This is a reprinting of a story I wrote over 20 years ago. It was originally published in the Montreal Suburban
on Wednesday, December 11, 1991
It is quite fashionable these days to be a hyphenate. What's a hyphenate? Anybody who claims to be more than one person, like producer-writer or actor-director. If you're still single when you hit your thirties, you get a special hyphen. Mine is broadcaster-professional wedding guest.
It always seems to be that at this time of the year the mailbox is stuffed with all types of colorful envelopes requesting my appearance at somebody's nuptials. This is usually followed by the demonic chanting of my mother repeating the phrases, "when are you getting married?" and "I want grandchildren."
When the wedding involves extremely close friends, or relatives, there is very little surprise and much glee in receiving an invitation for the blessed event. I hastily put a "will attend" in the little box on the confirmation card, place it in the accompanying miniature envelope, and skip with joy to the mailbox to drop it in.
What concerns me are the invitations that come out of the blue. Co-workers I barely know or don't like, people I haven't seen since college or high school, old girlfriends or those who I thought were long dead, insist that I share their moment of joy, like an extra in a bad home video.
What goes through their minds? Was there a minimum quota for the amount of people needed at the reception? Since they never ask if I'm bringing a date, do they assume that I'll round out the dinner arrangements at a table that seats an odd number? Perhaps they're just gift greedy, and having me there is just one more toaster oven to add to the list.
Regardless of the reason, everybody knows the routine. You get the invitation, but you really don't want to go. The question is, what excuse do you use for saying no? After much pondering, you soon realize that you have no excuse. Either that or no backbone.
If you say no, you'll look like a pre-nuptial Scrooge. Word would get around, you'll be blacklisted, and as a result you might not get an invitation for a wedding that you really want to go to. Or worse yet, should you happen to take the marital plunge yourself someday, anyone with half a memory will boycott your wedding, and you won't get any toaster ovens.
So you do the polite thing. Say yes to the wedding, head to Thrifty's House of Discount Merchandise for that perfect gift, get the suit out of the dry cleaners and prepare for another long day.
At the church the closest parking spot is about three blocks away. It's a pity nobody will see the car, since you went to all the trouble to wash and wax it.
Some weddings like to have the gifts brought to the church, and the chances are good that it's an extremely hot summer day so here you are walking three blocks in a three piece suit, with an incredibly heavy toaster oven in tow.
Once at the church, the usher mentions that wedding gifts will be collected at the reception hall, wrong guess again on your part, so you'll just have to hold on to it until then. Picture it....there you sit, next to a toaster oven, listening to your beads of sweat hit the pew like missiles, waiting for the wedding to start.
During the service you suddenly realize just how long this whole thing is taking. There was a time when the officiating member of your faith could get the congregation in and out faster than photo processors, but those were the days before couples wrote their own vows.
Today they seem compelled to gush uncontrollably for long periods of time pledging undying love, in a fashion that would have greeting card convention delegates scampering for the exits.
Just when it appears to be all over, someone who fancies themselves as a vocalist has to get up and sing either Feelings, We've Only Just Begun, or both. About this time it finally sinks in that the church is not air conditioned and the woman in the next pew failed to miss a pore when she applied her perfume this morning.
When the service finally concludes, you leave the church, toaster oven in hand, and wait outside to throw rice. It is easy to pick out the couple's close friends and relatives from the also-rans like yourself. Your group is throwing the rice with great accuracy and velocity.
On the way to the reception, guests with cars and itchy palms are moved to announcing to the world, via the horn, that the couple in the first vehicle have officially entered the world of joint bank accounts.
Once at the reception, with ears still ringing, you are forced to eat extremely expensive, yet tasteless food, in a dimly lit room, while listening to music most commonly heard in elevators and dentist's offices. (So far today you've already heard someone vocally butcher Feelings. Now you're hearing it played by a string quartet with a glockenspiel.)
The only thing that breaks the monotony are voyeuristic souls who have a novel way of gaining the bride and groom's attention with only a fork and wine glass as bait. This somewhat Neanderthal ritual signifies the desire to tear the couple away from their meal and have them kiss continuously. A request that the couple is only too glad to comply with since they're so much in love, and they don't like the food either.
After several hours of dining, drinking, dancing and avoiding other single guests who are caught up in the whole event and wish to be single no more, it's time to politely leave. You say goodbye to the bride, the groom and the toaster oven, and head to the door. It's at this point that I usually make a mental note of the wedding party and guests that remain. I know I'm going to get even one day. I'm going to invite them to my wedding.