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.