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The Non-Wedding Wedding: A New Tradition?

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Life is odd. I am becoming an expert on subjects I never dreamed would even happen.

"Relationships" among the AARP crowd, for example. I didn't have to do anything to earn this expertise. You just have to know enough crazy old people who keep wanting to get hitched.

I told you about my cousin Connie, age 75, who recently married a really nice older man, age 86.

How are the newlyweds doing? We'll, let's see. They privately signed a post-nup agreement. They agreed not to complain about their post-nup experiences, including the honeymoon at the medical center. Three days after the wedding, Hank spent the day in the cardiac clinic having a surgical procedure to get him in shape for his back surgery. And Connie had her torn cartilage repaired. Now that he's out of rehab, Hank is having daily therapy and Connie is applying cold packs to her knee. So they're both doing nicely, thank you.

That brings us to Buddy and Jane, another pair of geriatric lovebirds, ages 86 and 84. They had known each other as schoolkids. Both were bereaved last year and instantly re-hooked, tight as a rug.

I have observed that people who were in long term, successful (or pretty successful, all things considered) marriages tend to be the ones who hook up fast when widowed. Which, after all, is only logical. If you've spent half your life being miserable, you're not going to rush to repeat the experience. And vice versa, but without the concept of vice.

Now, most old people with any sense would just move in together and live in what used to be quaintly called "sin." (Remember "living in sin?" Hahaha. What was that about, Grandma?)

But Buddy, a seriously religious person, wanted the Good Churchkeeping Seal of Approval on their union and began a blitz pro-marriage lobbying campaign. Although Jane agreed to time-share homes with Buddy, she wasn't so sure about marriage, especially in view of the dogs. Buddy goes everywhere with two enormous critters, one of whom runs away whenever Buddy visits Jane. Jane was not looking for a new career in animal control.

Then there was the geography issue. Buddy lives an eight hour drive away. Jane is often guided by her son, a financial tycoon, or at least tycoonlet, who was negatory about the marriage deal for Mom. But Son owns his own plane, complete with pilot. He generously offered it for the Jane-Buddy-Jane commute, on condition that they drop the wedding notion.

Suddenly the eight hour trip was way shorter. But they had to buy the dogs special seat belts and custom headphones. Not sure of Labrador retrievers' taste, I asked what type of music the dogs favored, and whether they wore matching aviator sunglasses. "It's not about music," Jane said. "It's about our sanity." Without the phones, the dogs howl piercingly the entire trip.

But Buddy sort of won out on the wedding thing. They talked a clergyperson into doing a non-wedding wedding, a commitment ceremony in a darling little chapel, complete with flowers, organ music and a "bridesmaid." And lots of bad jokes about them being committed. Basically, it meant their union would be blessed by God but not the State of New Jersey. It was the best Buddy could do.

The non-wedding was adorable, and in excellent taste. The non-bride wore a knee length cream colored brocade dress recycled from her latest grandmother of the bride event. The couple was encircled by loved ones and descendants. The priestess, or whatever her title is, gave a charming speech about love and devotion at any age. When the couple said their vows, she called him Buddy instead of Clarence. It was all so touching that some of the guests were dabbing at their eyes.

You know how there are always those debates over whether a nearsighted bride should wear her glasses? (Answer: No!) Here there was no debate. She wore them. Plus the support hose, the orthotics and the knee brace.

Ms. Rev. said words and prayers you would recognize. Then, amid the traditional language, something very modern happened.

During a lull, while the non-groom fumbled for the genuine gold band, a cell phone began to ring. Uh oh. Seems one of the octogenarian guests had a brand new Smartphone. (Someone must have given it to her. Geriatrics don't buy those things, unless they're retired math teachers.) Help. What to do? She didn't know how to turn it off. She just sat there, frantically pressing buttons. Her elderly pewmates were no help.

So the woman did what any stalwart American woman should do in such an emergency. She quickly shoved the gadget into her quilted Lilly Pulitzer purse and sat on it. Fortunately her glasses weren't in the purse. Like the bride, she was wearing them.

The reception was a quiet but happy little dinner at the retirement colony, with a live combo playing age-appropriate Big Band tunes. Everyone was nighty night by 9 p.m.

After all, it had been a long, groundbreaking day.