Ten years ago this week, I had the deep honor of writing and leading the marriage ceremony for two of my friends. The bride was/is the only person I still truly know from my freshman year of college, when we lived a few doors apart from one another on the top floor of a high-rise dorm. We met when we were 17, and all these years later, she remains one of my favorite people in the world.
She is, and has always been, cooler than me. She’s smart and funny, well-versed in both baseball and music. She taught me how to play card games and poker, the latter by candlelight during a power outage at her parents’ home in New Jersey. She has the most radiant skin I’ve ever seen in real life and is the only other person I know who likes the taste of orange juice with chocolate chip cookies.
In college, we volunteered together at a feminist organization, dutifully cold-calling and leaving messages (on actual machines!) more often than not. We completed annual AIDS walks side-by-side, proud of our ability to split and dodge slower walkers (not that it was ever a race), and for a time after we graduated, we considered moving together to Dublin or Boston, where – we imagined – we would have grand lives. Once, we got into a car accident on the Tappan Zee Bridge; if I remember correctly, that trip was the same one where we spent a few hours trying to find our car at a T stop only to realize eventually that we’d disembarked at the wrong station.
Our friendship exists outside of a specific collection of people; we aren’t two members of the same group and never have been. Still, she’s one of the people that really makes me feel like I’m a good person, because there’s no way I could be a shitty one and still have her as a friend. She sees through other people when they’re phony, and figures out quickly if you’re a person that can be trusted. She knows her mind, and she’s strong and clear.
Over the years, we’ve lived far apart from one another – she’s about as far from me right now as is possible in the contiguous United States – but we’ve found our ways to stay in touch: rare but lengthy phone calls; handwritten, heartfelt, and incredible letters; occasional texts (though that’s not really our style, so they’re mainly one-liners about book recommendations). Sometimes when we’re both on the east coast, we meet at one of our parents’ houses for a night together, where it feels almost like we’re young again, talking into the wee hours of morning before waking up to our mothers’ ideas of breakfast.
And goodness, I just adore her.
I say all of this because it helps to explain why it meant so much to me to be included in their wedding. I worked on the ceremony for months; it felt like one of the most important things I’d ever written. I interviewed the bride and the groom individually and together; I asked about their history and their hopes; I scoured examples of how to write a wedding and learned what was imperative, along with what I might shed. I practiced my delivery by making my colleagues sit and listen to me at lunch, gathering like the good sports they were at the university where I worked, the rustle of my audience’s sandwiches and chips crinkling against my shaking words.
In some ways, I was a funny choice for this job: I wrote the ceremony not knowing a thing about marriage. I wasn’t married and wouldn’t be for several years. I knew, though, what it meant to love someone, and I tried to call that forward as I penned my words. I wanted to strike a balance between romanticism and realism, stability and growth, constancy and change, joy and struggle. I wanted to give them something in what I said that they could return to when things got difficult; I hoped that they might see their wedding as a beacon, should they ever need it.
So when they day came, using a one-day permit granted from the state of Massachusetts, I swallowed my dislike of public speaking, donned a suit for the ceremony because that seemed appropriate, and married them, finally announcing – as we’d agreed, and to the laughter of their guests – that the bride could now, finally, kiss her groom.
These days, I know more about marriage, and I know, too, that my ability to imagine anyone else’s relationship is limited, at best; those worlds exist only for the people who create them. Regardless, I hope that my friends look back on that gorgeous October day with utter and complete joy.
Now that the honeymoon is so far behind them, now that they have changed states and jobs, bought a home, built a community and expanded their number to four, I hope they can have glimpses of what it was like a decade ago, when everything sat waiting for them in the future they dared to create.