My mission at any party is to make as clean a get-away as possible without destroying what little social standing I have. Properly done, I can condense a wedding reception into one long graceful movement: walk in the door, extend my congratulations to the bride and groom, grab a bite to eat, and thank the parents, all done without ever touching a chair or talking to anyone I don't know or would like to avoid.
I'm not anti-social, it's just that I got better things to do with my God-given time.
Maybe I have a poor attitude. Maybe I should change.
Yesterday my younger daughter was married. When it comes to wedding planning I try to be a non-combatant, either mediating between warring parties, or just ducking out of the whole thing until the fallout settles. When the big event comes, visitors graciously give me credit for all the planning and I explain that I only sign the checks, even though I didn't even do that much (my wife did).
This was my second and last daughter to be married. Our first daughter's wedding had an ad hoc quality about it. It was our first wedding and lots of things went wrong. Everyone laughed it off, relaxed, and had a great time. There was dancing into the night. Levity was the order of the evening.
This time around our (my wife and younger daughter's) planning was seamless. Everything was perfect. Instead of a DJ we had a live swing band. Instead of a buffet we had a formal sit-down dinner. Even the bride's dances were choreographed. We came prepared to dance the night away.
Contrary to my nature, I wandered about greeting folks that I knew and saying hello to folks I didn't. It occurred to me that we were not likely to ever have this crowd under the same roof again until my fourteen year-old son gets married, or until I die and they gather for my funeral.
As I was getting ready to walk my daughter down the aisle, she said "Daddy, walk slowly. I want to enjoy this moment for as long as I can". We walked very slowly, my daughter appearing as beautiful as she ever has, with me trying to look invisible as to not detract from her moment.
I wanted the reception to go on all night. This was my baby getting married. We had planned for this over the last year. Everything was perfect. This day is one to be enjoyed, savored, lingered over.
But this is America, a nation of very busy people with Lots of Things To Do.
Just as I was settling in for the evening, guests started to pay their respects on the way out the door. I'm glad you could join us, I tell them. The reception is lovely but the moms did all the work. Thank you for coming.
But that's not what I'm thinking. What's the rush? Look at my daughter, how happy and beautiful she is! Listen to the band. They're just getting warmed up. Don't go quite yet.
"Dad, it's almost time for us to go", my daughter says. That is my cue to line folks up outside and give them the matches and sparklers. The reception hall does not allow for flower petals or rice to be thrown, but doesn't mind if guests wave sparklers for the bride and groom as they make their getaway. It's an idea I've been opposed to. I have visions of some guest's hair or jacket catching fire and having our friends and Defenders of the Public Trust, the lawyers, sue my butt off. We have 750 sparklers and, to my dismay, it's not raining, so we have to use them.
To my relief no one catches fire. The only injury I know of was my older daughter who had a slight burn on one of her fingers. She told me later that she thought about calling a personal injury lawyer but didn't want to sue herself out of her inheritance.
My new son-in-law, romantic to a fault, has a horse-drawn carriage awaiting the newlyweds as they work their way through the gauntlet of fire. They give us a quick wave and then they are gone.
"How lovely!" say our guests. They thank us once again, and then they are gone, too.
And it is over so quickly.