Some people read books. Others work out. My leisurely hobby is going to weddings. I think my highest number of weddings I attended in a single year was 12. (footnote: I actually was invited to 14 that year but two weekends were doubled up so I had to choose. Since neither of the couples whose weddings I missed are still together, I feel I made the right choices.) Aside from being a relatively decent person, there are two main reasons I get invited to weddings: 1) I have a lot of big groups I’m a part of. I went to big schools, a big church, a big summer camp, etc. 2) As a single guy who isn’t associated exclusively with any one of these groups I have no “invitation baggage.” No one says, “well if we invite Hayes, we have to invite _______.” Trust me, this matters a great deal when it comes to the careful selection process of wedding invites.
I have attended two weddings in the same day in different cities. I have been a date to weddings. I found out that in some small eastern North Carolina towns, you have to announce the wedding in the newspaper AND INVITE THE WHOLE TOWN. I’ve been to weddings in Blowing Rock and Beaufort in the same month. I once attended two weddings in back to back weekends in Chapel Hill—two different churches on Franklin Street, same reception hall, two totally different crowds. The security guard at the reception location and I greeted each other like old friends upon my arrival at the second wedding. The whole staff was the same—I got some of the best service I’ve ever had that night.
I attended a wedding in Pinehurst one year after covering the U.S. Open there. I took 20 minutes out of the wedding to walk around the places I had seen the pro golfers inhabit a year earlier. I literally used the bathroom where I saw Jim Furyk use the bathroom. It was probably cooler for me than it was for him.
I’ve been to a wedding on Halloween dressed like the Phantom of the Opera. I believe there was briefly some question if I was an invited guest, but enough people in attendance either recognized it was me or just figured it was. I sat in the back quietly and did not touch the lights.
There were wedding seasons where my life felt like “Wedding Crashers” except that I was invited to them all. In fact, I never liked “Wedding Crashers” that much, partly because it made me feel like my zealousness for attending weddings (and doing my part to make them fun) would then be perceived as nefarious. The truth is, for someone who loves to “get down” at the wedding, it is the rarest of occasions when I “get down” afterwards. I’m here to celebrate, eat, drink and dance.
I’ve fainted at a wedding ceremony. I’ve commandeered a John Deere Gator during a reception. I’ve been asked if I were a hired professional, paid to get the party going. I’ve been cussed at by a photographer and lauded by others.
I’ve picked up great wedding pro tips. Like, Always offer to bring the bride and groom food and drink. Better yet, know what they want and just bring it when they first arrive. Another one: As soon as you get a hint the bar is shutting down (if there are multiple serving stations they usually close one at a time), get a group of people to order multiple drinks consecutively, and put them somewhere out of the way. In 15 minutes you will be the hero of the party, especially if there is a wait for shuttle transportation. Don’t sweat the flowers too much: people only talk about them if they’re bad. And the best wedding advice I can offer: you gotta dance. Being old enough now to know people who have life regrets, I can tell you that you HAVE to dance. No one regrets dancing.
While the number of weddings have slowed as I grow closer to 40, I still see a few engagements a year where I think “well, that should be a fun Saturday next year.” And in fact, August 2016 was one of the busiest wedding months I’ve ever had. I went to three weddings in three different states and had a different role at each. I documented some of the events on twitter (@DHPIV) using #AugustofLove, but it’s not always easy to live tweet and enjoy an event, and the third wedding took place in an area with no cell reception. So I decided to recap the #AugustofLove here:
Location: Chevy Chase, Maryland (just outside of Washington, DC)
Type of Wedding: Christian, Outdoor, medium-sized, late afternoon ceremony, sit down dinner, live band plus recorded songs specific to the bride’s home country during breaks.
My connection: the groom was a childhood and high school buddy from Raleigh whom I’ve stayed close with
My role: Groomsman. A few notes on this:
-I noticed—as the minister was conveying how much stronger 2 is than 1—that I was the only single groomsman. This may have been the first time that happened, but there may have been one other; either way it was the first time it struck me as a sign that surely some of my friends are marrying the wrong people in an effort to keep up. I’m doing just fine, thanks.
-I like the recent trend among my friends of asking groomsmen to buy a nice suit they can keep rather than rent a normal tux (that looks just like the one I own) I have to return. Often times if you are buying a bunch of the same suit you can get a deal where it’s almost the same price as a rental—most of my friends have used the Joseph A. Banks specials.
-Partly because I enjoy performing and partly because I stink at buying gifts (not saying I pick bad ones, meaning I don’t buy them) whenever I am asked to be a groomsman I try to give a memorable toast (at the rehearsal dinner—I leave the more serious stuff for the wedding day), usually in the form of a song. I kept that tradition alive and had the crowd singing along by the end, which is always fun. The groom’s elementary age niece and nephew also did a musical number which was impressive.
The Good: The bride was a native of Venezuela, so there were many parts of the wedding—from a prayer in Spanish to an ‘Hora Loca’ of dancing at the reception—that were a reflection of her family heritage and were fun to experience and take part in. A great moment was when the groom, who had practiced his spanish speaking (we used to be in spanish classes together in high school—he needed practice), delivered his toast to his bride in english and spanish. The setting was also wonderful—it felt like we were deep in the country while only being minutes from the bustle of the DC suburbs. I didn’t see them because I was facing the audience but apparently some deer rolled up mid-wedding to check out the action.
