Scenes from a wedding

September 29, 2007

When I was younger I kept a notebook of observations from wedding ceremonies and receptions. My ostensible objective was to develop a list of DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind at my own (hypothetical, presumably far-off) wedding. In conducting this exercise I became quite opinionated regarding others’ decisions. Why were cranky infants allowed to scream their way through entire ceremonies? Why were nonreligious couples made to feel as though they were marrying God rather than each other? And why, out of all the danceable songs in the world, was “I Will Survive” played at receptions? Couldn’t anyone find another tune that, in addition to having a good beat, is not about an abusive relationship?

I’m pleased to report that I found little to criticize at my sister’s wedding last weekend. I didn’t stay late enough to find out whether “I Will Survive” was played, but I did enjoy the live rendition of “La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin” (“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”), a nod to the groom’s French heritage, as well as Gershwin’s “Summertime,” an interesting recessional choice featuring a cool, jazzy harp part. Later on, the groom entertained us at the piano with variations on a theme by Mozart (“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”).

The traditional marital vows were used — the ones that conclude, “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.” I agree with my sister that it’s hard to improve upon these simple, powerful lines.

A number of toasts were offered. My father recited a “talking blues” that incorporated many favorite family sayings, including “This too shall pass” (from his mother), “When it comes to parenting, a bit of brutality is justified now and then” (from his father), “The opposite may be equally true” (from a former boyfriend of his sister), and “Be truthful, but don’t overdo it” (premarital advice from him to me). The groom’s three siblings delivered an amusing expose of their brother’s supposed life as a secret agent (code-named “Goldfingers” in reference to his keyboard skills). They pointed out that his current job with Merrill Lynch is hardly a convincing cover for his covert activities: “Why should we believe that a pianist has been put in charge of millions of dollars’ worth of obscure South American financial commodities?”

There were five lengthy toasts in all, so I felt no need to chime in with one of my own. If I had said something, it might have come out like this:

I knew Lauren was getting serious about Fred when, in the summer of 2005, she called to ask me for advice about him. Not relationship advice, exactly, but running advice. Fred had decided to run the New York City Marathon that fall but was training for it in an extremely casual manner. Lauren was worried that, if he put forth a heroic race-day effort without adequate preparation, he might permanently disable himself.

Clearly it was time for Wise Old Big Brother to step in and teach this naive suitor a thing or two. A marathon, like a serious romantic relationship, requires discipline and commitment. Fred couldn’t just “wing it”; he needed a long-term plan. I provided such a plan — a sensible regimen including a steady, gradual buildup in intensity.

Fred graciously thanked me for the tips, and in the months that followed, he proceeded to ignore them completely. He ran about once a week. On race day, though, he surprised us all by finishing in a respectable time of 3 hours and 49 minutes. The following year, he again signed up for the marathon and again disregarded my carefully constructed training program, continuing to run about once a week. He improved his time to 3 hours and 35 minutes.

In summary, I can say two things about Fred. First, he has willfully and repeatedly ignored my thoughtful advice. Second, this has not caused any trouble whatsoever for him or Lauren. I can only conclude that he knows what he’s doing, or else is extremely lucky. Either way, he and my sister will be happy together.

Fred and Lauren, no training program could prepare you fully for the long journey ahead. Nevertheless, your many talents and your devotion to each other will serve you well. Rather than offering further unwanted and unnecessary advice, let me just say that I look forward to tracking your progress online and in person. Bon Voyage!

* * * * *

Here are some post-ceremony photos taken by family friend Kathy Perkins: Lauren with our dad; Lauren and Fred with the matron of honor, maid of honor, and best men; and Phil with Jane, his great grandmother.

Dad and Laurenthe wedding partyPhil and Jane


  1. Greg,Great last paragraph of your unused toast.From the last picture, it appears Phil is walking!Bob

  2. hey prof. crowther,there's some tru wisdom in your family. I much enjoyed your thoughts. Wishing for your running to be evolving graciously. Bests, c.

  3. Bob: Phil walks, but only while holding onto furniture or people for balance. In parenting lingo, this is known as "cruising." He often falls while doing this, so one could say that he is "cruising for a bruising."

  4. My usual advice to the groom based on 21 years of marriage is that when you get upset with your wife, keep your mouth shut for a week. After the week passes, don't say anything because it doesn't matter anymore. The bride usually doesn't require any advice other than to be patient with the groom since (as I'm sure you're aware) women are perfect.

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