The last year I was in college I was busy with all the things I needed to do to finish my degree and join the real world after graduating... several people that I knew were putting more concentration and effort into their upcoming weddings... yes the title of this says it all... the year after I graduated I attended fourteen weddings...to be fair I was only a guest at eleven of them and was a singer at the other three. It was a very interesting year and I learned a lot about myself and human nature.
Let me just start off with something about myself at the time... getting married was or even getting involved with any sort of committed long term relationship was the last thing on my mind... I had places to go... and things to do and people to meet first... but that did not deter people from dropping subtle and not so subtle hints over the years that I should be settling down in the not too distant future... I took it all in stride for a few years and finally started just telling people flat out that I would rather be alone then settle down for all the wrong reasons... many people took offense to this... mainly the people who were getting married and settling down for all the wrong reasons... I learned that summer that two people marching down the aisle were going to be welcoming a baby into their lives in respectively five and six months despite the fact that almost everyone I knew was taking birth control pills and abortion was legal at this point in time... but everyone has to make their own decisions in these matters and it was at this juncture in my life that I adopted the "It's none of my business!" stance to many things and walking away; I still stand by this unless someone decides to make it my business for one reason or another...
...I also found out that certain families made it financially lucrative for their children to get married and start a family; this still boggles my mind... but once again none of my business....Probably one of the saddest lessons I learned that year was some people were afraid of being alone and looked at marriage as a short cut to societal expectations and fitting in...and last but not least is a couple of people that I knew were shameless gold diggers and social climbers and married for money... I'll get back to some of this... but first I want to talk about some of the weddings and experiences I had.
I want to back up a bit and explain that during college I had a pretty nice side gig singing at weddings and special events... I was already working as a back up singer and doing various vocal work... mostly television and radio commercial jingles... and because I could afford to pick and choose It was a a great way to make some extra spending money at the time... the truth of the matter is I was still doing back up singing and voice over work and singing at the occasional wedding up until the pandemic. My first wedding that summer and the last wedding I sang for had one thing in common I sang "Ave Maria" solo and a wedding mass backed up by the church choir... I'm only bringing this up because there is a great deal of time and rehearsal that goes into this... much, much more than rehearsing with a piano, guitar and harpist and singing "Evergreen" or any number of other favorites picked for the processional at the start or recessional following the ceremony... sometimes I'm also hired to sing the song at the reception for the bride and grooms first dance... As a side note to all of this... the best wedding I ever worked as a singer I sang "Evergreen" as the processional and "I Chose Right" for the recessional and "Just In Time" for the bride and groom at the reception. I think what set that wedding apart from all all the others that followed or preceded this one was it was a simple, elegant wedding and the bride and groom were older (truth be told it was the second wedding for one of the people married the first time that summer) but this time they both knew exactly what they wanted from the wedding and the rest of their life with each other.
Meanwhile back to that fateful summer that kicked off the year of marathon wedding attendance...I knew the bride quite well from school and the groom and I did not like each other... in my heart of hearts I knew this wedding was destined for failure... because the bride went to college with the sole purpose of finding a man and getting married... and the guy she met was an asshole...The first and probably most important rule about wedding etiquette is you can't tell anyone involved with a wedding that it's doomed for failure I know It would save time money and a lot of grief... but it's not your place to say it if it's only feelings... if the person is an ax murderer or bigamist by all means knock yourself out. I actually had to talk her out of dropping out of college in the last semester because she felt she should spend all of her time and energy planing the wedding; luckily logic prevailed... so when the invitation came I was reluctant to attend but I decided to sleep on it over the weekend... and I went off to look at what they registered for and bought a gift and had it sent (fyi if you are buying off the registration list... shop early) as another side note for years I bought a Steuben Olive Dish as a wedding gift and everyone really loved it (or so I'm told)
Once I had a bride-to-be bark at me not to go off the registration list... so they got a Calphalon frying pan instead...
