I make an appearance in more wedding albums than Elizabeth Taylor. I'm not a frequent partygoer or a chronic groom but if you tied the knot in Minnesota there's a pretty good chance that I reluctantly attended the reception. Look carefully at that photograph of Uncle Leo groping the best man's girlfriend on the dance floor and you'll see me over in the corner, behind the portable bar. The benign expression on my face masks the fact that I'm planning to use my corkscrew to disembowel the deejay the next time he plays the Macarena.

Some demented genius has cornered the market on wedding reception planning and rendered them all identically horrific. It doesn't matter if your party is at the local V.F.W. or in the ballroom of the finest hotel the result will be the same. I would plead with you to reconsider for the good of your marriage. The exorbitant price you'll pay for loveless food in a big room with sour carpeting could be better spent and about half of the people in attendance would rather be elsewhere anyway. Henry David Thoreau wisely warned us to "distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes" and I would expand the admonition to include rented ones.

With the divorce rate hovering around in coin toss territory the wedding itself is an exercise in ritualized insincerity. Whether you make your vows in a church in front of God and everyone or quietly in the office of a Justice of the Peace, you are as likely as not engaged in a fraud. I say bag the entire ordeal and fly below the radar on the matrimony thing. Quiet promises are easier to keep, like a resolution to diet or to quit smoking. If you want to insure failure in either of those endeavors you need only spout your grand goals from the rooftops. I attribute the low success rate of marriage to the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it.

I advocate a secret ceremony involving only the two principal parties. You'll save a pile of money if you whisper the oath to your prospective mate and you'll save face if it turns out to be a pack of lies. You might just save yourself from a one way ride on the bullet train to Hell by not breaking promises to your God. At the very least you'll emancipate me from my place behind the bar and the living nightmare of watching another drunken aunt shake her misshapen booty to the medley from Grease.

Every marriage represents one more woman I'll never get to lay down with and another guy who is more likely to cancel his tee times. It's a somber damned occasion and should be treated as such. Any God worth worshipping and breaking vows in front of would prefer that we frolic like otters and the constrictions placed on us by formal matrimony are decidedly unotterlike. I believe it's an inherently evil social construction and would beg you to abandon the idea altogether.

If you must take on a spousal unit, for Heaven's sake keep it to yourself.


We stopped at the mall and bought a couple of gold rings and pretty much laid out the ground rules during the car ride on the way to the boat. I promised her that she'd always be my Mary and she promised me that she'd always be kind to dumb animals. We could iron out the details as we went along. We had been given a rusty old houseboat called "The Sandbucket" as an advanced wedding present and since I was the Captain of the vessel I felt qualified to perform the ceremony myself. We stood together on the deck of the boat in dry dock, I made some kind of vague oath to the golf gods and we were wed.

"Doesn't the boat have to be out to sea for the Captain to marry people?"

"I think you're sucking the beauty out of this blessed event by harping on silly details."

"Well, somebody's got to sign the marriage certificate or it won't be legal. It'll look pretty funny if you sign it yourself."

I was aware of the dubious legality of maritime nuptials but felt that the spark of plausible deniability would add zest to our union. The thing about having to be out to sea seemed a debatable detail. The boat was elevated above the snow on blocks of wood after all, so it wasn't really on dry land either.

"Yeah, I guess you've got a point there. I had planned to make my signature illegible but I suppose that doesn't seem right either."

The clever little vixen was covering all of the angles, savvy as an old sea dog she was.

"And what's up with the spiel to the golf gods? I don't even play golf."

"Oh now there's where you're wrong, Mary. Everybody plays golf eventually, you should start now while you're young and limber."

"In Minnesota in February?"

Christ, if I had known the appeal to the golf gods was going to be a deal breaker I'd have kept my mouth shut. I was just trying to make it sound official. She was squirming a little now, apparently coming to her senses so I knew I had to act quickly.

"My grandpa's a preacher, we can get him to make it legal."

"Your grandpa's ninety years old and he's been retired from the church for over forty years. That doesn't sound kosher either."

"We'll get him reinstated or reenlisted or whatever they call it. I'm pretty sure it's like the Mafia or the Hotel California, you can check out but you can never really leave."


Mary and I are probably not the first couple to be married in a nursing home but I'll bet that we're the youngest. We sent away to the Church archives for a photocopy of my grandfather's proof of holiness papers and paid fifty bucks to make him a licensed clergyman in the state of Minnesota. Just to cover my bases with the golf gods I held a closest to the pin competition in the snow to determine my best man.

Mary bought a red dress at the Salvation Army Thrift Store for two dollars that was worth at least ten times that amount and I was a vision of purity in my white linen suit and pink carnation. I put a daisy in her hair and we drove to the nursing home to wake up my grandfather.

"Hey grandpa wake up, we want you to marry us."

"Wha...what? I can't marry you, I don't know the service, besides I retired from the ministry decades ago."

"No, it's cool grandpa, here's your paperwork. We already made our vows, you've just got to make the 'I do' part official."

Grandpa put his best suit coat on over his pajamas, balanced in his walker and performed his last ministerial act. It was a moment of great symmetry for him because it mirrored his first duty as a cleric. Seventy years before he had nervously performed a marriage ceremony only a day or two after his ordination and he hadn't done one in English since. He was shipped off to a mission in India and married hundreds of Indian couples in the Tamil language but hadn't a clue what to say at an American wedding.

"It's okay grandpa, you're tight with God. We just need you to say that you approve."

"You promise to be nice to one another?"

Grandpa had a powerful affection for my Mary and his eyes welled up with tears at his surprise role in our union. When he tried to dry his eyes he wavered unsteadily over the walker so he just let the saltwater flow. My bride and I answered in unscripted harmony.

"We do."

"Well then, I pronounce you man and wife. Let's have a drink."