I had the wonderful honor, some weekends past, to be part of a wedding party.
While it is always an honor to be asked to stand with a friend when they marry, it isn't always described as wonderful. By that I mean, all the things that go into a wedding can be daunting, even if you're not the ones getting married. Whether it be getting fitted for a tuxedo, buying an appropriate gift, making sure the tux fits and that you spend the day looking like it not only fits but that it's your preferred form of attire. Or making sure you don't do anything to upset anyone in what can be described as a charged atmosphere.
Well, I was lucky. Not only did my tuxedo fit, but, really, it was pretty darned comfortable. In fact, all of the groomsmen commented on how great they fit. And I have to say every one of the guys looked stunning in their formal wear. And the day was so relaxed that I honestly left the ceremony wishing my friends would make this a monthly gathering. And for anyone who knows me, hanging out at a party, isn't what I usually describe as fun.
The last time I was a member of a wedding party was ... well, more years than I care to remember. And while I'm happy to report that the couple are still very happily married, the day of the ceremony had it's bumps, the biggest, perhaps, was that florist had gone out of business and no one bothered to tell the wedding party. Imagine trying to scramble for flowers for a wedding with only an hour or so to spare.
My most recent wedding experience would be different from the get go.
I got a call from the best man that a weekend gathering was to take place at a beach resort in the sleepy beach town of San Clemente. The weekend would be filled with drinking, bar-b-que's and all things that one might expect from a "bachelor party." I'm not much of a party goer, and the thought of spending the weekend with a group of straight guys was ... well, was something I wasn't sure how would turn out.
Because I am who I am, and do things the way I do them, I wasn't able to get a hotel where everyone else was staying. Instead, I was across the freeway, in what turned out to be a very nice hotel itself. The groom was at first disappointed. But when pressed, he seemed more concerned that I wouldn't't have as good a time being located so far away. I assured him, I would be okay and it wasn't really that far away really.
The weekend was upon us, and the groom, the best man, and myself would spend Friday night preparing for the weekend. I heard stories of their childhood, of their strong bond, of the times when things got rough, but how the friendship meant more than any disagreement could.
The best man was a great guy. He and the groom had known each other since childhood, and the evening was spent eating, drinking, drinking, and then to top it off, a little more drinking.
While the moment wasn't mine, and I had already committed myself to making sure the groom had a great time, I was pleasantly surprised that the best man was so nice, sincere and welcoming.
The weekend was more of the same. While we may have looked like a gathering of frat boys on a reunion weekend, we didn't act like frat boys ... well maybe we did a little.
But, for me, the most amazing thing was how great each and every member of the group was. Not only were the groomsmen in attendance, but so were friends of the groom who wanted to share in giving him a proper send off to marriage.
And, all the while the groom, while having a great time, made certain that everyone clicked. This was a rare time when nearly all his male friends would get together, some who had never met, others who were long time friends. And he, the groom, was steadfast in his resolve to make sure no one felt left out.
In the midst of drunken card playing, he would lean aside, and ask if I was having a good time. I assured him I was. As was everyone else.
Many of the guys in attendance were married, some were single, and a vast majority were Ph.D's. I couldn't believe that these young "kids" were doctors. Especially the way they all drank.
But doctors of philosophy I guess, makes sense that they would expand their horizons by trying to determine which of the myriad choices of alcohol would go best with grilled beef. Or Doritos. And the groom was no different.
While he opted out of a Ph.D. program, I was surprised to learn at one point that he had been accepted to Harvard and several other Ivy League institutions. I always knew he was smart. But he never made anyone feel they weren't as smart as he.
At no time during the weekend did I ever feel like I was anything less than a long time friend to the guys. And a week or two later, when time came for the wedding, we all clicked as if we had known each other forever.
Toasts were made, and perhaps the most moving for me was the grooms father. I take him as a man who isn't regularly demonstrative with his emotions, but the love for his son and his new daughter was obvious. His toast included a thanks to God that his son was surrounded by so many good people. Good friends who he knew would help him in his new journey as a husband, and eventually father. And always as a friend.
And, true to form, the groom made a point to make sure everyone was okay, having a good time and enjoying themselves as much as he was.
And something I had always known had made itself so very apparent that wedding weekend. With all the groomsmen, all the bridesmaids, all the family and friends. It was really the groom who was the best man!
His wife and his friends and I am very lucky to have him in our lives.