Weddings are wasted on the young. I don’t mean the really young, like J.J’s toddler, who would sprint across the dance floor to give someone a high-five then hide behind his mother’s skirts. But anyone between the ages of seven and seventeen has no business being at a wedding. Unless it’s their own and they’re in a state that tolerates that sort of thing. But the real joy of a wedding comes not from the ceremony or even the rituals following it. It comes from those long hours at the reception, sitting in small circles with a friend at your side and a drink in your hand, saying, Hey, remember when? It’s reflecting on the deep history you have with the married couple, and then realizing with a sigh that all of it is prologue.
Fortunately, I didn’t see any kids between seven and seventeen at Will and Gina’s wedding this past weekend. Gina and Will always meshed in such a way that you had a hard time remembering when they weren’t a couple. The goofy humor, the quiet energy. But, with effort, I was able to remember Will before he met Gina, and those few months before Gina started openly dating Will. That was eight and a half years ago. And yet, seeing them at the front of that church last Saturday, I still recognized the excited look in their eyes. Wow. We made it.
The ceremony, a Catholic mass, spent as much time on Jesus as it did on the happy couple. The DJ’s playlist was probably the same as any other wedding he’ll do this summer. And everyone knows what order the reception rituals come in: introducing the couple, toasts, first dances, cutting the cake, etc. It’s not the ritual that makes the wedding special. You can get the wedding day just right and still end it in bitterness a few years later. Or you can twiddle your thumbs during a grotesque homily*, fumble with the lighting of special candles, and still come out all right. It’s not about the uniform; it’s about who’s on your team with you.
* I don’t use the word “grotesque” lightly. The priest told an inspiring fable about a soldier who was sentenced to death by a court-martial. Told that the sentence would be carried out when the curfew bell rang, the soldier’s wife tied herself to the bell clapper so that no one would hear the signal. When her “cut and bloodied” body was found inside the bell, the sentencing officer solemnly intoned, “Curfew will not be rung today.” I hope the photographer caught the dawning look of horror that washed over the congregation; my digital camera has a pretty small lens.