Marie and I were married 56 years ago in her folks’ small living room in Albany, Oregon. The whole affair cost us 90 bucks: 25 bucks for the minister, 45 bucks for a ring for Marie, and 20 bucks for a marriage license. About 15 friends and family attended, standing room only. That’s all the living room could hold. Marie’s mother made us a wedding cake. I was wearing a borrowed tie and sport coat. Marie was wearing a white dress that she made herself.
We honeymooned in a motel alongside I-5 on our way back to Eugene, where we were students at the University of Oregon.
All of this was going through my mind as I watched a wedding unfold this last weekend.
Marie and I were invited because we were longtime friends with the grandmother of the bride. As a young mother in 1967 (the Summer of Love) our friend had joined a hippy commune outside of San Francisco, bringing along her child.
That child, a girl, grew up in the commune but eventually married and settled in a funky neighborhood in East Portland. Their car was covered with counter-culture stickers as thick as the ads on a stock-car driver’s fireproof onesie.
Her child, Sierra, was the bride whose wedding Marie and I attended. Three generations of hippies. Naturally, I was expecting that the wedding would have a counter-cultural vibe to it. I wasn’t disappointed.
The wedding was held, not in a church, but in a civic hall in Dundee, Oregon, and there wasn’t a trace of religion in the ceremony: no prayers and no reference to any Biblical passages — not even to St. Paul’s famous paean to love in 1st Corinthians. I didn’t think it was legal to have a wedding without someone reciting Paul’s “Love is kind, love is patient” message, but apparently it is, at least in Oregon.
As Marie and I sat there waiting for Sierra and her future husband, Joaquin, to come down the aisle, a DJ played rock and roll, too loud for my taste. The lyrics were probably about love, but I couldn’t understand them so I really don’t know. They could have been about unicorns or Aunt Jemima syrup for all I know.
As Sierra the bride, her mother, and her father started up the aisle toward the plywood platform/altar (with the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love playing in the background), the three of them suddenly broke into an ultra slow-motion walk, with exaggerated high strides. Think of a high-stepping drum major — but in slow-mo. They did this for about ten steps. I don’t know why. Later, Marie told me that this little side-show was awfully cute. I replied that it was way too show-offy for my taste. Marie called me a fuddy-duddy. I called her a hippie.
The decorations lining the aisle were little tree stumps, with what looked like eco-friendly plants and flowers sitting on top.
The minister called himself Rev Bob. A friendly guy with a sense of humor, though his talk to the bride and groom was was too long and sappy for my taste. I do remember, however, one idea out of the talk: The union of these two, the rev said, was like the merging of two wandering stars in the Alpha Centauri star system. I think the rev must have been a Star Wars fanboy.
Just before the couple said their vows, they sang a duet that they had written for the occasion. I thought it was a catchy little tune, though when the bride, in the first stanza, sang about the groom’s small stature (he was about 5’ 4’), I grew a little uneasy. I was afraid the song was going to be about their physical shortcomings. But the song ended up a fairly conventional love duet.
Naturally, Sierra and Joaquin had made up their own vows. None of that “Love, honor, and obey” bushwa. I don’t remember much of what they said, except for one phrase, used by Sierra, in which she vowed to always support Joaquin’s “personhood.”
With a conservative’s fondness for tradition and a personal penchant for snark, I should have satirized this hippy marriage with more enthusiasm than I gave it. But I actually thought it was all sort of sweet.
The bride looked radiant (as is their wont) and the assembled friends and family — a rather large crowd with a smattering of tats, man-bobs, and green hair — seemed happy with the whole affair.
I would be the worst kind of killjoy to disapprove of other people’s happy gatherings. I agree with Shakespeare’s Toby Belch, who rightly chided the stick-in-the-mud Malvolio, who disapproved of people having a good time. “Dost thou think,” Belch asked, “that because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”
Now that I look back on the affair, I think that Sierra and Joaquin’s wedding was better than my wedding 56 years ago. Mine was short, cheap, and as homey as a needlepoint canvas. But Sierra and Joaquin’s was large, with some interesting surprises, and a lot more fun. Damned hippies. They always have more fun than the rest of us.
Now let’s see if theirs lasts 56 years.
Postscript: Perhaps the phrase “modern marriage” would be a better term for what I saw than a “hippy” or “counterculture” marriage. I’m old and don’t know about these things.Published in