By Alex Warren
For the first time in the 30 years I had known my best friend, I was at a loss for words. My shaking hands grasped the microphone. I tried to make eye contact with her but I just couldn't. I hadn't the faintest idea how to get through the next five minutes without stumbling. Or crying. Or, God forbid, telling the truth.
No, I wasn't testifying in court or giving a eulogy. I was about to deliver the toast at my best friend's wedding.
This summer, you may have borne witness to the same thing I did: a close friend and her partner, standing before an audience of loved ones against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset, and committing to a lifetime of...well...nothing.
Before you call me jaded or cynical – or whatever else it is you romantics are calling realistic single women these days – be honest with yourself: Of all the weddings you've attended over the years, how many of those marriages have lasted? How many times did you have to bite your lip during the exchange of the vows because you knew – okay, everybody knew – that this union was just like a butterfly? Beautiful for a day, yes. Built to last – not a chance.
And yet, despite all those divorce horror stories and stacked odds, I have been noticing a phenomenon among my friends: weddings. I've also noticed a wedding obsession in our culture, as reality shows, coffee table books and magazines by the dozens assure the would-be betrothed that their "big day" has to be "the best day of their lives."
They tell you how to how to walk, how to cater, even how to pee in a wedding dress. And did you know there are at least three shows on TV dedicated to wedding cakes alone? No wonder people are crazed about getting married.
And, by the way, not all those people should get married. It's the 21st century and, thankfully, marriage is no longer the obvious next step for women after a college education and five years in the job market. And men know that women aren't that gullible – or desperate. Sure, there's the whole baby-fever thing. But the truth is, women are having babies into their 40s, and most of the women I've met who really want a child will have one whether they're married or not.
Yet couples continue to race down the aisle with dreams in their heads and obsession – I mean, hope – in their eyes.
Which brings me back to my best friend, Annie. As she stood on the altar this summer with her cherished Charles (or was it Carl?) and the two of them vowed to love and protect each other for the rest of their lives, I couldn't help but think they should have added a caveat: "....for the rest of our lives. Or come fall. Whichever comes first."
And if you think that was bad, the four months leading up to Annie's wedding were even more terrorizing. She almost cancelled the big day seventeen-and-a-half times. It actually became a private joke among her friends: "It's Friday – or 'I think I'm making a mistake!' day. Who's going to take the call? Not it!"
She brushed it off as wedding nerves and never elaborated. And her loved ones began to get suspicious.
Even her parents got involved. Her soft-spoken, Midwestern mother was obviously mortified – starting with the bridal shower, when she blurted out the now-famous line: "Well, at least we have some lawyers in the family." (Touche, Mom!) Then the group-emails began circulating. What can we do? How can we talk her out of it? One person even dared ask: Why is she doing this? If she was really so unsure, why didn't she just postpone? Or call it off? I knew we were in a whole new dimension when Annie confessed to me that she couldn't cancel the wedding because the "coconut prawns are to die for."
So why do people sign the most binding contract of their lives when they're not confident in its success? For Annie, the answer was simple. She was in love. And the wedding was on.
Okay. So we all had to show up and pretend. I tried to draft my maid-of-honor toast, but I knew very little about her fiancé – and what I did know didn't really impress me, because I could tell he didn't really impress her. Finally, ten days before the wedding, I took a deep breath and told her that I thought she shouldn't go through with it. Some say that telling the truth in this situation is like shooting yourself in the foot. Well, if that's the case, I've got a sniper's aim – because in response to my honesty, Annie did something very special: She stopped talking to me. At all. In fact, the night before I was supposed to get on the flight to her home town, I began to wonder if I'd even be let in the door at the rehearsal dinner.
But I was. And the ceremony went on. And concluded. And after it was over, it was time for my toast.
Deep breath. Shot of whiskey. Here we go:
"Today...Annie is...getting married. And I've never seen her look...happier." (Totally blank stares from the audience. God, please help me.) "The day I met Carl I could tell...how happy Annie was." (Seriously, God. Kill me now.) "And if happiness is the measure of a good marriage, then Carl...gets an A-plus!" (I think I'm going to be sick.) "So here's to Annie and Carl – role models for all of us!" (Applause. Thanks yous. Bee-line to the bar.)
It's been three months since Annie's wedding, and she and her husband have decided to split. Unlike before, she now calls me three times a day, mostly to ask, "Can you believe what he's done now?" Or to say, "What a jerk." Or "How could I have not seen this before?" Or my personal favorite, "Why didn't anyone stop me?!"
You're right, Annie. Someone should have thought of that.
Alex Warren lives in New York City. See Alex's "10 Things to Do When Your Friend Marries Someone Who You Know She'll Divorce in a Year" here.
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