polite and non-bombastic. This is new territory for me!

          • Truth Offends

          • Opposition Research

            Believe me, I appreciate it. Apologies for the rocky start.

      • Truth Offends

        If your so concerned about RCQ supposedly “dumping ugliness onto such a beautiful article,” why did you do that yourself?
        If you’re so concerned about bringing “ugliness” to a “beautiful article,” why, five (5) hours prior to saying that, did you bash Christians on this website, implying that they are not “Spirit-filled” and not “assured in their faith” and saying that they have “chronic anger, hostility and paranoia”?

  • turfbarn80

    The “countercultural totem of resistance” really nails it. Thank you.