As of yesterday, 14 of the 18 cousins I have on my mom’s side are married. And I have been lucky enough to attend 12 of those Ohio weddings, one of them as a bridesmaid.
My family has come to accept and love these weddings, looking forward to the next one as soon as the doors close on the receptions. I’ve always loved the romance of it all–the way the word “love” slips easily in between sentences and echoes through the church rafters. The way the bride and groom smile at each other and whisper during the first dance (I’ve always wondered what they talk about…) The way that seeing one couple happily starting their journey together makes all the other couples fall in love all over again.
My parents and siblings have been through a lot at these weddings. We know what to expect at most of them. We wait anxiously to see the dress the bride chose, craning our necks to watch her walk down the aisle (because inevitably we were late and are seated in the back along the wall). We ooh and ahh over the bridesmaids and the flowers and the centerpieces. We take advantage of everything offered and are usually one of the last to leave. We eat, drink, dance and use the little toiletries provided for the girls in the bathrooms. We play the name game and try to remember the names of all the cousins and who’s married to who. Then we start on their kids, but we’ve about given up at this point. The family is getting too big.
When I was younger, I was often too shy to dance much at the weddings. We would sit with our chairs facing the dance floor and watch our parents start doing the YMCA. Sometimes I would get up the courage to do the Chicken Dance, or to dance with my dad during a slower song. But I do remember they would play this funny song that sounded like, “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on, O-H-I-O.” (Anyone in Ohio will know what I’m talking about.) At first I would refuse to dance to it. I was extremely proud that I was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I wouldn’t be caught dead cheering for the other team. And then I went to a few more weddings and realized it was actually pretty fun. It was the one song where almost every single person in the room got up and waved their arms around.
When I was about ten or eleven years old, I suddenly and astonishingly got over my shy-ness for approximately three minutes. A slow song came on and I was tired of sitting on the side watching my mom and dad dance together without me. So I walked over to a boy about my age and asked him to dance. And he did. I had no idea who he was and had never spoken to him before. He was probably from the other side of the wedding party, because I never saw him again. But we have pictures of me dancing with this boy.
I had my first drink at one of the weddings, when I was about fifteen. I didn’t order it myself though because I couldn’t bring myself to say “Fuzzy Navel” or “Buttery Nipple” without busting out laughing and giving away my age. But there’s a picture of me and my cousin, Kimberly, arms linked holding our drinks high and proud. (She could order a Buttery Nipple without any problem.)
There was one wedding where the favor was a deck of cards at each place setting. My siblings and I played cards during the songs we didn’t want to dance to. At the end of the night, when most of the other guests had gone home and we were lingering with goodbyes, we snatched up a bunch of the decks that were left behind and stuffed our purses and pockets. We got home with about 25 decks of cards that say “Sarah & Matt.” Now I’ll never need to buy cards again, and I’ll always remember that Matt’s wife’s name is Sarah.
At another wedding, there was a photo booth in lieu of favors. We jumped in that booth over and over, whenever we saw it was vacant. The strips of pictures from that night still hang on our dresser mirrors, our goofy faces cheek-to-cheek in the tiny box. “Jennifer & Zachary” is pasted at the bottom of each strip, so we’ll never forget who Jen got married to either.
Some of the weddings had a “dollar dance” where you paid a dollar to dance with either the bride or the groom. I would beg a dollar off my dad and stand in line to dance with the groom, whom I had never met. (Maybe I was less shy at these weddings than I thought.)
Last year I was honored to be a bridesmaid in my cousin Kimberly’s wedding. I met her friends and helped her get ready and held her dress in the bathroom. We rode in a limo and drank and danced and celebrated, and I got to see one of my closest cousins marry her best friend.
And yesterday, my cousin Nate got married. He has been bringing Jenna to family Christmases and Thanksgivings for years and it was truly wonderful to be at their wedding and see them so happy. My siblings and I didn’t play cards or the name game and I drank wine, so no need to worry about ordering Fuzzy Navels. But we danced all night and were still among the last to leave, enjoying every moment.
I wish Jenna and Nate all the best in their new life together, and the same for my other 13 married cousins.
Only four more cousins left–I wonder who’s next…