Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Put your body next to mine and dream on.

If all you want is the short version, then here it is: I am now wed, and I have the funky piece of metal on my hand to prove it.

And if you have no interest in the incredibly long and drawn out version, read no further.

As I was drowning in the endless anxiety that I understand is normal for weddings, a friend wrote:

Many congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, and all the best to you both. And I'll keep my fingers crossed for rain. As they say in France, 'Mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux'. However, the weather during our civil union in Vermont was dazzlingly sunny--but then it was early July--and yet I think we've done tolerably well.

Lucky me, that I have such a collection of sensible friends, who know how to give the advice that lessens anxiety. Believe me, friends, I have taken every bit of it.

(Special thanks to my seminarian friend: I used her advice again and again, sometimes in jest, sometimes under my breath.)

It did not, as it happened, rain, so I have to be hopeful that my union will fare as well as my French-quoting friend's. In fact, even the oppressive humid heat that typifies summertime in my hometown broke just in time for all the festivities.

(Which is more than I can say for the mosquitos and no-see-ums. Note to self: sack-like voluminous dresses at garden parties allow the little blood-suckers all the way up into places that do not need mosquito bites.)

And festivities there were: we had a smallish (by which I mean about 15 instead of about 95) dinner on Thursday, then an Italian-themed rehearsal picnic on Friday (featuring a gondola made from a kayak with rudder add-ons, a beer cooler in its seat, and none other gondolier than a scarecrow featuring the PP's enlarged photograph face, with a most fabulous curly moustache painted on), then the wedding itself + reception, then a party at my parents' house (more fabulous food), then a brunch on Sunday.


But despite what everyone says, I remember a lot from the Big Day.

I was thrilled and surprised that my 80-something year-old great uncle and his wife could be there. He is the brother of my mother's natural father, who was killed in World War II, and when his reply card arrived, there were immediate celebratory phone calls throughout the family network. My great-uncle and great-aunt charmed everyone at the wedding with their fabulous dancing and good spirits, not to mention the fact they had driven all the way from Buffalo for the occasion.

We had a terrific collection of family and friends reading in the ceremony. Two of our friends from here officiated (although no church or state has vested authority in them), the PP's sister read from Song of Songs, my father read three poems he had written (which were by turns overwhelmingly touching and then hilarious), and a dear friend from here (who vied with my great-aunt and great-uncle for Most Likely to Charm the Wedding Guests Off Their Feet) read a tribute to our parents. The best part was that although we had worked with her on that tribute, and written our own vows, we had not read or heard my father's poems or our officiants' words, so the ceremony was mostly new material for us. What a thrill to listen to wise people say wise and emotional and hilarious things in your honor!

We had chosen two officiants because we wanted a balanced statement of a lasting relationship, and the couple who spoke have been good friends of ours ever since we have been together. I loved it that they each wrote parts of their words, and then combined them, because both their voices--so different from one another--were there, as were words from Plato, Margaret Atwood, and e. e. cummings.

And in my father's poems we could hear pieces of our quotidian existence turned and returned into little finely crafted pots. Recognizing many of the stories around which the poems were built, I got to see those moments in a new way, or through new eyes, or with more insight, that made them feel important, revelatory. The first poem was called "The Wedding," and it imagined the wedding itself as an unruly child, willful and ready to take over your life, even as you wanted it there. The second, "The Poem from One to Together," began with the word "one," and imagined how two very different ones might get along, ending, as you have probably by now guessed, with the word "together." Rereading that description, it sounds hokey, which it definitely was not. The last, "Your Wedding," took my almost obsessive fascination with penguins and turned the entire "congregation" into a waddling, wobbling conglomeration of the funny birds.

We had enjoyed writing our vows together, too. We knew that we wanted original vows, but I was afraid that, being the emotional sap that I am, I would not be able to deliver mine audibly. Plus, we were a little uncomfortable at the idea of vowing different things to each other. So we wrote them together, trying to hone an entire relationship's worth of feelings into about 9 vows. (Granted, some had multiple parts.) Then our officiants read them aloud and we repeated them in unison. We alternated between more abstract and more concrete visions of our relationship. A number of folks complimented us afterwards, although the vote is still out over whether "I vow either to cook or clean up but rarely both" or "I vow never to comment on the condition of your study" was the most resonant.

Given the high praise, the PP, of course, is working on how we might sell them.

Another highlight, though, was our first dance. We had wrestled with that one, because all the songs we really love got tricky for that moment, given the complications that real life throws into one's own relationship and that pop music has the privilege to ignore. We finally settled on "Handle With Care" by the Traveling Wilburys, and decided that given the perky nature of the tune and our vision of the wedding as being a communal experience, we would ask everyone to dance with us. We arranged for a number of "audience plants," so that people would believe the DJ when he asked them to get up and dance. And to our amazement, they did! The little dance floor was completely packed with our family and dearest friends dancing and laughing and remembering this old hit, and realizing that they too had been beat up and battered around, that they've been robbed and ridiculed, that they still have some love to give, and that they still needed somebody to lean on.

I have decided that getting married when you're older, when the world has hit you in the face a few times, is fun. Neither of us believed that this was or would be the most important day of our lives. Neither of us believed that every detail had to be perfect, as if it were some kind of storybook fantasy. Neither of us freaked out when the DJ was caught in tunnel traffic and so arrived about 2 hours late. I, for one, did not worry--and I don't think the PP did either--that my body was not what I would have hoped for in my wedding pictures, because is it ever?

And neither of us ran away to Las Vegas, because ultimately, it was just a big party. OK, so really it was five big parties in a row, and maybe we are a little too old for that. But I love the memories of our family and friends' words in the ceremony, of the audience giggling at some of our vows, of everyone dancing around and laughing. Because if a wedding is not about dancing around and laughing, what is it?


Anonymous said...

I'll vote for "I vow either to cook or clean up but rarely both", though I suggested that Amitai start working on "I vow never to comment on the condition of your study" for me...

Thanks so much for having so many parties and for including us!

Isis said...

We were sooooo glad you could be there! And thanks to Ami for the pictures: I haven't quite ventured into the CD's yet, but I am looking forward to them.

mtnRoughneck said...


"May your house always be too small to hold all of your friends." - Irish Blessing

Anonymous said...

my heart is full after reading your stories. i can hear your father's voice in my head and it makes me wish i had brought one of his books along with me for the summer. you and the pp are my heroes and i can't wait to hear more from you. plus, how cool that all this happened in your hometown!

(i'm also VERY pleased that my comment got so much mileage. it's useful and adaptable to a variety of situations.)

peace and continued community (in the best sense of the word) to you both...

Isis said...

Hi SF, send me your address by e-mail and I will send you one.

And mtnR, that is about the best blessing I could imagine!

Tim said...

Yes, but how about the implied dichotomy between "I vow either to cook or clean up but rarely both" and "I've been uptight and made a mess/but I'll clean it up myself, I guess"?

Sorry, couldn't resist. Congrats to you and the PP, whom I hope to meet someday. And hope that your life together is as richly full of wonderful contradictions as all good writing.

Isis said...

Hmmmmm, tim, as a friend of mine says, "good pointillisme."

But you know, the more I think about it, everytime I get uptight, and insist that I will clean up my resulting own messes, the PP always insists on helping. Nobody told me that would be one of this crazy institution's perks!