A coworker of mine is getting married in a few months and having the ceremony take place on the edge of the Grand Canyon. That’s pretty brave, if you think about it. Anytime someone can get married and instantly collect on a life insurance policy with a well timed shove you have to ask yourself just how much you trust that other person. A bad marriage is supposed to ruin your life, after all, not end it immediately. Also, advice such as, “Be careful,” and “Watch your step” is more effective when given well in advance of a wedding, and not after you’ve committed.
Still, my coworker doesn’t seem phased by all of this, even when I point out to her the ominous statistics, namely that 100% of all people who get married will wind up dead at some point in their life. And if that doesn’t give you pause, consider this: After you get married, you’ll find yourself looking forward to proving that statistic. There is no better way to drive a wedge between people than to marry them to each other. In a matter of months, married people find themselves getting into insane arguments about the most ridiculous things.
Wife: Well, I don’t know how you did it in your house when you were growing up, but I can tell you for a fact that in homes containing people with more than a third grade education, the dial inside the refrigerator was always set to 6.
Husband: That’s an interesting cultural difference, now that I think about it. In my culture, where we prize women who aren’t complete whores, we set the refrigerator to 5.
Husband: Five, you harpy!
Those of you who have never been married may read that and chuckle to yourselves, but to anyone who has been married for a while, it is all too familiar. Married couples will invent any number of reasons to fight: Toaster settings, tire inflation levels, you name it. Now I’m going to refrain from using real-life arguments that I was party to when I was married, but I will tell you that if it is possible to get into an argument over the proper abbreviation of Physical Education, it is possible to argue about anything.
But people keep getting married, and who am I to tell them not to? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way, I was asked that at the last wedding I attended.
Me: Don’t do it, dude. Run for the motherfucking hills!
Groom: Who are you to tell me not to get married?
Me: The best man! You gotta listen to me!
Priest: Look, just give him the ring. You’re making a scene.
Me: Your funeral. (Shoves groom into Grand Canyon)
I didn’t attend my first wedding until I was 22. This is because my parents were thoughtful and considerate people who would never bring children to a wedding because it is considered bad form to give the bride and groom a false sense of what parenthood looks like. Kids are generally not dressed to the nines and on their best behavior for more than 13 seconds at a time.
Actually, there was a wedding that took place a year before the first one that I attended, but I wasn’t invited. No one was, in fact. My roommate, in a shrewd and well thought out move, married the first woman who allowed him to do more than serve her food, although she certainly didn’t mind when he did that because she weighed close to 300 pounds. This didn’t represent a problem to my roommate because he looked like a cross between a mule and an autopsy. They were, in some really tragic ways, perfect for each other.
I found out they had gotten married as I was sitting on my porch, drinking beer with a friend. I was speechless when I heard the news, but my friend was a little more frank in his assessment: “Why the FUCK would you go and do a thing like that?”
My roommate hemmed and hawed for a full 15 seconds before uncorking this absolute gem: “Well, insurance rates are lower if you’re married.” What a romantic. (Yes, he really said that in front of the woman he had married a few minutes earlier. No word on whether or not he has gotten laid yet.)
The next wedding was a little more traditional in that it involved telling other human beings about it before it actually occurred, and the reception involved more than going into the kitchen and eating Pop-Tarts. The wedding party consisted of two of my roommates, who were swell people in my book, if a little compelled by recent events. That the bride passed on the traditional champagne toast was a fact not missed by many in attendance.
My friend Jim, who was a drinking buddy of mine and the guitarist in the band I was in, summed it up nicely for everyone when he said, “I sure hope you guys know what you’re doing.” Jim and I spent most of the reception, actually, laughing at each other. The wedding required that we wear a suit of some sort, which as poor college students we didn’t have. We looked like a couple of drunks fell down in a Good Will, which was in fact where we got the alleged suits we were wearing. If I recall correctly, Jim’s suit was plaid, while mine was made of polyester and sadness.
I went to a rash of weddings in my early twenties, as my contemporaries seemed to think that getting married was The Thing To Do. A former high school classmate of mine got married the afternoon after an epic bachelor party and showed up for the ceremony looking green. I mean literally green. The best man told me shortly before the ceremony started that they had just smoked a joint to calm him down which may account for the fact that he barked his vows at his bride as if he was a drill instructor.
A went to a few weddings in Las Vegas, which is ideal if you don’t have anything to do other than attend: They let you walk right into the chapel with a cocktail in hand. It was kind of surreal, to tell you the truth: The casino chapels are filled with brides at all hours of the day and night, and the priests circulate amongst the guests for five minutes, expertly picking up on the vibe and tailoring their service to match the situation. So it was that I heard the priest tell the same joke in three successive ceremonies, coming across as alternately spontaneous, hopeful, and wistful in such a way that everyone agreed that it was a Very Touching Ceremony© brought to you by the Mirage Hotel & Casino.
