The Common Good
June 2013

To Have and to Hold (and to Serve Six)

by Ed Spivey Jr. | June 2013

When wedding bells ring, don't forget the jello.

By Ken Davis

JUNE IS A special month, particularly for families celebrating ... uhm ... something. I forget. Fortunately, ever since I read a study suggesting that cholesterol-lowering statins can cause problems with ... with ... word retrieval, I realize now it has nothing to do with getting old, which many people my age are getting these days. It’s because I’m just another victim of an unscrupulous drug industry. (Drug company lawyer: “I understand that you think you took our drug, sir, but how can you be sure?”)

But now I remember why June is special: Our oldest daughter is getting married this month, and I can use our cover story as a reminder that I’m probably supposed to do something to help out. Although darned if I can remember what it is.

My daughter’s won’t be a gay marriage, which is trending this year, but it will be an alternative wedding, one of those nontraditional celebrations that doesn’t require me to dress up and “give away” the bride. (If I was going to give her away, I should have done it well before the wedding bills started coming in.) There’ll be no church to rent and no preacher to pay. The ceremony will be outside, probably in a tent, and we already have one of those. (It sleeps four. Nice size for an intimate gathering, if people don’t mind stooping during the service.)

The problem is that she wants to invite a lot of friends and family, an inclination that has always puzzled me about marriage ceremonies. A wedding is a sacred ritual between two people, an intimate, spiritual moment of connection that shouldn’t be ruined by a bunch of other people sticking their noses in. Why have a ceremony at all? Why not just get married, say, in the back of a van, on the way to the honeymoon?  Or just go to the DMV or whatever government office has the forms that the clerk could ceremoniously—and no doubt with tears in her eyes—slide across the counter to be signed. I could quietly sing a romantic tune in the background to set the tone, and to block out the loudspeaker announcing the next available window. And then they’d be done. Heck, you don’t even have to get a blood test any more, although since they’re marrying in Virginia, they may need to prove they own a handgun. If they can’t, one will be provided for them.

But no, they want a real ceremony, even though I’ve warned them what could happen after that: People will want to eat. And somebody’s got to feed them. And then they get thirsty and want drinks. I tell you, it never ends.

At least choose a venue with a drinking fountain, I’ve suggested, which would take care of half of the problem. We could start the reception line there, and after people drink their fill the happy couple could slip out the back when everybody’s in the bathroom.

IT SEEMS TO me a truly alternative wedding would be a potluck. How hard could it be for guests to throw a few miniature marshmallows into some jello and bring it over? The serving line might require some coordination, but I’d be happy to take charge of that. As a potluck veteran, I’ve developed my own technique that guarantees a positive potluck experience (PPE).

The first rule is to position yourself close to the front of the line, where the kids have already gathered, foolishly thinking they can’t be dispersed with a simple, “Hey, isn’t that a pony over there by the drinking fountain?”

Then, free from their grabby little hands—which always take the best rolls—you can begin filling your own plate. As first in line you can load up from that one bucket of fried chicken that always sits incongruously among the decorative serving dishes. (There’s never enough breasts for everybody, so you have to grab fast to get two.) Plus, this early in the proceedings many of the cooks are still bringing out dishes, so you can pass on the yucky stuff without making eye contact with someone who wants to know what you think of his new chutney-flavored jello. It’s hard to respond as the dignified father of the bride when you’re involuntarily spewing little chutney-flavored marshmallows into the air.

Whatever the venue, it will be a nice wedding, and I look forward to welcoming a new member to our family. After all, I’m not losing a daughter, I’m gaining several tattoos.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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