The Wedding Rules

Wedding bells brought Nick and I back to Russia, home of the infinite cycle of larger than life weddings. This time it was Eric Rosenbeck who was getting married.

Eric, aka Rosie, is Keith’s best friend, and not a blood relative, per se, but I’ve understood that there are a few people who are just a member of the family. Rosie is one of those folks.

On Rosie’s big day, I proudly listened to Nick as second reader and of course bawled my eyes out during Eric and Tricia’s wedding vows. (It gets me every time when the bride cries…) I was not alone. I saw Kay shedding and throwing Jay, sitting in the pew in front of her, a tissue to control the water damage.

There have been so many weddings and so many receptions that it’s sometimes hard to remember certain characteristics about each one. With the exception of my own, of course, they kind of blend together, particularly if they are in the same place. But Rosie’s wedding was different. Not just because it was held at St. Henry, but for one very sweet reason that I’ve never seen at another wedding: their first dance.

Now, most people don’t really pay any attention to the first dance. It’s so customary that most just turn around and watch for a few seconds and then go back to their dinner plates. Being the sentimental shmuck that I am, I love watching the couple interact. Most couples do the obligatory slow song and occasionally smile at the camera, but mostly they just talk to one another. It’s always a lovely moment, but it never really sticks out in my mind.

Eric and Tricia seemed to be in their own world while they were dancing. They danced as close as possible without damaging one another’s rib cages, and often sang the lyrics as they looked at each other. It wasn’t just their actions either, it was just the feeling of watching a couple very much in love dance for the first time as a married couple. It felt extremely special, rare even, to see the bride and groom make a moment like that shine. I had to dab my eyes with my napkin.

I leaned over to Nick who had a delayed start to his dinner, munching on his buttered noodles, “Did you watch that? That was incredible…” I sniffed.

Nick looked up and needed to wipe his mouth, I frowned slightly at his mess. “What? What’d I miss?”

“That was, by far, the most amazing first dance and I don’t think many people were paying attention.”

As if to prove my point, Nick reached for his chicken drumstick and raised his eyebrows, “Oh no…I wasn’t watching. What made it so great?”

I shook my head at his lack of attentiveness, “I’ve just never really seen a couple look like that. I can’t describe it, but it was really incredible.”

I don’t even think Nick was listening to me anymore as someone launched into another story at our table.

And so the great party went on.

It’s easy to remember things when you’re a sober pregnant wedding guest. And I happened to share a few of those musings with Sue Borchers, one of Nick’s many terrific cousins, who sat next to me when she was taking a break from dancing. We watched everyone gyrate and shake their bodies to the music. All of a sudden, “Love Shack,” lyrics smoothed over the dance floor and, as if on cue, two or three shrieks of delight sounded from some loopy guests. I shook my head at Sue, “You know, Love Shack is not that great of a song, but everyone at weddings LOVES it. And do you want to know why? People love acting this song out.”

Sue laughed and looked out on the dance floor, “I think you might be right,” as she observed the same crowd of folks starting to act out the “BANG! BANG!…ON THE DOOR, BABY! BANG! BANG!” And watched folks pretend to bang on invisible doors while they mouthed the lyrics.

Sue and I turned philosophical with “Love Shack” in the background, “You know,” I said, “I want to write something someday about wedding etiquette.”

Sue nodded, “That would be hilarious. Number one would be, ‘Don’t act out songs. Dance. But don’t act them out.”

We laughed and a new song exploded, luring Sue once again to shake her stuff on the dance floor.

As I rested with my 10 million cups of water, I wondered what I would call the piece I would write…”My Big Fat Country Wedding,” or “Russia Rules,” or maybe, “How to Survive a 500 Person Wedding.”

The possibilities were endless.

As I shared my thoughts with Nick later that night, I was pretty sure he was snoring when I told him my idea. He raised his head one inch above the pillow and reiterated what he always says when I have an idea, “That’s great, babe.” And then fell fast asleep. I could have told him I was planning on robbing the closest bank and I think he would have had the same response. I should probably share my ideas at a more reasonable hour. I squinted at the clock. 2:32am. Yikes, no wonder he thought my idea was great. Everything’s great at 2:30 in the morning.

