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A couple of years ago, I married my best friends. I'm not a polygamist or an international scoundrel; two of my best friends got engaged and then asked me to marry them – to each other.
I agreed, thinking it would be easy. All you have to do is stand in front of 200 people, recite a ceremony of your own creation that validates and confirms the expectations of two people for the "best day of their life," and, of course, settle the legal and spiritual matters with your government and your God.
Luckily for me, they weren't looking for me to recite scripture (I have a tendency to shift into a Southern drawl when quoting from the Bible).
The legal issue was, well, an issue. I am not an ordained minister, and it's not all that easy to become a justice of the peace. I contemplated joining the priesthood, but my fiancée and my atheist parents wouldn't have been impressed.
The couple selected me because I am a stand-up comedian and their friend.
We looked through all the options for making the wedding official, but nothing was really feasible. I even considered becoming an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, the religious equivalent of an online diploma mill. But that certificate wouldn't have been recognized in Saskatchewan.
Finally, we settled on a more deceptive approach: My friends would be married in secret at home, and then I would pretend to marry them at the wedding.
Now, despite the behaviour of politicians and celebrities, it is generally frowned upon to commence a marriage with lies. But they weren't lying to each other – just to their friends and families (linguistic anthropologists will probably discover that's the purpose for which lying was invented in the first place).
They planned a weekend event at Wakaw Lake, a three-day camping festival with live bands, DJs and morning yoga. They called it FOFF on the invitations: a Festival of Family and Friends.
They were creating a performance, a ceremony; manifesting an abstract notion, a commitment, with a physical representation. The wedding wasn't about them; it was for everyone else.
No matter how I justified the clandestine nature of the FOFF, I was still going to be lying to everyone there. I had to keep up my ruse of divinity, and write a speech good enough for everyone to forgive the deception later.
Skimming through a back catalogue of romantic comedies wasn't much help. I quickly discovered that the cinematic focus tends to be either on the vows or on an interruption of the ceremony. The Princess Bride included the ceremony – but, as I mentioned previously, I was staying away from funny voices.
Weeks passed and my word processor remained a gleaming void, a page without a mark. In weak moments, I contemplated doing a mock religious ceremony with the lyrics of Beatles songs as scripture.
I pilfered Shakespeare and even pop-neuroscience, considering an interdisciplinary treatise on "the marriage of true minds." I studied statistics about marriage, but they weren't exactly positive. I researched the history of marriage, but it wasn't exactly egalitarian on the role of women. Maybe love was the answer! Maybe all I needed (to talk about) was love.
"What is love?" That's a Google search you don't want your fiancée reading in your browsing history. But what is love, really? Is it simply a neurochemical cocktail that's destined to wear off? Is it a social construct formed by culture and religion? Is it the effect of romantic literature creating a false vision of reality? Is it God?
I was obviously desperate. I was never going to have a revelation on the nature of love, and time was running out.
I do, however, love this couple. Not romantically, though I have shared a few drunken smooches with the groom, but I do love them. They make my life fuller, more vivid and interesting.
The speech, then, had to be a love letter to them. That's what everyone in attendance shared: They loved these two humans. No one was there to hear my views on marriage or love. They were there to celebrate the love of two friends.
Writing the speech became easy. I knew why I loved them. I knew why I celebrated their life and their existence. It might still be a combination of neurochemistry, society and literary mimicry, but it was personal to me – a series of stories, moments and emotions.
Many of my friends scoff at marriage as outdated or meaningless. They're right, it can be meaningless. It can be pageantry, pomposity and patriarchy, but it doesn't have to be. We can choose how we celebrate and what we give meaning.
The couple chose to have a FOFF. They made their day about everyone else. It wasn't a destination wedding, it wasn't Star Wars-themed. It was a festival of family and friends.
Since the wedding, they have travelled around the world with each other and with friends. They visit with family as much as possible. They never stop celebrating their life together.
It's true they weren't actually married at their wedding. But their wedding is how they are actually married.
York Underwood lives in Edmonton.