The Better: Even beyond celebrating the couple, selfishly it was a great wedding for the group of friends it brought together. With the exception of one who was across the country for family reasons and one who is no longer with us, all of my closest high school friends attended the wedding, almost all with wives, and most children who were being watched by grandparents or babysitters.
The Other: it was hot. I’d even say steamy. But whatever. I’m of the mind that you can’t pick your wedding with weather in mind. Whatever is going to happen in that regard is going to happen, and you just roll with it. I tried not to mention it too much, but I was glad I brought a towel from the hotel to use throughout the wedding. On the plus side, the Washington Nationals had a day game the Sunday after the wedding, so I picked up a baseball game on the way out of town.
Location: Raleigh, NC
Type of Wedding: Christian, Indoor/church, large, morning, sit-down lunch, live band
My connection: the groom and family are long-time friends from Raleigh. Half or more of the weddings I attend, this family is also represented.
My role: invited guest. A few notes on this:
-because of the early start time and because I was leaving town the next day, the thought crossed my mind—as it does from time to time—to skip the ceremony and just go to the reception. But a long time ago I decided that if I ever let myself do that once, for whatever reason, it’d become increasingly likely that I’d find a good excuse to skip the church and that’s not the way I want to be. So I’ve held a pretty good standard of attending the whole wedding. I’m not saying I’ve never missed a service, but if I have it’s been over 15 years and I was likely at the mercy of someone else’s transportation needs. I was glad I attended, the service was great, I was reminded how beautiful Christ Church is, and we sang two great hymns. If you get married in a church you should sing at least one hymn.
The Good: there were a lot of people I knew and grew up with. There were at least 3 other people there for whom I had been a groomsman. My assigned table for lunch included 3 of my best female friends, all of whom are married to guys I am friends with (and all of whom, coincidentally I had been dance partners with in some form or another in high school). Two-thirds of my 14-year old Raleigh Parks and Rec basketball league team were there, including the coach. It was just a recipe for a good time. And a hot ticket, apparently. I’ve had two female friends ask me if I got the “and Guest” on my invitation, and if so why didn’t I ask them?! (I did not). How Raleigh a wedding was it? The groom stopped the reception to recognize the new Broughton football coach upon his arrival after winning his debut in a rain-delayed game.
The Better: There were two great family moments during the reception. One was the father of the bride’s toast, one of the best I’ve ever seen. The other occurred as the couple was departing the reception. The groom’s cousins were all wearing marching band uniforms and had drum line pieces they were all banging on. There was also a guy in a bunny suit (long story). As the groom approached, they handed him the bass drum and the drum major’s hat and let him take the lead. It was an impressive site.
The Other: It wasn’t the first morning wedding I had been to, but it was the first in a while. It didn’t bother me—I swear for the most part I adhere strongly to the “it’s your wedding” credo—but you could tell several people weren’t sure how the timing would shake out. I overhead one mom say to another “I told my baby sitter we’d be home between 3 and 11.” Do I suspect the groom just wanted to wear a morning suit? Maybe.
Location: Capon Springs and Farm, Hampshire County, West Virginia
Type of Wedding: Christian-influenced, outdoor, medium, dinner and dancing, live bluegrass band
My connection: I have vacationed at this place the same week of the year, every year of my life and the bride’s family is another family who has done the same
My role: Officiant
-I’ve played a lot of roles at weddings: guest, groomsman, reader, usher. Never have I been the person marrying the couple.
-I was honored to be asked and felt (still feel) woefully inadequate. I have great respect for many of my minister friends and worry my marrying someone is a slight to their profession. I also am not married and can’t claim to have any great knowledge of the subject. But the family explained to me why they were choosing this place and this community to be the site of their marriage and why it made sense to them for me to be the officiant, so I accepted.
-getting ordained online is relatively easy. Getting certified by the state of West Virginia to perform rites of marriage took a few steps but wasn’t too difficult. I read and re-read everything I needed to do and I’m still terrified that I technically missed a step and will somehow be to blame when a bastard child is born because I signed on a wrong line somewhere and the marriage isn’t legal.
-it was a cool experience marrying people. You are right up there in the action. I’ve taken in a lot of weddings looking at the back of another groomsman’s head. Not this time. I was holding flowers and wiping tears. Like many things in life, the most stressful, most worrisome roles we play are often the most rewarding. Relieved I did an adequate job, I hope I come to enjoy and appreciate the experience even more as time passes.
The Good: it got done. Honestly, with all due respect to the bride and groom I’m not sure anyone was more nervous than I was. The combination of worrying that I’d provide an adequate service and fearing I’d bungle the process of legally marrying two people had me more out of sorts than I am comfortable being. And with the spiritual overtones of any wedding, there was also a fear that I might be struck down by lightning at any time for overstepping my bounds. I was relieved when my part of the wedding was done and I could go back to being a wedding guest. It is a role I play much better, as I helped lead some solid crowd dances adapted for bluegrass music.
The Better: Every wedding is unique, but I like being a part of weddings that are something people walk away from saying “I’ll never see anything like that again.” It’s hard to describe this vacation spot (halfway between summer camp and “Dirty Dancing” is the best I can offer), but it is one of a kind and it made for a one of a kind wedding, including bridesmaids, groomsman, ring bearers, flower girls, musicians and photographers who signed up on the board the same way we do for tennis, shuffleboard or flag-raising. And it seemed to be the right fit for the couple.
The Other: I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have been part of the groom’s family in attendance wondering what this place and who these people were. And I still can’t imagine having to confess you were married by me.