I am at a wedding. A classy one. If I had to guess, the entire affair cost about as much as a second-floor beach condo with Gulf views. There are so many people attending the event that it has port-a-johns, valet service, and a team of photographers.
The bride is lovely. Her dress is long and full. During the ceremony, the lady seated next to me whispers to her friend, “I heard she went to Orlando to get that dress.”
“Orlando?” says the other. “It’s lovely.”
“For that much money, it oughta be insured.”
“What a dress.”
“It’s all about the dress.”
This is a very different concept from the weddings my people often threw. For one thing, our weddings were not about dresses unless you counted the kind purchased from TJ Maxx. Our weddings were about the receptions. Often, these events were held in somebody’s backyard and usually involved an above-ground pool or a deer stand.
They were the kinds of get-togethers where beforehand, every man’s wife would grip his elbow firmly and say, “Do NOT embarrass me.”
But this wedding isn’t like that. This is a swanky deal. The people in the congregation are dressed nicely. One woman appears to be wearing a pheasant on her head.
Two rows ahead of me is a man wearing his sunglasses—I’ve never seen this before—on the back of his head. I keep noticing the glasses throughout the service, staring at me. It’s like making eye contact with a very hairy creature in protective eyewear.
After the ceremony, everyone drives to a seafood restaurant across town for the reception. There is a DJ, dancefloor, and a cash bar. People are loosening their neckties, letting their hair down. And now we get to see first hand what kinds of things happen when Methodists drink.
Someone asks me to dance. A girl named Erin. Erin is six years old and can dance circles around me. We do several fast-paced unchoreographed moves until I have to stop and catch my breath by placing my head between my legs.
Then the music changes. The dancefloor is packed. The song is: “The Electric Slide.” Its time to take Erin to school. Because you do not out-Electric-Slide Mister Dietrich. Neither do you out-YMCA him.
I did not grow up dancing, I was raised fundamentalist. So I am making up for lost time. I tell Erin to stand back and give me plenty of room because when the DJ plays “Twist and Shout” I fully intend to herniate L4 and L5.
But one of my favorite parts of the night is the father-bride dance. This has always been my favorite tradition. To see a bride dance with her father is precious. It’s all in the way he stares at her. It’s a special look. Mournful, but proud.
You can read his whole life on his face. It’s all right there. He taught her to ride a bicycle, throw a football, and probably coached softball. And now he’s saying goodbye, entrusting her to a wide-eyed young man whose mother still does his laundry.
Then comes the mother-groom dance. The song is “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys.” There isn’t a dry eye in the house.
And the greatest part of the evening happens next. The bride and groom take the dancefloor. A hush falls over the crowd. And the best man announces that he is going to drink an entire beer from his own shoe. He is then escorted outside.
Then the music begins. Bride and groom hold each other. The lights dim. They dance to “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong. And you can’t help but listen to the lyrics:
“The colors of the rainbow,
“So pretty in the sky
“Are also on the faces,
“Of people passing by,
“I see friends shaking hands,
“Saying ‘How do you do?’
“You know they’re really saying,
“‘I love you…’”
During this song, the DJ opens the dancefloor. People start slow dancing. Erin tugs my arm and demands that I dance with her again. I level with her and tell her that I don’t know how to dance slow.
Because as I said, I come from non-dancers. I didn’t even dance at my own wedding. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my reception was full of Baptists who were morally obligated to sniff their glasses of ice water just to be sure.
But Erin insists. After a few minutes on the dancefloor, I am getting the hang of it.
Then, a tall brunette wants to cut in. She is wearing a nice dress. She has a touch of silver in her hair, which she dyes from time to time. A few smile-lines gather around her eyes. I see this woman’s face every morning when I wake up. It is my favorite face.
“Excuse me,” my wife says to the girl. “Can I dance with this guy?”
And we dance. Not well. But we do the best we can. When we finish, the music changes. It is a fast tune. Throbbing, loud, happy music. “Stayin’ Alive” is the song.
I unbutton my top shirt button and stretch my hamstrings.
My wife grips my elbow and says:
“Do NOT embarrass me.”