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March 24th, 2009

Two Weddings

Two weekends. Two weddings, one in Massachusetts, one in Virginia. One couple in their early 20's, one in their late 40's. One was Quaker-form, with contra dancing afterwards. One was Conservative Jewish, with Israeli dancing. Both were smallish, as weddings go. Both were simple. Both were very lovely and moving.

The thing is, you don't need The Wedding Industry to make a beautiful wedding. You don't even need a caterer, if the bride and groom both cook and have a lot of enthusiastic and well-organized friends to help put the wedding feast out (and are young and have a lot of energy and a reasonable-sized kitchen). You do need music. Live is best, but recorded will do. You need food and plenty of it. Wine is optional--the Massachusetts wedding was teetotal, which made remembering the figures of the contra dances easier. Remarks by friends and family are as important as the ceremony itself. In the case of the Quaker wedding, they were the ceremony. A nice venue is helpful--both the old town hall in Mass and the synagogue in VA were exceptionally beautiful spaces--but I went to a wedding last fall at City Hall in New York which not even the most New York-besotted eye could not call aesthetic, and that was one of the most moving weddings I've been to in ages. The bride's dress should be what she's comfortable in--hand-me-down GunnySak or hand-dyed silk tunic from Israel or black vintage from a costume closet. Whatever it is, she'll look beautiful.

What these weddings had in common (apart from the obvious affection and mutual respect of the couples involved) was the tremendous goodwill surrounding them. They not only loved each other, they were loved, separately and as a couple. Every person in those two rooms was happy for them, rooting for them, delighted that they'd found each other, looking forward to being part of the family they were creating together. Which the wedding itself reflected and prefigured.

And here's the thing. At the end of almost every wedding I've been to, something turns up missing. A glove. A scarf. A hat. In rare instances, a wedding present. I didn't hang out at the MA wedding until the last minute, so I don't know what it was there. But at the VA wedding, it was a slender gold chain bracelet, possibly flung broadcast during the Israeli folk dancing. A sacrifice to the marriage-spirits, perhaps. That's my theory, anyway. Have any of you noticed this, or am I completely in the grip of mythic pattern-brain?

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