potluck

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When I think back on the weddings I’ve attended, though all of them have been joyous affairs, one simple celebration sparkles in my memory, all covered with love and joy and fairy dust. JE & JO spent very little time on the frills that we so often associate with weddings. They decided to get married, and then they got married.

Like, two weeks later.

I was moving at the time, and in those days before ubiquitious cell-phones and email, I was hard to contact. When JE tracked me down, she invited me over the phone, gasping it out in one excited, scantly punctuated sentence. “Can you come down Saturday after next I know it’s short notice we’re getting married I’m not pregnant!” I laughed and told her I wouldn’t miss it.

I arrived at their home and followed the festive signs to their backyard gate. The yard was framed with potted trees and flowering shrubs. An aisle, marked out with smaller plants, led the eye to the open space under their majestic pear tree.

JO wore comfortable shoes, a fancy new tie, and a ready, open grin. JE glowed and giggled, and floated around the garden in a simple white chemise. She hugged me and whispered two secrets into my ear: she’d found the dress on a sale rack for less than a pair of movie tickets, and she was wearing two round Band-Aids under (ahem) the dress, for modesty’s sake.

Fewer than forty people were present at this wedding; the couple invited a tiny core of good friends to celebrate with family. About ten of the guests were under the age of eight. There was laughter and chasing and tickling, and the bride was responsible for much of it.

After the ceremony, we went inside the house, where the first floor had been cleared of the usual furniture. The clerestory dining room was completely empty, with stereo speakers peeping in from upstairs, blaring out jazz and popular children’s tunes and Rosemary Clooney and classical guitar. We danced. Oh, we danced. Everyone got a chance to dance with the bride, with the groom, with the kids.

In the living room and study, chairs lined up around the walls, and the few tables were laden with food. Gorgeous food, lush and lavish food, spectacularly prepared platters of shrimps and tomato salad and bruschetta and greens and breads.

The most formally set table delighted me the most. On a pressed linen cloth overlaid with lace was: an ornate silver platter paved with PB&J sandwiches, cut into flowers and circles and wrapped in colorful cellophane; a silver punchbowl full to the brim with Goldfish crackers; an elegant pitcher holding shimmery pinwheels; and a basket of Mad Libs booklets and bottles of bubble-blowing goo. The table was low, for easy grabbing by little hands.

As the food was refreshed, I clued in: it was a potluck. Because I was between apartments and traveling to the wedding, they hadn’t asked me to pitch in, but JE and JO had asked some friends and family to bring their particular specialties to be a part of the wedding buffet. The contributors beamed with pride as they received well-deserved compliments.

As the wedding wound to a close, I noticed some of the guests picking up their potted plants and trees from the backyard before they left, or their chairs, or their coolers. The happy couple had asked their non-cooking friends to bring other elements instead. Almost every guest had contributed something of themselves to the simple beauty of this wedding.

As the bride (and no one else present) knew, I was in the midst of a sad breakup that weekend, and feeling lost and lonely. This wedding refreshed me and raised me up, reminded me of the abundant love that good friends share.

I carried the joy and generosity of this wedding with me for a long time. I carry it still.

I’ve thought of JE & JO’s wedding often as The Fella and I plan our own wedding. Though we’re following a different path than JE & JO, I hope we’ll arrive at the same place: a party, not a pageant. A place for love and giggling and games. An occasion for sharing our joy.

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