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A Wedding Toast

May 25, 2013

Today is a wedding day. Here is my wedding toast, prefaced by a wedding sermon, prefaced by this preface, which will be brief. I will avoid using the real names of the happy couple to protect their online reputation from unfortunate associations.

Mountain climbers rope themselves together, so that if one falls they all fall, to their deaths. So it is with marriage. It binds two people together, and the slip of the one becomes the slip of the other. “Too bad but at least its not me” — this is what you give up with the one you marry, as she or, more likely, he plummets past.

What do we celebrate when we celebrate a wedding? The audacity of the thing. The sheer breathtaking audacity. The bold step of togetherness. It is easy enough to stay in your room alone, playing video games and masturbating, maybe peeing into a cup rather than taking the trouble to walk to the bathroom because why the hell not? To be unconcerned with anything beyond your own necessity, unperturbed in being the thing you are. To just follow the gentle current of time to its quiet end. Easy and sad, terribly terribly sad, but awfully awfully convenient, and often quite inexpensive.

But those that wed say no to this. They choose to shoot the rapids. To put all at risk. To gamble on their own worth, each to the other, and together. To be exposed, responsible, and finally identified. To take this step publicly, before God, State, and the obligatory assortment of  friends, relatives, and colleagues. Resting not with what they are given — a self, a body atomic — they, like scientists creating elements unknown to nature, dare to make something new, a union, a synthesis, some Einsteinium of love.

Holy shit!

The doubter may ask, how can it be such an extraordinary feat, so dumbfounding and awe-inspiring, when, after all, marriage is such a common thing? And it is true that, when you look around, you see a remarkable number of married people, this very high percentage of paired-up people with fingers banded like birds under study, guaranteed the Constitutional right to refuse to testify against each other in a court of law and the social right to be less fun than they used to be. All kinds of people, some of them real losers. Nobody understands this. It makes no sense. Because whatever the demographers say the real truth is that marriage is a one-in-a-million thing, as unlikely and miraculous as the broken glass that leaps up and heals itself, returning to an open hand, a film in reverse but this time for real. It amazes; the whole world stops, stands still, and watches as it happens once again and for the first time.

If I were to try to attempt to explain all this I would probably have to pepper my speech with words like καιρός and  ἔκστασις, all kinds of Greek, and adopt the mannerisms of Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now. But our drinks are getting warm and I should move on.

So let us now raise our glasses for Flannel Suit and Amillions, as they follow their love into the adventure of marriage. Let us raise them, then lower them, then knock them back and refill them, and with our intoxication pay tribute to theirs. May they stay forever besotted with each other (allowing for such intermittencies that may be necessary to maintain health, vitality, and a functional gradient of perception). Our toast! To Eminence and Alomaniac!

Now I am going to stint on actually talking about these people, because the call of the Wahooptie draws near, and I am running out of time. Besides, sketching portraits in words was never my strong suit, and I do not want to pretend to do justice. In any case, providing a sheltering generality to personal individuality is what the institution and its ceremony are all about.

I have known the groom for some years. I have lived with him, watched movies with him, gotten drunk with him, rocked out with him, eaten some disgusting food with him, and seen him show himself to be the man he is. I could tell stories about him, but, with the best ones, I am afraid not everybody would understand. Not that he cares, he has never been afraid to be frankly himself, letting the chips fall where they may. I will let them stay neatly stacked, but it is worth pausing on this quality, this not-giving-a-damn. What a virtue it is when it comes with unpretentious humor, boldness, openness, and a sense of what is worth giving a damn about — which is how it is with him.

There are some people I would gladly toast with an enumeration of perfections, with whatever plausibility I could muster. Not him. A more down-to-earth approach is necessary. In all of us there is failure, fallibility, weakness, misery, pettiness, stupidity, ugliness, meanness, trouble — all the nasty bits of our nature, the wrongness. This is our lot, it cannot be avoided. But there is the question of how all this expresses and manifests itself, whether it comes out in a human way or an inhuman way. With him it is decidedly human.

Which may sound like a back-handed compliment or a consolation prize. A ribbon for participation, a trophy for a graceful fall. But no, this is the best. This is victory.

When I reflect on it, I think, however self-centered it seems, that the best thing I can say about him, and the thing that I can most genuinely and personally testify to, is this: he befriended me. Which is no easy task. Which is actually quite an accomplishment. It takes a lot of heart, character, imagination, and maybe some peculiarity. Not many can do it, and fewer still want to.  It was not something I expected. I will always be grateful for it.

The bride I know less well. But well enough to call her husband a lucky man. A young woman of great sweetness and warmth and enthusiasm, giving of her heart, but also with some grit and wildness, so that, despite her small size, you wouldn’t mind having her on your side in a fight, because, if it came down to it, she could probably fight dirty.

The moment with her that sticks in my memory was from right before the two of them left town together, to go off to college, a return for him, a first for her. She was talking to me about this, about the new life she was about to begin with the man she would eventually marry. And the way she spoke, with hope and excitement, looking forward to a new beginning, in the manner of someone young but not so young as to take it all for granted, it affected me deeply. And this again might seem like a common thing. But not for me. Usually I am not so impressed by these sentiments, but casually hard-hearted — whatever, that’s very nice for you, I guess. But there was something about her, her spirit and openness, that reached me. I saw things through her eyes and I was happy for her. Which means: just happy. I saw that life was good.

She is the kind of person who can show you that. So is he — though more in a guy way that can be, you know, a little less direct. What do we want, what do we need, from each other more than this? That to each other we show — we demonstrate, display, enunciate, and embody — an improbable truth: that life is good. A fragile truth that one person alone can hardly sustain. We need help to find it. Sometimes we get it. This is both ordinary and miraculous. Today we celebrate these two people who have found this truth in each other, and have bound themselves together to sustain it. This is what it is all about, this is what matters, and this is worth drinking to.

And so we toast Don and Han, with our best wishes, with our popular assent, and with gratitude for the chance to party. To a most excellent  couple, who will be good company to each other, good company to others, and valiant warriors against the bullshit that drags us all down. And let us appreciate this, that unlike so many couples, for whom marriage is the just the final step in settling down to a placid existence — which may be a very fine thing, just a little boring for the rest of us — these two look like they still have plenty of adventures in their future. We can look forward to hearing their stories. I just hope that a tale of doing time in a Russian jail is not among them.

To The Cat and his Football! To Gem and her Yarg!

[So a bare majority of these words were written on the day of the wedding, in advance of it, and the whole should have been finished then, because it should have been half the length, or double it. But I did not manage that. Then it took some time to return to the spirit of the thing, and to find my way without a fixed deadline, which changes the task from climbing a mountain, summit in sight, to crossing an ocean, with nothing but a vacant horizon ahead — you may notice the wobble that comes from navigation without fixed bearings, a familiar problem for the unrestrained toastmaker. Finally finished, or just ready to abandon this boat to the virtual waters, I took advantage of WordPress’s Time Machine function (if only we had this in the analog world!) to send it back, back to Saturday the 25th  of May, the moment in time to which it belongs.

To learn more about marriage, you can try a very early posting on this blog by Corey, a poet. It is called “Marriage“.]

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3 Comments
  1. This moved me unspeakably

  2. t pitney permalink

    I love this. well done i say.

  3. Greg Antrim Kelly permalink

    bravo

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