As some know, I’ve been leading a retreat program for children, called Junior Yearly Meeting Retreats (JYM) for twenty years now. At our weekend retreats, there are many things, rituals really, that children enjoy doing year in and year out. One of the favorite activities that children enjoy doing is putting on their own “talent” show on Saturday night, complete with M.C’s, sign-up lists, music, dance, performances, skits, you name it.
Well, there’s this mini tradition that sprung up on its own of putting on a wedding ceremony, This is kind of funny given the fact that these children are all Quakers, and if they’ve even seen a wedding ceremony in real life, chances are that it was in the Quaker wedding tradition which is considerably different then the mainstream versions in American Society.
Our little weddings at retreats come complete with all the fixings, from Best-Man, Maid of Honor, ushers, ring bearers, minister in robes, white gown bride-to-be (or somewhat white depending on when the dress-up clothes were washed last) ….. Anyway, you get the picture. The wedding party, much like traditional wedding parties, can have some ten or more children in it and everyone one of them wants to have a say in what unfolds. Yes, very real indeed!
Because I’ve been around for awhile and children know me well, guess who they almost always ask to be the groom? Yes, me. And like the last four or five times I got married off at previous retreats, they came looking for me once again. Usually I find out that I’m getting married when a small posy of little Quakers come dashing up to me and tell me to stick out my finger so that I can be fitted for the wedding ring that will be made out of rolled aluminum foil.
As a man working with children, one has to be aware of perceptions, appearances and all that almost all of the time, and having been “married” three times in as many retreats to the same “beautiful girl,” who was all of nine years old, I felt that this time it would be better for the bride-to-be to find another groom. I gently put the word out that I was very open to having a replacement. However, other male staffers were not stepping up to the invitation.
Well the appointed hour had come, and as if on cue, the wedding posy came tearing around the corner looking for their man. There they stood, the bride-to-be, a make-shift bouquet of flowers in hand, a herd of brides-maids, my best man, all of eight years old and a six grade boy in robes, presumably the minister of the moment. I tried once more to offer the honor to another worthy male, citing again the fact that I had been married over and over again to the same wonderful young lady.
My nine year old fiancé, even without me saying so must have sensed my adult discomfort with the situation. She took my hand, looked up into my eyes and said reassuringly, “Kevin, it’s pretend”
And with that said, I knew she was absolutely correct. I had been set straight by a four foot bundle of life and joy. I stuck out my arm for her to hold and off to the alter we went. In less than a minute, we were married. (Here’s a link to our on-line photo albums)