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I learned very early in life that nothing is permanent. Jeans fade. Animals run away. Friendships dissolve. Buildings crumble. But this hard reality of life hit home again when I first became a pastor.
As a minister, I took the duty of performing a wedding very seriously. It was not a simple matter. Counseling must take place, forms filled out, scriptures read. More counseling, background checks, and psychological testing performed before the “I Do” and the kiss. So, you can understand my surprise when the wedding photo album for my first ceremony appeared in our office; three months after the service. Found in a car wash, no names appeared under the pictures, no monogram on the cover. The person who found it recognized the church and thought we might know its owner. I knew immediately. I called the new bride.
She wasn’t shocked. She wasn’t relieved. Her response revealed no fear that it might never be found. “Oh, yeah,” she stopped and took a drag on her cigarette, “I wondered where that damn thing went.”
A few months later, I was sitting in a greasy-spoon diner, The Spot Cigar & Lunch, across from the county court house. It was about nine in the morning and in walked the groom and his entire rowdy family. They filled the quiet morning air with laughter and smoke. They yelled to the owner to bring coffee as they marched past my table to the back booths. I reached out and took the groom’s arm. “Mike! What are you all doing here this early in the morning?”
Mike looked down at me with a smile bigger than he had on his wedding day. “Hey, Preacher! Funny seein’ you here!”
He looked at his family in the back. “Hey Ma! Looky here. It’s the preacher!” I turned and waved. She gave no response.
“We’re just comin’ from court.” he said, turning back to me with the same broad smile.
“I hope everything is alright.” I was a pastor to the core.
“Things are great! My divorce is finally final!” He snorted and patted me on the back in a sort of “I’m a free man,” revelry and left me to join his clan. At that moment, I remembered that nothing is permanent, especially wedding vows.
While this event left a bad taste in my mouth, I must report that there are many other reasons I hate weddings. And they are all true. Like the bride who became drunk – before the wedding. True. Or the groom’s entire family that attended the service wearing blue t-shirts with a Pepsi logo. True. Or the “best man” who offered a condom when asked for the ring. True. Or the 19 year-old pregnant bride whose 3 year old daughter was the flower girl. Sadly, very true. Or the couple who French-kissed so long that the congregation got up and left for the reception. Just sick.
Despite hours of counseling and planning, I have been unable to prevent some classless matrimonial ceremonies. It is no wonder that these events and many, many more have tainted my opinion of weddings. So, I’ve done the most logical thing. I started saving my money and made a proposal of my own. I promise to give my kids $10,000 if they will elope. Just go away and get married. Do not make it a secret. Tell everyone. Make arrangements. Plan your life. Then go away. No tux, no dress, no cake, no organ music, no Pepsi shirts or sloppy kisses, no condoms or alcoholic relatives. Just get married and come back to live your lives the best you can.
While I have no takers yet (thankfully, because my kids are only 15, 12, and 10) I expect they will give it some serious thought in a few short years. One can only hope.
copyright 2005, C. Curtis Austin, a 2BlackDog Production
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