Why do people go to weddings? After all, we’ve been through it. We know how it ends. Walk one way. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Kiss. Stand. Sit. Kneel. Stand. Walk the other way. It differs a little from religion to religion, ceremony to ceremony, but it’s quite predictable, right?
Yet distant relatives, friends of mother’s friends, even strangers crash weddings. Why? Whether we’re single, engaged, married or widowed, we all have something that draws us to weddings, though in each case, the draw is different.
Perhaps we were single at our last wedding, sitting in the audience witnessing the big event. The excitement, the apparent nervousness, the spoken vows, the commitment of two people to each other – they were all so inspiring. And the couple, the glowing twosome – they were called to be better people because they were now bound together till death – and who can’t admire that?
Perhaps at our last wedding we were engaged. For us, we could anticipate the big day of our own ahead, we imagined ourselves walking the same steps, our voices quivering but hearts courageous, our long, passionate embrace before hundreds, our life ahead. It was an appetizer. A teaser. A dream.
Or, maybe we were already married at our last wedding. We remember standing there; we made the vows so we knew what they meant. We had lived them and if we were honest with ourselves we knew that we had even struggled, at times, to keep them. For us, there was a level of courage being displayed that only the wedded truly knew.
When we married folk come to weddings, we also recall the beginning of our marriage, the promise we made and the excitement we felt. We remember all of the great events since then – the first home, the first child, the second child, (the third child?) The first big scare, the first broken bone, the first big fight, the makeup after the first big fight. We remember all of the good times marriage brings; we comfort in the strength it brings during bad times; and, we celebrate another pair choosing our path, even though we have walked it less-than-perfectly ourselves.
Or, perhaps we were widowed at the time we attended our last wedding. We missed our love and the pain was far stronger than it was only hours before the event, but the good memories were also brought forward. We remember meeting; we remember staring at each other’s young faces in youthful joy; we remember knees and backs that suddenly didn’t bend well to pick up wee ones; we remember plucking the first gray hairs from each other’s heads in stubborn defiance; we remember admiring each other’s wrinkles fondly like badges of merit. We remember our first realization that this would one day end. We remember parting.
So, for the single, marriage brings promise and hope that two humans can commit to each other and keep that commitment, though it may be a path we never choose and it may not be right for us. For the engaged, marriage foretells the future; it helps us to plan and dream. For the married, it’s reinforcement that the path we’ve taken is a noble one, a good one, a rich one. For the widowed, it’s a remembrance of life’s rich pageant and how we celebrated its richness.
Maybe that’s the key. Single, engaged, married, widowed — we’ve all seen it before. Like a classic movie or Shakespearean Comedy, we know how it ends before the first act begins. The righteous prevail; the evil are foiled; the boy walks off with the girl. It’s a great story that’s been touching the souls of men and women for thousands of years.
That is why people attend weddings. No matter which path we’ve chosen, it inspires us. It keeps us walking our path with renewed hope. And, no matter how rough the road appears ahead, it lightens our steps along the way.