This weekend I went to a wedding.
It was the first wedding I’ve been to in about fifteen years. More importantly, it was the first wedding I’ve been to in which a friend’s daughter was the bride.
It felt a bit surreal to be at this milestone. This was different than when Katie and Jackie used to play “wedding” and argue over who got to take on the self-described roles of “bide and broom”! This was the real deal.
Suddenly, we are friends of the parents. We are middle aged guests respectfully seated in the middle of the reception room, just far enough from the blare of the band to be able to barely hear each other talk across the table. We are in the middle of the age spectrum as well, not as young as the cronies of the newlyweds and not as old as the elderly grandparents and other miscellaneous relatives. The bride and groom are at the beginning of their journey, we are in the middle of ours.
The men in our gang are fortunate if they are gray and less so if there is no longer hair of any color to speak of on top of their heads. The women still turn out well but have hems that cover the slightly sagging knees that are tell tales of our maturing age, and heels that take their toll on bulging bunions and achy lower backs. The last words I heard my girlfriend utter resolutely in the wee hours of the evening as she hobbled toward the hotel were, “I’m never wearing heels again!” The young ladies we left at the bar post-reception were toned, tight, tipsy and still teetering on impossibly tall heels with no regrets.
Always a sucker for the iconic sappy moments in a wedding, I have been packing tissues and dabbing my eyes for years beginning with the opening organ chords when the bride majestically walks down the aisle. Jeff usually shakes his head in weary recognition of my tendency to gush. Not this time. He and all his fellow dads were snuffling and trying hard to catch the water pooling in their eyes before the tears streamed unabashedly down their cheeks. Jeff turned to me and practically sobbed, “I’ll never get through it!” Every single one of them was seeing the bride not as the young woman she had become but as the little girl she had been.
The dad-daughter dance had a poignancy that we never experienced in the past. The men at my table sat stoic in common reverie as tears welled up on cue. The usually jovial man on my left grabbed my arm as if for support and mumbled through sniffles that his daughter, now in her mid-20s, didn’t even have a boyfriend. The relief on his face was transparent as he did not feel quite ready to be dancing that duet just yet.
We all didn’t feel quite ready to be in that position. The moms all joked that we should start taking notes now so we are prepared when it is our turn to host the festivities. The dads mostly bonded together at the bar drinking away any of those thoughts and reveling in acting juvenile, recalling their glory days.
This band of brothers has been together since college, and for nearly thirty years we have celebrated our families at various reunions and on special occasions. Never ones to act our age, we mugged for the photo booth and tore it up on the dance floor, twisting and shouting on cue. The father of the bride commented at the brunch the next morning, “I had to step back for a moment and let it all soak in. I watched all of you together on the dance floor as you shimmied down low before jumping up and down with arms waving wildly in the air. I thought to myself, they look no different than when we were the ones getting hitched!” He smiled with pride at the memory.
And he nailed the dilemma, placing us all once again smack in the middle, reminiscing our youth on one hand and celebrating our maturity on the other with this rite of passage.
Do I take this phase in life and promise to cherish it?