The Last-Timers
June 13th, 2013

We haven't seen at least 5 of these people since that day.

Sometimes it makes me sad how few of my best friends today were not at our wedding.  This group includes all but one of my wonderful girlfriends from graduate school, all of our great friends from GAP’s work, spouses of old friends who have become beloved in their own rite, and many others.  Either because we had not yet met or because the relationship wasn’t fully formed at the time, they were not there.

At the same time, there are people who were invited to our wedding – a couple who were even included in it – whose presence there was a vestige of a phase of life that was winding down.  They had played a role of some significance in our lives up to that point, but their scene was almost up.  Some were childhood friends whose lives have since gone in very different directions from our own.  Others were sorority sisters and fraternity brothers with whom we’d never been that close, but whom we felt obliged by etiquette to invite.  For a few of them our wedding day was the last time we would see them.

I’d been thinking about this recently for a few reasons, and then stumbled across this post on Slate which encapsulates nearly to a T what I’d been mulling over in my mind.  In it author David Plotz discusses the two varieties of last-timers.  There are the obvious ones, the ones you probably know on the day of the wedding are last-timers – parents’ friends from back when you were in diapers, former co-workers, and a sea of plus-ones.  If you could retroactively take them off the guest list, you probably would.  But then there are those whom you would never have guessed at the time were about to fade out of your life.

Plotz comments that extreme pragmatists suggest not inviting those whom you think won’t be a part of your life moving forward, but that such an approach is both unrealistic and misguided.  For starters, oftentimes we just don’t know that someone is a last-timer.  More importantly, perhaps the fact that they are is the very best reason to invite them.  For so many of us our wedding is the moment that ushered us out of the life of an overgrown adolescent and into the life of an adult.  As our lives turn that corner, some of our friendships don’t make the turn with us.  But sharing your wedding with the people who have brought you that far might just be the perfect ending to that chapter of your life.

All of this, though, makes me especially thankful for the weddings that have come after we’ve turned such corners in life.  Some of our very best friends (IEP’s godparents, as it would turn out) had just started dating when we got married, and our wedding was the first out-of-town trip they took together.  A few years later we attended their wedding and it makes me happy to know that our weddings caught our friendship on the upswing.  Similarly, in looking back at the friendships that have fallen away over time I am especially thankful for those childhood and college friendships that have stayed a part of our life in spite of the different paths we’ve taken.

Some good friends of ours recently got engaged and it makes me so happy.  I’m happy for all of the obvious reasons – they are a wonderful match and will have a wonderful life together.  But I’m also happy that we met each other after that fateful adolescent/adult conversion was behind us.  That we will be able to sit at their wedding and comfortably predict years and years of shared moments together.

Perhaps one day my girlfriends and I who married before we met each other will sit around with a bottle of wine and a pot of fondue and tell each other about our weddings.  The dresses, the toasts, what went right, what went wrong, and all that we missed when our lives had not yet intertwined.  But of course what matters most is that we had then, and have now, friends whom we want to include in life’s biggest moments.

5 Responses to “The Last-Timers”

  1. Gale Says:

    I wanted to also chime in with a quick commentary about the flip side of this issue, which is being the last-timer. I’ve attended many, many weddings in the past ten or twelve years, and for at least a few I myself was a last-timer. As I look back to my early and mid-twenties I laugh a little at the effort and expense I went to to make it to the weddings of some people who would really have no bearing on my life moving forward. Thankfully that happens with much less frequency now as any wedding I’m attending these days is most likely for someone who is currently an active part of my life. And since my life is not on the cusp of any major transition I can easily assume that these relationships will continue to thrive.

  2. Meg Says:

    I recently did some research into adult friendships. I was surprised at how easily some long time friends simply go another way and disappear from your life. I found an article that said as adults we go through a 4 year cycle on friends, with just one it two sticking around long term. Makes sense though, with evolving families, jobs, moving, new schools, etc.

  3. Gale Says:

    Meg – I guess I shouldn’t find it surprising that legitimate research has been done on this topic, but I hadn’t heard the 4-year statistic. I think most of my friendships tend to last longer than four years (except for several college friendships that atrophied when we were no longer living in such close proximity), but I’ll have to think more about that. My parents have a wonderful group of friends they’ve shared most of their adult lives with (for more than 30 years now) and while I used to think that such friendships were just par for the course, I’m coming to appreciate what a rarity that actually is. I hope I’m as lucky in friendship as they have been.

  4. Jan Says:

    I occasionally marvel at those friendships you’re referring to, Gale. One of those buddies recently moved to a new house and commented, “I think this will be our last house.” That was sobering. But the main thing I’ve learned about those friendships is that they really take good, old=fashioned work. Visit when you really don’t want to sometimes. Have a party when you’d rather not. And don’t forget your friends’ children. I’ve dropped the ball on that one, but it matters to the other parent.

  5. anne Says:

    So weird…I was oddly JUST THINKING about this a couple days ago. Seriously. Anyway, it’s definitely interesting to think about. I think I was pretty selective with my wedding guest list, and maybe even more so than I should have been. But I certainly relate to the last-timer phenomenon. As weird as it may feel that there were girls at your wedding with whom you don’t keep in touch, I also have to imagine those were the girls you told about your first date with GAP, your growing relationship, etc. Someday you’ll have a killer party–maybe even for a big anniversary–and the people you invite will be ones with whom you’re building your future. I always find it sad when adult friendships die, but I’ve also forced them when they shouldn’t have been, and that feels almost worse. Anyway, interesting topic.