Drawing Back the Veil: Thoughts on Weddings
I like to have something to do with my hands at weddings.
For years, I have volunteered, as early in the process as possible, to do anything a hopeful bride could think to ask of me. When she wasn’t particularly good at delegating, I would suggest tasks. I have been out tasting cakes and choosing wedding invitations at several stores. I have put together those same wedding invitations. I have helped bring out food, calmed fly-away hairs, and fetched emergency sunscreen. I have personally walked through the buffet line to get food for the bride and groom.
These are only the sort of things that I have done for free. I have also photographed several weddings in my day. If you are reading this and you desire to hire a wedding photographer, I am happy to suggest someone else. Those days are over.
I don’t know what it is exactly about a wedding that seems to snap me to attention. I am a hopeless romantic, and I’m hoping for a wedding someday, but even more than that, I love to be near romance. I love the sweet little looks exchanged between the bride and groom. I love the way the flower girl always seems to be twirling (or getting into trouble). I love the hopeful way that every bride seems to think that her wedding will be different, that people will dance.
This spring, I read a book called One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. It was written by a brave journalist named Rebecca Mead, who talks frankly and conversationally about what weddings used to be, and what they have become, in America. The friend who recommended it did so with a caveat: “You can never go back,” she said. “It will change you.” I recommend the book to you with the same caveat. Friends, it changed me. (And I loved every moment of it).
Over the years, I have bought into weddings, hook, line, and personalized garter. I have sighed and cried and reveled.
I have a wedding Pinterest board.
It wasn’t exactly that I fell out of love with weddings. But I did begin to wonder about the emphasis that I, and those I knew, placed on that one day. I began to think that I wanted to break up with the American wedding.
The ways that my thoughts on a (potential) future wedding have changed over the course of reading that book, as well as many frank conversations, are beyond the scope of this post. I will simply say that now I am concerned mostly with the liturgy, and those in attendance, (and that I will probably not wear a white dress).
But so far, 100% of the weddings that I’ve attended have not been my own. It was these weddings that I thought about as I read Rebecca Mead’s book, as well as Jen Doll’s funny, heart-aching memoir-in-essays, Save the Date. I thought about the tiny bags of birdseed that I’ve stuffed and the labels I’ve affixed, and the times that I uttered the phrase: “Whatever you want. This is your day.”
In the midst of processing these emotions, I was invited to a wedding. It seemed the perfect opportunity to work through some of these ideas, at least in my own mind.
As I arrived at the wedding, I saved my seat with a cardigan and a bag and moved to get a program. Everywhere I looked, there were people helping. The large tent held kiddie pools of ice, laden with potluck dishes the guests were bringing. Someone was lighting candles and opening bottles and managing music and flowers. For the first time, perhaps ever, I decided not to offer to help. I would not be codependent at this wedding.
I chatted with people I knew, explored the grounds a little bit (the wedding was hosted at the groom’s father’s house, in the country), and spoke briefly with a horse.
I took my seat.
I listened to the ceremony, taking in the words everyone was saying to one another. I am a word person, and as much as I have liked the frippery in the past, I have always loved the words more.
I walked through the buffet, not waiting for everyone else to be served. I even went back for seconds.
I hugged the bride, and took lots of pictures. I borrowed a two-month-old baby to hold for a little while, during the speeches.
Then, when all of that was over, the music began again in earnest. Reader, I danced.
After the revelry was complete and the band of friends had begun tearing down the tent, and packing presents and flowers into Uhauls and pick-up trucks, I snuck off for a moment to the grassy area beside the house.
There had been enough children in attendance that the hosts had ordered a large bouncy castle. To my elation, it was still inflated.
I kicked off my shoes and stepped inside, barely making contact with the smooth floor, before I started jumping as high as I could (surprisingly high). For just a moment, I was weightless.