Attending weddings has never been near the top of my favorite-things-to-do list. This year, however, I have already attended two, each as a guest of a friend of the families.
Either I’m becoming easier-going in my old age or weddings are getting better. I actually enjoyed the two recent ceremonies.
Both of the weddings I have attended this year were remarkable in (a) their elegant simplicity, (b) their articulation of the true meaning of holy matrimony and (c) their brevity. In both cases the music was beautiful as were the brides. And, as in all weddings, they grooms were … well, they were there as directed.
The first wedding I can remember attending occurred in 1952 when I was 4-years-old. One of my father’s cousins married one of my mother’s cousins and we rode to the wedding with my uncle and aunt and their two daughters. The oldest daughter was 8-years-old; she advised me to pay attention because the bride and groom were going to kiss. This must have been more important to an 8-year-old girl than a 4-year-old boy because I slept through the kiss, only to be gently chided by my cousin for having missed such a grand occurrence.
My oldest paternal cousin’s wedding is the first I remember in detail. He married the daughter of a Norwegian immigrant Lutheran pastor and his wife. It was an early October wedding and, I recall, the weather was warm. People dressed up for weddings in those days and my mother insisted that I wear my (itchy wool) suit, a white shirt and a tie. Going to a wedding was bad enough for a 12-year-old boy but to have to wear an itchy wool suit and a white shirt and tie was just plain torture. To make it worse, the small church had old fashioned wooden pews with backs nearly perpendicular to the narrow seats. Hot, itchy and uncomfortable.
You think that was bad? Wait! The Norwegian pastor was delighted to be officiating at his daughter’s wedding and used far too many words to say so. Then he preached a long sermon (well, it seemed long to a miserable 12-year-old boy.) My cousin and best friend, Laverne, asked me to serve as best man at his wedding and it was at the rehearsal where I met the young woman who would become my wife 19-months later. Several cousins’ weddings followed and in the case of my cousin, Cheryl Ann, and her marriage to Tom, I was asked to serve as the best man. I will concede that I enjoyed escorting the maid of honor down the aisle after the ceremony.
In October 1969 it was my turn and I discovered just how much weddings were a creation of female whims and wishes. The groom’s role is just to show up on time. Though I was working in radio and was anything but bashful, I was a basket of nerves. Part of my anxiety was the fear that someone would mess with my beautiful 1968 Ford. I still don’t understand the joy of boogering up someone’s car at a wedding. There was no permanent damage to my Ford but I was still digging rice out of the back seat when I traded it in three years later.
A friend in Sioux City helped me get into the wedding photography business on weekends and I shot a number of weddings over the years. It was here where I discovered another truth about weddings: the mother-of-the-bride can be someone to fear. I gave up that work about 20 years ago with only a few scars.
Perhaps the passage of time has brought me to a deeper appreciation for weddings. When I hear a minister or priest lead the couple in their vows, the terms “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” have a much deeper meaning than when I was younger. And the final part of that phrase, “until death do us part” - once an abstract thought - is now a concrete reality for me. Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding and, I believe, marriage is one of God’s best ideas. And those brought together in matrimony soon learn that true love is by choice… not by chance.