I have issues with wedding readings. The last time I was asked to read at a wedding, it was for a friend from high school from whom I’d grown apart during college (with no shortage of tears and hurt feelings on my part, I should add). I understood why she hadn’t asked me to be one of her bridesmaids but it wasn’t easy to watch our mutual friends walk down the aisle and realize that I was no longer part of that club.
Nonetheless, I smiled as I took my place in front of the guests (which wasn’t easy, seeing as I was also single and dateless on this particular occasion) and proceeded to read the hell out of First Corinthians.
When I finished, the bride caught my eye and whispered, “I love you.”
I bawled all the way back to my seat. Fortunately, that was the same summer that I’d discovered the wonders of water-proof mascara so when the bride told the photographer, “One more—we need one with Kat” I like to think I looked okay.
But still—I’ve been wary of wedding readings ever since.
As such, I was both honored and terrified when the groom from this past weekend’s nuptials asked me to read a passage during the ceremony.
“Of course!” I told him, “I’d be happy too!” And seeing as I take partial credit for setting up him and his wife in the first place, I was thrilled to play a small role in their special day—until I took a look at the reading.
“I’m gonna lose it on this line,” I warned The Wedding Date on our way to Boston. “This part here, where I’m supposed to say, ‘So take each other’s hands and go forth…’ I’m totally going to lose it! I mean I watched the two of them fall in love. Like, from the beginning. And here they are, six years later, getting married!”
“You’ll be fine,” he assured me, “Just take it nice and slow.”
Seeing as I’d gotten teary-eyed just practicing the darn thing, however, I wasn’t so sure.
When we arrived at the venue, the Best Man informed me that the deacon wanted to see me.
Sheesh! As a Lutheran-turned-Quaker, I’ve always been vaguely terrified by deacons, priests, bishops and anything even vaguely Catholic in nomenclature.
Taking a deep breath, I gave The Wedding Date my coat, smoothed the paper upon which I’d printed my reading and hurried inside.
“You must be Kat,” the deacon said.
He handed me a floral note card, upon which my reading was also printed.
“Ooh, very classy,” I observed.
“Yes,” he agreed, “I don’t do wrinkled paper.”
(Mind you, my paper was not wrinkled—I keep it in a plastic file folder throughout the entire flight—but the note card did put my Staples “stationary” to shame.)
At the conclusion of my briefing, I confessed that I was terrified of getting choked up on the second-to-last line.
“My dear,” the deacon said, “weddings are part-ceremony, part-Broadway play. You’ll look disingenuous if you don’t get choked up.”
“I see,” I laughed nervously. “So it’s all about… production value?”
“Exactly! Production value. Give the audience what they came for.”
Despite my stalwart intentions, I started crying as soon as the musicians began to play the processional (What can I say? I’m no match for Bach). I kept right on crying as the bride made her way down the aisle and I’d completely forgotten to bring tissues so I kept wiping my nose on my hand and trying to remember if I’d donned water-proof mascara earlier or regular mascara.
Finally, it was my turn.
The priest had encouraged me to vault over the front row (production value, remember?) but I thought it would be a bit better if I simply walked, so I walked, and opened my note card (upside down of course, just in case I wasn’t terrified enough already) and read:
Your marriage should have within it a secret and protected space, open to you alone. Imagine it to be a walled garden, entered by a door to which only you hold the key. Within this garden you will cease to be a mother, father, employee, homemaker or any other of the roles which you fulfill in daily life. Here you can be yourselves, two people who love each other. Here you can concentrate on one another’s needs. So take each other’s hands and go forth to your garden. The time you spend together is not wasted but invested– invested in your future and nurture of your love.
I got choked up.
A full two sentences ahead of schedule.
And once I got started, the bride got started, and once the bride got started, the groom got started.
All I can say is thank God for all those public speaking competitions I did in high school: I may have been a hot mess up there but at least I was a hot mess who could enunciate. And project. And make eye contact.
The bride’s mother thanked me herself and later on during the reception, the deacon told me that if my chosen career path doesn’t work out, I can go “on tour” with him and make people cry at weddings all across America. I think I may have found a new calling.