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Justina McCaffrey Headshot

Loving With Abandon

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A few years ago I was inside my store late at night. The lights were dim except for the bright lights focusing on the dresses in the window. I caught sight of an emotional occurrence. I witnessed two teenagers dirty, disheveled, bad haircuts, squeegees in hand as they kissed each other on the sidewalk in front of my window framing a crisp white satin wedding gown. I was moved by the turbulent emotions of young love and curious about the magnificently embellished gown that they had chosen to stand in front of. These kids could not afford my dresses. I didn't even think they would be attracted to my dresses. And if they knew that they were secretly being watched they would have felt terribly uncomfortable and embarrassed.

But there was something so raw and real about these teens. It was the rarity of love with abandon that gives meaning to the idea that love conquers all. It was like a scene from cinema with the desperation of someone fleeing a war-ridden country carrying the loved one who now has no legs, but their love seems even stronger. The scene in front of me drove me to tears as I thought of all of the weddings that I have been a part of.

Some weddings were truly exceptionally beautiful experiences. They included warm people who were unaffected and clearly led by their hearts to create a wedding that was meaningful and depicted who they were to their loved ones attending. These people understood why everyone was gathering together and there was a complete ease in their actions. They created their own extravagance of experience through this eternal symbiotic love, natural and pure. All of these weddings had a public and daring risk of desire and affection; it was the same emotion that captured and raptured the squeegee kids that night in front of my store. This dramatic display of emotion is attractive, and true.

Some of the other weddings that I have been a part of were more like calculated productions of the caliber of the Academy Awards. There were layers of bureaucracy, hundreds of workers, with thousands of decisions. The invitation list was a who's who list of whatever group these people belonged to rather than personal and engaging friends, and perhaps family from the "old country." Certainly these toneless events were entertaining. Believe me, there wasn't a moment that I wasn't entertained! These are weddings that people remember year after year, because of the team of planners, lighting directors, choreographed wait staff, and a cake taller than the groom! These spectacular events have limitless budgets, but yet no room for the couple getting married. From an event perspective these weddings are quite impressive, but I wonder, "where is the love ?"

It's easy to feel excitement and frivolous drama while planning a wedding, but I wonder how many engaged couples really understand what they are embarking upon. The triumphant selflessness and monotony of surrender that is required. It is an exercise of impossible strength and perseverance and a reminder that while the two have become one, there is an ever present responsibility to uphold a dignity for the other person, in consideration of the other person. It can become more complicated with children and their needs. Parents have to teach their children how not to be selfish and at the same time need to live unselfishly themselves. Life gets complicated and the challenges to maintain a union can become overwhelming.

Given the reality of marriage, a wedding should give people the opportunity to congratulate the couple on the decision to deny selfishness and a pilgrimage pointing toward spiritual maturity. This type of acclaim should be reflected within a wedding.

There should be a focus on the raw beauty of the event, this lifetime change for two people - a celebration of a decision and duty, intimate, not a performance. It might even be difficult to find 200 friends with whom to share that same contemplation of spirit, people willing to focus more on the ceremony and consider the reception a joyous afterthought. No doubt, this runs the risk of clearly omitting some of the traditions that people have come to think of as necessary.

Rather than pulling off a major production, a successful wedding hinges on carefully drawing the guests into a profound intimacy of love. I am not against larger-than-life weddings, but as a guest I don't feel like the focus should be on entertainment. There are countless forms of entertainment, but witnessing the beauty of love and celebrating these everlasting decisions remains a far greater privilege, not unlike the privilege I had that evening when I witnessed those two teenagers in front of my store.