Words are wonderful little boxes. Unwrap them and they set loose smells and memories, convictions and questions.
But other times they are too small to hold the thing you want to say. So it is for me this morning. This is my fourth attempt at writing a post about officiating my first wedding this past Saturday. The little boxes contain words like:
Dance barn and
Cape Cod and
Chair soccer and
Together, those words and the hundred others swirling through my mind comprise only a small something about what I want to say.
I’ve never been a fan of weddings. When I was younger I was baffled by the artifice of it all, the shellacked hair and the stilted dances. Later, after my divorce, they brought out the cynic in me with the glib way they threw out words like “fidelity” and “forever.” As far as milestones went, they ranked in my mind somewhere in the vicinity of personal Superbowl halftime show, all flash and oneupsmanship, no heart.
But, of course, where there are strongly held opinions there lies the biggest opportunity for growth.
This wedding was different in many ways. The food was lovingly made by friends from fresh ingredients. When you bit into it you tasted the flavors and then some intangible other thing, a mix of honest hard work, loving service to a friend and celebration. The flowers were picked by the bride and her mother and lit up their containers more than dozens of identical roses ever could. The party went on for days so that instead of an awkward four-hour drink-fest filled with facile DJ chatter and a checklist of meaningless traditions, it was an ongoing conversation that allowed the collective hopes of everyone there to bubble up and be shared. It was, in short, magical. But it was not the magic of Expelliarmus. It was the magic of cookies made from scratch.
As for the ceremony, by the time it came along all my worries about officiating had long dissipated. Gone were the ‘what if they don’t like it’ and ‘what makes me qualified’ (answer: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, biatch!). By the time the beautiful bride and the happy groom came down the simple stone steps together, I knew I was only going to help them hold a conversation in which they made their hopes and promises known to their friends and loved ones. Even when the plane buzzed so low overhead that the groom’s mom joke about paparazzi seemed not that far-fetched, it was as simple at laughing at the moment.
These are some of the things this weekend taught me: authenticity always trumps pomp. Truth always trumps words recited by rote. Love always trumps obligation. Blood ties are precious yet shared experience makes ties that are strong and meaningful and lasting.
With words I seek to create signposts and turnarounds, redemption narratives and happy endings. Life is not like that, of course. I did not change in a weekend. I did not figure out love nor fend off my loneliness nor come to grips with my own romantic failures. I did not learn to be unafraid of what people think or to be untouched by annoyance. Someday, in some book, maybe I’ll claim this was when it all happened. But the truth, like this weekend, was far more subtle than that. This wedding was not precious because it was perfect but because it was honest.
That’s the word, I think.
And here’s the post from when I was first asked and wondering whether I could pull it off: The Unlikely Wedding Officiant