byline love back next

scenes from a wedding - lane becker

I'm by myself, briefly, wondering what to do next, when the apartment door slams open and my bride-to-be storms in, eyes wild and filled with tears.

I can see the problem before she tells me. It's the hair.

Despite the stylist's assurances that she could manage the intricately knotted coiffure in the picture, the end result is more '70s prom than '30s starlet. And there's enough hairspray in there to stop a charging elephant.

It's a little scary, actually. The clock is ticking. I don't know what to do – but I do know who to ask. One phone call and the apartment is teeming with bridesmaids. After some debate, a solution: she will do it herself, with assistance. They crowd into the bathroom.

Situation under control, I call a cab and head off to the gallery to get married.

"Your wedding day," our hip young female rabbi warns us, "Will be different from all other days."

"Oh?" I ask. "How's that?"

We're at the Rabbi's house. The wedding is still a few weeks away. The rabbi was a concession to Courtney's parents, agreed to half-heartedly in order to keep the peace, but I've come around to her. She's pretty insightful.

"It's very much a liminal state. Things are changing, and you change with them. Perceptions stretch. Time expands, it contracts. Important things grow distant, minor things take on great importance. You are very much in the center of it."

"Ah," I reply. "Kind of like being medicated."

The afternoon before the ceremony, I go costume shopping with my old high school gang. We spent much of our teens about a block apart from each other in Houston, a place and time that couldn't seem farther away.

We're looking for something I can wear to the wedding. I've got a tux picked out – two, actually, just one of the many concessions made to an indecisive groom – but our invitation suggests "Creative Formal," and I'm worried I might get upstaged by my guests.

We consider many things: a sequined vest, a plaid jacket, a bright orange zoot suit with matching hat. Nothing works. In the end, I stick with the tuxedo. I'd rather have people looking at the person standing up there next to me.

Walking in to the gallery, I'm surrounded by my friends, hard at work setting up.

In the middle of it is Bryan, who is gifted in organization and whose gift to us was directing it towards our wedding. He has a clipboard in hand and bunny ears on his head. Things are getting taken care of.

It's something to see. His partner in crime and soon-to-be-fiancée Maggie is everywhere at once, keeping the top spinning. People are hanging things, arranging flowers. Somebody ordered pizza. I am overwhelmed.

"How can I help?" I ask, a little ashamed to be the cause of all of this.

Maggie looks at me quizzically, then drags me to the basement and sits me down in a back office. I rehearse my speech. I want it to be perfect.

Like a missile that's finally been launched, there's not much anything anyone can do once a wedding has gotten off the ground. Beforehand, everybody wanted a piece of it, but once the day arrived it was mine, all mine. Barring a sudden ascension to the throne, I don't think I will ever again experience that kind of freedom from petty responsibility, that level of joyful service, that open acknowledgement of my centrality.

And along with this, strangely, paradoxically, wonderfully, came someone else, standing there in my center.

The world isn't simple, it isn't easy, and it isn't by any means perfect. With my whole life assembled around me, the good parts and the bad ones, everyone I've loved and loved despite, I tried to acknowledge this. Never again would I have this opportunity; I tried to tell them how I had found someone who had made my world a better place to be, how different she was from what had come before, how lucky I was for that, and how very much I loved her for it.

Then we all got drunk. It was a terrific wedding.

What have you done for love?