Since I couldn’t fall asleep right away, I thought of all the weddings I’ve ever attended. I thought that if someday I was to write about wedding etiquette beyond the snooty and boring rules about RSVPing on time, giving an appropriate gift…blah, blah…everyone knows that. I was thinking more along the practical lines of etiquette. I was thinking about the rules we so often forget once wedding day arrives.

2009 Wedding Rules: Taken From Real Life Weddings and Reception Debacles

1. TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONES DURING THE WEDDING MASS/CEREMONY. There is nothing more distracting than hearing Usher’s, “Yeah” during the Ave Maria.

2. (This is one of my personal convictions:) During ANY speech, whether it’s the father or mother of the bride or groom, the best man or maid of honor speeches — SHUT UP. Stop talking. It’s unbelievably rude. And if you’re sitting by me, you WILL be SHHHHHSHSHSHSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHed several times until you’re quiet. You will also see Nick burying his head in his arms when I turn around and glare at the talkers.

3. If the bride wears her veil to the reception, guests should be cognizant of the pull an embrace places on her veil. Sometimes I watch the bride’s head snap back so fast and hard, I wonder if it’ll pop off.

4. Remember that although the lights are dimmed, it’s not a total blackout. Seated guests can see where your hands are going when you’re dancing with your date. Keep it G-rated. PG-13 at worst.

5. The inevitable dancing circle that forms in big crowds seems to invite a bar-friendly guest to think it’s a hilarious idea to push people from behind into the middle. AND IT’S ALWAYS THE MOST AWKWARD PERSON ALIVE to raise their hands up and shake their heads that they don’t dance. Tip: If you don’t want to get suckered into dancing, clear the floor. The dance circle will always weed out the most timid person and claim its next victim.

6. Never, ever, EVER is it hilarious to make a spectacle of a wardrobe malfunction while you’re dancing. A button pop off? Too much cleavage from a rip? A shirt lost two buttons to reveal your manly chest hair? Don’t incorporate into your dance moves.

7. Men: it’s never a good idea to interrupt a couple while they’re dancing to practice your grinding moves on her

8. Women: lift your arms in excitement only if you are 10000% confident your dress is not going anywhere and you have applied deodorant to your pits

9. Ties should not be used in any way as a prop to lure someone as your dance partner

10. Ties should not be used in any theatrical manner, especially to demonstrate what butt floss is and how it is done

11. During square dancing, prep your novice partner

12. During “Farmer’s Daughter,” only turn the gent upside down if you are confident you will not drop him

13. During that Wheel Barrel song or whatever it’s called, if someone is nearly strangling him or herself in efforts to untangle the group, have some mercy and let them drop their arms. Don’t yell, “COME ON! YOU CAN DO IT! TWIST! WE’VE ALMOST GOT IT!” while they turn scary shades of blue.

14. If you’re over 5’2 and have a front view of the slide show SIT DOWN, CROUCH DOWN, OR GO TO THE BACK. Have some consideration for people straining for one glimpse.

15. Facetiously offering a pregnant woman a drink and then taking a sip of it yourself to reinforce her inability to drink is really NOT that funny. Don’t do it.

16. Broken glass on dance floor = ladies, keep your shoes on

17. If you use one of those basket items left for the ladies in the bathrooms to help freshen up – razor, toothbrush, floss, deodorant (recommended if you’re sweating on the dance floor) – put it back in the basket or throw it out. It is absolutely grotesque to see wrappers and used items strewn around the lavatory.

18. “Hang on Snoopy” is not the time to get in the face of someone you don’t particularly like with a threatening O-H-I-O.

19. Asking the bride and groom if it’s ok to take one of the centerpieces home as a gift for someone else – unless they are being given away – is not really appropriate.

20. When the managers of the reception facility have turned out the lights and are yelling at you to leave, oblige their request.

But, what makes weddings so gosh darn fun and hilarious are the ridiculous moments of forgotten propriety and whims of the heart (or debauchery). And my number one life rule trumps any wedding rule I can come up with: All rules are made to be broken.