There was a time in my life when I went to weddings, lots and lots of weddings, as one after another of our friends and family were joined in matrimony. There was the year of the 12 nuptials, somewhere in the late 1980s, when my summer calendar was ablaze with big red hearts on almost all of the Saturdays. Simultaneously, my credit card bills ballooned from May to September, with lots of itemizations for cutlery and stemware and linens and suchlike. It was what we did, like the friends in Four Weddings and a Funeral. We dressed up, we showed up, we stood up front when asked, we raised our glasses and sang silly songs we wrote for the occasions. We knew Corinthians 13 by heart, especially the part about love being patient and kind. There was some tent-sliding and skinny-dipping along the way, which makes me realize how young we were, and how long ago it was that this was what we did on summer weekends, year after year. It was a lovely run, being there for the people we loved on their most important day, and it seemed like the wedding seasons would never end.
And then, without notice, the wedding invitations dribbled to a halt. We were all married, apparently. We started having kids and trading holiday greetings with photos that provided proof of the power of our DNA, as the faces of the children mimicked the faces of our cousins and college friends. There were a few christenings along the way, a bar and bat mitzvah or three or four. New ceremonies for new passages replaced the registration lists for high ball glasses and gravy boats.
Lately it’s been graduations we go to, but the run on that is coming to an end as well. We have one more to go at our house, a few more on the family front. What next?
Well, weddings, it turns out. Weddings of the next generation. Starting, for us, this past weekend. John and I got dressed up in our country wedding finery (read, nice but with sensible shoes) and headed to the home of my high school French teacher and housemother, my Beacon Hill and Cambridge home-away-from-home-keeper. One of her lovely daughters would be tying the knot, on a glorious September day, and we were invited. I rsvp’d with the same phrase our beloved matriarch Bobbie used when she replied to our invitation: “We’ll be there with bells on!”
Here’s what’s most lovely about weddings: they all follow the unwritten script, no matter where the actual script came from. Book of Common Prayer, Omar Khayyam, Walt Whitman, do-it-yourself vows, it doesn’t matter. There’s the lovely moment of realizing you’re in the right place, when you see the flowers and ribbons and “Park in the field” signage. There’s the running into people you haven’t seen for years. There’s the music, then the lull, and then the magic moment when the music begins again, and the wedding party appears. There are sweet words between parents and daughters, givers-away and spouses-to-be. There are the words spoken at the altar, or in the garden, or under the chuppah, that you feel in your heart, in your throat, as the moment, and the momentous-ness of that moment, become a physical sensation. To Have and To Hold. For Better or Worse. As Long as We Both Shall Live. Or words to that effect.
Then there’s the release, and the relief. It all went as planned, or not. The weather held off, or it didn’t. Whatever needed to happen, happened, and whatever comes next is frosting–quite literally, once the cake is cut. There will be cheers and snapshots and kisses and dancing. There will be more clinking of glasses, more toasts, words heartfelt and true. And before you know it, it’s time for one last dance, one last hug, and then time to go, with a slice of cake wrapped in a napkin.