Being a wedding guest

Aug. 03, 2013 @ 04:46 PM

This summer I received two wedding invitations in the mail. One I will have already attended by the time you read this, of a former newspaper reporter who lives in a historic city. It should be a great time. The weekend may also entail an adventurous race through the streets like in “National Treasure,” and if that happens, I will relay it to you. Perhaps it will not. Either way, I will have a story to tell, in these pages or in the small talk we make to form common bonds with others.

Weddings do that. They’re a universal activity you attend at some point in your life, maybe many times over. Weddings are fun, mostly. It’s a great celebration. There can be drama, and being a guest is probably the most stress-free way to participate.

I’m so glad my own wedding, almost nine years ago, was pre-Pinterest. I didn’t worry about burlap ribbon on mason jars rigged with electric lights or candles hanging from a delightfully rustic venue that’s not actually rustic, and by the way why don’t you whip up some seating with sanded down pallets covered in cushions that match the ribbons on the bouquets. Oh, and make all of that yourself.

My ceremony was in a university chapel, a much, much smaller one than Durham’s landmark. It was the War Memorial Chapel on the campus of Virginia Tech, and the interior mattered not, but the entrance off the Drillfield and myriad burnt orange and Chicago maroon memories mostly definitely did. I walked in to bagpipes played by an editorial page writer. A photojournalist colleague made the photos. The officiant was a chief deputy/preacher I once interviewed. My mother sang. Notice I’m talking about the people, not the stuff that goes with a wedding.

You can’t care too much about the stuff. I had two goals for my wedding day, other than getting hitched. “I want everyone to have a good time and nothing to catch on fire,” I said repeatedly, with a smile. I must have jinxed it, because a lit candle fell over during the ceremony. Nothing caught on fire, though.

Since we’ve talked about wedding invitations, let’s talk about addressing them. I’m all for formalities, if that’s what you like. But when I added Vaughan to my name, I did not get rid of Dawn. Do not include my husband’s first name on the envelope without mine, too. Women have a variety of reasons they choose to keep, add or subtract their last names, but I’ve never heard of one who drops her first name. Call us the Vaughan family if you can’t remember my first name, even if we are related. But this ignoring of the wife needs to stop here and now. It’s just rude. Cut it out.

Speaking of cutting, there’s a tradition of keeping the top part of your wedding cake. You’re supposed to freeze it and eat it on your first anniversary. I got married in 2004. The cake top moved with us to North Carolina. It’s still in the freezer. Might as well save it for our 10th anniversary next year.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at or 919-419-6563.