Heavy dusk fire casts the wedding party’s long shadows across a patio overlooking the harbor, a crowd of young men and women looking on at Bobby and Emily, and the couple’s families gathered along the perimeter. Given that I’ve attended about as many rehearsal dinners as Larry King, you’d think my role as the piano player serves a purpose before the actual ceremony. Considering the absence of any instrument tonight, however, and the complete dearth of music altogether—except the quiet lap of water on the rocks behind us—it’s clear just how important the wedding music is (not).
Even in the ceremony, hardly anyone pays attention to what pieces are played when, and why, especially the bridal march, for which I have prepared an ethereal Icelandic number the couple chose. The song, called “Hoppípolla”—a Nordic verb phrase that roughly translates to “jumping into puddles”—could not more accurately reflect both Emily’s and Bobby’s individual joy and hope and creativity with which they infuse every element and circumstance.
I run the song over in my mind as Emily practices her approach to the expectant bridesmaids, groomsmen, her fiancée, and the officiant. Crisp notes mounting in my head into a shower that seems to fall in reverse, upward until—
“How will the recession work?” someone asks.
“Once the wedding party’s exited, how will the guests do so?”
I’ve known Bobby and Emily long enough to recognize the sober expressions on their faces. This is the first they’ve considered the matter, and while they are unprepared with an answer, I can tell one is already quickly forming when Emily points to Bobby’s younger brother, a groomsman, to usher his grandmother out. Bobby offers a system for the other groomsmen to do the same with other family members until the other guests can rise and leave on their own, row by row.
And for the first time, I realize how very much the impending day is one of their own design. In all the weddings I’ve attended as the piano player, I only just then put together the authority the bride and groom share and show, because, often, overbearing personalities in the family or wedding party have obscured the privilege with their unsolicited opinions. A mother would step in and answer; the best man would shuffle people around; the officiant or wedding coordinator would say, Typically, the recession…
“Okay, does everyone see how that will work?” Emily asks.
I can see Bobby pointing and directing around the group, reiterating for a couple groomsmen. My friends, together, giving directions to build for themselves a place of independence within their community. A place where their word, their commitments, their gifts as leaders and independent thinkers, can be cultivated into a new element and relationship worth more than the sum of its wonderful parts, and jumping in with both feet.