It’s hard to believe, when one is standing over a pile of grimy white folding chairs at eleven a.m., surrounded by a Pinterester’s nightmare of wooden crates and beer growlers and baby’s breath, that a wedding is going to happen in a mere six hours’ time. We’re short a table, unless ten folks want to try to jam ten pairs of adult legs under a table more ideally intended for six or perhaps eight; the high winds knock over fragile centerpieces, spilling water already discolored from plant matter in cascades over the rented robin’s-egg-blue tablecloths; there aren’t enough scissors or extension cords or wine glasses, the latter issue having already sent no fewer than four relatives on a desperate errand to Party City the previous evening.
Donna told me, when I was panicking the night before my own wedding, that things always come together, and that it was important to remember that it would be one of the very few times that so many people I loved would be all together in one space. I imagine something went wrong at my wedding, but who could say what anymore? I do remember all those people in that one space, and the way it added up to the only memory that really matters: that of being surrounded by love at the moment Dakota and I promised more of that love to each other.
Today I missed being back in the space in which we had our wedding because I was on my way back from my sister’s wedding, the epicenter of the aforementioned crafting storm. Just as Donna said, it was perfect and nothing else mattered by the time I saw my little (ha!) sister walking down the aisle with her now-husband. If anyone noticed a stray zip-tie holding the fairy lights to the inside of the tent or a bit of recently mown grass still stuck to a chair, well, they were kind enough not to mention it.
Perspective is important at a wedding. She had asked me to attend to the iPad holding the various wedding playlists, which included playing the song they’d chosen for their first dance, the Mountain Goats’ “1 John 4:16.” I’m still in formation as a fan of both the Bible and the Mountain Goats, so I had to look up both the scriptural reference and the lyrics to the song today when I got home. (Genius.com unexpectedly took care of both.) 1 John 4:16 is the source of “God is love”; the full verse is, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath for us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” And the song is, as far as I can tell, about looking back on a relationship that fills the narrator with a sense of comfort and strength even when things look darkest:
In the cell that holds my body back, the door swings wide
And I feel like someone’s lost child as the guard leads me outside
And if the clouds are gathering, it’s just to point the way
To an afternoon I spent with you when it rained all day
And someone leads the beast in on his chain
But I know you’re thinking of me cause it’s just about to rain
So I won’t be afraid of anything ever again
Perspective is important. Two weeks ago, my grandfather was in the hospital and we weren’t sure he’d be able to come to the wedding, but there he was with my grandmother. And then, too, others weren’t with us—my mother’s parents, my new brother-in-law’s mother. And we remembered them, with photographs and musical tributes and toasts throughout the evening.
Still, we remember what, and who, was there. If we forgot the big bubble-blowing moment, who could forget when we saw them dance back under the tent for the first time as husband and wife? Who could forget the guests who slid off to the side of the yard to watch the Sixers game projected on a white sheet tacked to the fence, Philadelphia sports fanning being a full-time job? Who could forget, even, the esprit des corps of being mothers and sisters and brothers and fathers on a still-damp lawn on a Saturday morning, less than twenty-four hours removed from torrential rain storms, picking up the tulle-draped archway again before deciding to just let it sit and cursing the whole process, then coming back a few hours later after showers and coffee and maybe half a glass of wine and dabbing at our eyes with wads of dinner napkins?
Things come together, place cards and table assignments, couples and families, and so many of the people my sister and brother-in-law love were together in one place, and they will not be afraid of anything ever again.