Today my cousin Luke married his girlfriend Lauren.
Luke is about ten years older than me, which either makes him the oldest of my generation of cousins or one of the youngest of the previous generation. (My mom comes from a family of seven kids, and the kids of her and her siblings break down into roughly two groups, pre-1980 and post-1980, give or take a couple years. I have a metric ton of cousins on my mom’s side.) Growing up, we visited Mom’s side of the family every summer, and my primary playmates were Luke and his three younger siblings, plus the five kids of my mom’s two younger sisters. When I was really little, like five, I couldn’t say the letter L, so I called my cousin Yook; it was with great pride that I finally learned to say his name properly. One of my favorite songs of my childhood was one Luke wrote, a darkly comedic country-tinged ballad about the mutant one-eyed frog they found in their swimming hold one year.
Luke’s not the first of my cousins to get married, but this was the first time I got to attend one of my cousins’ weddings. It was a very different experience than the last wedding I attended last year, which was between a Catholic Shakespearean actress and a Jewish stand-up comedian, officiated by a rabbi and priest whose ceremonial speeches resembled comedy club patter. This was a far more reverent wedding, performed in the open air on a spectacularly cloudless day in the mountains around Lake Tahoe — “God’s cathedral,” as the minister said.
So I got to thinking about the strangeness — the mysticism — of a wedding. Not of a marriage, though I’m sure there are strange mystical elements of that too. What I’m qualified to talk about, though, is performance, the power of symbol and word.