• johnschengber

09: Film, A Poem, and Reflections from My Sister's Wedding

My sister's wedding, an elaborate and elegant event to institutionalize and celebrate her marriage to Tucker Dare, was for me a whirlwind of love. I left the weekend (including the several days on either end) feeling replenished by the swirling presence of family, friends, and strangers who were all incredibly excited to wish my sister and her fiancé luck on their journey. That's what weddings are for, my dad and I wondered aloud, at one point reflecting on what these rituals really mean, or where they come from, theorizing first that weddings are important ways to pass cultural knowledge through generations, and second that perhaps weddings are just really fun parties to marry two people who don't want to be together. But that latter idea was not the case with Courtney and Tucker, we are sure of it.

Indeed, the pastor (preacher? minister? officiate?) who conducted the ceremony pulled our family aside afterward and said, of the many marriages he has performed, this one had a uniquely palpable and overwhelming sense of love, and I couldn't agree more, in all my bias. He tried to warn us beforehand that by the end of the weekend we'd be feeling all sorts of ways. We were gearing up for the first dress rehearsal when he sat us down and asked for a minute of silence to center ourselves around the mission we all shared: to send off Courtney and Tucker with the most pure and powerful wreath of goodwill that we could collectively weave. He asked us to anticipate and observe the other feelings that will undoubtedly arise inside us as the weekend unfolds, such as pangs of longing for those no longer with us, aspirations for our own romantic lives, or even undercurrents of jealousy given that Courtney and Tucker are now both officially taken, and the pastor encouraged us to mindfully silence those distractions. I was pleased by this because I am such an admittedly romantic and wistful person that I could have easily found myself lost in missing my paternal grandfather who loved Courtney so much but is dead, or lost in missing a girl that I thought should have been with me, and while all those thoughts did ultimately arise, the pastor's words reminded me that now was not the time to drown in such daydreams, especially when there is a real dream being fulfilled right in front of me, the dream of Courtney and Tucker. That is how the weekend began, before any tuxedo was donned, before any tears were shed, before any two families became one.

After rehearsing we went to a rehearsal dinner, where I read the poem below and cried into the microphone. I need to stop doing that because I don't think people can understand what I'm saying after the first quavers of my voice.

To Courtney

I have always been very happy

To be the only male child

Squished between two sisters

My dad could always call me

Number one son

And my mom said some version

Of the same

But not until now

On occasion of this marriage

between Courtney and Tucker

Did I realize the greatest privilege

bestowed upon me

for being her only brother.

I am the only one lucky enough

To have had his face painted

And short hair pulled into pony tails

Given the name shooting star

Or was it running water?

As Courtney led me into the woods.

No other brother got the call, years later

When teenage Courtney and her friends

Would sneak out and around the rules

And she would not only invite me

But treat me as her equal

And eventually answer my call

When I, too, got to the age

of needing to know

if Mom was asleep yet.

Indeed our tomfoolery rose

To such a level of sophistication

That we placed motion sensors in the hallways

And invented a secret language

So that the babysitter was unable

To intercept our antics.

Of course as her younger brother

I was also victim to being told

To breathe more quietly

Or some times not at all.

But nevertheless she was the one

Who showed me a starfish

And taught me to throw the casting net.

She was the one who was

Unabashedly carnivorous

Which in a weird way taught me

About the power of women.

Courtney is absolutely the only one

Who you need to be with

To feel like you are bouncing,

or perhaps floating.

And she is the only one so brave

To wear her heart on her shirt

Everyday so that we all can see

The warm and soft color of love

That will shine like never before

Through the white of tomorrow’s dress.

The day of the wedding was, somehow, a perfect spring sunny day. The groom party gathered in the dressing room and tried to figure out how suspenders work and generally had a lot of time to kill before anything happened. That probably didn't help Tucker's nerves, which were obviously justified but still somewhat amusing, admirable, and humbling to observe. I want to be nervous as hell someday for somone that makes me really happy.

Stretch, it will help

I grew even more confident in Tucker as my sister's life partner after getting to know his groomsmen and best friends, who were all kindhearted people and clearly loved him.

And I'm sure Cammie (Tucker's sister) would say the same about Courtney's bridesmaides. The maid of honor was my younger sister, Patty, who nobly helped maintain Courtney's get-up all weekend.

I was floored by how much I enjoyed wearing a tuxedo. It made me feel like every interaction was a slow dance, or perhaps an opera. And all the women looked stunning in their gowns. I tried to capture the beautiful scenes of the first dance and ensuing dinner, which were held inside a long room dimly lit with chandeliers and candles, but it was too dark for my film camera. So I tried anyway. The results are atypical, but I actually enjoy them.

Father and daughter dance

Despite the blur, you can still see Courtney smiling, because she doesn't stop.

Grace at dinner

As we waited for dinner, I noticed a perimeter balcony above the long room where were seated, and I decided to go up there and see what was what. It ended up being a great vantage point to capture people at their tables, though still blurry, yes.

Courtney and Tucker make their first rounds to thank attendees while dinner is being prepared, but the pork gets cooked faster than they can greet, so soon it's time to eat.

I think this is Courtney going in for a hug.

Here's my mom and her parents, who have the most grace of all people I know.

(See?) One generation

Two generations (huge thanks to these folks for an amazing wedding and an even better life)


Cheers to Courtney and Tucker. I wish you the most enduring happiness. I love you both.

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