Abby's Road: The good juju of weddings
When I was in elementary school, a new student joined my class after the school year had started. He was introduced during circle time. The teacher asked where he was from, and he told his rapt audience that he was from South Paris.
I went home and bragged to my sisters that a boy from France not only attended my school, but he had also gotten snack milk with me that day.
I do not remember the day I learned that there is a South Paris in Maine, and that my friend hailed from that version of Paris. It was something of a disappointment that my young brain repressed with apparent success.
The fact of his provenance has been the biggest downside of a friendship that has now lasted approximately three decades. I went to all of his basketball games, he came to all of my plays. When I turned 18, he baked me a cake that he covered in blue frosting and then presented at my front door with an actual curtsy. He inscribed my senior yearbook with teasing remarks about my very large head size and an offer to marry me.
Instead, he attended my wedding 10 years ago, and last weekend, I attended his.
The ceremony was presided over by his father. This man summarized everything I love about weddings in a way only a minister wearing Birkenstocks can.
He remarked at the positive energy that everyone assembled was sending to the new couple. He marveled at the power of love – the magnetism that cements two people who once were strangers, and the force field that draws in friends and family to acknowledge this example of love’s manifestation. He boiled it all down to “good juju.”
I sat there, nodding my head and trying not to cry. It was the closest I’ve ever come to considering yoga.
Weddings are about so much more than white dresses and place settings and party favors. In fact, that fluff is like topping the perfect chocolate brownie with ice cream: appealing, perhaps, but completely unnecessary. Weddings are about two people choosing each other, and being celebrated for their choice.
Weddings are also about commemorating the two lives that are becoming a single shared life. Praise is lavished, adoration is expressed, anecdotes are shared. The only other time that happens on such an unabashed scale is at a funeral, and then the person you’re celebrating can’t really enjoy it.
No matter how well or how long you’ve known someone, you always learn something new about them at their wedding. You travel to a venue they have identified as meaningful, you meet people who have significance in their life, and you see how they react in public when the obligatory Michael Jackson song comes on. Perhaps most meaningfully, you hear, in speeches and toasts, the reasons why other people love your friend as much as you do.
The most important part of any wedding is, therefore, a reliable microphone. Without some projection, the gathered crowd cannot experience a sister’s speech or an old friend’s toast as the live documentary it is meant to be. There is a laugh track, there are plot twists, and there are tear-jerkers that we share as a choir thrilled to be preached to.
My wish for every bride and groom is that they forget about the details that day so that they can focus on absorbing the sentiments vibrating their way. Perhaps never again will so many be gathered to reflect so positive a message: we are so happy for you, and so hopeful for you. Also, we’re so ready to dance.
At last weekend’s wedding, I did spend the night on the dance floor. Towards the last song, I watched four men I’ve known since they were boys throw their hands in the air and jump, only to land in an awkward but enthusiastic group hug around the groom. Yes, I thought. That’s exactly how I feel, too.
I considered the prom a waste of time. I do not throw birthday parties for my children. But I will always happily RSVP to a wedding. I guess I’m just a sucker for good juju.