The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lost in the Lunchroom

"The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It's a choice you make - not just on your wedding day, but over and over again -- and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife." — BARBARA DE ANGELIS

My friend Allie and I packed our bags this past weekend and headed to Nashville, TN to see our friends Brooks and Katie get married. Because I had to work on Friday, we had to leave on Saturday morning and try to make it in time for the wedding at 5:00. A stop for pantyhose at Wal-Mart and a number of other detours had us rolling into the church at 4:48 with no gas in our tank and a disheveled we-got-ready-at-a-rest stop look. We were relieved to make it though and witness the ceremony of two people very much in love.

Though I poorly try to profess skepticism about weddings and pretend to loathe going to them, I have to admit that — deep down — I am a hopeless romantic that inwardly gets great joy out of them. I watch "Say Yes to the Dress" marathons and cause my brothers to puzzle over how I can watch a show that consists only of watching brides-to-be try on dresses.

Weddings, like people, are all different and usually reflect the personalities of the bride and groom. I think that's why I love them — because the music, the table settings, the food; everything gives you a glimpse into what brings them joy.

If you were one of the "cool kids" in junior high, disregard this analogy; everyone else: Do you remember that feeling in the lunchroom when you had your tray full of food and you were walking aimlessly around the lunchroom, looking for a place to plop down? On a bad day, you would sit down only to hear those dreaded words: "These seats are saved."

Fast forward to January 2nd, 2010 and Allie and I faced the same fate. Considering most wedding receptions I have attended have been in the annex of the church and involved party mints and mixed nuts, I was not adequately prepared when I walked into a hotel dining room and saw beautifully decorated tables and a 3-course meal with servers. Allie and I grasped our fine china like a lunch tray and wandered around to find our place in this big scheme of things. First stop: Reserved. We picked our plates back up and weaved in and out of more tables, only to rest in the middle of the room.

I had just completed a demolition of two blocks of cheese and was starting on my fruit dip-smothered grapes when Allie made an interesting observation: "Ashton, look how nice this centerpiece is! It must have been a fortune!" We begin to look around and our hearts begin to race when we realize that all the other tables have smaller, less extravagant floral arrangements. Yes, friends. We had sat down at the family table; the table above all other tables. If this had been the lunchroom, we sat down with the basketball team and the cheerleaders.

We luckily found our mistake and moved before the family filtered in after the "Let's welcome Mr. and Mrs. Parker" announcement. I can only thank the Lord for having mercy on my lack of wedding etiquette and providing us with enlightenment before we had to shuffle from the table, our shoulders hunched over with shame; all eyes on us as we scurried to another table and searched for which fork to use.

Any girl that has watched wedding shows or attended numerous ceremonies knows that the hustle and bustle can be overwhelming. The etiquette or expectations can vary, and it is often difficult to transition from one to the other. I think that it's important, however, to never lose sight of what marriage is all about. I may admire the table settings or love her bridesmaid dress choices, but they never overshadow my awe of the groom's face when those double doors open for the first time and he sees her standing there.

For many, it stops there. Not for me. Most people just picture him seeing her beautifully made-up face; the curve her body makes in her strapless dress; the way she can't stop smiling. I think he's seeing the future; that same girl in sweats, with her hair in a ponytail holding a newborn baby. I see her with that smile on her face when he's coming in from a hard day at work.

What if we spent as much time planning and working on our marriages as we did planning and working on the wedding ceremony? What if we looked at our husbands and wives and remembered how we felt when those doors opened for the first time? What if we, as their support system, admired and complimented a strong marriage as much as we complimented the bouquets?

The girly-girl side of me may get a superficial joy from the wedding madness, but the realistic part of me knows that I want more than a pretty dress and a string quartet. I want someone to look at me fifty years down the road the same way he looked at me on that day. I want him to never forget the girl he married on that day, but for him to grow to appreciate the woman she has become.

I have heard it said that, "A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short." That's what I want, and I know when I find it, I will know it. I may long for the pretty dress, the bridal luncheon and all the "extras," but I know that what I really crave is true love. There will come a day when I will know what table to sit at, and all eyes will be on me for different reasons. I will probably compliment the pretty flowers, but I will know in my heart that they were placed there just for me.

All my love, Ashton


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