A wedding can be more than just the bringing together of a bride and groom. The regathering of people, some estranged, can be an opportunity for ruffled feathers to be smoothed. No one has to take the first step in a terrifying game of relational “chicken.”
We have reached an age where most of our snail mail falls into two categories: Junk or Bills. I used to enjoy seeing the mail truck work its way down the street to our house—dreaming of surprises and fun cards from family and friends. I confess I even hoped for an unexpected check…or as I would say to the kids, “One day when my ship comes in….”
Sure enough, one day I did receive a check, a residual check from SAG (Screen Actors Guild) for a film I had done. I pawed at the envelope with visions of Colorado trips and updated wardrobes dancing through my head. Tear...Rip...Reveal!
ZERO?! NADA?! Yep. Though I earned eight whole cents, the Social Security Administration seized it in full. And so I was issued a check for absolutely nothing. Talk about humbling.
After that, I rarely visit the traitor on the street. Len comes home and asks about the mail and I shrug my shoulders. "Not gonna fall for that again." He will make his way to the mailbox and return slapping the contents on the table with a comment like, “Well, that’s the biggest bunch of nothing I've ever seen.”
The one exception is the occasional wedding invitation. Those come in attractive envelopes with precision handwriting—often calligraphy—a stark contrast from the poorly printed: “EMERGENCY LIQUIDATION! EVERYTHING MUST GO!”
Of course, with the privilege of each wedding invitation comes the responsibility of helping the happy couple set up house. I stand in the gift shops with my mouth agape. "Seriously? A plate costs that much? Maybe just a saucer? Wait...that spoon looks nice…and everyone needs a spoon…even this apparent royal couple must eat cereal now and then. And since they are madly in love…they could share a spoon.”
Lest I skip the most harrowing part of the process: Women attending “a wedding event,” agonize over what to wear. Let me reframe that statement. When I was a young woman raising small children, any outfit would do—including one still wet with spit-up because "I have a sitter and, by God, I am getting out of this house!"
But now as a middle-aged woman, one who is painfully aware that I will be seeing everyone in our little community who is still breathing, there is work to be done. I need to cinch up the thighs and gut in the greatest invention since makeup—Spanx, cover up the pasty white, alligator-skinned legs in tights (thank you, designer gods), and ratchet up the ole breasts to somewhere near their original height.
Fortunately, I have friends who are really good at this whole dress-up thing. I stand in dressing rooms all over North Louisiana and take selfies which I then send to my more fashion-forward compadres to get the green light before purchasing a dress. And for those who thought you would never use high school math after graduation, you have obviously never ventured into the ultimate undergarment geometric problem of bra strap configurations to accommodate the various frocks with their sneaky sleeves and sheer panels.
Then there is the footwear conundrum. I shamefully confess, a small country could exist on the gasoline I burn to go find, buy, and then return hundreds of pairs of shoes—shoes that I have to work like a runway model at Tisdale’s house to get final approval. Then we take this transformation party to the accessory room where she bedazzles me with bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Seriously, I need to have my woman card revoked.
At last we all arrive at the blessed event—buffed, starched, folded, licked, and glued into place like paper dolls. There are beautiful flowers, string quartets, girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, and the main attraction—two individuals who are agreeing to abandon their lives of singleness and become united until death does them part.
While you would think this moment, i.e., the actual ceremony, is the most important part of the day, you would be wrong. At least in the self-absorbed world where most of us live (but lie about our address and pretend to reside on a better street). To us, the reception is the meat of the celebration. These unsuspecting love birds have merely created a social setting for all the old chickens to come to roost.
Since birds of a feather do flock together, it makes sense we are all invited to the same event. Invitations are issued to family, friends, and business associates. This offers the opportunity to catch up with people who rarely land in the same zip code--and an equal chance for awkward encounters with those who now fly in different circles.
Unfortunately, in barnyards and real life, kerfuffles happen. We peck, and squawk, and then un-flock. Relatives hold life-long grudges even as they gather around the proverbial elephant for holidays, funerals, and weddings. Friends who would have died for one another years ago now think they will die if forced to engage one another. But a wedding is a holy opportunity for some ruffled feathers to be smoothed.
Sadly, I have found myself, at times, holding onto estrangement like Gollum's ring from Lord of the Rings. I am learning “my Precious,” of hurt, anger, pain, and fear holds the power to destroy my own joy unless I choose to destroy it first.
Now I like to look at the wedding reception as a “free zone.” No one had to take the first step in a terrifying game of relational “chicken.” And, perhaps an aunt, dad, daughter, or friend, will even be open to the possibility of healing.
So there you have it. I am a fan of the whole big scene. The bride and groom, the attendants, curly-headed children in mini suits, savory food, wine, silly pictures, laughing, crying, music, and dancing. It is a celebration! The air is thick with promise, love, and hope…and hope has a way of coaxing out the better versions of ourselves.
Like migratory birds, we might fly off for a season, but in the end we simply want to come home and live with our flock.