I Do

I’ve been invited to my girlfriend’s cousin’s roommate’s something or other wedding in Arizona in June. I know that probably doesn’t sound noteworthy but, for me, it’s a big deal. This stranger’s wedding will be the first time I’ll go to a wedding as, simply, a guest — a drunken sheep with no responsibilities. That’ll be my first time as a regular old wedding guest, even though I’ve been to over a thousand weddings.

For 21 years, it was my weekend job. A coordinator, manager, and all around dogsbody for the top wedding venue in the area. Outside of work, when all my friends got married, they wanted me to be a groomsman or — worse — to work the wedding in the capacity of my weekend job! Yet all I’ve ever wanted is to just be a guest. How sad that it takes a stranger to fulfill this dream.

I suppose I can’t blame my friends. They mean well, right? It’s supposedly an honor to be part of the wedding party or some shit. It just confuses me that they would ask me to work at a wedding — and being a groomsman is working, in my opinion, or close enough. You have to jump through hoops — photos, rehearsal, shit like that. You can’t just show up and drink and eat your face off and fuck someone’s wife. You have to be on the ball to march in this procession, and dance at this time, and say goodbye to all the chumps. It’s like an office party in a call center where you’re running from the party to answer the phone every 5 minutes.

What really confuses me is that my feelings on this topic are no secret. I spend just about all my time in the GS Forums complaining about my wedding job. Not on the forums? One friend — an avid GS reader — said that they had no idea I hated weddings so much. And yet I spend so much time on the front page screaming about it, year after year.

I know your argument — being a groomsman really isn’t “work.” But you have to remember my 21 years in the industry. It’s hard to let go of the mountain of shit that came with that hideous weekend job. I had to sit there for countless 12 hour shifts, losing all my weekends and holidays, herding caterers, drunken wedding guests, and vendors. I’ve slopped out sinks filled to the brim with vomit, diarrhea-covered toilets, and blood-spattered walls. I’ve seen guests die in front of me while I scrambled wildly with the defibrillator, I’ve broken up fistfights, and I’ve hidden in a locked office under a desk as a guy stalked a terrified wedding with a pistol. I’ve seen brides fall down stairs, fall into ponds, and fuck photographers on my desk. I’ve seen grooms throw up into my backpack, beat up the bridesmaids, and throw children through windows. I’ve seen just about everything and, I tell you, after that second decade, I learned to hate the whole institution. Weddings are a terrifying glimpse through a crack in the social veneer at our collective and wholly evil reptilian brain.

So when you ask me to serve on the wedding party, it’s kind of like having a friend who’s worked construction his whole life and then you invite him over for “a good time” on Saturday. When he arrives, you’re standing next to a bulldozer that you rented and you say, “Hey, buddy, we need you to spend the weekend building our poolhouse!”

I know it’s your big day and all, but I’m honestly at the point where I would rather watch eight hours of unedited concentration camp footage.

As a groomsman at one friend’s wedding, I tried to keep my mouth shut and play along. It’ll be fun, I thought, despite all of their idiot 20-something friends who had clearly never been out of Dead Indian Bend, IA. We were in a cool locale, booze flowed freely…what can go wrong? I tried to ignore all the shit, but the part I found galling was being involved in the absurd tradition I’d watched unfold a thousand times before. The staging of a wedding — from pre-event photos to the final goodbye that evening. There’s this cold, calculating, robotic lockstep for every goddamned thing. I could have closed my eyes and been able to perform on cue throughout the evening. I probably should have done that…sleepwalk through the painful, repetitive hours. I found myself obsessively watching the wedding planner, knowing her every move before she made it, and criticizing her whenever she was slow. It was, alarmingly, like having some sort of out of body experience and watching my sad corpse going through some sort of death throes. I wanted nothing more than to escape, but, no, I was a groomsman, I had responsibilities. I was being handled by the planner and the rest of the wedding party, I had to do A, B, and C, in that order, left-right-left-right-salute.

The snarky, rude tedium of my fellow wedding goers didn’t help the mood. I was the odd man out. A natural wallflower, and a stranger in a group of people who knew each other well. Normally a terrible situation made even more so by my status as groom-licker. I just wanted to keep to myself and try to process the surreal feeling of being part of something I despised more than all the evil in the world. My fellow guests saw this as being snooty and standoffish and, so, as boorishly as possible, they attempted to drag me into the party and made my behavior into a major issue, ultimately inviting me to the post-party just so I could be cussed out, called names, and chased off. Nice people. I walked three miles back to my hotel in a funk and regretted absolutely every single decision and action that had brought me to that point in life.

Of course, there’s something about weddings that brings the cunt out in everyone. I’ve seen the above situation before while on duty. I knew a catering manager who got invited to a wedding (not catered by his firm) and had to squirm and sweat it out as a guest. I watched him react as I did. Since he and I were buddies, and bound by the blood oath of wedding workers, he just ended up in my office for most of the event. I stole a bottle of scotch for him and he gratefully drank until he was numb and could forget about where he was.

I left my weekend wedding job in early 2012. A year later, a friend was getting married at the same venue and asked me to come to her wedding. Well, no, not “come” to her wedding. She wanted me to resume my job and actually work her wedding. I suppose that would have been better than being a groomsman, but it was still insulting. Yes, it had only been a year since my last wedding, but it still felt strange negotiating the whole thing. Like I was asking to return to my old high school job at 7-11 or something.

It soon became clear that the reasoning behind this was so they would have a friendly person in the cop position. They could party all night and go crazy and, they thought (and openly said) that I would turn a blind eye. Of course, that means that I would be the guy mopping up shit, blood, and vomit at 4am. They didn’t take that into account. The venue must be left as if we had never been there — that’s the rule. And these drunken, thoughtless cunts were geared up to walk all over me. I backed out of the job. My ex-boss had a few nasty words for me, and my friends never spoke to me again. I don’t miss them. I think there was no real friendship there since I didn’t actually get an invitation to the wedding, or was offered an alternative to simply being their fucking servant for the night, complicit (at solely my expense) in their planned excess.

I guess what confuses me is why friends want me to be involved on any level. They know my feelings, they claim to be my bosom companions, and yet there they are, with the rented bulldozer, asking me to build their poolhouse for them. Custom dictates that I say ‘yes,’ because I’m a Catholic with a domineering mom and a broken childhood so I say ‘yes’ to everything in order to buy time to think about a way out of having said ‘yes.’

So, friends — just invite me as a guest and understand the issue. Hell, a real friend wouldn’t invite me at all. Maybe it would come up that they had gotten married, but then everything would gloss over and move on. You know — don’t mention the war and all that.

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