July 28, 2013

Warning! It’s Wedding Season (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Outcast Table).


It is wedding season—that magical, mystical time of year I like to refer to as ‘thirty-thousand dollars which could be better spent on a house or a trip around the world, or a charitable donation,’ is upon us.

I don’t mean to impugn the idea of a wedding. I am not married, and have been to some wonderful weddings in the past. Mostly, they have been smaller, intimate ordeals rather than crazed, something-to-prove ordeals.

Yes, love can make homo sapiens do some crazy things.

Maybe it’s all that oxytocin

…but, do you want to tell the bride-to-be that $2,000 is too much for a wedding cake, even if it does have 24K gold flakes and is adorned with an airbrushed photo of herself and the groom riding horses into the sunset, fringed by the gentle lapping of waves?

I didn’t think so.

The purveyors of wedded bliss—reception hall owners, caterers, videographers, mixologists, et cetera—have this figured out.

“Three dollars per shrimp!”

“One-hundred dollars per head!”

“Spare no expense!”

“Only the best for my pookie!” rises the chorus.

Planning a wedding is a lot like arranging a funeral. It is an emotional time for whomever is writing out the check. There is the free-floating anxiety that ‘people will talk’ if something isn’t up to snuff.

There is, however, an important difference. Statistically-speaking, a great number of us will have more than one wedding during the course of our lives. Unless we are buried alive (and, thankfully this is happening less frequently these days) we will have only one funeral.

Did several shots of Patron inspire the best man to say something he shouldn’t have during the toast? Did that ‘loose canon’ friend disrobe during the chicken dance? Better luck next time.

The truth? Paying a lot of money won’t guarantee ‘happily ever after after’ more than forking out indulgences can open the pearly gates to the heaven of the Middle Ages.

This is hard stuff to consider.

We can love ourselves and love our partner and practice compassion and non-attachment and listening and nurture a sense of humor for life’s little twists-and-turns and hard, hard free-falls.

We cannot, however, control another person and his or her affections, just like we can’t control so many things about the future. (If anybody does have a magic pill to guarantee this, can he or she please get in touch with me immediately?)

This is what I think: culturally, so many of us (especially the ladies) are encouraged to project all of our expectations onto one day, while turning a blind eye from the marriage in front of us. ‘Happily ever after’ can seem too scary.

Now, onto my favorite part of the wedding (other than seeing beloved friends or family tie the knot.)

Where you are reception-ing in Cancun, or Branson or Vladivostok or the fire hall on the edge of town, you can be assured of one thing: There are ‘normal’ people tables and there is an ‘Outcast Table.’

Many reception facilities are arranged like bulls-eyes. Parents and siblings of the happy couple are at the center. Extended family are next, followed by co-workers, neighbors and a group of old college friends from California. Golfing buddies, study abroad pals from Italy and people-you-have-to-invite (like that girl who knows the bride kissed Fabrizio after she started dating the groom) fill out the rest of the seating chart.

In the farthest orbital, usually next to the ladies’ room or the emergency exit or the compost heap, lies the ‘Outcast Table.’ Those who end up here—either luckily or unluckily, depending on your perceptions—have no social connections with other groups.

While propriety indicates that this ragtag group of lone wolves and unpaired be invited to the festivities, it does not dictate they be included in the traditional manner.

Correct me if I’m wrong.

The Outcast Table has been almost universally maligned—on websites and in Bride magazine.

This is unfortunate. They miss the gleam in the outcast tablegoers’ eyes.

Yes, there is Aunt Ruth who has not dined in public with another human being for 15 years due to her complicated macrobiotic eating plan (and who is, right this very minute, extracting a plastic bag of greens from her purse.)

There is Stan, the bride’s Supervisor from work, who knows a little more about aliens than any one man should. There is the guy with Coke bottle glasses from the groom’s fifth grade summer camp who, as it turns out, is a physics genius.

I have had the pleasure of sitting at the ‘normal’ tables. For interesting conversation, though, I do prefer the Outcast Table.

Normal wedding guests discuss the picayune topics like tulle and summer timeshares and personal trainers.

People at the Outcast Table have more esoteric interests, like Roswell or phytonutrients or the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. The conversation is never dull. Nobody has ever discussed professional sports, for example, at the Outcast Table.

And this is only the beginning.

The Outcast Table serves another important function.

When you find your place card here, you will have complete, unequivocal proof of your relationship with the bride and groom.

Hint: It is not good.

Some friends are gold. Others are silver. Some are chopped liver or reconstituted prune juice. You rank below this.

Knowledge is power, my friend. Chalk up your losses and set your sights towards that really awesome metal detector you have been eyeing up for months. Chuck—the man next to you with the snaggle-tooth and Star Trek tie—can tell you exactly which model to buy.

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{Photo: via Flickr George Eastman House}

Ed: Sara Crolick

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