I, hobo, take thee, hobo…

27 Apr

Imagine that dear friends or family of yours are getting married. The invitation arrives in the mail, and your presence is requested… in “hobo casual attire.”


In 2011, a Pennsylvania couple threw a “Depression-era hobo” themed wedding, complete with “hobo-chic outfits” and decor (http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2011/handmade-weddings-depression-era-hobo/?ref=fp_blog_title). The bride Sarah posted all about her nuptials on the craft site Etsy, explaining, “After reading that the word ‘hobo’ may be a syllabic abbreviation of ‘homeward bound,’ [my husband and I] fell in love with the notion.”

I suppose that, yes, scrubbed up like that, “hobo” is a lovely notion. However, the condition of not being at home and therefore being homeward bound, was bound up in joblessness, poverty, starvation and the need to go as far as you could to try to find some work or sustenance. Not to mention the current connotations of “hobo,” which are more criminal than romantic.

Yes, let’s party like it’s 1929.

Still, Sarah’s fellow arts and craft devotees responded with delight over her “endless creativity” and “brilliance.” Countless compliments professed thrill and envy over her theme, raving, “So down to earth” and “You do Little Abner proud!”

I found myself continuing to scroll through the comments, increasingly disturbed that I wasn’t reading any other opinion about the choice to make the Depression, and the itinerant lifestyle that it forced on desperate people, a romantic fantasy. Eventually, I found those posts, best summed up in the comment, “Wow, poverty. Awesome. Can we see a famine theme next?”

Of course, in response to the criticism, there were the “can’t we all just get along?” posts, such as:

I’m not sure why everyone is making such a big deal out of this. It was your wedding and you made it what you wanted, and in a lovely way too. People need to lighten up and not be so critical.


When I’m prone to reflexive, no-compromise thinking (like hobo-theme = product of entitled life), I do try to notice and examine my outraged certainty.

What do you think? Hobo-theme not such a big deal? Lighten up, Alison?

Let me offer another example of an inscrutable wedding theme as counterpoint. In 2010, a couple got married in South Africa in an “Out of Africa” theme that included “an all-white crowd was waited on by an all-black staff of servants”  (http://jezebel.com/5820577/colonial+themed-wedding-included-authentic-all+black-servant-staff).


And any other thoughts on the difference between these two themes, that dress historical and contemporary realities up in whimsy and love?

I, for one, wonder about how the desire to have a nontraditional wedding may lead to more weddings of this ilk. How the new tradition of being untraditional may drive self-proclaimed quirky, fun and hip couples to go where other marrieds haven’t gone before (for good reason).

Certainly (at least if you’re heterosexual), you have the right to marry as you want. But I also can’t help wondering what it’s like for those folks who aren’t down with black servitude or the fun of poverty to receive one of these invitations from a couple they do love. Somehow, RSVP-ing, “Yes, we are delighted to attend!” doesn’t seem to cover it all.

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