Many of my close friends, much like your own, could tell you about me, as your close friends could speak about you. Not those things random people see on the surface, or the seeming reputations we hold. But rather about our real selves.
I’m aware I have a reputation—as a never-married 38-year-old man—of a guy who fears commitment and avoids the thought of getting married at all costs. Granted, I spent more than a few years of my life enjoying non-committed “relationships,” some longer than others. Some much shorter than what would be considered relationships at all. I might have even broken a couple hearts, although it was never intentional or without remorse. In short, I am partly responsible for the reputation.
The point of all that is to explain one of those less-known aspects of my personality, known only to my close friends. I. Love. Weddings. I am a romantic.
Despite being a realist and understanding that unwavering happily ever after doesn’t exist, I do believe in mostly happily ever after. I hold contradictory ideals on love. I believe in love at first sight. I also believe that you can’t truly love someone until you really know them. I believe another person can complete you. I also believe that no other human being can fill a void within you until you have learned to first love and accept yourself. Love, as an ideal, is utterly imperfect. And that is why I love weddings. They are the result of that ideal tying everything together.
I had the pleasure this last weekend of being part of a wedding. Beyond merely witnessing it from the pews as a friend, I had the honor of being asked by the groom and the bride to stand up with them as a groomsman. Although I have missed many weddings due to work obligations in the past, I refused to let this one be another added to the list. This wedding was special for me.
Cory—the groom—and I met roughly thirteen years ago. I couldn’t tell you the exact memory of our first meeting. There was no grand event that brought us together. We had mutual friends and found ourselves spending time in the same circles. I liked him. I thought he was funny and seemingly intelligent. He was a nice guy. I enjoyed his company. He appeared to enjoy mine as well. I assumed that was how it would remain and nothing more. Two acquaintances who would chat casually when with our mutual friends.
At some point, Cory began working in the same bar as myself. I bartended while he ran the karaoke. The sad part of working in the bar industry is that after everyone else has had the chance to imbibe and go home, the employees find themselves wide awake, often desperately needing cocktails themselves, and with no place to buy booze or find company after hours. Thus, Cory and I began our many nights of sitting in the bar after hours, having beers we’d purchased and put in the well earlier, and talking as only two grown men alone in a dark bar can do. No girls to impress. No group of guys insisting on “man talk.” Simply two men who could discuss life, love, failures, and aspirations over beer and cigarettes without worry of judgment or ridicule. It was in the dusty, smoky haze of a bar with a horrendous green carpet that reeked of stale booze and shame that I found one of my dearest friends to date.
Tara (pronounced TAW-RUH…you’re welcome, Tara)—the bride—only came into my life about two years ago. She decided to compete in a karaoke competition in which Cory and I were rivalling team captains. Cory chose her for his team. Upon first meeting her, my initial summation was that she was pretty, quiet, and polite. Two out of three ain’t bad. Tara is polite. Tara is pretty. I’ll leave it at that. What I quickly discovered about her by seeing her through Cory’s eyes was that she was young, intelligent, and vibrant. Tara has a zeal for life and an infectious smile. She’s caring, religious, and old-fashioned by many of today’s standards. She also had an uncanny ability to steal my friend’s heart. That all made her pretty amazing in my book.
As such, I wasn’t about to miss this wedding. And to be included as a member of the wedding party made me feel even more exalted. It isn’t often we are able to stand so close to something truly special.
I’m absolutely not saying it went perfectly. It was a wedding. Which means there are too many moving parts for it to go on without a hitch. A flu plague attacked civilization that weekend. About 30 guests called or texted to let them know that they regretfully couldn’t attend because they weren’t able to keep anything down or up. One of the groomsmen ended up in the ER the early morning hours of the wedding day with kidney stones. The temperature was in the single digits. I lost the top button to my tux just before we began pictures and had to race to the store to get it fixed. Two of the groomsmen were forgotten at the church when we left to have said pictures taken at another location. After the photos, the same groomsman with kidney stones (and one of the two left behind) went airborne on a patch of ice and landed without a parachute. Yeah, he was having a very rough day. The bride’s father, while delivering a speech during the ceremony, had a bit of trouble pronouncing his own daughter’s name. There was a moment when it looked as though the unity candle wasn’t going to light properly.
That all sounds like the workings of some cheesy rom-com film. I swear to you, it is all true.
The turnout for the wedding was solid, the pews nearly filled with smiling friends and family. Luke—aka Kidney Stones, aka The Forgotten Man, aka Flying Groomsman—made it through the day with admirable smiles and Vicodin. The chill outside was lessened by the warmth felt when the bride and groom looked at one another. My tux was repaired just in time for pictures. The bride’s father not only managed to get out his daughter’s name, but delivered a loving and thoughtful speech. And all candles were lit beautifully.
Tara was utterly stunning in her tasteful and elegant dress, so unlike many of the gaudy monstrosities chosen by other brides. She and Cory spent the day laughing and speaking in intimate whispers that, while unheard, suggested bliss and comfort in one another’s company. Likewise, they both handled every “hitch” in the day with grace and level heads—most importantly, they did it together. Some friends who had not seen each other for great periods of time fell into old stories, new laughter, and created more memories. The bride’s father surprised her by playing a phenomenal recording of himself singing The Way You Look Tonight for the father/daughter dance, which brought tears of joy from more than just Tara herself. And Cory’s nephew, the ringbearer wearing a t-shirt reading “Ring Security,” celebrated Uncle Cory and Aunt Tara by dancing his ass off at the reception.
This is what a wedding is supposed to be. A slew of imperfections that result in a perfect day.
Am I incredibly grateful to have had a front-row seat to this?
Will I remember that day with a quiet sense of exuberance even years from now?
Do I have a little more faith that love has a way of finding us?