Over last weekend, we went to a very wonderful and memorable wedding. Two of J’s colleagues were marrying each other – and he hadn’t even known they were dating!
In my experience, it is a rare and somewhat amazing thing to see academics in a celebratory mode.
The wedding was held in the oldest Catholic church in Atlanta. It was the first time I had ever attended a full church wedding like that, and now I can understand its appeal. I was blinking back tears at several points during the ceremony (and I wasn’t alone).
The bride and groom were glowing, really glowing. Everything was perfect.
What struck me most was the sheer joy that seemed to shimmer all around us. It was almost enough to make me miss religious community. Almost.
It hadn’t occurred to me until we were in the midst of things, but of course Ben needed some instruction at the church. He needed to be directed only once to sit up straight – I thought that was pretty good for a long ceremony at age almost-seven. What was most surprising to me was the having to explain (in a very low whisper) that when the people around him had their heads down, they were praying. I told him to put his head down too (out of respect), close his eyes, and listen. If he thought it was a good prayer, he could say “Amen” softly at the end.
We had a long talk later about prayer. He said that he talks to God sometimes, and he wanted to know what sorts of things God might want him to talk about. What was ok to discuss with God? Good question. We talked about all the different kinds of prayers – of blessing, of thanks, of community – and then we discussed what was really on his mind: the kinds of prayers in which you just want to talk to someone about something private. I explained that his beliefs about God would grow and change, just like he grows and changes, but that he could always trust God to care about his problems. Even when you don’t feel as though you can talk to anybody else, you can always talk to God. Praying is a great way to think things through sometimes, too. It’s also a time to be grateful for all the good things in your life – “Like my Star Wars Lego Playstation Game?” – Yes, and like food and air and a place to live, and like all the people you love and who love you.
The bride and groom (I’m preserving their privacy) did a really nice thing by hiring a couple of professional nannies to be with the children in attendance. Ben was very enthusiastic about the experience, and it freed us up for more adult entertainment. I had the opportunity to talk with Jennifer, who had ten years’ of experience (and it showed). She recently started this business to provide childcare for events. Each time I stopped by to check on the children, they were happy and involved with their play. I don’t think she’s got her new website up yet, but she does have an Atlanta listing for Wedding Bells Nanny Service at Craigslist. I think it’s a great idea for a business, and I recommend her very highly.
Another great wedding idea was the guest book at the reception, which held one-per page Polaroid pictures. Everyone would use the camera to take a photo, then put it in the album with their message. It functioned as an ice-breaker, too, because you needed someone else to take the photograph. I took two pictures of other people – they came out rather well.
All sorts of very interesting, smart, fun people were at the wedding and reception. There were even a couple of hilarious women with whom I could be a bit of a cut-up. I’m such a sound sponge that I had to shake off the temporarily acquired accent I picked up before I could talk to anyone else. Language is a virus!
I enjoyed great conversations with two of the bride’s school buddies who had traveled to attend, as well as a very intriguing New York couple (actually, Bulgarian and Irish) who invited us to look them up next time we’re in the city. Politics and the media were the obvious topics of conversation with a left-wing ex-pat currently living in Paris – I talked with him for almost an hour. It was also thrilling for me to meet a new faculty member in the department, a woman whose dissertation adviser was someone that I highly admire. And, of course, reconnecting with other friends there, especially on such a happy occasion, was a profound pleasure. Something about seeing those familiar faces, especially seeing them outside the university context – smiling, relaxed, enjoying themselves – really got to me. I’m so sappy sometimes.
After dinner, we enjoyed the live band, which played a lot of cool jazz, and some well-known favorites (but not “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” or any of the other horrible songs that tend to be played at weddings). The dancing was downstairs from the dinner – the space had the feel of an intimate cafe or nightspot in Paris. J insisted that he hadn’t had enough to drink to be ready to dance yet, so he gave me permission to dance with someone else. I asked someone I knew from other events – his wife wasn’t there, so that gave him the chance to dance as well. It was hilarious – we spent the whole time talking about our children. I guess I must be getting older. J did catch the last dance with me (at my somewhat joking insistence), and so I danced twice. I’m slowing down. At our wedding, we were almost the last to leave. There was no send-off – we were only staying down the street, and I didn’t want to leave as long as the music was still playing.
So much has been happening with us over the last couple of years that J and I haven’t made much of an effort to socialize. This event reminded me once again of how much I enjoy social situations. Now that we’ve finally got some matching plates, I’m going to try to get up the courage to host some dinners, maybe even a big party of some kind.
Backlit by the moon, and near to a fountain made of an original millstone from the property, we sent the happy couple off with sparklers.
Best wishes to you both, dear W and P. May you create a life together that is filled with joy and laughter and love. You’ve made a great start.