In a trend that will likely continue with the coming years, I have been invited to three weddings this summer. For whatever reason, in the concentric circles of social relationships, I know a lot of people who have already gotten married or will be getting married, but few of those people are willing to waste a plate on me. In the circle where most of my friendships exists, the wedding bug has been a slower to bite, so you can understand why three is quite a feat. With Black people prominently involved in all three, I’m sort of hoping the Washington Post runs an entire series on the phenomenon.
While attending a wedding can be an expensive proposition, I have to say I generally enjoy those weekends in a particularly as someone who has recently been a groom. Seeing others go through the process can be, in some ways, as unforgettable as doing it yourself.
Getting married to someone you actually want to marry is a pretty unforgettable day. Sorta. See, that ‘unforgettable’ claim needs to come with an asterisk or something, because plenty of moments are merely partially-remembered snapshots; the day is a whirlwind that is about a bride and a groom and cake and WHY AREN’T WE STARTING ON TIME? IS THE MUSIC CUED UP CORRECTLY? IS MY BOWTIE STRAIGHT? DON’T CRY. DON’T CRY. OK; FINE. JUST WIPE THE SNOT OFF YOUR FACE. WHEN IS THE SALAD COMING OUT? And pictures. Your wedding day is a blur in a lot of respects and your ability to appreciate it is tempered by the perspective of a participant as opposed to an observer. That is to say, it’s not really something you can fully appreciate while doing it.
After you’re married, watching the process closely is a different story. You can empathize and support and, above all, appreciate from the position of a person who knows exactly what a bride or groom is going through. And that knowledge isn’t reserved for the cliched (but utterly true) bouts of nerves and the final details that are, at times, mind-numbing. You’re given the opportunity to bear witness to a rite, a milestone; it’s an opportunity to welcome a friend or family member into a special collective. Many of us have gotten cynical about marriage–and for good reason–but the ceremony of getting married is something to behold, especially if you’ve done it yourself. And it’s not the marriage ceremony itself. For me, it’s the behind-the-scenes rituals that stir up a keen sense of reverence. These moments are not written into the day’s itinerary; these moments are spontaneous and organic; unexpected and breathtaking.
Last summer, I had occasion to go to California to attend my buddy’s wedding. The weekend was what I expected: friends getting together to celebrate a union and to celebrate each other–my friends and I are still at that age where advanced degrees, jobs, weddings and children reflect the accomplishments of the group as a whole. The day of the ceremony, I got dressed in the groom and best man’s suite (because I passed out there the night before). An hour or so before the wedding was to begin, the groomsmen began filing into suite, giving themselves the once-over, lining up what needed to be lined up and ironing what needed to be ironed.
Docked on a nightstand, the groom’s iPod accompanied these men as they prepared one of their own for a new chapter in his life. The banter was playful, ties being tied and re-tied as no one wanted to be the broke-down looking dude in the photos. Then Musiq’s “Teachme” came through the speakers. Suddenly but not deliberately, the mood in the room changed. Everyone still went on about their pre-ceremony chores, but there was a calm, reflective turn as these men prepared, singing along softly.
Teach me how to love/Show me the way to surrender my heart
Stopping what I was doing, I looked around the room to see if anyone else noticed this shift, this transition from boyish chatter to heartfelt expression of men.
Girl I’m so lost/Teach me how to love
How I can get my emotions involved
No one seemed to noticed. They simply went on singing softly, lining up what needed lining, ironing what needed ironing, preparing one of their own for a new chapter in his life.