When I was a kid, I once asked my father, “Why don’t we go to church like other families do?” His response stayed with me:
“If you want to be close to God, sit under a tree. Man made the church. God made the tree.”
Yesterday, my brother got married under a tree. It was pretty great.
Which isn’t to say that it was a perfect wedding. (Though it may have been the best one I’ve ever been to in which I did not personally receive a bride of my own). It would have probably been much lessened had it been perfect, mind. Perfection, as we tend to evaluate it, would have been highly impersonal. The flaws are what knock something out of the philosophical ideal and make it real, accessible, grounded, personal.
When it poured rain during the wedding rehearsal, it was less than ideal. But it reflected the land.
When my wife couldn’t be present for any of the wedding pictures because she was keeping the dogs safely down at the pond, near where we buried the first dog we lost — well, the people who appreciate wedding photos might notice her absence. But she was pretty happy where she was.
When the officiating pastor (also the father of the bride) came out in costume and started re-enacting the Mawwiage portion of The Princess Bride, it was perhaps not a moment of great dignity for the institution. But it was a great example of how two families got along with a shared sense of humor.
When said pastor also got hung up during the ceremony a few times, being too emotional to go through the ceremony at a regular clip, that wasn’t perfect timing. But it was pretty affecting.
When one of the readings was given through tears, and the other was enunciated with a faint Shakespearean sense of Overdoing It, then those counted as hiccups. But welcome hiccups.
When a dog went tearing down the road barking at the top of his lungs mid-ceremony because some people were arriving late, it was the kind of interruption that would have made a more serious audience appalled that dogs were even invited at all (much less given clip-on bow ties). But people like that weren’t invited, and they probably wouldn’t have appreciated a wedding held outdoors between lawn and pasture in the first place.
It was, all in all, pretty magnificent. My wife and I were kinda jealous — I mean, I have no complaints about our wedding (except that we probably coulda gotten a better photographer), but this glorious mess was so beautifully personal and non-traditional you couldn’t help but be a little envious.
Also, I made my brother cry. And although that’s the sort of thing you should never be proud of when you’re kids, when you’re adults and you realize that it’s because this incredibly outstanding human being appreciates and admires you more than you deserve — it was humbling, but also maybe the best thing I’ve done all year.
March 30, 2013. Couldn’t be happier.