|This is not what I would want for Caitlin, ad I suspect she would want it for herself even less.|
My good friend Caitlin is engaged to be married. Caitlin remained my good friend despite the fact that I kicked her out of my house and made her call her mom to pick her up at about 3:00 a.m. because she broke my cardinal rule of never saying inside the sanctity of my house that my father (or my brother) was good-looking. My friends were not allowed to comment favorably upon the appearances of either my brother or my father without facing severe sanctions. Fortunately in the case Caitlin and myself, we got past the breach and are a part of five of the closest friends ever. (One friend, Claire, succumbed to leukemia a couple of years ago, but she's still very much one of us.)
Most of my close friends grew up in "stable" homes -- ones in which parents sometimes had loud 11:00 p.m. arguments over who did what with the ingredients for the Chex Party Mix right before the house was to be tented for termites and all the food that couldn't be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator had been distributed to various neighbors' homes, but the arguments almost always blew over. My friend Meredith had things a bit rougher. Her parents divorced and remarried [each other] three times, which would mean they've been married to each other a total of four times. Still, even between their marriages, they were civil and could attend Meredith's birthday parties and other events together without making either Meredith or anyone else uncomfortable. In fact, people who were present at those events always wondered why they ever divorced in the first place.
Caitlin's parents divorced when she was in middle school, and she hasn't been nearly so fortunate either as the rest of us (well, I suppose she's more fortunate than Claire) or even as Meredith. I don't know if Caitlin's parents really care about the money all that much or if they really don't have it. From their professions, I would assume that any claim of poverty would ring hollow. They've fought over everything from who had to pay for the insurance co-pay for Caitlin's appendectomy, to who had to buy Christmas and birthday presents for her, to who should bear the cost of her braces, to her eighth-grade graduation dress, to her prom expenses, to her driving lessons and car insurance. I'm sure I'm leaving out a whole lot. Most of it was settled in court or by mediators. Ironically, her parents probably paid more in attorney costs than if they had just agreed to split all necessary costs down the middle. Despite a GPA in excess of 4.0 and SATs above 1300, Caitlin would have been stuck in community college (her parents earned far too much for her to have received anything by way of financial aid) had she not been the recipient of an extremely generous local benefactor's merit-based scholarship.
Now it's time for Caitlin and her fiance to plan a wedding. The groom's parents aren't the Jutes or Kallikaks, but neither are they Rockefellers. They're a special education program director and a high school principal. They have three younger children in addition to Caitlin's betrothed. They could probably go into debt to give their son and his bride the wedding the couple would enjoy, but they seriously wonder why they should take out a second mortgage to fund their son's wedding when the bride's father is an anaesthesiologist and the bride's mother is an attorney who specializes in personal injury and probably brings in an annual salary minimally in the high six figures. The groom's parents are willing to pay their fair share, but they're reluctant to bankroll the wedding of the decade so that the bride's parents can stand in separate corners accepting congratulations for the fabulosity of the wedding without ever letting on that they had nothing whatsoever to do with paying for.
I'll be the first to say that I think today's weddings have gotten out of hand. In my grandparent's day, cake and punch were served in the church's basement or social hall following the ceremony, unless, in some cases, if the couple was Catholic, in which case a more booze-friendly location might have been appropriated. Still, if any hors d'ouvres beyond little paper cups of mints and nuts were made available, in would have been considered a classy affair. I'm sure the Kennedys and the Bushes didn't follow this protocol, but the vast majority of America did. Then came my parents' generation, where meals were expected to be served at wedding receptions. Within reason, this wasn't out off line. My generation, however, has taken it to new heights.
At my cousin's recent wedding, the courses of hors d'ouvres were followed by chef salad and bread. Next came the bacon-wrapped filets, followed closely by chicken, by lobster, and by other seafood. Pasta of various forms was available both for the vegetarians and for the carnivores. No buffet line was in effect. Enough waiters were present to simultaneously serve the roughly one-hundred-twenty-five tables. Following the meal, in addition to cake, waiters custom-made sundaes to the guests' specifications, with every available topping I could have imagined.
