Sunday, August 28, 2005

Big Fat Mormon Wedding

I flew home for two days to attend my youngest sister's wedding. As soon as I touched down in LAX, saw the swirling chaos of the airport, stood forever on the curb waiting for my ride while listening to that harsh, unending chorus of car horns, and then spent the next hour stuck in traffic, relaying hasty messages via cell phone for my mother -- I felt nothing but dread for the upcoming weekend. That Death Cab song kept flowing through my head. The one about Los Angeles:

"...I can't see why you'd want to live here."

I spent 18 years living there. Life in Utah feels so unrushed, so underwhelming in comparison. But looking at the palm trees lining the road near my house, I couldn't help but want to stay right where I was. Something about those palm trees made me want to move back home.

The wedding itself took place in a temple, as is the practice among devout Mormons. My sister went with the temple in San Diego, one of my favorites. It looks like it's cut from the horizon. The architecture has been described as "spaceship gothic." Sounds right to me.

Got sunburned afterwards as I snapped photo after photo following the sealing ceremony. We had a wedding photographer but I couldn't help myself. It was all too picturesque.

Then of course the reception, which was every bit as elaborate as for my oldest sister. This time instead of a Paris theme, it was 1940s hotel art deco. The colors: red, white, and black. The flowers: roses.

First, a thousand different poses with the wedding photographer, my mother insisting on every possible combination of relatives and friends. She was in her usual overstressed panic which I've learned to both love and hate. I couldn't help but laugh the next day when she realized that in the midst of all the posing, she had forgotten to ask for a shot with just the immediate family.

Second, standing in a line for an hour greeting well-wishers, stating and restating my obvious relationship with the bride, fixed with a perma-grin and an epileptic hand. I did not recognize my old piano teacher and she did not recognize me. One of us had lost 100 pounds, the other had put on a couple feet.

Third, the food, the stuff I'd been staring at all during the wedding-line torture hour. But I only had time for a few bites before I felt compelled to pick up my camera again.

Fourth, the entertainment, the best part. My father has conditioned us all to love "old-timey" music. He is a pianist and 20s, 30s, and 40s are his specialty. This music has always been a big part of my family life. I can't listen to "I Don't Know Why" without pangs of sadness, picturing my great-grandmother singing the words at her 100th birthday party, the year before she passed away. This time my sister sang it, as a tribute to my grandparents, walking over to them with the microphone. It was touching. She sang several songs while my father played and her new husband accompanied with his guitar. I was shocked at how good she sounded. I know she can sing well, but sometimes I forget how suited her voice is to the genre. She was vibrant, energetic, glowing. When she sang "Cheek to Cheek" I felt my eyes grow moist. I felt like one of those blubbery fat ladies you see sobbing in the pews in movie weddings, mascara dripping from their eyes. When it's your little sister, you're allowed.

The rest of the night was all cake, bouquet tossing, and dancing -- the usual wedding business. We all watched the bride and groom drive away when it was over, toilet paper fluttering behind their car, cousins blowing bubbles, and my mother and aunt screaming, "Bye bye fatheads!" at the top of their lungs (as is tradition in my family.) We were red-faced and laughing by the time the car was out of sight. That's a good way to end a wedding, I'm thinking.

For the second night in a row I stayed up in the early hours of the morning, this time helping with the clean-up and then eating cold wedding food as we discussed how the evening had went down. Now it was more than palm trees that was making me feel homesick. There are so many times in my life here in Utah when I wish I could just gather around a dining room table late at night, eat cold food, and talk with my family.

Sorry Death Cab, I know exactly why I want to live there.


graton said...

Jeremy, Great synopsis. It was a great weekend, and Vanessa did such a great job singing. It was really good to see you.

Anonymous said...

AWE!!! That's so touching. I have tears in my eyes...

NARDAC said...

Beautiful... Yeah, when you live far away from a nice tight family, coming home is always both heartbreakingly sweet and sad.

That Mormon church is serious Disney styles. Gosh, almost makes me want to convert. You guys have the most amazing aesthetic sense when it comes to modern religions.

When are we going to get a Family Munns Podcast?

Kris said...

This is beautiful! Everything - your description of your feelings, the photos, your sister!

I never had a brother, but I would want him to write about my wedding just like this if I did.

grace said...

OH! that's what that building is whenever i drive down to SD.

wow. it looked loverly. :)

and your sister looked positively radiant :)

where are the pics with you, huh? :)

Special K said...

Your sis looks beautifull in these pictures!

Jeremy said...

Graton: Great to see you too -- Ness just left my place with the last of her stuff. I have a basement again! Now it can go back to gathering dust like a good basement.

Theresa: uh-oh... are you saying you're a mascara wearing fat lady? :)

Nardac: Family Munns Podcast... I wish! My father won't even slow down to record another album. His group had to drag him to the studio. Maybe one day, heh.

Kris: Thanks. I should get her to read it sometime.

Grace: I only have the pics I took. The wedding photographer has the ones with me in it. My parents are mailing me a CD.

Kristen: Yeah, she does.

grace said...

sweet... :)

Cindy-Lou said...

I almost feel guilty for avoiding my family now.


Kris said...

Do you think you'll go back?

grace said...

come on. move to back to cali...

Jeremy said...

That's always been my plan -- but it's still long-term. I like my job too much to move right now.

Cece said...

Oh Jeremy...those pictures were BREATHTAKING. I've never seen a Mormon Temple before and I must say I am impressed. Seriously. I guess I've been living under a rock or something but there are like...pretty much only Catholics around these parts.
The wedding must have been gorgeous.