The other day driving in the country, we found ourselves behind a small silver Honda, banged up, a bit rusty and worn by many winters. Hanging on the back was a faded, wind-lashed sign that looked as if it had been there for years: Just Married.
I love the season of weddings.
The mother of a son, I love being let in on conversations about dresses and flowers and rehearsal dinners. What kind of event to hold, and how to make the ceremony meaningful and fresh?
I love the details of fixing up the house, gardens and patios, so that they look their best. And when it’s show time, who doesn’t well up, hearing the processional music, watching the children clumsily strewing flowers down paths in advance of the bride, or listening to the low, earnest voices of the couple – who we knew as little ones, building Lego castles on our living room rug — as they exchange vows?
Maybe I’m getting soft with age, but I actually loved that Honda, decked out with its silly poster. Just like I love looking at the photos, long after the event is over, and remembering who I was standing next to for the toast, what new friends I made, how the cake tasted (after all the hand-wringing over who would bake it), who had a bit too much to drink.
Weddings are about so much more than the event itself. Even in this age of casual, and Lazy Susan “life choices,” they are great, life-defining moments.
I am grateful beyond words to be included in the joy, and am always good for a glass of champagne. But more than this, to attend a wedding involves me, as little else can, in the narrative of a couple’s life going forward — which, those of us older than the young couple know, will never be as easy as they imagine. If children come, I will feel a kinship that only such moments of belonging inspire. If careers wobble or change, if help is needed, by standing in the company of witnesses, I am saying in so many words, “I will be there for you.”
And when, as the years go by, the albums are pulled out for laughs, I am grateful to know that I’ll be part of the memories, as those friends I no longer see are dear players in my own. To be invited to a wedding confers a special value. It is intimacy shared with those who matter most.
This is one of the geniuses of the old notion of sacrament. In the strict meaning of the word, a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward grace. But the power of sacrament is its communal nature. A thing is made holy by being shared. In few places is this as obvious as at weddings.
I have been a guest at two weddings this season, both the children of dear friends. The planning, the crises and fine details became, over the course of their year-long preparations, the stuff of friendship’s growth and the deepening of already-close ties. When there was a conflict over the dress, or the need to sample wines, these became threads of conversation. Even before they happened, weddings drew us closer on countless morning walks and long-distance calls; long after they are past, a new richness informs our bonds.
They are the way that we sustain a sense of continuity, of belonging, of family.
The silver Honda brought it all back.
It can be easy in these times to feel left out in the cold, so how wonderful to be welcomed into the warmth! We’ve sipped champagne and danced and felt the joy coursing through us. We have welcomed a beautiful young woman from South Carolina and a talented, funny, infinitely kind young man from Connecticut, into our circle of beloveds.
We’ll cherish those good times with friends who have become family until we fall off our personal chassis.