We’ve just attended the wedding of our closest friends — my best friend Bert married my wife’s best friend Marsha. We introduced them 11 years ago and their passion for one another ignited like wet cardboard. However, a couple of years back they were again in the same place at the same time in our company (as much as we’d like to believe that last factor was essential, it probably wasn’t); drier conditions prevailed and FWOOSH! their situation suddenly became combustible.

The wedding was beautiful — a perfect late-summer day; the ceremony staged outdoors at a charming cottage in downtown Greenville, South Carolina overlooking a lovely park; a small audience of family and dear friends; an excellent meal, and to cap it off the DJ played the most profound of all disco songs — Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down On It”, which features this chorus:

“Get down on it, get down on it, get down on it, get down on it,
Get down on it, get down on it, get down on it, get down on it!”
Whenever I hear this song, I picture Kool hunched over a legal pad, pencil in hand, with half-empty cans of Diet Coke and smoldering cigarettes and beer bottles strewn about the recording studio. Kool looks tired and disheveled, and barely notices when the rest of the Gang walks in. “Whuzzup, K?” one Gang-member asks. “Did you finish that dope tune you were working on yesterday?” “Naw, man. I’m stuck… can’t come up with a last line for it.” “Read us what you’ve got so far and maybe all of us working together can bring on the funk.” “Sure, sure,” Kool replies, and proceeds to recite the seven lines he’s scribbled so far. “… and that’s where I’m lost, fellahs.” The rest of the Gang start to think out loud, one tapping on piano keys, another absent-mindedly strumming a guitar, a third looking into space. Several suggestions are offered but quickly dismissed as being “too wordy”, “doesn’t flow”, or “changes the narrative point of view”. But after awhile one Gang-ster (which one is lost to history, and the ensuing court battles over authorship and publishing rights eventually break up the band. But at this very moment their collective creative quest still unites them in musical brotherhood) looks up and says, “Hey, what about…” and the now-completed song goes on to assume its place in dance floor history.

Our friends expressly prohibited the d.j. (who goes by the name “DJ Skid” — can you tell he’s a white guy?) from playing any of the group-dance songs that one normally hears at a wedding — “Y.M.C.A”, the Electric Slide, others of that ilk. They’re our age, second marriage for both, and those kinds of tunes just didn’t fit into the tenor of the event. But when “Born To Run” came on, the groom leapt onto the dance floor, resplendent in his Brooks Brothers suit, and began to thrash with abandon. His choreography mimicked that of the two “wild and crazy guys” of SNL fame, with all the finger-pointing, heel-wiggling, and hip-gyrating they displayed while walking to answer the door when they thought “American foxes” had rung the bell.

Going to a wedding inevitably leads to comparisons with other weddings you’ve attended (and of course your own). While Bert and Marsha organized an elegant and tasteful affair, it spurred thoughts of other nuptials we’ve been to that were somewhat less impressive:

  • An open bar every other hour.
  • A polka band attempting “Black Magic Woman”, with a trumpet taking the lead guitar part.
  • A rabbi who paused mid-ceremony and yelled at the photographer to stop taking pictures.
  • A reception where the groom’s father engaged in “dirty dancing” with his son’s new wife.
  • Another reception where the dessert was JELL-O.
We’ve been invited to the wedding but not the reception; the reception but not the wedding; “provisionally” to the wedding “if enough people decline so there’s room for you”, and once we were invited to the same wedding twice and the groom backed out both times. The explanation the first time was “jitters”; the explanation the second time was the soap opera subplot that he’d fathered a child with another woman and was going to marry her instead. Even more tragically, the jilted bride didn’t return any of the wedding presents.
We lived in the South for many years and were always amused when guests would come to a wedding wearing t-shirts and shorts. These were indoor ceremonies, in churches, and sometimes a full Catholic Mass. That always flummoxed the Southern Baptists, who were expecting a 15-minute service, some cake and punch, and to be back home in an hour. Usually they’d just leave the kids in front of the TV to save on a baby sitter. The concept of R.S.V.P. was also foreign to these folks, who would respond to a follow-up inquiry whether they were planning to attend with, “We’ll sure try.”
Carol and I had a mixed ceremony, with a priest and rabbi officiating. We had a hard time finding a rabbi who would participate, as most of them declined while still encouraging us to join their congregations after we were married. We finally found a retired rabbi who would serve jointly with a priest, but then due to schedule conflicts we needed to start the search for Jewish representation anew. Yet another rabbi declined, and when I mentioned the name of the other rabbi who would have performed the service except for the scheduling conflict, this rabbi laughed dismissively and said, “You know, he has a reputation as a ‘Marrying Sam’.” The whole experience contributed to my decision to renounce organized religion, largely in favor of disorganized hedonism. We ended up tweaking our schedule so the retired rebbe could step in. Bert and Marsha’s minister was also retired, which got me thinking — would you want a surgeon to come out of retirement to operate on you? “Nurse, bring me a bottle of chloroform and a container of leeches – stat!”
Anyway, we’re so pleased how everything turned out for our friends and they are just radiant with happiness. As they start their new life together, another poignant Kool and the Gang lyric comes to mind; from “Fresh”:

“She’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh,
She’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh,
She’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh,
She’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh,
She’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh, she’s so fresh.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, especially that last part.