Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Matrimony

Yesterday, I went to a wedding. Those being attached were friends from a previous job. A nicer couple there has never been, and for as long as I've known them, the general topic has been "when are they going to get married?"

They were married in the town square of a small Kansas town called Paola. In 2010, the population was 5,600. In the town square stands a gazebo, and they were married in front of the steps, while a small collection of friends and family looked on.

Here are some moments:

-Though storms threatened, the bulk of the rain came just as I was emerging from the Kansas plains into the northern outskirts of town. There's a country club there, a singular expression of luxury in an otherwise unremarkable horizon of green and brown. And for the exact length of the portion of the road that fronts it, it rained. A cloudburst and fast-wiper rain. Then I went up a small hill into the town square vicinity, and the rain stopped. Stopped and never returned, though clouds threatened and I repeatedly checked my anemic cell service for a hint of the storms I suspected were nearby.

-When the officiant asked for the groom to place the ring on the bride's finger, she drew a large breath, subtly quivering with the effort of staying still and calm. Her lips were slightly parted as her husband-to-be took her by the hand, as though she act of breathing was an effort. Her left hand in his, her right arm fell to her side and didn't move - no desultory touching of the gown or rubbing fingers together. Just ramrod straight.

-Performed in the square by the gazebo, the wedding felt natural and old-fashioned. It would not have been out of place for the square to have a large "Back to the Future" style courthouse or clocktower. If those ever existed, they've been cleared away.

-As the couple danced their first dance to a jazz standard, he appeared to be intermittently lip-synching to the tune. She would throw her head back in laughter, an unreserved laugh for him alone. Then they would touch foreheads and spin a little longer.

-The best man's speech was heartfelt and affecting... and about three sentences long. What need the bridge much broader than the flood?

-The maid of honor's speech was emotional, and alluded to the bride sticking by her as "everyone else left." A layered friendship over time, no doubt, and one that hinted at significant misfortunes to balance out the day's triumph.

-Our reception table was the only one to not be given water glasses. I noticed that fact again and again as the food and time went by. An encouragement to indulge in the cash bar?

-Later that evening, I had dinner by myself in a restaurant where a friend was serving. I heard her greet the newcomers at the table in front of me, identifying them as celebrating a 17th anniversary. The couple smiled at the recognition, then settled into a meal that passed by without words or much eye contact. I remarked on the contrast to the intimate and connected wedding I'd just been to, and my friend said, "You're wondering if they started out like that." I hadn't been, but my friend's assertion clarified the matter. Is that where it goes, in the course of time?

-As much as I love and adore the ceremonies, I can largely do without the receptions. I don't need to see people dancing (or to dance myself), I don't need to watch bouquets thrown or garters tossed. I don't care to be roped into a room-wide train dance: I'm here because I care about the bride and groom, not because I feel the need to "have fun."

-Another wedding passes with me being alone. I used to get invitations for "Andrew Schwartz and Guest." I don't get those anymore. For organizers, that makes me very good at plugging gaps in the seating chart, or a royal pain when trying to be seated at a table with six other married couples. I've officially been to more funerals with dates than I have weddings, and that's weird. Very weird.

-There are still some people who smoke. A lot. Scary, frightening amounts. I assume they've heard...

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