Jeremy and I recently went to the first wedding of our friends since our own. I expected it to be an incredibly different experience from all the weddings I attended prior to my own, but the only real difference was how aware I was of my smile. Jeremy and I happened to have watched our wedding video for the first time the night before, and I had never fully realized as a guest how everything you do is recorded for posterity. That subtle underarm scratch you think no one noticed? Years from now, your children will watch your awkward friend scratching away, and probably mock your outdated outfit as well. So I was hyper-aware of how I looked the entire wedding, making sure to smile whenever a camera passed.
Otherwise, the wedding was just as beautiful as every other wedding I’ve been to. The magic of the couple’s love, the romantic glow dusting the celebration, wasn’t at all dulled for having been through it myself. I sighed, I cheered, I danced like a fiend. The groom’s smile seemed to burst from his face as he watched his bride walk towards him, her face reflecting his. I felt myself smiling at their unabashed joy, and not only because a camera was nearby.
“This isn’t any less beautiful for having been up there myself,” I whispered to my friend as the groom slipped on the bride’s ring under the chuppah. I guess in some ways I expected to find it all less of a fairy tale, to feel more jaded now that I’ve gotten married myself. Instead, I was infected, as I always am at weddings, with contagious excitement at the prospect of the future and the joy of the moment.
I can’t pretend I felt exactly the same as I did at weddings before my own; for starters, I felt far more comfortable being involved. Previously, I was always worried about being too involved in the wedding. I would want to fan the bride as she sat in a brief break from dancing but was afraid to infringe. If you’ve never been to an Orthodox wedding, then a quick note: there is a LOT of dancing. Picture that dizzying dancing scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” just for hours on end. At this wedding, I remembered how hot I was at my own wedding, and how much I appreciated it whenever someone so much as waved a napkin in my face, so I fanned away. I remembered my favorite bracha some guests gave us, and I passed it on: “May you always be as happy as you are this night.”
And like I said, I smiled a lot. I danced a lot. I all but pulled out a top hat and tap-danced for the camera. (At least that couple will have an entertaining video.) Weddings are wonderful. They encapsulate hope for the future, love for another, trust and faith, family and community, tradition, religion, romance, fears, happy tears and so much more, all in five hours, served alongside stuffed chicken and arugula salads. Having been through my own, I know firsthand all those emotions, and felt them even more sharply at the wedding of two of our friends.
A part of me wanted to take the bride and groom aside and whisper to them everything I’ve learned from my marriage so far; I wanted to share all the emotions and the ups and downs and tips and secrets. But I know that soon enough, they’ll find out for themselves.
Simi Lichtman is a contributor to the Forward.
The First Wedding After Ours