(Rehearsal dinner: February 15, 2001
Medical professionals, police, counselors and clergy: these are callings that demand both strength and empathy. Empathizing with people in pain is, itself, painful. Further, a small error in professional judgement can be the difference between life and death, or worse. This is why "the helping professions
" have such a high burnout rate. The worst that can happen is really tragic.
By contrast, performing a wedding ceremony is almost mindless. With a decent script and passable public speaking skills, the officiant just has to show up. Even if you drone, stumble, and mumble through the ceremony, no one is going to lose all hope and commit suicide. The worst that can happen is not so bad. The caterer has far more responsibility than the minister.
In my case, the best that could happen, did. I haven't performed in front of this many people in some 8 years, and never in such a visible, individual role. As I launched into the Greeting, my voice threatened to crack. Early on in the Blessing, my knees were trembling so violently I had to lean a bit on the podium; being a wheeled, mobile model, it crept a half inch forward. I felt like I might explode, faint, go mad, and flee. That was probably the height of my panic, and I kept talking, clear and lively, right through it. I hadn't anticipated such nervousness, but I was equally surprised by my control. After the Recessional, the wedding party calmed its collective nerves with champagne and tobacco, and the witnesses and I completed the marriage certificate. Everyone complimented me on my presentation, and the newlyweds and their parents thanked me so many times I lost count. Throughout the reception festivities, I got more of the same; even the DJ complimented me. Cris, who loaned me her graduation gown for a ministerial robe, remarked how good I looked in it. (She wasn't just blowing sunshine up my ass; in the next breath, she insulted my tie.)
It was as smooth as a wedding gets with a single rehearsal - which is to say, it was quirky, unique. There were minor missteps, but no one was hurt. "The perfect wedding" is nonsense - perfection is boring! We may safely ignore our machines in proportion to the perfection of their engineering, and we appreciate this transparency because we'd rather be doing something more fun than struggling with the mechanical. People, on the other hand, need a touch of disorder. We are strengthened and refined more by challenge than by ease. Dancers all, we are at our most beautiful when we bend and sway.
My new shoes rubbed raw spots on my feet, Turning Japanese, doing The Time Warp again, and otherwise shaking my ministerial booty. I disco'ed a bit with the maid of honor; she told me I was a good dancer. (Cf. "things people tell me that I refuse to believe", and I'm kicking myself a bit for not following up with a return compliment.) The music switched to a song she didn't recognize, and she hesitated, with the deer-in-the headlights look I can't resist. "I don't know how to dance to this." "You've got the beat, right?" "Yeah but..." Turns out she could dance to it, whether she "knew how" or not. You need never leave the dance floor; if your smile says you're having fun, no one will be watching your feet anyway.