Memories of Sussex Drive

Years ago I was inside my store late at night. The lights were dim except for the bright lights focusing on the dresses in the window. I caught sight of an emotional moment between two teenagers. They were dirty, disheveled, and had squeegees in hand as they kissed each other on the sidewalk in front of my window framing a crisp white satin wedding gown. The contrast was striking.

There was something so raw and real about these teens. The scene in front of me drove me to tears as I thought of all of the weddings in which I have participated.

Some weddings were truly exceptionally beautiful experiences. They included warm people who were unaffected and clearly led by their hearts to create a wedding that was meaningful and depicted who they were to their loved ones attending. These people understood why everyone was gathering together and there was a complete ease in their actions. They created their own extravagance of experience through this eternal symbiotic love, natural and pure. All of these weddings had a public and daring risk of desire and affection; it was the same emotion that captured and raptured the squeegee kids that night in front of my store. This dramatic display of emotion was attractive and true.

Some of the other weddings that I have been a part of were more like calculated productions of the calibre of the Academy Awards. There were layers of bureaucracy, hundreds of workers, with thousands of decisions. The invitation list was a who’s who of whatever group these people belonged to rather than a personal event, engaging friends and family. Certainly these toneless events were entertaining. These are weddings that people remember year after year, because of the team of planners, lighting directors, choreographed wait staff, and a cake taller than the groom. These spectacular events have limitless budgets, but no room for the couple getting married. From an event perspective these weddings are quite impressive, but I wonder, where is the love?

It’s easy to feel excitement and frivolous drama while planning a wedding, but I wonder how many engaged couples really understand what they are embarking upon. The triumphant selflessness and monotony of surrender that is required. It is an exercise of impossible strength and perseverance and a reminder that while the two have become one, that there is an ever present responsibility to uphold a dignity for the other person, in consideration of the other person. It can become more complicated with children and their needs. Parents have to teach their children how not to be selfish and at the same time need to live unselfishly themselves. Life gets complicated and the challenges to maintain a union can become overwhelming.

Given the reality of marriage, a wedding should give people the opportunity to congratulate the couple on the decision to deny selfishness and a pilgrimage pointing toward spiritual maturity. This type of acclaim should be reflected within a wedding.

There should be a focus on the raw beauty of the event, this lifetime change for two people – a celebration of a decision and duty, intimate, not a performance. It might even be difficult to find 200 friends with whom to share that same contemplation of spirit, people willing to focus more on the ceremony and consider the reception a joyous afterthought. No doubt, this runs the risk of clearly omitting some of the traditions that people have come to think of as necessary.

Rather than pulling off a major production, a successful wedding hinges on carefully drawing the guests into a profound intimacy of love. It’s not about entertainment but about witnessing the beauty of love and celebrating these everlasting decisions. That remains a far greater privilege, not unlike the privilege I had that evening when I witnessed those two teenagers in front of my store.