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I attended a wedding yesterday which initially felt like an anticlimactic event. The bride and groom had lived together for 22 years, they have 2 lovely daughters who are nearly adults, 2 cars and a long-term mortgage. Although marriage is ordinarily a traditional event, there was an extreme effort to remain absolutely non-traditional. In fact every effort was made to tip tradition on its head. At this I believe it was a resounding success.

I found myself pondering the same question that many had on their minds, but none of us (with one exception) were nosy enough to ask:  Why after all this time would they even bother to get married? What would getting married gain for them personally or as a couple?

My first answer was not terribly complimentary, and along the lines of “anything for an excuse for a party.”

My second idea was ” this will certainly be a spectacle.”

I had visions of hordes of people crowded into a small space sheltered from the sweltering sun by nothing more than a few random hedges. A mass of sweaty jabbering bodies eating, drinking, and talking at once.

This is truly my idea of hell.

I loathe big gatherings of people. Add the heat, and small space and I’m instantly wishing that I had tickets on the slow boat to Siberia over rough waters; have I mentioned that I’m prone to seasickness?

As the families newest member I’m required to make nice and appear at all the family gatherings with some level of enthusiasm. These things assemble not only the usual crowd, but extended family members tend to fly in from the four corners as well, so one must meet and greet aunt so and what, cousin what’s her name ,and uncle that guy. I must say before you think otherwise; uncle, aunt and cousin were as described earlier in the car, that is to say they are lovely, interesting and engaging people.  See you on Tuesday!

Some people are energized by a crowd. Some people enjoy large gatherings and can’t wait for the next fancy dress affair. Some people should have their heads examined, because clearly you’ve run amok and should go find a quiet spot to gather your senses.  OK, it’s true I’m not an extrovert. Crowds suck the life out of me and leave me wishing for a dark quiet corner in which to read Tolstoy or Steinbeck or Anne Rice, or as a last resort  Ann Landers. Barring anything engaging you may find me playing angry birds with the sound turned off.

So big surprise and understatement; I wasn’t looking forward to this. I dreaded the date. I dreaded the people. I dreaded dressing up and making nice faces at perfect strangers for hours on end.

I was right on most counts. It was an excuse for a party, and a spectacle, and there were a lot of sweaty but very well dressed people in attendance.  I came to realize that the purpose of attending that steamy Sunday afternoon gala was not the party, or the spectacle, or the hordes of hungry masses, but to witness two people standing with their children attesting to the love they share with each other and with each of us. What we attended was clearly not a wedding. What we attended was a celebration of life. Not an after the fact celebration as during many funerals; you know the kind, when it’s too late for farewells and well wishes. No, not that at all, but a living breathing blending of hearts, minds, and bodies in a small space creating a memory that each of us will carry with us.

For the wedding I bought a book by Clarissa Pinkola Estes,Ph.D.,  called The Gift of Story; A wise tale about what is enough, which I read over breakfast on Saturday and subsequently kept for myself. This happens with me on rare occasions. The premise of the small 40 page tome was that stories supersede lives, good stories live a life of their own, and live a new life in the retelling.

The story of the happy couple as told by friends, family and their daughters was a revelation to me. I gained a new story to add to my collection and during the span of an afternoon I somehow began to understand two people who had been a complete mystery to me. I had seen them from the perspective of others, from an older sister, from loving parents, a niece; all complimentary images but not complete ones. Not accurate from the inside until now.

I find myself being thankful for the invitation that I didn’t want to accept. For being thankful for attending the reception that I didn’t want to attend. For being thankful for being included in your celebration when I didn’t want to celebrate.

I understand that while you may have already committed the oath in practice these last 20+ years, it is especially important to share the vows you create for each other, and for others to hear them spoken aloud with your own voices so that they may share your joy. I get it now. I really do.

Before I forget; there are two special thank you’s for the entertainment, the singers and musicians who lent their special talents, and the young woman manning the photographers booth. You are all exceptional! and Brilliant!