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Rich: Great marriages don’t need fancy weddings

POSTED: March 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

My friend, Susan, married the other day. Been claiming that she was going to. Then, she up and did it. Just like that.

They got a license, went down to the courthouse and formally tied the knot in informal clothes. She called me after the vows were said and done, bubbling over with the same kind of joy she had when she was 16 and fell in love for the first time. The giggle sounded the same as it did then. Maybe even gigglier.

"Honey, I’ve got feelings I never knew I had," she gushed about the man she’d known for six months. Since she’s 43, I was very happy to hear that intoxicating love doesn’t die at 30.

"Are you going on a honeymoon?" I asked.

"Nope," she replied. "But we are going out to eat."

"Where?’

"Dunno for sure. Mexican, I guess."

And here I chuckled, thinking that when great love turns to marriage, it doesn’t require a flock of maidens trimmed out in gosh-awful dresses they’ll never wear again. It doesn’t even demand a $500 bridal bouquet. It just insists that the man, the woman and their love show up.

My daddy was a preacher and back in the days of my childhood, couples regularly showed up at our front door, marriage license in hand, asking him to marry them. Right then and right there. Somewhere along the way, we lost track of the number of couples who married in our living room.

In the spring or summer, if the bride arrived without a corsage – no one ever had a bouquet – Mama would hold up her finger for Daddy to wait then she would dash out to her massive rose garden and return with flowers for the bride.

I still run into couples who say, "You know your daddy married us."

"Really?"

"Yep. You’s just a little ol’ thing, sittin’ on the piano bench watchin’ and your mama was the witness."

Many will chuckle and say, "Yep. He tied the knot real tight, too. It stayed tied. He said he would."

One thing you didn’t want to do with my daddy was kiss too long when he gave permission to kiss the bride. He frowned mightily on such unseemly behavior. But other than that, he was pretty good and always quite dramatic when he announced, "With the power vested in me, I pronounce you man and wife."

Oh, and another thing with my daddy: He always insisted that "obey" be included in the vows.

One spunky woman said she had nary a problem with that.

Daddy smiled. He liked women who obeyed.

She slung her head toward her betrothed. "I think he should say it."

Daddy’s smile faded.

Susan’s excitement over her spontaneous wedding reminded me of those simple weddings and also made me think of all the elaborate weddings I’ve attended that cost more than my first house. A few times, I have seen women more excited over the wedding than the marriage.

The prettiest and most touching wedding I’ve ever seen included a shoeless wedding party and 15 guests. As the orange-red sun slid lazily, unhurried behind the cliffs on Italy’s Amalfi coast, the stunning blonde bride in a lovely, thin-strapped dress she had sewed herself sauntered, barefooted, toward her beloved. He was dressed in white linen slacks and a collarless linen shirt that hung loosely around his hips. His bare toes twitched nervously in the cool blades of grass.

When the priest pronounced them married, the shimmering couple turned to face their guests, each one of us who, caught up in the simple magic of the moment, had tears glistening in our eyes. Love, like the scent of sea air, hung heavy in the air.

I leaned over to whisper to a friend, "Now, that’s amore."

And it most surely was.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)."



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