Weddings are the ultimate expression of optimism and hope. Whether small and simple or large and elaborate, a wedding signifies the beginning of a lifelong commitment between two people to stay in love and stay married until the end of their lives. This is no small thing, obviously. I’ve never attended a wedding where I didn’t feel the enormity of what was happening as the couple was reciting their vows. When I was young it all seemed terribly romantic and exciting – to be that much in love and that sure of the person into whose eyes you are gazing is, in many ways, a miracle.
When I married my husband I could not have cared less about having a wedding, and would have been happy to have eloped to Las Vegas, just the two of us. I had done the white dress and open bar thing for my first, brief marriage, and it had been a huge waste of time and money. Nevertheless, my husband wanted a wedding, so we had one. I’m glad we did, because our marriage is a good one. Starting out on a happy note like we did, dancing with our friends and family on a warm August night, was exactly the right way for us to begin our lives together.
Now my friends’ children are getting married. A lot of them. And we are going to their weddings. Though I still see the miracle, I also know the road ahead for any young couple is filled with life-changing, heartbreaking, earth-shattering moments that will test not only the love these couples have for each other but the commitment they make as they stand in front of the people they love and…begin. I have faith, though. I believe in marriage, more now after 25 years than I did on that warm California night in August of 1989 when my husband and I began our lives together. I’ve seen some marriages fail, but I’ve also seen couples stay together through all kinds of traumas and disappointments, illness and loss. And while I may feel a twinge of envy for the new couples’ youth and passion, I am far more grateful for the ease and comfort and certainty of 25 years.
We went to a wedding a few weeks ago that was lovely. The bride was so happy, the groom so proud. We were there with many of our longtime friends, couples we’ve known for 20 something years, and we had a wonderful time. But in between the laughing and the dancing, we all came to the realization that we had crossed over to the old people’s side of the party. We barely recognized most of the music, and we didn’t care. We talked about grandkids and we talked about memories. We bragged about our children’s jobs and discussed when we want to retire. We danced a little, and some of the guys smoked cigars, but we all knew we weren’t really who the party was for. We had passed that baton to our children.
I watched the groom and his friends towards the end of the night, drunk and laughing and shouting fraternity chants, and I remembered my wedding and dancing with my college friends, some of whom got a little out of control – which was to be expected. We were young and it was an open bar. I remember looking over at my mother, my father, my aunt and uncle and seeing a look of surprise on their faces – and sitting at the wedding, being an observer more than a participant, I realized what they must have been thinking. All these years I had thought they were surprised, and maybe a little bothered, by how wildly my friends were behaving, but now I knew they were just shocked that they weren’t that young anymore. I knew because that was how I felt, watching the wedding party celebrating love, friendship, joy, the last few years of youth to be enjoyed before their real adulthood – mortgages, children, and all the rest – began.
And then I realized something else. My friends and I were celebrating the exact same things that night – but in our way. We may not have been drunk and dancing and yelling, but we were glad to be there, together. As our children grow up and out and away, making lives and loves of their own, we still have each other. Our friendships grow stronger and, I think, kinder as we age. These friendships will continue for many years and will become more valuable and precious as fate throws its weight around and we enter our 60s and beyond.
We may be getting older, but when we’re together, we still laugh. We’re still having fun. And that keeps us youthful.
Previously published on Purple Clover