July 30, 2012

Confessions of a Wedding Guest.

Photo: Jill Shropshire

It’s the day of the wedding, and I’m trying to squeeze my sweaty ass into a pair of neutral-colored Spanx.

I wish I hadn’t eaten an entire bag of greasy tortilla chips the night before. They were covered in sea salt and delicious. But now I’m as bloated as a corpse that’s been left out in the sun to rot. I have what looks like a Jackson Pollack painting on my new dress courtesy of my melting make-up.

As I try to recover the wreckage of me, I look into the mirror and say Remember: You love weddings.

And seeing as how I’m not the bride, this should be an easy thing to remember. The bride has all the pressure and thank you notes. I get to sit around and drink free booze and eat catered food and embarrass myself by doing the electric slide (one thing I never have to remind myself to remember no matter the level of inebriation). I should look at it as a fabulous, free night. In my broke state, this alone should make me gleeful. I look in the mirror and say who the hell are you trying to kid?

I hate weddings.

Yes, they’re pageants of love and commitment and a free and fabulous night out. Yes, I’m usually happy for the bride and groom. They are people I generally adore and want the absolute best for. It’s wonderful to see them all spiffed up when I’m used to seeing them in ancient Pixies t-shirts. I feel the love. I get it. All that good, though, comes with a buffet of hurt feelings, maxed bank accounts, alienated friends and painfully blistered feet.

I’ve never been a bride, so I’m speaking from the cheap seats in the back.

I’ve been to at least 20 weddings in my lifetime. I was a flower girl in the first wedding. On our way to the rehearsal, a black limousine slammed into the yellow cab that my grandmother and I were in. My poor grandmother missed the wedding because she was strapped to an IV in intensive care. I walked down the aisle with a basket of flowers and the remains of a pretty gnarly shiner.

The marriage ended in divorce. Sometimes the universe whispers. If you don’t get the message, it shouts from the sunroof of a wedding limo with a bullhorn. This couple should have gotten the message.

So, perhaps weddings and I got off to a bumpy start, but there were plenty more in my future to change my mind.

The teen years were relatively wedding-free, but it picked up in my 20’s. Those weddings were cheap and relaxed and could be quite lovely. My friends, all of whom were desperately poor, would throw together some home-cooked food and a fiddle player and recite vows on a mountaintop. Casual dress. BYOB. No gifts (unless it’s the much-appreciated bag of weed). My kind of party.

Somehow, even those warm, ramshackle ceremonies had a dark cloud of stress over them. I was shocked to see my friends crying before the ceremony. Not out of nervousness or passion, but fear and hesitation. There were worries about the weight that they promised they’d lose to fit into “the dress.” Weight they didn’t lose, and here was the reckoning day. I’ve seen many a bride surrounded by friends and mothers as they attempt to cinch and zip the dress. Once zipped, the bride spends the rest of the night smiling and trying to pretend that her gown isn’t quietly killing her.

Once again, this is what I, as a guest, observed. I saw relatively sane friends who were dedicated to Chucks and punk rock turn into angry, white-sheathed monsters with a bad case of O.C.D.

Do you think the flowers are too pink or not pink enough. How should they plate the food—potatoes with the sprig of rosemary garnish or nothing at all? I want the cake icing to be smooth but not smoothed down. I want to see the texture of the icing. Can you see the texture of the icing? I hate jazz, but he likes jazz. Should I get a jazz band? How the holy hell can I write vows when I flunked English. Help! Sara…Sara.

Yes. I’m here. I may have zoned out before the end. The cake caught my attention. I’m still on that.

Photo: Sara Lovelace

I want to shake these friends of mine and remind them that nobody gives a shit about the texture of the icing—they just want to eat the stuff.

I know things have changed a bit with Facebook. The incessant posting of every detail of the wedding—right down to the bell-shaped confetti covering the dance floor—has made it even more of a production. Maybe food pornies do want to see the texture of the cake. I don’t know. But I’m a guest at your wedding and I’m shoving it into my mouth and washing it down with cheap champagne, dammit. I could care less how many likes your cake gets.

I recognize that my role in my friends’ weddings is to be support staff, ready with a copy of Betsy’s Wedding, Xanax, and the invitation to a yoga class.

Though I’m in a very committed relationship at the moment, I’ve been a proud member of the single class for my entire life. I don’t see my single status as anything to be ashamed of. For me, not getting married is a choice. It’s not a burden to bear, and I’m not having Miss Lonelyheart nightmares, thank you very much. Given that, my friends trust me to not interrupt every ten minutes with you know what I did at my wedding.

In this whirlpool, my role is to love my friends and provide a life raft if needed.

The wedding is between the couple, but the ceremony is so often about the love of one friend for another. Men don’t usually give the napkin rings more than a second’s notice before going back to more pressing thoughts like boobs. The friends are the ones who will stay on the phone until their brains are buzzing with potential tumors to hear the prognosis of the missing charger plate.

So, the wedding day was upon me, and I was upon an uncomfortable fold-out chair in a tent in humid July. Brooding. Then I started to really look around at the tables, most of them filled with women. The bride was Indian, and her female relatives sat resplendent in vivid saris of purple and pink. They leaned into each other, held hands, laughed, and took bites off their neighbors plates. All the women there gathered with each other like this. Hugging, squealing, dancing and emptying another glass of wine. I noticed that most of the men had mysteriously disappeared.

So now I think I’m starting to soften. A bit. Maybe.

And I want to tell you brides out there that your husband has made a lifelong commitment to you, yes. I’m so happy for you.

But we, the guests and bridesmaids, have also made a commitment to be by your side–through richer or poorer, sickness and health. We will be by your side if this marriage explodes into a thousand reams of divorce papers. We will by your side if you remain blissfully married for all your days. We will hold your hand when you get bad news, and celebrate with you triumphantly when much deserved good news comes your way. We’re all in.

Given this, worry less about the plating and more about the pleasure of seeing your friends making fools of themselves on the dance floor. They will—and you’re expected to join them. So take off that boa constrictor dress and dyed shoes and bust a humiliating bridal move. Pray somebody is taking candid shots.

May you love, honor, and cherish your friends all the days of your life. Give good party favors. Shiva knows we’ve earned them. Namaste.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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