Posts Tagged ‘wedding’

Young love is sweet to behold, sweeter and sweeter as I grow older. It’s also something of a wonder for a long-married person like me to think back to the beginning—to try to remember—that time—in Septemberwhen love was an emberabout to billow—



[Earworm alert. . . The Fantasticks is always waiting to be sung.]


Back to the Poem-Elfing, which took place at a family wedding last weekend in Washington, D.C. I gave poems to the bride and groom as they got ready. All three poems have been posted here before but they suited this occasion so well I make no apology for the recycling.


The first is from poet Fulvia Lupulo, which I stuck in the bridal mirror:


The bride looks like she’s painting her nails but she’s actually painting rubber cement on the back of pictures of the groom’s older sister who passed away at age fourteen. I can’t remember what exactly the bride was going to do with the photos, but any bride who spends her pre-wedding primping time on thoughtful gestures like this is beautiful indeed.



She took a break from doing her sister’s make-up to pose with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee?”


These lines may be familiar but they never lose power. So gorgeous.



I happened upon the groom in the parking lot, pre-tux. I handed him a favorite little love poem and gave him a rushed explanation of why I wanted to take his picture with it. I don’t think he understood what was going on but I like how he holds the poem like like an “I donated blood today” sticker.


Do not be astonished at my joy. . . 


Congratulations to Jeanne and Anthony! Here’s to young love! May it be old love someday!








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Worse than delivering a joke that falls flat is delivering a present that offends.  Offensive presents induce not just embarrassment but guilt as well, a guilt that can flame up and redden cheeks even years after.  Once I spearheaded a group gift of an adult tricycle for my mother, who was less ready to give up a two-wheeler than I had supposed.  She never said so, but she must have found the tricycle as infantilizing as adult diapers.  Which for the record I have never given anyone.  (Also for the record, Eat This, Not That makes a very bad gift unless specifically requested.)

from Olausen's book, Mother


Longer ago I gave a friend turning 30 a coffee table book called Mother.  I thought the book was brilliant and hilarious.  Somehow it didn’t occur to me that a photograph of an elderly woman walking through the grocery store carrying a crucifix would not amuse someone with a conservative faith who values reverence.  Nice book, was all she said.


Unfortunately, old faults die hard.  A month before my nephew’s wedding, I sent him the following poem via email:


I Married You

by Linda Pastan


I married you

for all the wrong reasons,

charmed by your

dangerous family history,

by the innocent muscles, bulging

like hidden weapons

under your shirt,

by your naive ties, the colors

of painted scraps of sunset.


I was charmed too

by your assumptions

about me: my serenity—

that mirror waiting to be cracked,

my flashy acrobatics with knives

in the kitchen.

How wrong we both were

about each other,

and how happy we have been.


I was surprised to get back a response along the lines of, “Thanks for thinking of me, but this really doesn’t apply to us.”  I was baffled.  I thought the poem was so hopeful and sweet, such a good omen for his upcoming nuptials.  Why wouldn’t he?


My sister suggested that maybe he found the poem offensive.  A conversation with my nephew at his wedding confirmed my sister’s view, although Beau insisted that he wasn’t offended, he just didn’t get it.  But when pressed, he admitted that, to him, my sending I Married You was tantamount to saying he and his fiancé were getting married for superficial reasons.


Yeah, he’s right.  I was reading the poem as a long-married person.  My take-away from this poem is how happy we have been.  For him it’s I married you/for all the wrong reasons.  My nephew is one-half a couple that have been together for a long time, so they know each other well enough to have moved beyond the type of initial impressions outlined in the poem.


By way of apology, I’ll try to explain myself:  for me the poem says that marriage is a long process of partners discovering each other.   Accepting and loving those things  we discover in the ensuing years–traits and interests that didn’t register with us at the beginning or that developed over time–is the beauty of commitment.  Also, the outward characteristics that initially attracted partners to each other—bulging muscles, a cooking hobby, a calm demeanor—can change, but the truth of a person remains the same.  When selecting a lifetime mate we unconsciously recognize these deeper truths, and if we’re lucky, those truths are ones we need and admire.


This is not a poem to send to a newly engaged or married couple.  It’s like giving new parents a book on teenagers and gonorrhea and expecting them to thank you for it.  Well, not exactly, but you get my contrition.


I’ll save this poem for anniversaries.  But now that I think about it, maybe really happy ones only.

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Mother of the Groom

by Seamus Heaney

What she remembers

Is his glistening back

In the bath, his small boots

in the ring of boots at her feet.

Hands in her voided lap,

she hears a daughter welcomed.

It’s as if he kicked when lifted

and slipped her soapy hold.

Once soap would ease off

the wedding ring

that’s bedded forever now

in her clapping hand.

so rushed to avoid being seen, I took a rotten picture

The weekend of my oldest daughter’s college graduation, I was at a beautiful old hotel in Milwaukee (with a ceiling in the lobby like a Victorian Sistine Chapel) on the same night a friend from home was there for a wedding.   Seamus Heaney’s “Mother of the Groom” seemed the right fit for both occasions.  For most parents, forward-looking events like graduations and weddings carry the same whiff of loss and sorrow that the mother in the poem experiences.  So I taped the poem to a planter in the ladies lounge.  Within the hour it was gone. Among other wonders of the hotel, it had a very efficient cleaning crew.

How efficient this poem is too, how much it says in so few words.  With a deft use of homonyms (flashback to 5th grade: words with multiple meanings), Heaney brings past, present and future together.  The ring of boots at the mother’s feet connects to the wedding ring on her finger (which she used to take off from time to time for reasons Freudian or practical) and the unmentioned ring her son will give to the woman who supplants the mother.  The ring is now “bedded” in her hand, which calls to mind the wedding bed.  In fact there’s a series of words with sexual overtones—glistening, slipped, lap, bedded, ease off–which suggests that the mother knows that intimacy is behind her.  She looks with some jealousy at her son’s wife, who will now enjoy all the pleasures of young married life that she once did—sex, babies, being at the center of the ring.

What strikes me most is what an outsider the mother is at the wedding.  Of the four principle figures at a wedding—the bride, the groom, the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom—the last is the least important, the most invisible. She claps as a spectator and retreats into her thoughts. Her role is entirely passive.  She doesn’t welcome her new daughter herself; she hears the daughter welcomed. She has not voided her lap; her lap is voided.  The passive voice reinforces her feeling that something has been done to her which she did not desire.  Her past is gone.  Her life as a mother has slipped away.

“The wedding ring/that’s bedded forever now” is a phrase that haunts me.  “Forever now” sounds so sad, so resigned.  With just two words, Heaney ushers death into the wedding, so quietly that we don’t notice right away that the celebration has changed utterly.

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