Diary of a Wedding

by Joe Lavin It's not every week that I wake up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to put on a tux, but hey it's also not every week that I am the best man in a wedding. I'm someone who has always avoided all ceremonies, so being best man for my friend Mark's wedding to Cynthia is one of the more surreal experiences of my life. I'm honored, but it's still surreal. Practice makes perfect, so they say. We meet in the Catholic Church the night before for the rehearsal. Here, the marriage coordinator, a very proper and picky woman, tells us all what we must do. I'm psyched because it seems that I don't have many duties before the ceremony. I just stay with Mark and keep him calm. The coordinator does remind me that I must also "do what needs to be done." I don't know what this means, but it sounds very cool. Seth suggests it might involve killing off ex-boyfriends of the bride should they appear. Seth, who I know from high school, is one of the three ushers, along with my close friend Matt and Mark's college friend Colin. While I only have to keep Mark calm, we find out that the ushers have serious work to do. They will be seating people, escorting the mothers at the start of the ceremony, and even rolling a little carpet down the aisle. They will also be answering any questions people might have about the church. This is the most amusing part. "Not only do you seat people." The wedding coordinator tells them. "You are also the representatives of the church" Little does she know that she is talking to two devout atheists and one devout agnostic. Matt, for example, has never even been in a church until this very moment, and now suddenly he's become the spokesman of the church. Next, our coordinator explains to Teddie, the six-year-old ring bearer, what he must do. Unlike us, Teddie is not at all worried. He informs her that he already knows all about it because he recently saw the movie Arthur. I'm impressed. I too have seen Arthur and don't have a clue of what I should be doing. I am shown where to stand, and Noelle, the matron of honor, suggests that I should make sure not to lock my knees while up on the altar because I could get weak and fall over. I thank her for her advice, but this is the first time I have ever known that this could possibly happen. I begin to develop a complex about it. "Yeah, well, I'm best man. Bite me." This is my response to Matt's sarcastic "Gee, you seem to have a lot of trouble dressing yourself this morning." comment. He is right, of course, but I have never worn a tuxedo before. I think I am entitled to some confusion. The tie is just a simple strap on tie, and it still takes me a few minutes to figure out. I am just thankful that I don't have to deal with a real bow tie. It is early Saturday morning, and Matt is staying with me. Neither of us are morning people. Hell, we are not even early afternoon people, and so we are not in the most garrulous of moods right now. Because I had decided to rework my toast the night before I have only gotten about four hours of sleep. Matt, meanwhile, stayed up just as late to watch Scream 2 which my roommates had rented. "Well, I really wanted to see it, and I refuse to pay money for it, so I didn't have much choice. I had to watch it." He explains. Eventually, we change into our tuxes, and if I do say so myself we both look quite sharp. It is, after all, tough to look bad in a tux. My roommates wake up early to take our picture, as Matt makes the first of many "Damnit we're all wearing the same thing. I'd better change." jokes. Then, when Seth arrives, I appear at the door in my tux and say, "Oh, sorry, I just threw something on." As you can imagine, we are deeply amused by our amazing early morning wit. "Well, it's not like you would have slept well anyway." We arrive at Mark's apartment to find that he is not the most well rested groom in the history of grooms. You see, the fire alarm in his building went off at 4:00. And then at 4:30. And then solidly from 4:40 to 6:00. Mark seems to be doing well considering all this, though he is clearly nervous. Colin arrives, and we eat the quiche and muffins that Cynthia kindly left out for us. While we eat, we begin to have a serious conversation about the importance of this beautiful day. This lasts about thirty seconds until we notice Saturday morning cartoons on the television. We then begin to have another serious conversation about who is cooler -- Superman or Batman. Mark gives me the wedding rings. As we leave the apartment, we all decide unanimously that Batman is cooler because he doesn't have as many superpowers but still manages to kick a lot of ass. We arrive at the church early to discover that a funeral is still taking place. Yes, the church has actually booked a nine o'clock funeral before an eleven o'clock wedding. This seems extremely odd to me, though I know some cynics out there will claim that a wedding isn't really that much happier an occasion than a funeral. At any rate, we try not to seem too jovial as about fifty mourners file past us. "Gee, I hope they get rid of the body before the wedding." I think to myself. Backstage at the Church I believe the room behind the altar is actually called the sacristy, but we prefer to call it backstage. I stand with Mark for about a half-hour. Despite my grumbling during the engagement, it feels good to be back there with him before the wedding. Mark paces back and forth continuously. Fifteen minutes before the ceremony begins, he peeks out at the church and announces, "I'll just look out one more time." He then proceeds to look out at the church about twenty more times. Pretty much every minute, his head is popping through the door to the altar. To calm his nerves, I make bad jokes. "We should just talk about the Patriots or something so you'll feel relaxed." "Yeah, that should be a good football game tomorrow. I mean, I'll be on my honeymoon, so I won't be able to see it, but Buffalo should be. . . " "Well, actually, I was joking about the Patriots, but it seems to be working." I say after he has analyzed the game for well over a minute. The Monsignor looks at us strangely. A friend of Mark that I don't know arrives and offers Mark a swig of cognac. Mark wisely refuses, but a few minutes later he becomes terribly thirsty. His throat is completely dry, and he needs something to drink. We ask a priest for water because as Mark points out, "We'd better ask someone. It'd probably be bad to accidentally drink the holy water or something." But before his thirst can be quenched, the music starts, and the ceremony begins. We walk out