A good friend of mine just got married. When I received an invitation to the wedding a month or so before the "big day," I looked at the elaborately laced note and charming photograph of the couple a few seconds before discarding the invite. I don't recall the exact nature of my thoughts on the issue, but they were pleasant and I know I wished the two lovers amazing success. I didn't give the issue another think until my mother asked about it at dinner.
"Do you know where your wedding invitation is?" Apparently my mother had misplaced hers and wanted to see mine to check the "registry," whatever that is. She didn't mention the names of the participants or even reference the date of the get together (I always thought "get together" would be a better name for a start of marriage celebration. "I was the best man in his get together" or "The bride's family paid a lot of money for the get together dress but the groom really shelled out for that get together ring."). She just knew that I would know who she was talking about.
"Bill and Patty's wedding?" I asked facetiously, making up two names.
"No, silly, the other one. Bill and Patty are getting married?" My mother was disappointed I'd tossed the invite. I learned that those are things you keep, stow in a box with souvenirs and trinkets, lose in a big cross-state move and cry about. So I dug through the garbage and removed the offending invitation.
No sooner had I removed the document from it's semi-retirement in the trashbin when my phone buzzed. It was the groom. He wanted groomsmen. He wanted me, a designation I later learned was a high honor. I asked him if I would have to wear a tuxedo. He said I would. I hesitated. He told me he was desperate. I understood and agreed.
After I hung up, I consulted a dictionary to find out what in David Stern's name I'd just committed to:
Groomsman: n. A male the approximate age of the groom who stands beside the groom and best man while the groom is performing the wedding vows. The male should do as little as possible to distract from the ceremony, but should look clean, well pressed and generally square. Fidgeting and snide comments should be kept to a minimum. Infractions in this area are punished by the bride and her entourage.I'd been duped. Now my attendance was mandatory. I thought I'd be able to get away with an FB wall message or maybe an e-card. But to go to the actual event? To watch two people embraced in amorous affection in a scene that would surely remind me of my own love life's failures? To get dressed in something other than jeans and a hoodie? Ugh! Why do friends have to get married?
The rehearsal dinner was an exercise in patience. One time through the vows was not enough! No, we had to march back and forth, reenacting the get together. When I tried to walk more quickly to get the affair completed in a more "efficient" manner, I invariably received a stern look from a clipboard-toting authority figure with fashionably short hair and harsh eye liner. Groomsmen, she argued, are to act like gentlemen. I had a different interpretation, but kept it to myself.
I like my tuxedo shirts untucked. That's the way I wear all of my shirts and I don't see why tuxedos should be any different. When they're tucked in, my tops make me look too much like what I am: a poorly adjusted, out of shape nincompoop. The soft folds of my underbelly, invisible beneath the loose cloth of an untucked shirt, are painfully obvious above a constricting belt. Clipboard had a solution. She handed me a black shield which I placed over the junction of my shirt and pants which effectively blocked the view of my gut. I still don't know what the thing is called, but I owe it my dignity.
The attitude of the groom changed as the get together approached. During the rehearsal, his whole attention was occupied by his bride-to-be. He looked at her, talked with her, held her and generally spent every moment trying to be closer to her. When she left, he acted like a little baby who just lost his comfort blanket. Although he didn't throw a tantrum or react in an unseemly manner, he obviously felt her absence.
On the afternoon of the get together, the bride was kept out of the groom's site which really got to the groom. To the male contingent of the wedding party, congregated as we were in some kind of green room, the joyous occasion we were about to take part in demanded a light mood and spirits were high. The groom did not share our delectation. As the minutes wore on, beads of sweat, some tainted red, formed on his brow and began sliding down his cheeks, like tears from the wrong duct. His breathing was ragged and his hands unstable. He asked for a glass of water and ate something. And then he brushed his teeth for the umpteenth time to be "ready for the kiss."
As if to show off the groom's nerves to the world, Clipboard had him confiscated and placed in the front of the attending masses next to a too-calm pastor. Then we repeated the rehearsal, except this time it was the real thing.
When the bride appeared, all of us groomsmen, the best man and the groom let out a sort of involuntary gasp. You know the sound a carload of people make when they round a vista and see the Grand Canyon for the first time or catch their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean? It was something like that. She was stunningly beautiful. As she walked toward the arbor, I wondered at the groom's amazing good fortune. He'd graduated from dereliction several years ago, but still had a very masculine streak in him. Sure he was more clean cut and generally better mannered, but at heart he was the sort of wild heathen who was more dedicated to fun than relationships. And he was a college student, which pretty much repels all the decent members of the opposite gender. How had he managed to get her to consent to marriage?
I wondered, as she took slow steps with her father over freshly dropped flower petals, if I might be so lucky. I looked over at the groom and noticed that his shaking had ceased. His nerves were calmed by her presence and, if I didn't know better, I might have guessed him a dead ringer for a handsome guy. I think he was relieved she didn't bolt, a possibility the other groomsmen and I had placed wagers on (I didn't lose too much money). There ceremony was as short as it was permanent and the happy couple marched down the aisle as husband and wife for the first time.
What am I forgetting? Ah, yes, the kiss. Clipboard gave us groomsmen a terrible angle on the get together smooch. All we saw was the groom's back as he leaned in. I felt as if I were sitting behind the fat guy at a baseball game. "Hey, man, I'm trying to see!" The audience appreciated act because it broke out into an applause that, while only latently enthusiastic, was not altogether limp. And then the happy couple marched down the aisle as husband and wife for the first time.
There were other things too. They pushed food into each other's mouths, walked around in a square to music while everyone watched and demanded they kiss, and threw articles of clothing toward single guests. It was all very romantic. If there is enough interest, I might dig through my memory and post some of the more scandalous anecdotes. Otherwise, that's the sweating of a groom.