Despite all the big moments over the course of a wedding weekend that are manufactured to be unforgettable, the ones I can’t ever scrub from my mind have been totally spontaneous. They typically occur an hour or two after the rehearsal dinner has ended — and about 12 hours before the ceremony itself.
The most indelible of these moments took place late on the eve of my cousin’s wedding in Nantucket. A group of us had begun lighting and launching a series of flying lanterns into the sky over the ocean. The theme to The Greatest American Hero came to mind, and heavily inebriated, I began belting it out every time a new lantern took flight.
“I was sitting on the balcony with my maid of honor,” the bride recalls. “Suddenly, we looked up, and there was literally a stairway to heaven, accompanied by someone drunkenly singing, Believe it or not, I’m walking on air! I’ll never forget it.” (That someone: Me.)
This wasn’t the only time my intoxicated prenuptial crooning elicited tears from a member of the wedding party. Joined by my fellow Whiffenpoofs — my collegiate a cappella singing group — I once intercepted the grandmother of the groom on her way to her car following the rehearsal dinner and spontaneously began singing “I’ll Be Seeing You,” her favorite song (as indicated by her toast earlier that evening).
Another time, my courage fortified by Jack Daniels, I seized on the opportunity after a childhood friend’s rehearsal dinner to come out to the groom. “Guess why I’m not getting married,” I dramatically lamented. “Because it’s illegal!”
This led to a sloppy, long-overdue discussion about my having been a closeted homosexual for as long as he’d known me. (Incidentally, it’s also moments like these that can lead to “straight” grooms ending up naked in bed with the best man.)
Of course, none of these moments were by design. They’re not vows; they weren’t purchased from a catalog or orchestrated by a wedding planner. Those things fade away, along with foggy recollections of lukewarm, rubbery chicken dishes. My impromptu rehearsal dinner memories, however, bloomed organically from the fertile crescent connecting the appetizer and main course of an otherwise forgettable wedding weekend.
No amount of Jack Daniels can water down that kind of staying power.