Lighting the unity torch

Nothing in life is more telling about a person than their wedding ceremony. Weddings reveal the couple’s faith, world view, and most importantly, their favorite color patterns. I’ve been to a wedding where the priest compared good love to eating a cheeseburger. I’ve been to a wedding where the “priestess” had the groom slide a rose in a vase full of water to symbolize “love.” I’ve been to a wedding where the guests sat on hay bales and the theme was “gettin’ hitched.” And as of last month, I’ve been to a wedding that was “disturbing.”

The virgin bride

The most notable fact about Katie’s wedding is that the bride, my old college roommate, was a knockdown, drop-dead, blonde virgin. This might not be unusual if she had been, say, 16. But to see a 30-year-old woman saving herself for marriage is, well, I don’t know, refreshing? It certainly is rare, as was the “submission” theme of the wedding. Her father, the pastor of the church, conducted the ceremony, and emphasized the Biblical order to “submit” to her new husband, respect him, and make him the spiritual head of the household. The groom was given the hard job of simply loving a smart, successful, and attractive woman for the rest of his life.

Since the re-election of George W. Bush, I didn’t think anything more could shock me about this country. But the fact that most Christian churches still believe that a person’s genitals determine her spiritual worth is truly astonishing in this day and age.

It was like attending a wedding where people of color are denounced, and you’re the only guest who isn’t a member of the Klu Klux Klan. I wrestled with whether to walk out, protest, or sit in silence. And though I have deep respect for women’s rights, my good manners won out and I simply fumed in my seat.

Matron of honor

Fortunately, my sister’s nuptials this Labor Day weekend should be more politically correct, but just as entertaining. My job, as “matron of honor,” is mostly to keep my mother from running the show. I’ve already started this job by refereeing the wedding program. My sister, in a moment of insanity, asked my mother to type up the program, not recognizing that this might give my mother absolute control over the actual ceremony.

The first sign of conflict was when my mom me called to complain about my sister’s selection of music. “Can you believe she asked her neighbor to sing, ‘Crazy Love?’ What kind of song is that?” she asked, and then announced that she wouldn’t type “Crazy Love” on the program, but put, “C. Love,” instead.

I’m sure all the guests will be puzzling over what the “C.” could possibly stand for, and why one would need to abbreviate the word “Crazy.”

To my sister’s chagrin, my mother also decided that she wanted to play a piano solo during the lighting of the unity candle, which wasn’t in my sister’s plans at all. My sister couldn’t outright tell her no, so she pointed out the obvious fact that a candle might not stay lit during an outdoor wedding.

This argument didn’t deter my mother. She suggested that they light a unity torch instead of a candle. Now, admittedly, I find great amusement in imagining a bride and groom each lifting two bamboo yard torches to light another bamboo torch, but I had to agree with my sister that this idea was a little gauche.

Special thanks to…

My mother complained that my sister was going overboard on the “Special Thanks” section of the program, and I had to agree. My brothers were thanked for being “champagne servers.” “The President of the National Hereford Association is titled, ‘Champagne Server’?” my mother asked. As if serving champagne was below my brother’s stature in the world.

My sister was sure to thank her cake server and guest-book attendants. As a former “cake server,” I can tell you these positions were created simply for the bridesmaid rejects of the world. It’s no honor. The last time I did it I was nearly mugged by a line of hungry children who couldn’t understand that cutting a round cake in 300 perfect squares is actually pretty difficult.

And then there is the guest-book attendant. You have to be pretty low on the wedding totem pole to be offered this spot. It takes no special talent, no rehearsing, to be a guest-book attendant. Maybe if the bride remembered that you had hunted down someone in high school and hurt him until he signed his name in your yearbook, you would actually be qualified for this position, but otherwise, you can be assured that you are the most untalented person in the wedding party. Even the candle lighter is more prestigious, because this person actually has the power to burn the church down.

Salad scissors and quesadilla makers

The whole idea of a registry is pretty weird. This is my sister’s second marriage, and even though her kitchen is full, she still chose to register for wedding gifts.

I was curious about what she “needed,” so when I spotted a $40 “Quesadilla Maker” on her registry, I nearly dropped my beer. My God! Quesadillas are possibly the easiest food item to make in the universe. Even college football players without a hope of graduating can make these things. The most useful item on her registry was the $70 foot massager, because that is one job even your spouse would refuse.

As for my virgin friend, I decided to give her a coffee maker instead of the stainless-steel salad scissors on her registry (the only two items I could afford), thinking that a coffee maker might somehow say, “I’m a good friend” more than salad scissors.

But truly, nothing can say, “I’m a good friend” more than showing up for the big day. Whether you’re the guestbook attendant, champagne server, or just a plain old guest, nowhere else can you witness human flaw, human character, and human tragedy like a wedding. So let’s raise a toast to the bride and groom, may they live happily ever after and always eat the perfect quesadilla.

Janelle Holden survived her own wedding ceremony and lives with her husband in Montana

From janelle holden, September 2005.