A friend once told me that, in order to get married, a couple should have to fight a bear together. To get divorced, they should have to fight another bear. This would undoubtedly cut down on frivolous marriages and would incentivize working things through, ala "Yeah, I know I have been looking at cocktail waitresses, but I would really prefer not to have to go toe-to-toe with an apex predator again. Plus, my wife was pretty badass with a bowie knife between her teeth, gutting a beast five times her size. I guess I'll stick around, see what develops."
Planning a wedding seems like a decent substitute for ursine assassination, since our society is so wishy-washy when it comes to gladiatorial combat. By "planning a wedding," I do not mean hiring a wedding planner. That is like paying someone to kill the bear for you, at which point they are fully empowered (and enriched!) to get married. You are not.
The best part for me is how often people lie to your face about how easy it is to fight a bear. They tell you that it is just a baby bear, that it is sleepy, that it isn't a full contact bear fight, that the bear has no teeth or claws. We are raised almost from birth with images of the bear fight, glamorized and simplified by the media. We give our daughters teddy bears and have them practice fighting off something cuddly and inert when we know a bear is going to one day have her intestines slurped up like spaghetti. However, we had to do it just as unaware. Why give them an advantage?
Instead of a straight forward bear, modern couples have to figure out floor and seating for at least a hundred people, devote months of their lives to getting this just right, deal with guest who can't come, guest who have bizarre dietary restrictions (do you only drink filtered, tepid water?), guests who would very likely wish to mutilate the faces of other guests, and part with fistfuls of money (often belonging to parents, granted) that would slake the constant thirst of student loans. You have to do this with your lover without snapping or frowning because you love this person and it is only slightly their fault that the relationship teeters on the brink over the color of fondant. Then, maybe you are ready to start a life.
I won't bore you by recounting the exact details of the wedding planning, except to say that Amber wanted to do as much of it as humanly (or inhumanly) possible. The majority of her efforts in her garden this summer were in service of the wedding, mostly flowers which failed to bloom in the early summer and more vegetables than should befit a festive occasion. Holly made Amber's dress as a favor and gift, though I insisted against seeing it until Amber walked down the aisle. We intended to do so much of this without regard to tradition, but this seemed like one I wished to keep. For instance, if it was eye-burningly ugly (as it could not be if Holly's hand had stitched it), I did not wish to have to explain why I did not caution Amber prior to bringing recording devices into the equation. We grew distracted from the idea of catered barbecue and instead suggested that it be a potluck to better demonstrate the sense of community we hoped valid. Daniel, my best man and thus the presumptive organizer of a stag party, instead bought me Grand Theft Auto V because it contains booze and strippers. Rebecca, Amber's sister, stepped in and planned a sedate and welcomed combination bachelor/bachelorette party the Monday before.
The first issue crops up before Amber and I even have the chance to set foot on the grounds of the house where we will be staying. The company from whom we ordered port-a-potties wished to deliver before we even arrived, so we had to pull up an aerial map from the internet and take our best guess for a location for the latrines. Still, if this turns out to be the worst thing that occurs this weekend, I will consider us blessed.
When we do arrive hours later, the commodes are in exactly the wrong place and the owner is not pleased with a truck having driven over his lawn, fearing that it has damaged subterranean pipes, but he is otherwise thrilled to be providing us a space for our nuptials. He even offers to allow Amber and me to burn cedar planks left over from renovating the porch. Though, on the topic of fire, he offers his regrets that a prior guest managed to melt the knobs off the grill we intended to use ("We had someone who put wood and charcoal into the gas grill so they would have a cozy fire. I can't understand how someone can be that stupid."). He promises to get us a new one before the actual event, which more than makes up for someone else's cluelessness.
Amber and I have the run of the house for the next four days. It is fully furnished with most modern conveniences, aside from reliable wireless internet. Our guests will simply have to suffer with our analog company through the weekend. Thanks to the cast-off food of previous guests, the cupboards and refrigerator contain enough food to sustain Amber and I through the weekend, were we simply trying to get away from the rat race. The house looks as though someone's backwoods grandfather, one with a penchant for ornithology and deer hunting, just stepped out for a moment. There are weighty binoculars by one of the doors and a duck call upon which I think better of placing lips. The kitchen has dishes and crockery enough to feed a dozen, which it may need to this weekend. There are framed pictures of various family members in antiquity, no doubt ancestors of the owner, though he has his own home up the pitted and rocky road. Walking in, it is impossible to not immediately feel comfortable, primarily because this certainly was someone's home at some point in the past and it has been frozen in time to play host to strangers now. I feel as though Amber and I are playing house for our many guests.
A few hours after Amber and I have settled into our room (containing a basinet, but not an air conditioner), Daniel arrives. He is to be our guest through the remainder of the weekend and, though I hope to employ him for moral support as well as help to allow the wedding to succeed, I know he is taking multiple days off from his job. I want this weekend to feel as much like a vacation as possible, though I am aware that my need for his support may not gel with my urge to make this fun. His room is bigger, though with the caution that the other bed in the room may contain additional guests as needed. I know that Rebecca will be staying with us starting tomorrow, along with her platonic date Kaitlin (their room has two double beds).
We walk Daniel around the property, pointing out our plans for the hilly acres of land. Amber had only a few hours before revised which plot of grass would be flat enough to the specific setting for our wedding, selecting one beside the algae-murky pond. She originally intended it beneath a weeping willow, but noted that aerial maps and memories made this land seem less likely to force our guests to tip over.
Since we have time before we have to entertain additional guests, we go to a Hannaford's in Pine Bush to pick up additional supplies, since it made little sense to buy produce nearer to our home. I move through a sort of fog, more observing my actions than living them. I hold up peaches to Amber and Daniel. These are not merely fuzzy pieces of fruit. Instead, they become proper nouns: The Peaches That Someone at the Wedding Eats. These small choices become imbued with significance because they will become a few dozen pixels in my mental wedding portrait. This is the piece of fruit that will be passing through someone's digestive tract when I join my life together with Amber. How can I blithely choose?
Neither Amber nor Daniel seem to be quite so fussy and discard some of my portentous selections as unnecessary. Given that Amber and I will be home for less than ten hours between the wedding and leaving for our week-long honeymoon, then going to Baltimore to vend at Otakon nine hours after that, and finally going to Lake George with my family within eight hours of arriving home from that adventure, we did not want to cart home any more leftovers than necessary.
I feel the emotions welling from deep within, from a place I barely have a name for, but I don't know how to process them yet. This weekend will be one of the most important of my life and I cannot navigate that with ironic detachment, even if that concept didn't fill me with revulsion.
Instead, I manage the tide by treating the wedding as a series of tasks to accomplish, consciously not worry about anything not on my mental list. When we arrived to the house, I told Amber that I was her soldier until further notice and she need only give an order. To this, she made a sexy growl. This was how I hid from the fullness of the experience, the sincerity of getting married. I want to be involved, but in pieces. "I will move these chairs down here. I have now accomplished 1% of Wedding."
I do not think bears are overcome by degrees, however, but instead by decisive action in debilitating the claws and working the midsection.
Soon in Xenology: More wedding! The perils of poverty. Biking to enlightenment.