Small and Overwhelm

Weddings can overwhelm me. Being someone who finds crowds—even groups—of people intimidating, the before-and-after-the-wedding-ceremony milling about, greeting those you know and introducing yourself to those you don’t, can be a showstopper for me. And that’s before I’m blasted by all the beauty, wrapped in pomp and circumstance: the music, the flowers, the bridal gown and gowns of the attendants, and accompanying bouquets. All before the ceremony even begins, during which I inevitably feel my eyes fill with tears several times.

My own two weddings have been simple affaires. Jonah’s father and I were married by a Hillel rabbi at the University of Michigan, with our two sets of parents in attendance. After the brief ceremony, we all went out to lunch at a local Ann Arbor restaurant.

Stephen and I got married in our Berkeley home, with about 30 friends and relatives gathered round us. After the ceremony, a friend and her husband played Cajun music; some of our friends even danced.

The wedding Stephen and I attended this weekend at Lake Tahoe was to be a formal event, with the added element of arresting scenery. The couple was married at the Edgewood Resort, in a glass-enclosed room facing the lake. Even before the processional, I found it difficult to find a place to rest my eyes: straight ahead, as well as to the left and right, arose the Sierra Mountains, covered in white, white snow, and below the peaks, spread a lake of the calmest, bluest blue.

In addition to this splendor, my stepson, Nathan, would be officiating at the ceremony, and I was looking forward to witnessing him. I’d seen him make a profound and caring toast at a marriage several years ago, and knew hee was going to be stellar.

As I sat waiting for the music to begin, all of this was on my mind. I also anticipated seeing the bride’s dress, that magical galaxy of white and satin and curves and swirls and perhaps beads and a train.

Then, the music started and the bridal party began walking in, the seven groomsmen in tuxedos, the bridesmaids in plum gowns, with white fur capes. My back turned to the mountains and lake, I was trying to take in the wave of color and texture, when the bride stepped into the room, her gown pooling at her feet. The music, the guest’s collective anticipation and procession of the bridal party all swirling around me, I saw the bride’s huge smile, and felt myself smiling back.

And then, just as she reached the middle of the back row, she flung open her arms and said sotto voce, “I love all of you! Thank you so much.”

That was all I needed for my mind and emotions to settle: that one moment of exquisite and contagious joy.

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