in front of the congregation. And I suddenly feel old, as I realize that my friend is about to get married. When we left off last time, my friend Mark was about to get married to Cynthia, and I was his best man. The ushers were walking the mothers of the couple down the aisle, and Mark and I had just emerged from behind the altar. Who the hell is this John guy? Mark is sighing nervously. He is, at this point, one big sighing machine, but he settles down when Cynthia walks up the aisle. Since I haven't been to many weddings, I don't really know what to expect. I am told that the vows will be exchanged near the end of the ceremony, but I have no idea how long the ceremony is. And once you are up on the altar, time ceases to exist. After all, one of the main duties of the best man is to NOT look at his watch impatiently while the priest is talking. A very old Monsignor performs the ceremony, and he does make a few mistakes, the most glaring of which is: "We are here today for the marriage of Cynthia and John Ė er, Mark." None of us know who John is, but luckily he doesn't interfere any more with the ceremony. Later, the Monsignor gives a sermon which seems to last longer than some marriages. "Now, I know we all think that God is too important to pay attention to a wedding like this. You know, we tend to think of him as just concerning himself with wars and things like that. Maybe we think that he might look down and think 'Oh, look at those two who are getting married. Isn't that nice? I wish them luck.' But no in fact God is so omnipresent. . . ." This goes on for several more minutes, and at one point he informs us that "God is so big." It's a nice sentiment, but my tight shiny plastic shoes are eating into my feet, and God being omnipresent enough to know all about this isn't really helping. There are kneelers in front of us, but for some reason we never kneel. After he finishes speaking, the Monsignor asks me for the rings. As I begin to fish the rings out of my pocket, I hear Mark whisper in my ear, "Joe, you're up." I stifle the urge to say, "Yes, I know," and I give the rings to the Monsignor. And then comes the part of the wedding you all know about. Mark and Cynthia repeat their vows flawlessly. Cynthia does come close to crying, but she manages to retain her composure. And in a moment they are married. After the kiss, they both give out a happy sigh. The tough part is over. Good job. . . whoever you are. After walking down the aisle with the Matron of Honor, I stand in the receiving line. While before I was best man, I am now simply Mr. Anti- Climax. I stand at the very end of the line after the bride and groom. I am theoretically there to collect any gifts that Mark and Cynthia might receive, but since everyone has already given their gifts, I have no real purpose. The 130 guests all congratulate the happy couple, and then they must shake hands with me. Most have never seen me before today, and few know what to say. Occasionally, in the excitement of congratulating the bride and groom, a guest will not even notice me and walk past my outstretched hand. I rather like it when this happens Ė to know that even in a tux I have the power to be inconspicuous. Mark knows several of the people well, but there are also many who start off with, ďYou probably donít remember me, but. . .Ē Two young women joke with him about when he jumped on their couch and broke it at age eight. Mark laughs, and I can't quite tell whether he knows what the hell they are talking about. Okay, Mark, Cynthia, just hold that smile for the next 30 minutes. It is time to stand outside and take pictures for a half hour. It is a wonderful moment, but for some reason, the other ushers and I are discussing the many virtues of actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, a conversation which I am told began in church without me. Eventually, the photographer says, "Okay, let's get a picture of the couple with the kids." All four groomsmen walk up to be in the picture, until it is explained that we are no longer the kids. The photographer had meant the six-year-olds. And so we go back to discussing Jennifer Love Hewitt's body (of work). It is decided by unanimous decree that she has a fine body (of work). After the kids, the photographer asks to take a picture of all the men. We, of course, donít realize that she is talking to us. Surely, she must mean someone older, like the fathers of the couple. We pay no heed at all to her until she informs us that we indeed are the men. And so Jennifer Love Hewitt must be put on hold so that we men can be photographed. Hi, my name is Joe, and I'll be your best man today. Those are the first words of my toast. I remember saying them, but damned if I remember what else I said. Like most of the day, it is all a blur. I had expected to have a moment to prepare, but this doesn't happen. One moment, I am having a frivolous conversation; the next moment, I am toasting. It is just a short toast, which is good because I am not exactly Mr. Public Speaking. As far as I know, I say everything that I intended. I am told later that I nail all the jokes and then stumble a bit over the caring and touching parts Ė which wouldn't surprise you at all if you knew me. Next, it is time for Mark and Cynthia to cut the wedding cake. Strangely, this happens before the meal. My friend Matt and I are deeply disturbed when the cake is rolled back into the kitchen after it is cut. Sure, we haven't had dinner yet, but in that moment we men both want cake. As Matt comments, "There was a cake. And now it's gone. I don't understand." I make a mental note to let everyone eat the cake first at my wedding. I also make a mental note that having a bride at my wedding might also be useful. After this, the day is easy. Occasionally, someone will walk up to me with a task that I don't even know about. "Are you the one who gives the money to the band?" "Um, I donít know, but Iíll find out." "Are you the one who takes care of all the presents?" "Um, I donít know, but Iíll find out." For the most part, I am the one who does all these things. As the marriage coordinator told me twenty-four hours earlier, my job is to take care of what needs to be done. And to do it in a tux. Frankly, it's a bit of a power trip. Despite my earlier grumbling, I am happy to do it, although since most of my friends are either female or not the type to have a big wedding, I can't ever imagine being best man again. And that doesn't bother me either. As with most things, being best man is probably much more exciting the first time.

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