As I was leaving, a massive hand stretched out of the crowd again, to shake mine again – George the photographer.
Massive hands you can’t forget.
After many months of preparation/anticipation . . .
I attended wedding of friends last evening.
Because I was asked to speak.
Hah! … double that, then add a bit.
I met George – groom’s Shriner buddy, photographer – arrived early for similar reasons to mine, but also to capture early action as guests and couple-du-jour arriving amid last minute table settings and décor placements unfolded.
Fancy camera. Many buttons, lens adjustments – SLR, digital of course, unlimited capacity on massive memory stick. Pockets loaded with extra batteries for camera, for flash, George shook my hand with his, the size of hams (XXL gloves wouldn’t fit this man), yet he handled his equipment with dexterity of playing a miniature violin. Before evening was done, George, now like a brother from another mother – each time we crossed paths and chatted more, encounter ended with another hearty handshake.
Observing little things ‘not according to plan’ amused me– mostly, nobody notices or cares but anxious bride flitted about in search of solutions. Ceremony began scarcely late at all – it took place at the front of a lovely room designed to seat 65 (by then populated by 90+), just before appetizers and dinner. Precariously tight – next to that small but oh so prominent table set just for two, preacher Brian led brief ceremony punctuated by minimal pomp, adequacy of solemn words, and generous humour. Layout and tightness of the room precluded lots of standing/sitting maneuvers. Short service was great, went without a hitch. Seated at the back, I was observing one of the young servers, seated with her boyfriend (neither would be more than 16) enjoying fervent hand-holding, presuming I suppose that all eyes were on the ceremony . . .
No questions, ‘friend of the bride or groom?’ were posed.
I went to a dinner, wedding too, all wrapped in one.
A simple wedding they said it would be, mostly it was.
No wedding is simple.
Amid artfully orchestrated details, things run a little late, some things get slightly skewed, some forgotten altogether.
Nobody notices. Nobody particularly cares as long as two people end their day on a happy note, nobody breaks a leg, everybody has a good time and happy couple ends their day – celebrates their start to life as Mister and Mrs., husband and wife, for living and for life.
First marriage for both – 54 and 61 – no need for entourage, no limos or veils or trains, no flower girl, ring bearer or elaborateness.
Personal touches in décor, menu and catering were clearly ‘all Guy’ or ‘all Lyn’ . Both decked out in black and red and both thrilled – you could see.
Years from now, nobody will remember my Toast, or glib-bits of others – photo memories will suffice. I’ll remember massive hands of George, hand-holding servers and one precious conversation between bride and I and minister Brian, discussing whether there would (or would not) be a grace before dinner – this chat took place just moments before bride and groom were to walk themselves down that narrow aisle between tables – as wrong music suddenly filled the room, Lyn blurted ‘oh f___’ and went rushing off to solve someone’s music mishap. It was the recessional music (K.D. Lang’s Hallelujah), cued early by mistake. There was no grace. Combo of those three elements colliding is a memory Lyn would probably want me to forget, but that’s a memory that will stick.
I arrived early, to survey room layout – get a sense of how Lyn’s program logistics might play out for Emcee and Toast bit later on, sound-checked the microphone and assessed whether a loud voice would do the job better.
Après dinner, time to test my skills – nearly 10 years a Toastmaster, knowing this couple reasonably well though not long (they chose me because I am the only person who knew them both before they knew each other). I was confident my material was sufficiently researched, vetted, rehearsed and apropos for this audience.
I left out one bit, might have been too mature/too inappropriate for some – otherwise, I led off as planned, took my time, and was thanked generously afterward by many for doing a good job. I think I captured information I was given – left out parts I was urged to leave out – focused on high points and funny parts, gave guests insight to shy Guy, less shy Lyn, invaded their funny-bone sensitivity, and ended with them both still, I hope, as friends.
Afterward chat’s with Guy (was his speech about his late mother too long? … sure it was a little long, but it was something he needed and wanted to do – when, other than then and there could he have done it?) and Lyn (her pace and heart-rate no doubt slowed) demonstrated they had survived, as everyone who goes through it manages to do, some of what it is like for me on a trip to the dentist, over quickly, then left wondering why there have been so much anxiety!
I wasn’t family, neighbour or long-time colleague of bride or groom, not fitting really with those who fit typical criteria of wedding invitee. I was Emcee, giver of the Toast – little bit roast (or slightly sautéed) messages for couple, to inform/entertain guests, tidbits they didn’t know, insights they didn’t have and to end on serious tones to invoke well wishes, loud cheers, and clinking glasses, following my lead . . . ‘To Lyn and Guy, long life and success . . .
As I publish this – Lyn and Guy are holding court (and hands too I hope), over brunch with their out of town guests, as they get ready for next steps, their 6-week honeymoon trip, departing Thursday.
Work will wait.
Clients will understand.
They’ve earned the right to do and enjoy, like so many of us have at much earlier stages of life, no marriage is without hitches/glitches – travel safe my friends, and stay between the ditches.
column written/ published from Calgary
morning walk: 14C/57F, partly cloudy – a warm Victoria Day holiday here – light breeze, yard working folks are busy around the neighbourhood, planting and pruning, coaxing new life from old things and planting seeds of new in hope they will bloom and flourish
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