Youll Get Married
cars, marriages are interesting only when they break down.
marriages are the stuff of movies and books, TV talk shows
and Hollywood celebrities. A good marriage is boringeverybody
get to look at the faces of each bride and groom every time
I perform a wedding and you can take my word on this: There
has never been a bride or a groom who wanted anything other
than that most boring of things, a good marriage. There is
just a momentits hard to describewhen naked
hope seems to make their faces glow silvery and luminous.
Often liquidy, too, because at that point a lot of brides
and grooms have tears in their eyes.
a private moment and I am a privileged witness. But getting
that shining glimpse of palpable hope almost always makes
up for all the taxing parts of getting a couple actually wed.
you have to go through all that premarital stuff. I like to
keep it simple: We meet maybe three or four times. I ask them
to tell me their love story, which, with the reciprocal narcissism
of the deeply-in-love, they are always more than happy to
do. And actually, it usually is touching. Or at least, their
knees are. They sit haunch-by-haunch on the couch in my office,
generally better-groomed than I amI guess they figure
they have to wear their Sunday best.
we talk about the service. Its simple and straightforward:
opening prayers, readings, optional sermon, exchange of vows
and rings, announcement of the marriage, blessing and closing
prayers. They can add music, hymns, more readings, blessings
by their parents and so on. We will plan the service together
all the way.
when older people get married they usually want less of the
pageantry and folderol of a storybook wedding. But younger
people often want the all accessories of the day: the sappy
unity candle, the white paper carpet (somebody always trips
on it), the Purcell Trumpet Voluntary, groomsmen
anxious for the open bar at the reception and a bevy of bridesmaids
wearing colors found only in bridal shops and gelato stands.
cases of these pageant weddings, there comes a time when,
late in the game, one or the other of the couple has had it
up to here with wedding details. The spiral notebook they
have been using to track their progress is looking dog-eared.
There is a problem with one or more of the relatives. Or the
reception site, or the transportation arrangements. Or all
of the above.
with my own wedding: The pastor who was to assist at the ceremony
got caught groping a 13-year-old boy and was removed from
his job. The friend who had agreed to cater the reception
severed a nerve in her hand a week before the big day. My
in-laws were in a train wreck coming up from New York City
for the wedding weekend.
the day of the wedding. The reception was in a gallery hung
with oil paintings of dismembered heads and other body parts
rendered in a style to make Gericault proud. Not only that,
but it had been a posthumously mounted showin memory
of the painter who had committed suicide the year before.
If omens mean anything it should not be surprising that we
So I am
generally sympathetic to all the little details that can go
awry. If the bride becomes teary or the groom is exhibiting
signs of acute obsessive-compulsive disorder, I understand.
But in spite of all my sympathy and sometimes utterly forced
congeniality, I keep wondering how many times I will have
to go through PMSpremarital syndromewith couples.
Why cant they just relax? Because what is uniquely worrisome
to them is business-as-usual for me. Im a trained professionalone
way or another, Ill get them married.
that cant happen before the ordeal known as the wedding
rehearsal, something older couples often wisely skip and for
which ministers are deeply grateful.
some awful things occur at wedding rehearsals. First, they
would not be complete without the wedding-rehearsal know-it-all.
Unfortunately for my gender, the know-it-all is usually a
woman. Unfortunately, it is often the mother of the bride.
Knowing that I am a woman and the mother of daughters worries
me: When wedding-rehearsal day comes, will I be able to avoid
the dreadful trap of micromanaging the session? After all,
I am a genuine wedding-rehearsal know-it-all. Seasoned and
savvy. When the time comes, somebody stop me.
know-it-all doesnt have to be the mother, though. Sometimes
its a friend. Or the grooms sister. They know
all the right ways to do things and they will challenge anyone
who challenges them. So there is usually some frosty discussion
about the grooms side and the brides
side as if the church sanctuary were a gigantic bed.
Seating the mothers always seems to elicit some conflict.
How the bridal party gets down the aisle is reliably a headache.
together. Step together, the know-it-all will say.
that looks stupid, somebody else says.
thinking. Yes, it really does.
slow, the know-it-all says. And smile!
are procedural questions: When does the maid of honor take
the flowers? Does the soloist face the couple or the congregation?
Should the brides train be bustled up for when she lights
the unity candle and then let down before the recessional?
Im thinking. And why does she have a train on her dress
in the first place? This is not the antebellum South.
rehearsals take a lot longer than they ought to, but probably
not as long as they might because fortunately there is always
somebody itching to get it over with so they can go out and
get a drink. Somebody besides me, that is.
wedding day arrives; and with it, unexpected glitches or surprises.
The limousines get lost on the way to the church. The bride
has a coughing fit. A little voice crows from the congregation,
Mommy, Ive got to pee! The unity candle
fails to light. A slug crawls up the pastors ankle.
the moment comes when the bride and the groom take each others
hands and turn their backs to the congregation and turn their
shining faces toward me. I only hope my face can reflect some
of that shine out on the congregation. Because in spite of
all the tedium, irritation and hassle of weddings, there is
nothing quite like seeing the faces of the bride and groom
as they stand together and say their vows.
one of the bravest things anybody can doget up and pledge
to love another person, come what may.
its true that some of them wont love each other,
come what may. Im divorced. I know what it feels like
to have love fail to do what, in love, was promised.
then, in that holy moment of love firmly pledged, hope is
so real you could almost cut it like a wedding cake. And that
hope goes a long way in making all the headaches of weddings
worthwhile. Because when there isnt too much pageantry
and there is a palpable sense of commitment, a wedding service
is one of the strongest affirmations of life.
no matter what happens, love will make your faces shine.
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