Monday, September 18, 2006

COLUMN: Catholic Wedding

My closest friend here at work got married this past weekend, and I got enlisted to lend a hand with the music at both the wedding and reception. For the most part, it went off without a hitch. (The other part being when a random attendee fainted mid-ceremony. Or when I was given a sound cue too early and accidentally drowned out the minister in a sonic wave of Etta James.)

Otherwise, it went off perfect. My buddy Nathan looked happy, and his new bride looked positively radiant. It was a good wedding, and for once, I didn't feel insanely awkward. You see, me and weddings usually don't get along too well.

My awkwardness and dread of weddings all stems from one particular blessed union I had the pleasure of attending a few years back. I'd been to my share of weddings by then, but this was my first Catholic wedding, complete with full Mass.

And this is nothing against Catholics, I love you guys, but when Catholics call it a "ceremony" -- well, they don't kid around. I have never felt more like a fish out of water in my whole life.

Thankfully, I brought my friend Kelly, who was raised Catholic. Little did I know my date would also turn into my interpreter, as I had NO clue what was going on. It started like any other wedding -- the bride walks down the aisle, a family member gets up and courageously sings a cute almost-in-the-right-key song. The priest comes out and gives a great little affirming sermon.

Except that it wasn't so little. It was, in fact, longer than your average college lecture. I sat there, trying to follow and appreciate the words of the sermon, but after awhile, I was getting confused. There were loads of Bible passages and one too many so-and-so said unto so-and-so's... and before I knew it, I had zoned out.

Here it was, my friends' special day, and I'm in my own little world. Random thoughts cruised through my brain at warp speed.

-- Gee, it's kind of hot in here. I should have worn something cooler. No, it's not hot; I'm just not used to wearing a tie. Did I tie my tie right? I bet it's crooked. Man, that's kind of a pretty stained glass window over there. I wonder how exactly one goes about staining the --


-- Whoa. What just happened? Everyone around me just spoke, all at once. Oh, man, did I miss a cue? Is there a script somewhere? Is it in the wedding program? I totally should have been paying more attention to the --


By now, I was sweating bullets. My friend Kelly leaned over & whispered, "You don't have to say all the stuff back. It's a Catholic thing." Then why did it seem like I was the ONLY one not chiming in? But there WAS no script to follow -- everyone just KNEW when to speak in unison. I felt like it was the 7th inning in a Cubs game and I was the only one in Wrigley Field who didn't know the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

That's when the worst bit happened. The priest said something, and out of the blue, the amiable old lady sitting on my left grabs my hand, smiles, and says, "Peace be with you." Well, I figure, that's actually kind of nice. She was right, I was stressing out a little bit, I could use some peace. But the thing is, after she said it, she kept gripping my hand and was looking at me a bit expectantly.

A million possible responses flew through my head. Surely I must have to say something in return. She just wished me some peace, what's the appropriate comeback? I thought about it for exactly 2.4 seconds and settled on a proper response. I looked her square in the eye, smiled, and said it.


At this point, my friend Kelly elbows me in the ribs and whisper-yells, "And also with you!" I was like, wow guys, sentiments of peace from both sides of me? These Catholics are pretty cool. I made sure to thank Kelly, too. She just rolled her eyes.

Obviously, this was a learning experience. As with all strange situations, I turn into a Follower and not a Leader. This would explain why at the same wedding, Kelly later had to physically restrain me from walking up to take Communion. "You're not even Catholic!" she hissed at me under her breath. Well, no, but everybody else was going up, I thought I had to, too. Perhaps this is why its hard finding dates for weddings.


What you're reading right now is the 100th column that I've written for the papers of the Moline Dispatch Publishing Co. I figure it's the right moment to thank the editors for going easy on me, and to thank all you guys for reading and strangely seeming to care about what a 35-year-old loser like me has to say. To all of you, I say from the heart with belated grace:



Anonymous said...

shane funny stuff... I hate wedding also. I went to a friends wedding a few years ago during a REALLY dry spell. I new the minister and when it came time for the bouquet toss in true amanda fashion, I boycotted. I then hear from across the room I hear "Amanda Williams- get out here ont the floor. Time for the bouquet toss!" Never so humiliated in my life.

Wendy said...

100 Columns!!! CONGRATS!!!!! Here's to 100, or even better, 1000 more! Thanks for the laughs!!!