You’ve been very patient. I’m proud of you. You can get a cookie and come back. Are you back? Okay.
I always figured courtroom weddings took place with a judge behind the bench, looking over his spectacles, saying something like, “By the power vested in me by the State of Iowa, I pronounce you husband and wife. Congratulations, I hope you have a pleasant day.” Maybe there would even be a gavel swing, maybe even a “Next.” But that wasn’t what it was like at all. Mr. Hanson, the magistrate, came to the center of the room and said, “Okay, you ready to get started?” Everyone straightened up and the bride and groom went to stand near Mr. Hanson.
“Would you like to say anything to each other before we get started?” he asked them. He had papers in his hands. The bride and groom looked at each other, smiling, nervous. They shrugged and the girl half-asked, half-said, “Well… Let’s do this.” Mr. Hanson went into the script and at the beginning, I zeroed in on the couple. I felt all the, “This is the beginning of their lives together!” and “Love is amazing!” feelings one feels at a wedding. But I wasn’t full on wedding-crying, yet.
That happened when I looked around at the family. They showed up. It was a Wednesday afternoon. People took off from work. They put on their Sunday best. The younger girls were taking pictures; Mom seemed to be filming the whole thing on her phone. It was a family. It was a family doing what families are supposed to do, even if they don’t like it all the time: they show up. They may think you’ve lost your mind, they may not understand you a lot of the time, but they love you, and even if you’re the black sheep this year, they’re gonna take off work and get to the courthouse. I think it’s because we all know — or certainly should consider — that we’ll be the black sheep in the family sooner or later. We’d better be nice; we’re gonna need it.
When that family sentiment hit, that’s when I got the warm wedding tears and stabbed at my eyes with the sleeve of my Iowa Hawkeyes sweatshirt. I made every effort to be silent with my emotions, but one of the rough guys (uncle? brother?) caught me. I saw him turn to his wife or girlfriend and jab his thumb back at me and whisper, “She’s frickin’ cryin!”
The ceremony was done when Mr. Hanson said, “You can kiss the bride.” It was like any other wedding in that regard. I didn’t stay a moment past the end. I clapped, quietly, and smiled at the group. I caught the bride’s eye and whispered, “Congratulations!!” And then I left. This was most definitely not about me, even though if I had stayed two minutes longer I’ll bet you I would’ve gotten an invite to the bar.
Best wedding I ever crashed. Only wedding I’ve ever crashed, actually, and I did it on accident. It took a special blend of circumstances for that to happen. I like that kind of thing.