RORY: Feels like we’ve been gone a long time.
LORELAI: You know what’s weird? Every time I leave town, even for just a little while, I always expect everything to look different.
RORY: And it never does.
LORELAI: It never does.
Lorelai and Rory were in Portsmouth for Monday and Tuesday night, so today is Wednesday and they’ve been gone for two or three days.
Their dialogue is a comment on the unchanging timelessness of Stars Hollow, providing a stable base for Lorelai and Rory.
[Early the next morning, Lorelai and Rory are in Lorelai’s jeep driving through Stars Hollow.]
LORELAI: We’re almost there and nowhere near it. All that matters is we’re going.
RORY: We’re practically gone already.
LORELAI: Look out world.
[They stop at the red light and stare at it, waiting for it to change.]
There have been so many mentions of great American journeys in Gilmore Girls, from On the Road to Huckleberry Finn to Thelma and Louise, that it seems in tune with the show’s theme for Lorelai and Rory to hit the road at some point. Their conversation is even vaguely reminiscent of a famous exchange from On the Road:
““Sal, we gotta go and never stop going ’till we get there.’
‘Where we going, man?’
‘I don’t know but we gotta go.”
That urge towards the journey and not the destination is the same one that is driving Lorelai away from her home.
As luck would have it, before they even leave town, they get stuck at the new traffic light, which is timed to come on even if there is no other traffic on the road, and will stay on until the oldest and feeblest person in Stars Hollow can safely get across the road. It’s symbolic of the way that it will always be difficult for them to leave Stars Hollow, even temporarily. There is something in the town which holds them captive to some extent.
This is the literal “red light on the wedding night” alluded to in the episode’s title, although strictly speaking it isn’t the wedding night, but several days before the wedding. Symbolically though, it means that Lorelai has put a stop to her wedding going ahead.
Taylor lets Luke know that he is getting a traffic light installed in Stars Hollow, even though there hasn’t been an accident in ten years (he apparently has powers to make decisions unilaterally in the town’s best interests when it comes to public safety).
As usual, Taylor is all about town progress, while Luke is all about keeping Stars Hollow exactly the way it has been – two different ways they show their love for the town. Their struggles and interactions end up giving Stars Hollow better outcomes; without Luke, the town would change too much and lose its character, while without Taylor it would stagnate and become a backwater.
This traffic light is the one alluded to in the episode’s title.
RORY: What is that?
LORELAI: A hammer.
RORY: It has feathers on it.
LORELAI: So the rhinestones and bows won’t feel lonely.
This is the hammer referred to in the title, Hammers and Veils. Of course Rory can’t go off to help the needy like anyone else – she has to do it in an especially quirky, girly manner that immediately marks her as special and the centre of attention. It’s the Gilmore way.
Rory wouldn’t even buy purple legal pads for school because they’d make her look unprofessional at Chilton, but somehow she’s happy to take a gold-painted, pink feathered hammer to volunteer work which she is doing through Chilton, and for which the hammer would surely be useless. Maybe she’s more relaxed now that she’s one of the top students in her class.
Typically for the show, Rory is running ten minutes late for her volunteer job in this scene.
RORY: So, what kind of dress are you thinking of?
LORELAI: Um, the one Stephanie Seymour wore in the Guns N’ Roses video.
Lorelai is referring to the music video to the 1992 power ballad November Rain, written by Axl Rose and from Guns N’ Roses’ 1991 album Use Your Illusion I. The song got to #3 on the charts, and at over eight minutes long, is the longest song to ever get into the Top Ten.
The music video, directed by Andy Morhan, shows Axl Rose getting married to his then-girlfriend, model and actress Stephanie Seymour, intercut with a live performance of the song. Seymour is wearing a traditional white wedding dress with a long train and a veil, but the front of the dress puffed up to be as short as a mini skirt. On a budget of over one million dollars (with $8000 spent on the dress), the video won the MTV Award for Best Cinematography.
The song is about a man’s unrequited love for a woman who no longer loves him in return, another foreshadowing of what is to come between Lorelai and Max. (The name Axl even looks and sounds a little like the name Max). The music video is based on the short story Without You by Del James, a friend of Rose’s; in the story the girl shoots herself, but the music video is ambiguous whether the Stephanie Seymour character’s death is a suicide or a murder. Yet another love leads to death reference in Gilmore Girls!
In 1993, Stephanie Seymour abruptly left Axl Rose to be with someone else – a foreshadowing of Lorelai’s future behaviour.
Once word (instantly) gets around town that Lorelai has had a marriage proposal, all the townspeople are inordinately interested in seeing how Luke takes the news.
This is taken to exaggerated levels when a line of people, most of whom we have never seen before, form a line and begin following Lorelai to the diner. They then proceed to press their faces against the diner’s windows so they can watch Luke hear the news. They won’t be able to hear anything from the street, but apparently they don’t care.
For normal people, only friends and family (maybe) are interested in your wedding news; for Lorelai and Luke, they are the celebrities of Stars Hollow that even strangers find completely fascinating.
Rory tells Lorelai that “everyone knows” that Luke “has a thing for Lorelai”, which means that Rory knows too, and still discouraged Lorelai from seeking out a relationship with him.
This 1997 song by Yo La Tengo plays at the very end of the episode, as Lorelai and Rory run towards each other from opposite sides of the street. It creates a “bookends effect”, as this was the song that played at the end of the first episode of the season, and we are now watching the final moments of the last episode of the season.
It repeats the theme of safety and security, as Stars Hollow itself becomes a sanctuary. The final thing we see is the gazebo in the town square, the heart of the town and a sacred place dedicated to love. Its twinkle lights echo the stars above who gave their name to the town, and lead lovers back into each others’ arms.