Ashley and I are getting married (to each other) this October 31. We’re doing it because we want to, not because we have to. (Know what I’m sayin’? . . . Think you do.) It’ll be a small wedding, just us, her sister and my brother, our parents and our grandmothers. Afterwards, a nice family dinner at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown. No other guests, no bridesmaids or groomsmen, no rented hall, no seating charts, no reception — no bullshit. In other words, the perfect wedding.
There have been minor hiccups — so minor, in fact, that I hesitate to call them hiccups. Physiologic tremors. One involves our wish — dirty little atheists that we are — to have a secular wedding. There were two main obstacles to this, the first being our families, the second being the place we had picked to get married, namely St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
Getting around that second obstacle wound up being relatively easy. We met with the pastor of St. Peter’s (a sweet and devout woman about whom you will never hear this heathen utter a bad word) and reached a compromise: No God, no prayers, but a moment of silence, to allow our religious relations to quietly beseech Heaven to bless our union and spare our immortal souls.
Selling our families on our godless wedding was slightly more difficult, and not in the way I was expecting. Ashley’s parents, regular church-goers who pray before every meal, seemed willing to grin and bear it. It was my folks, specifically my father, who, a few months when I was in second grade aside, has never regularly attended church nor professed any particular religious conviction in his life, who were less than thrilled.
“It’s going to be a secular ceremony,” I said, sitting next to my Dad on the couch in the living room of the house where I grew up.
“What does that mean?”
“It means it’ll be just like a civil ceremony, like at the courthouse. No prayers, no invocations of God.”
An uncomfortable (or maybe just perplexed) smile from Dad. “Well . . . I mean, it couldn’t hurt to have a prayer at your wedding, you know.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt. But from where I’m standing, it just seems silly. It would be like asking a blessing for your marriage from Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.”
Later, Ashley told me this analogy, which I also used in our conversation with the pastor, was too harsh. She may have been right. When we disagree, she usually turns out to be. Still, I could think of much harsher ways to put it . . .
The only other hiccup — pardon me, physiologic tremor — has been with our decision to have a low-key micro-wedding. It’s no problem from my side, since the portion of my family that I actually give a shit about amounts to about five people, but a little more difficult for Ashley, whose extended family would fill a minor league ballpark and swarms frequently for multi-generational get-togethers.
Today was a Fourth of July cookout at the home of Ashley’s parents, with most of the family invited. After everyone arrived and settled into their folding chairs out on the carport, Ashley — in an impressive display of diplomacy — managed to a) Announce our impending wedding, and b) Tell almost everyone there that they were not invited, without offending anyone or hurting anyone’s feelings.
For a few seconds, anyway. Then it was my turn. On hearing our plans for a small wedding and a quiet dinner afterwards, Ashley’s grandmother, a well-meaning woman with nothing but devotion for her family, who is as likable as anyone who so readily professes a hatred of dogs can possibly be, said, “Ashley, could we throw a reception for you?”
Ashley — unwisely, as it turned out — looked at me and asked what I thought. So I told her grandmother and everyone else there what I thought. I said no. Not “We’ll think about it.” Not even “No, thank you.” I said no.
It got Ashley sore at me. She told me I’d been rude to her family, that the polite thing to do would have been to say “We’ll think about it,” and then call grandma and quietly decline when everyone else wasn’t looking — an option that never once occurred to me.
She’s right — my refusal probably did sound ruder than I meant it to. Apparently I come off a lot harder than I realize. I didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings or offend anyone (that’s why I’ve got a blog, for fuck’s sake). I’m not proud of saying no. But at the same time, I resent having to say anything in the first place. How is it polite to volunteer to host a reception for people who have just made it clear they don’t want one?
Whatever. Ashley’s grandmother is a good woman who’s never been anything other than welcoming and accepting of me. My loathing of large gatherings, especially where I’m the center of attention, is just as alien to her as her family’s regular mass-congregations are to me. And this is all moot anyway, since on the way home Ashley decided she wanted that reception afterall. It won’t be the day of the wedding. It’ll be later, hopefully a few weeks later. And Ashley is going to try to suggest that it be a dessert party rather than a meal. My family will be invited, of course, though I doubt anyone other than Mom will attend.
Maybe I can talk Dad into coming. We can find a couple of hunks of chocolate cake and a quiet corner, and debate theology — something we have never done.
These are the only problems that presently beset us as we prepare to take the plunge. They are exacerbated by my naïve insistence that we get married however we want and tell anyone in either family who doesn’t like it to fuck off, but even then they’re nothing we can’t handle. Ashley, as always, is the more reasonable one. She navigates the tangle of family expectations with nerve and grace, gently deflecting suggestions for a prayer or a reading of scripture, covering for her fiancé’s bull-headedness, and quietly getting her way — our way. Marrying her will be the least stupid thing I will ever do.
Though, now that I think about it, we never mentioned to her family that Ashley won’t be changing her last name to mine. I wonder how they’ll take that . . .