Every wedding has to go wrong in order to go right.
This is something I learned late — during my own wedding — when my husband stopped speaking, put his head in his hand, and stared at the ground.
He had forgotten his best man’s name.
He was in the process of introducing him as “my longtime roommate and good friend,” but then his lips opened and the name didn’t come. He paused. Still no name. The guests fell silent. Then everyone, including my husband, started to laugh.
The name came back to Bob and our wedding came alive.
The best weddings I’ve been to have all had something like this: an unscripted moment that makes people laugh when they didn’t expect to, or cry when they didn’t expect to, and everyone feels closer and warmer and more alive. I wanted something to go wrong in my son’s wedding last month; not too wrong, of course, but just a little.
The night before the wedding finds me lying in bed, fretting that this won’t happen. Put simply, my son and his bride have planned so carefully that it looks like nothing can go wrong. Although one possible problem emerged during rehearsal (the youngest of the four child participants got fussy), we know that his role can be easily omitted at the last moment.
I go to sleep worrying that nothing will go wrong.
Then it is the afternoon of the wedding and all is ready. The location is a lovely old converted mansion in Minneapolis. The ceremony will be outside, the dinner and party indoors.
For days, Minneapolis weather has been cooperating. Every time rain showed up in the forecast, it vanished before arriving or went somewhere else.
On the day of the wedding, the sky looks unsettled, as it did for much of the week. This time, it grows darker. Half an hour before the guests arrive, those of us who are already dressed and on site begin pulling out our phones and studying them.
“Looks good,” says one person, smiling. “My ap says no rain till midnight.”
“Well, I don’t know,” says another, with strain on his face. “What does 50-percent chance mean around here?”
“My program predicts a downpour,” says a third, shaking his head and frowning.
Half an hour before the ceremony, the third speaker gets it right. The skies open. The chairs that have been set out for the guests are thoroughly doused.
Moments later, however, the sun is peeking out again. The mansion staff members run out and dry the chairs, wringing out thick towels as they move from one chair to the next.
Then the guests start to arrive, and they sit in the newly dry chairs and check their phones, too. We, the family members, line up just outside the door of the mansion for the procession, guided by a staff member named Amy who finally says, “Let’s go!”
At that moment, the fire alarm sounds in the building.
It’s that horrible screeching sound we’re all familiar with. Amy turns back to the staff members who are looking at her from the doorway with question marks on their faces. “Close the door,” she says. “We’re marching.”
So we march, starting with Great-Grandma on my husband’s arm and ending with the bride, looking gorgeous, accompanied down the aisle by her parents. In the traditional way, everyone assembles in front with the officiant, my son-in-law Casey, in the center. He faces the crowd, looking in the direction of oncoming weather.
Perhaps he sees what is coming a moment before we do.
It begins with a few light drops, leading people to shift in their seats and open umbrellas. Then the clouds get darker and the rain drops grow big. The wind picks up. Casey opens his hand to feel the rain, pauses, does it again. Suddenly, he’s motioning us toward the building. “We’re moving inside,” he announces.
Everyone rushes in and assembles, standing, in the room that was supposed to be used for the social hour. The guests are slightly damp, but not to the point of water dripping on the floor.
The bride and groom take the front position, framed by a lovely wooden window. Soft lighting gives the room a warm glow. Everyone takes a collective sigh that means, “We’re OK now. This is going to be good.”
But as we turn forward, ready for the ceremony to begin, bright red lights begin to flash outside.
Soon four fully-geared firemen stomp into the building and begin striding through, checking for fire.
By this time, of course, the ceremony plan has been bruised and bumped in so many ways I can’t count them.
This might have upset the groom and traumatized the bride, but when I look at them I don’t see that at all. They’re grinning. The wedding guests are standing close together, pointing, talking, and smiling, too. I sit in front in one of the few chairs, my heart swelling with happiness.
As the ceremony begins, I look back at the guests one more time.
Simply by getting rained on, standing up and moving inside, and then being jostled by a posse of firemen, a bunch of individual wedding guests have become a community. The wedding has its own unique feel: cozy, intimate, with darkened skies and bright red lights.
Something has gone wrong and it’s wonderful.
— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at email@example.com