First, I should explain that my cousin's parents have more money than I would have if I successfully emptied the vault of a different bank every day for three consecutive years. It's not as though the extravagance of this wedding was really at the expense of anything else. For that matter, they stimulated the economy with their indulgence. My aunt and uncle are uncommonly generous with charitable contributions (and are quiet about it, which makes it all the more noble), and it's not like they needed the money to help their son and his bride buy a house. Even after paying for the wedding, they probably could have bought Mira Lago or whatever it's called, for their son and his bride had Trump been willing to part with it.
It's simply a matter of why was this really necessary? Where I personally was concerned, I took two bites of salad, a bite of the bread, three bites of the Filet Mignon, a few sips of water, and was full. Others surely ate more than I did, but I doubt that a single person there required all the available food for personal satiation. Rather, it was all about the people in attendance who had hosted weddings for their own children at which my aunt and uncle had been in attendance. My cousin's wedding couldn't be just as good; it had to be at least a little bit better.
Caitlin doesn't need, not do I suspect that she would even want, that sort of wedding. On the other hand, I don't think elopement was ever a part of her plan. Her favorite doll as a child was a bride doll. She was a bride for several years on Halloween. She faithfully attended church her entire life even when her parents didn't, and always assumed she's be married there in her home church one day.
Furthermore, Caitlin is and has always been, despite her single indiscretion of having referred to my father as handsome in my own home, extraordinarily good, reminiscent in a way of Abraham Lincoln who once, as legend has it, walked several miles to return two lousy pennies to someone. When the others in our immediate circle of friends sometimes devised slightly diabolical plans, if anyone spoke out against them, it was Caitlin. She didn't even like to kill bugs. Once a mouse appeared in Megan's family's country home when our group of friends was there. While I stood atop the dining room table screaming, "Kill it! Kill it!" Caitlin calmly captured the small mouse in a used Cool Whip container and relocated it to the fields behind the house. She was polite even to the rudest of teachers, nor did she speak disparagingly about them behind their backs as did the rest of us. The only unkind thing of which I'm aware of her ever having done was when she immediately spilled a full container of chocolate milk on the boy who broke off his prom date with me (after I had been injured and confined to a wheelchair)o by announcing the break-off by standing on a bench and shouting his intentions in a cafeteria full of students at lunch time. Form my point of view, I'm not even sure I would consider that as an act of unkindness. Sometimes one has to be cruel in order to be kind, and loyalty, too, has its place.
In short, Caitlin is a person who has done exactly what was expected of her probably since the day her parents brought her home from the hospital. She's currently enrolled in her first year of a PhD program in Cancer Biology and Cell Signaling as well as Signal Transduction in Lymphocytes. She may one day work with (as opposed to for) my father. She's not in any position at this time nor for the next few years to pay for any wedding beyond an elopement, and even that would be a stretch. If she doesn't want her wedding to take the form of an elopement, she should not have to settle for such. She's not asking for a destination wedding in Antigua or Newport, Rhode Island., She would like a simple church ceremony with a reception in someone's backyard or, weather not permitting, in a local auditorium.
Sometimes divorce is inevitable. Sometimes it's even good. People don't need to live together in misery, also making everyone else living with them equally miserable, just because of vows made in what was often an extreme state of youth. On the other hand, divorce is one thing. Spite as a result of a broken relationship is quite another. If parents hate each other more than they love the child the two of them produced, and if they're willing to allow their own selfishness and need for revenge to stand in the way their child's basic rights (I would consider the removal of an inflamed appendix to be the basic right of a child), much less her happiness, ether God chooses not to actively intervene in anyone's reproductive success or God made a very poor choice in giving such a wonderful person as Caitlin to two such despicable parents.
Caitlin's parents, if you read this and are angry, you are free to fry eggs on the brimstones you're likely to find in immediate proximity to you in hell if there is such a place.
Caitlin, I wish I could personally do more. I hope you don't mind this post. I happen to know that, even though this will embarrass you, efforts are underway to provide you with the wedding you deserve. Don't worry; it's nothing as tacky or as public as a Go Fund Me account. Everything will be OK. You will be a beautiful bride.
Even though Pachelbel Canon is a bit trite, this is more of what Caitlin, I, and everyone else who loves Caitlin had in mind for her wedding. I don't think the groom give's a rat's ileum how it goes down as log as Caitlin is happy and his parents don't have to go into bankruptcy to make it happen.