Back to the story...by Monday I had a phone call asking me to sing at the wedding... and was hoping against hope that my fee would be enough of a deterrent to discourage any further discussion... I was presented with the option that in lieu of my fee that my services could be the wedding gift... (I won't be crass and tell you how much I charge to sing at a wedding or how much money I spent that year on gifts, air fare, hotels and a stag party) I politely explained that I did not plan on spending that much for their present and furthermore I had already bought and had the gift sent... It may or may not be important to point out the brides mother and father were deceased and the grooms parents were paying the cost of everything...and were balking at the cost of my vocal services (it was actually a friends and family discount considering I spent an entire month one night a week rehearsing with the church choir)... so with that I did a remarkable job singing several people came up to me to tell me so and the three other weddings I sang at that year came as a result... there is always bitter with the sweet and the grooms family treated me like no more than hired help and I left the reception shortly after the wedding dance... they went on their honeymoon and moved back to his hometown so he could work in his fathers business (insurance I think) and settle into a the suburban upper-middle class country club life. I never did get a thank you note for the gift (this is where I judge... you should always send a thank you note unless you want the world to know you have a grubby peasant mentality)... I never spoke to any of them again but they eventually divorced so I'm told.
There was one more wedding that June and July brought two more and there were three in August... the rest of the summer nuptial festivities were really quite enjoyable as I only sang in one... and they were in far flung places from Hawaii to Connecticut and in addition to the actual wedding there was usually five or six days of swimming, playing golf and tennis and endless parties and drinking... this is were I learned the beauty of drinking club soda with lime so no one asks why you are not drinking and having fun...maybe it's just me but I always have more fun not vomiting at parties and being horribly hung over the rest of the time.
From September to June I was a groomsman at two of the weddings and best man for one... there is a protocol for almost every situation at weddings for the engagement party to when the bride and groom leave the reception... as the best man you give your toast after the father of the bride and the groom... I whole heartedly recommend you start writing this at least two months before the wedding... whatever you do don't ad lib at the last minute. Take the time to make it personal, poignant and throw a little humor in. If you need a little inspiration talk abut love and finding someone who knows your favorite color and how you like your coffee and puts their head on your chest to hear your heart beat and wants to discover all the things in the world with each other and what life and love represents and that two people have found the person they can't wait to wake up next to every day for the rest of their lives... etc... I've only been a best man twice and I turned the job down once because I detested the bride but invented an out of town trip during the festivities (I actually went out of town to make the lie more true). One of the most important things I've learned is if you don't like the people don't go to their wedding... especially if you work with them... send a gift and be done with it. BTW I had a blast at the Bar Mitzvah... I actually made some life long friends.
There are many signs and symbols at weddings from the rings that symbolize eternity by having no beginning or end and all the subtle nuances of flowers to the rice thrown that dates back to ancient Egypt to symbolize fertility and prosperity. The wedding cake (my favorite cake in the world) Newlyweds take their first cut together to symbolize their shared future...One of my favorites is the wedding dance as it's the first steps a couple take together all set to music... and speaking of dancing... I think I mentioned in a previous installment here... I'm phenomenally popular at wedding receptions and Bar Mitzvahs because I'm an excellent dancer... if you are not then do yourself a big favor and take a few dance lessons before hand... you will have much more fun on the dance floor than sitting on the sidelines wishing you knew how to dance.
Every religion and culture has their own special symbols and traditions and that is why I have loved going to so many different varied and orchestrated celebrations through the years...that year I learned a lot about weddings and traditions and human nature... for the most part weddings are about youth and starting out but they can also illustrate being young at heart and starting over... For some reason or another they can bring out the best or the worst in people who attend and eventually learned they only bring out what people really are... whether it's an alcoholic, a bitter old maid or man who chased away love or a jealous rival... these people are always these things but weddings seem to magnify them for some reason... Another important rule... if you don't like the people... don't go to the wedding... it sort of makes you a hypocrite.
But on the flip side you can always spot the real friends and the relatives who really care and love the brides and grooms... you can read it on their faces and in their actions before, during and after the weddings. In some cases I've had a special view most don't get to see... it's from the choir loft... from here you see and hear almost everything... and one of the most beautiful things I've ever overheard is love only takes form when it finds two people who put their own meaning to it... or as I said at my own wedding... Art and love are the same thing really... it's seeing yourself in new things and in someone else.
There is no guarantee with weddings or marriage or anything else in life... but I'm glad I waited for the right person and got married for the reasons that were right for me... because I just celebrated 21 years together with my better half... and of all the weddings I went to that certain summer only one couple is still married... but some eventually found the happiness they were looking for the first time... I sang at one of those weddings too!
Hopefully this pandemic is going to be in the rearview mirror in the not too distant future and I will be singing at or at least attending weddings again... Oh and one more thing... don't wear red to a wedding... there are scores of people who say it's OK... it's not... it's distracts from the bridal party and to me I still remember someone saying... "I'm wearing red I wish you were dead" It's done all the time in Hallmark movies but I think their wardrobe people are dolts.Thanks for reading... see you next month!
Edited by Kawika