I’ve married people in all sorts of places – from town halls to “posh” venues. Yet so often the weddings that move me deeply are the small, unassuming affairs. They are the kinds of weddings that I think about again and again, over a cup of coffee the next morning or the next year. These lovely little weddings occur in the corner of someone’s living room in front of a china cabinet or in a back yard under a blossoming apple tree.
The bride is always beautiful in a freshly ironed dress. The groom is always handsome in a freshly laundered pair of Dockers and a crisp dress shirt.
I glimpse the people who come to stand up for the marrying couple. They are family, step- and god-parents, great uncles and cousins. They are friends, next-door neighbors, baby-sitters, co-workers and best pals since kindergarten. They are great grandmothers stooped over walkers escorted by two giggling children who kiss wet marks onto their dry cheeks.
Before the ceremony begins, second cousin Barney reads a prayer from the Torah. Then, neighbor Sandra sings in perfect contralto a verse from Ave Maria. Afterwards, step-brother Brendan, Irish on his mother’s side, is keen to recite an ancient Celtic blessing.
After the ceremony, more often than not, a grandmother offers me a glass of champagne. “Eat with us. Stay,” is the refrain, for by sharing this sacred hour and space, I have become part of them – the easy gathering of loved ones connecting to one another in unfiltered delight.
Yes, these lovely little weddings are the ones I often remember fondly. These weddings that may not cost more than a few hundred dollars. That pulse with vitality and acceptance, with love and togetherness. That sweep the bride and the groom (or the groom and the groom, or the bride and the bride) up into a cloud of tender regard and a promise that says: “We will be there for you. We believe in you. Dare to love. Dare to be happy together.”
For I have learned that this is the other, usually unspoken, promise made on a wedding day – the promise and commitment of all those open-hearted family and friends to support this union for the rest of their lives. Yes, this is what can make a wedding lovely, no matter the cost.