(If you’re wondering why I attended three ceremonies in a row, it’s because they tend to be quick affairs, and I didn’t want to get distracted and miss the one I was interested in, which would have been easy enough to do: There was video poker and a bar within 50 feet of the chapel.)
As you can imagine, a wedding reception in Las Vegas is ideal for 20-somethings. The newlyweds made no bones about their post-wedding plans. “We’ve got the rest of our lives to fuck,” said the bride. “We got married in Vegas so we could all have a blast!” And we did have a blast. My date was told that she could have the floral centerpiece on our table, which was as useful to us on the Strip in Las Vegas as a 30 foot wide doorknob would be while running a marathon. So we drunkenly decided that the nice looking old lady who was shuffling down the street might appreciate it more than we did. Old ladies love flowers, right?
Me: Excuse me, miss?
Old Woman: (shoots nervous glance at us, begins shuffling faster)
Me: Miss? Hey! Miss!
Old Woman: (shuffles furiously, begins whimpering)
Date: Hey! HEY! WE HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU! COME HERE!
Old Woman: (shuffles at Olympic record pace while saying a rosary)
Me: (catching up to old woman) Here! This is for you!
Old Woman: (screams)
Me: What are you doing? They’re just flowers. Here, take them!
Old Woman: (screams)
Date: Let’s get out of here!
Only in Las Vegas do the police routinely put out APB’s on people engaged in random acts of kindness.
Another wonderful part of that wedding was meeting this guy named Clint, who was a teacher on an Indian Reservation in the Four Corners area of Arizona. He told me about how he was greeted as the reservation’s new teacher: He was asked if he minded giving someone a ride to the liquor store but wasn’t told that the nearest liquor store was 135 miles away. He came back five hours later with 6 Indians in the car, a trunk full of booze, and the begrudging respect of the people he’d be seeing in parent/teacher conferences in a few short weeks.
Clint showed up to Las Vegas with three dollars in his pockets. We made sure that he didn’t have to pay for drinks, so he felt free to gamble a little. Very little, or so we thought. He sat down at a three dollar blackjack table (we were in a strange little casino called O’Shea’s, which has cheap blackjack), and by the time we thought to see where he had gotten himself to, he had a stack of chips in front of him. “How much is that?” his best friend asked.
“$400,” was his reply.
His friends practically dragged him away from the table before he could lose all of that money. For a bunch of 20-somethings in Las Vegas, $400 was a small fortune. The next day his friends informed me that when they woke up, Clint was not in bed. He had snuck out that night to gamble a little more. When he returned, he had over $6,000 in cash on him.
I noticed that the weddings I attended became less about drunken frivolity as I got older. The people who were getting married were doing it less as a lark and more as a lifelong commitment, a change in focus that required thoughtfulness and reflection, two things that are in short supply when you’re doing tequila shooters. Still, booze is almost always present at a wedding, and I witnessed a fair amount of classic wedding drunkenness over the years.
Everyone thought the 14 year old relative who was illicitly quaffing the dregs of everyone’s leftover cocktails was a real hoot until he took a face-first header down a flight of stairs and had to be wheeled out on a stretcher, repeating the same phrase over and over: “Issallright! Issallright! I’m gonna get married someday!”
I witnessed a best man’s toast veer into the weird when a story about innocent love somehow turned into a mild Vietnam flashback. Pro-tip: When the words “Charlie” and “napalm” appear in your best man’s speech, it is time to wrap things up.
I saw a classical guitarist hired to play during the ceremony get into a fistfight with the band playing the reception when one of the band members called Django Reinhardt a “two-fingered queef”.
Another time my date and I ditched out of a wedding reception we had attended out of a sense of obligation more than anything else. We really didn’t know any of the participants. We hopped across the street and into a shitty little dive bar named Rollie’s. There, at the end of the bar were the bride and groom.
“You’re not here to bring us back, are you?” asked the groom.
“No,” I replied. “We… We don’t really know anyone, so we came over here for a little breather.”
The bride laughed, “Us too! My mom wanted that kind of wedding. We didn’t. So we’re gonna drink ourselves stupid over here, and we’re not going back.” We sat down with them and helped with the stupid-making for a while. Fifteen years later, they’re still married.
Which says about as much as anything else about the importance of a wedding. I understand that people want to do something special to celebrate such a special occasion, but in my opinion, way, way, WAY too much emphasis is placed on all of the wrong things: Whether the napkins should be eggshell or bone; who has to sit next to Aunt Gladys and who is going to remind her to change her adult diaper after the ceremony; whether or not the bridesmaids would look more horrible in neon purple or hangover green.
People should worry about the important things, such as whether or not the ceremony should even take place, and whether or not it’s smart to hold it right next to a gigantic fucking gorge.