Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Someday I Just Need to Write a Book About Weddings

This weekend I officiated the cutest wedding (cute in a good way, which is seldom the case).  I wasn't sure what to expect going into it; they didn't want a rehearsal, which always makes me a little nervous when it's not one of those backyard-and-bluejeans affairs.  I also didn't get to meet the couple in advance.  That is frequently the case these days, as I do a lot of last-minute weddings for people who call from the city clerk's office because the judge has cancelled or the mayor had something more important to do or they just want their wedding to feel a little more sacred than a few formal words and a document signed in an office in city hall.  This wedding was not a spontaneous deal.  The reception was a served dinner at a fairly swanky restaurant.  But I got the call just a couple of weeks before the event.  No rehearsal, no frills.  They sent me a script for the ceremony.  I said, "Your wedding is going to be about five minutes long."  They said that was perfect.  Oooooookay.  In my experience, people say that, but then when it's so short, they end up feeling like it lacked weight.  But I do a lot of weddings, and generally, I just do what the bride and groom want, as long as they don't want me to pray to some alternate god or do a tribal dance of blessing or something.

I met the bride for the first time when she stood before me at the front of the room.  She said, "Nice to meet you," and had to stop herself from shaking my hand.  I got to chat a bit with the groom, who I swear was veritably glowing.  It turns out that they wanted the ceremony short because they were both afraid they would break down and cry if it lasted too long.  He and I stood in the appointed place, waiting for the bride to come downstairs.  The rustle of a wedding dress in the hall, the music began, and just before she rounded the corner, he glanced at me and whispered, "I've been in love with her since I was fifteen."

Dude, you're going to make me cry.

Many of the ministers I know don't like doing weddings.  Both of my colleagues generally decline unless it's a church member or someone they know well.  I can understand that; sometimes weddings are a big pain in the derriere.  But I sort of love them anyway.  I love them for the strange opportunity to stand in this oddly intimate role during a huge moment in people's lives.  I love them for these weird, sudden moments when I get to see the raw hope and the deep capacity for love that people have.  I see raw a lot, but usually it's raw pain, anger, grief, emptiness, etc.  It's nice to see the other side of things from time to time, to see that joy, too, can be stripped naked and shown to the world.

It was a bad week for me personally in the relationship realm of things.  The CNR continues to become more complicated.  I can't quite manage to stay away, and yet the whole thing is eroding my trust in people's ability to be committed, honest, and loving.  It's quite the pickle.  There is an easy solution...which I am currently not taking.  I'm annoying myself.  "I do what I do not want to do, and what I want to do, I do not do..." or something.

But in the midst of my crazy life, in which nothing really seems to go right, and I am constantly encountering people and situations that make me despair of the possibility that anyone could ever really be happily partnered, I also do all these weddings.  Eighteen year-olds making a quick union before he gets deployed.  Hindus whose priest reveals after a three-day celebration that he isn't authorized to legalize marriages.  Couples who have been together well over a decade and already have children together, who have decided that it's time to "make it official."  Catholics whose priests won't marry them because they're already living together.  People who met on Myspace (remember when people actually used that?), eHarmony, and through speed-dating.  People who hooked up at a bar and just stayed together.  Weddings in creeks, parks, back yards, banquet halls, beaches, historic forts, restaurants, and yes, even churches.  Weddings with guest lists numbering in the 400s and weddings where I have to get the receptionist out of the office to be a second witness.

In almost every single one, there is that moment where you can absolutely see why these two people are making this leap together, why they have decided to share a life.  Honestly, I don't have a lot of hope for myself, but at least it's enough to give me hope for other people.


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