As you can see, I wasn’t hired to document this marriage ceremony. But I was invited to witness it and celebrate along with family and friends. Attending a family wedding made me think about how we experience such rites over the course of our lifetime.
The wheels started turning in my mind when Girl from the East informed me at the reception that she was going to dance with a “true princess.” Translation: The bride. When the time came for this to happen, Girl reconsidered and decided to stay on the sidelines. She did, however, agree to have a photo taken with the “princess all in white.”
Many a young girl dreams of her wedding day. Often it’s the stuff of fairy tales: a fancy gown and flowing veil, flowers, sparkly things, maybe a horse and carriage ride to the white chapel, where a handsome prince awaits. There’s probably a bunch of other stuff that I don’t know about because I wasn’t one of those girls.
But I see the look in Girl from the East’s eyes. It’s the same look Girl from the West had when all her friends were making their First Communion. She thought it most unfair that we weren’t throwing her a party at which she’d wear a white gown, veil and gloves. Never mind the sacraments behind it all.
But honey, I’d say, we’re not Catholic.
So? It’s not fair. Can’t we just be Catholic?
This is the young girl’s view: a day of finery and fantasy, where she is the center of attention. At 7, it’s sweet. At 25, it’s called Bridezilla.
As you near an age proper for marriage, a wedding takes on a new feeling.
It can feel like an adrenaline rush: We’re adults now. People we know are getting married.
It can feel like a knife in the gut: You’ve broken up with “the one” and can’t stand to witness such happiness.
It can feel like a migraine: best gal pal No. 10 asks you to stand up in yet another figure-assassinating gown fashioned from Korean War era draperies. Oh, and you don’t mind throwing the “bachelorette party of the century” do you?
If you are paired up and marriage is on the horizon, weddings can feel like field research as you pay close attention and take furtive notes and tuck business cards in your purse for florists, pastry chefs and caterers.
Mixed between the parade of friends’ and cousins’ nuptials are the bittersweet and the bizarre ceremonies:
Bearing witness to the second marriage of two wonderful folks who lost their spouses unexpectedly, or the union of two friends who finally found each other in mid-life.
Enduring yet another exchange between serial marryers or an obvious train-wreck involving citizenship.
Theme weddings involving water sports or vulcan ears.
At some point, the chicken dance, the garter and bouquet toss, the D.J. playlist that hasn’t changed in 20 years (“Celebration” “SuperFreak” “Love Shack”), the cake cutting and other endless rituals can start to feel played out. No longer do you see all this through the wide eyes of a young girl.
At this most recent wedding, it felt wonderful to be past all the wishing and wondering, the planning and hosting, the obligation or avoidance, and just enjoy a good party. I ate. I drank. I danced barefoot with my Girl from the East. I took bad photographs just for the fun of it.
As long as none of those barefoot pictures end up on Facebook, I’m good.