The bride holds a cellphone tightly against the left side of her head. She stands in the middle of the city hall wedding chamber in a white lace dress, cut just above her knee. Her name is Sarah. It’s 2:33 on a Friday afternoon. The room is two stories high, with wooden chairs and floor to ceiling windows that somewhat soften the concrete walls. Not counting Sarah, there are four other people in this room. The groom isn’t one of them. Sarah bites her bottom lip, glances up at her bridesmaid, then looks back down at the floor.
Six minutes later the officiant opens the glass doors and enters. He has short silver hair, thick black eyebrows and wears a long black gown, all of which work together to create the impression of an affable crow. He points a remote at the stereo, changes the New Age spa-music to harpsichord Mozart. Then he goes up to Sarah, smiles reassuringly, waits until she lowers the phone.
“Who are we waiting for?” the officiant asks.
It should be noted that time is succinctly measured at the city hall wedding chamber. On busy days like today, weddings are performed sequentially, one right after the other, in half-hour intervals. A wedding had just concluded when Sarah and her party came into the room. Another one is scheduled at 3:00.
“My fiancé,” Sarah says.
The officiant nods, walks away. But Sarah’s bridesmaid, Pam, who wears a green low-cut dress that in no way matches the brides, isn’t buying it. She knows that David, the groom, is merely outside having a cigarette, retrievable at a moment’s notice. Pam whispers something to her date, a thin bald man who so far hasn’t said a word and then she joins Sarah in the middle of the room.
“What’s wrong?” Pam asks.
“I texted them to go to city hall.”
“They went to the one in Brampton.”
“She has his ring!”
“Oh no!” says Pam.
“They’re gonna try and make it.”
“Okay,” Pam says, although she does not look convinced.
It’s 2:43 when David, the groom, having just consumed his last cigarette as a single man, walks into the wedding chamber. He’s dressed casually, wears grey denim jeans and a white turtleneck sweater. He is tall enough and young and his posture is perfect enough to pull this off. He is also visibly nervous, his large Adam’s apple bouncing up and down as he repeatedly swallows.
He takes Sarah’s hands. “Let’s do this,” David says.
Sarah looks through the glass doors, looks back to her phone, then suggests that they take pictures. There is no official photographer. Officially, there isn’t even a camera. But Pam and her silent date both pull out their iPhones, start documenting the moment. As does Grace, the groom’s mom and her boyfriend Dan, whose appearance is the personification of 1970’s auto-mechanic, shaggy and confident. So they take pictures. And then they take more pictures. Then they hand their phones to each other and take various group shots. Soon it’s 2:47—guests for the 3:00 already started gathering outside the wedding chamber and waiting is no longer an option.
David and Sarah move to the front of the chamber. Pam, her silent date, Grace, and Dan do this too. The officiant steps forward, begins. The vows are the ones you’ve heard before, in movies and sit-coms. The officiant asks them to unite until death does them part, in good health and bad, for richer and poorer. At first Sarah and David have a hard time looking at each other, the intensity of the moment making them smile too broadly, forcing them to glance at the floor or over their shoulders. But by the time the officiant asks for the rings they’re staring at each other, can’t seem to look away.
“And now for the bride’s ring,” the officiant says. From the front left pocket of his jeans, David pulls out a ring, slips it on Sarah’s finger.
“And now for the bride,” the officiant asks. Sarah turns and looks at Pam and then she looks at David. She leans in, close, whispers in his ear.
Sarah does more whispering.
She nods. She looks at the floor.
“Why don’t you use mine?” says Grace. The bride and groom are motionless and silent. The clock continues to tick. The crowd at the door has grown. The officiant raises his bushy eyebrows.
“That’s weird, Mom,” David says.
But Grace has already slipped her ring off her finger. She hands it to Sarah, who nods, says nothing, looks like she might cry. And this, to me at least, says that this marriage will last. Because as far as I know there are very few moments in a marriage where things go as planned. In my experience marriage is about nothing else other than winging it. It’s about going forward, even though there’s no solution in sight. Marriage is about having the faith to do this.
Sarah pushes the ring onto David’s finger, but it won’t go past his knuckle. This causes both of them to laugh. With her right hand, Sarah holds the ring in place. She holds it tightly. “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the officiant says. The couple leans toward each other, kiss. Then they kiss a little deeper. Sarah doesn’t let go. She wraps her entire hand around David’s finger and she does not let go.