I have never really enjoyed weddings. I usually think of weddings as funerals with dancing. I used to think weddings had better food, but then I went to a funeral that had the most divine smoked salmon platter. I once explained to a girlfriend that weddings were the last meals served to death row inmates. That once upon a time, women were nothing more than property and marriages were contractual agreements between two wealthy landowners. The wedding itself was a way of softening this truth to the bride. In exchange for a life of servitude, she’d get a big fancy wedding where she’d be treated like a princess for a day. One last hurrah before the inevitable. If I were on death row — probably because I bore an uncanny resemblance to a political prisoner who was the love of a woman I didn’t deserve and then switched places with him so he could be with her and I could kneel before the guillotine — you can bet I’d order a huge ice cream sundae served in a mop bucket.
Of course, I was just couching my fear of commitment and responsibility in superficial feminist claptrap.
But there was some truth in that desperate attempt to change the topic with a woman I was deeply, madly, passionately in like with. There is a huge difference between a wedding and a marriage. A modern wedding, for the most part, is part coronation, part parade and all regional dinner theater. A marriage is a promise made in front of all the important people in your life, because nothing reinforces a promise more than the threat of shame. That promise, of course, is to put up with someone’s crap forever and ever, or until death, whichever comes first. A marriage is packing and double-checking someone else’s parachute. But a wedding? They’re loud and gaudy circuses in lace tents.
Except for the one I just attended. Maybe I’m getting old? I’ve been off the bottle for a year, so maybe I’m having issues dealing with all of these “feelings.” Are episodes of “Dr. Who” supposed to make a man cry? No? I don’t know what’s come over me. But this past weekend, I was a groomsman in the wedding of one of my best friends. He was marrying a woman who is too good for him, which is the way it should be. I will be honest: for an entire day, my cancerous cynicism evaporated. I had the loveliest time and I can’t quite figure out why. Am I losing my edge? Am I becoming a rubber spatula? Could a wedding actually be a too-brief ritual where love ceases to be an abstraction and becomes meat and knuckles and lungs? Indifference is the default setting of the world and brutality the only real currency. Perhaps in a paradisiacal world, love is the law and beastly rogues occasionally throw parties and promise one to be dicks to each other.
For f**k’s sake, I’ve gotten more strange and boring since I stopped drinking.
Here are some random thoughts about the wedding this past weekend: don’t buy your groomsman suit two days before the wedding. Suits are entirely too difficult to buy. They’re just three friggin’ pieces. Men should be able to buy suits the way pit crews change tires on NASCAR stock cars. I should be able to walk into a department store, get mobbed by five dudes, and in record time, have a suit constructed all over my body. Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t try to hem your own pants. I figured out a complicated and delicate architecture under my pants legs to keep me from looking like I had shrunk in the night. We’re talking pins, thread and duct tape.
Being a groomsman is the closest most dudes will ever come to being a part of the Navy SEALs. We are a dapper phalanx of bros who have one collective job: watch the groom and the bride’s backs.
Having an Englishman read at your wedding service should be standard protocol at all weddings. There were so many lovely readings at the wedding I attended, but, man, that Englishman could have read the Taco Bell menu and I would have thought I believe in love. My point is: “Love, Actually” will outlast the collected works of Shakespeare.
When the bride appears quickly glance at the groom. Give him a telepathic knuckle bump. Do not actually give him a knuckle bump. Brides are beautiful not because of the dress, but because love is the ultimate fashion accessory and cosmetic.
All wedding reception should have a surprise dessert buffet. Seriously. The menu says “cupcakes,” but then in the other room, BOOM, dessert buffet. What a delight to watch people decide which pie is a main course pie and which pie is a side dish pie.
If you don’t know your etiquette, and there will be someone who knows, just be nice and apologize a lot. Best man toasts are like piñatas that tick like bombs. Everybody is freaked out by the ticking, but then it explodes and candy showers down. I gave a best man toast once, and I sweated like a donkey in a sauna. So, also pity that dude.
Tell the flower girl she looks very pretty. Tell the groom you are very proud of him. Listen to the toasts and clap, but don’t say “HUZZAH” because weddings are irony free zones. You may drink a glass of champagne and have another glass of champagne waiting for you on the table. You may not double fist glasses of champagne. [What about cutting a rug with a bottle of champagne at 3 a.m.? -- Editor]
Shake the hand of the father of the bride. Even if you don’t really know him. Thank him. Have one last slice of pie (your third). Watch the groom, your friend, glow like a jar full of firebugs. When your friend is like a big brother to you, you seek his advice, prize his respect and try to make him laugh. His happiness is your happiness. So when his happiness doubles, it is only right that, for a night, so does yours.
I’ll tell you the best part of being a groomsman, of standing up there at the altar, is being able to watch the bride’s face as the vows are exchanged. You stand up there and you can see the joy ripple across her face, as if love is a smooth white stone skipped across a pond. You can see your friend reflected in her trembling eyes, your friend who once drank beer out of brown paper bags with you at dawn, and you think, This guy? She’s in love with this guy? Does she even know him? And then you pause and smile, because yes, yes she does. She really does.
Pat the groom on the back as much as you can. Feats of courage and daring can never be congratulated enough. Love is three verbs: jump, fly, float.
Check out more of The Frisky’s Wedding Survival Guide here!
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