Every spring, newspapers and magazines carry advice for brides on how to stage the perfect wedding.
This weekend, my wife and I mark our 23rd anniversary, an occasion to remember a wedding that wasn’t perfect. Maybe no wedding ever is.
Our catering was a confused choreography, with guests staring at empty chafing dishes, then having no forks when the food finally arrived. We prepared to toast our new marriage, only to discover the Champagne glasses had gone missing. Someone was supposed to pack a box of reception victuals for us to enjoy on the drive to our wedding night, but in the confusion of the afternoon, that didn’t happen, either. Hungry beyond words, we instead shared our first meal as man and wife at Burger King. A stomach bug working its way through the wedding party claimed us as victims within a few hours. We cut short our honeymoon and staggered home, the start of our marriage ushered in not with bubbly, but Pepto-Bismol.
In the weddings I’ve witnessed over the years, the imperfections are what endure in memory. They’re what made the moment real, rather than some variation of the fantasies cooked up by Hollywood.
In California, known for its reliably bright skies, my friends Stuart and Anula found their wedding day dampened by rain. As Anula walked toward the church, a battalion of umbrellas shielded her and her beautiful dress from the afternoon shower. People she cherished were protecting her, and she must have known, shaded by all that love, that a community was committed to her happiness as she began the greatest adventure of her life. None of it would have happened if the weather had been ideal.
At a wedding reception for another couple I know, the best man rose to deliver a toast he’d worked on for days. The microphone failed, and despite his best efforts, no one heard a thing. But his smile as he raised his glass to the bride and groom proved more eloquent than words.
Two Decembers ago, I attended a wedding at Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans for my friends Merrill and Jared.
The holiday timing of the ceremony brought a complication that apparently no one had anticipated. As the wedding began, a boisterous Christmas parade passed by the front door. Solemn scriptural readings competed — unsuccessfully — with a saucy rendition of Eartha Kitt’s “Santa, Baby,” the ballad in which Kitt breathily beckons St. Nick to “hurry down the chimney tonight.”
Only in New Orleans, I thought to myself, would the sacred and the sexy live within shouting distance of each other. The bride and groom giggled, giving everyone else permission to enjoy the yuletide wedding crasher.
The new couple was learning that weddings, like life, aren’t perfect. But when shared with the partner of your dreams, they’re as good as it gets.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.