I am at the wedding reception of my husband’s friend. I know a few guests, none well.
The catering is superb. While my husband catches up with friends, I delight in dining solo. We smile at each other, content in our parallel party paths. As I stand outside — literally (it is an indoor/outdoor event) and figuratively – I indulge in my invisibility and reflect on the tradition that has gathered us at this exquisite, art-filled Bel-Air home.
A marriage is more than the joining of two people and their families. It involves the awkward merging of social circles. The marriage that inspires this rare Sunday evening outing is a second one. Yet the fact that it is “Round Two” does not dim the guests’ collective desire that all in the lovers’ world will be improved, made right by the union. All of us hope that the newlyweds’ morning coffee will be stronger and sweeter by being shared as husband and wife.
Unions and bonds are so festive to celebrate — the promise of new beginnings when the vows are fresh. But the honoring and cherishing, the having and holding again and again can make one weary day-to-day. Marriage is work.
The work of a second marriage is different. The rose-colored Hallmark platitudes are gone. For example, I accept that I will forever remain a “plus one” in several of my husband’s circles – and the reality of a union’s limitations are part of the second marriage agreement. Divorce scratches off the institution’s shine; both parties know that marriage is a slog, but you stick with it because it’s also a safe port in the rocky seas of life. Round Two is usually for richer – unless divorce has left one poorer – because we’re older and hopefully wiser.
My husband and I weren’t privy to the ceremony formalizing tonight’s bond so I cannot opine on whether or not there was a white dress, traditional train and other over-priced and under-used accoutrement that the wedding-industrial complex has convinced us are essential. Divorce rates demonstrate that all this “tradition” guarantees is expense – the ceremonial trappings are not an indicator of a union’s potential for success. If this were true, the divorce rate in Hollywood would be near zero, if what In Style and People Magazine are to be believed.
I imagine that their ceremony was swift and informal, with only intimates in attendance. I trust that they promised to honor and cherish each other. I hope that they do. And that they will continue doing so.
My husband and I married in such a circumstance–as a surprise to our families–at a Thanksgiving meal 13 years ago. We promised to have and hold each other for richer or poorer, to love and to cherish our union from that day forward. We’ve lived these promises day after day after day. On some days, frankly, this has been a challenge.
We catered our own familial reception except for the heavenly chocolate cake, which was a worthy splurge. It was good cake. Really good cake.
We continue to love fiercely–well, most of the time–to honor each other’s quirks; and to obey – boundaries, social norms and our instincts to cherish the life and family we’ve built together.
These re-newlyweds have no registry – both husband and wife come to the union with complete sets of silverware. I hope that their patterns – China, silver and life – integrate well. That they enjoy more health than sickness and that death does not do them part for decades to come.
As the hour approaches double digits the reality of the week ahead dawns on my husband and I simultaneously. Our eyes meet. I hold up my phone to say, “I’ll order it.”
Our Uber arrives ahead of the valet-parked cars. My husband holds my hand and steadies me as we navigate the uneven driveway to the ride that will return us to the home and family that we’ve built together–together in health and now my sickness. For the next few (quite a few, I hope) decades. Until death parts us.