I’m a recent graduate of a private Christian college, so I’ve attended a fair number of weddings in the last few summers. Which is fine by me. I love weddings, especially when there’s free wine and vigorous dancing. Most of the celebrations I’ve attended to date have been in honor of relatives or family friends, which is significantly less fun—I don’t know anyone, and/or it’s mostly older adults not interested in gyrating to top 40 hits from the mid-2000s. (Though it is quite likely to get at least the twenty-something attendees out on the floor, “Yeah” has got to be the least romantic song ever written. Seriously, people. DJs. Stop.)
Though self-conscious in the great majority of situations, I am a dedicated wedding dancer, so even at more subdued nuptials, I feel a sense of commitment to the boogie. Somebody has to keep the dancing going through slow songs. Someone has to be the life of the party. And I don’t do that naturally, but I figure if I shoulder pop and belt my way through enough bad eighties tunes, other people will join me. (Note: no proven causal relationship.)
But now that the class of 2014 is entering holy matrimony en masse, the wedding dancing has improved significantly. My last July wedding was the first at which I knew most of the attendees—the Calvin College climbing wall staff showed up in force, and climbers are shameless. We stayed by the speakers for a solid three hours, repeatedly requesting—and this DJ actually played our requests—our favorites. “Love on Top,” obviously. “American Boy,” because Nate, Sam, and David know all the words. “One Thing” for Virginia, who has a semi-secret affection for One Direction (now outed on the internet).
I believe in dancing, because, as Edwin Denby says, there’s a bit of insanity in it that does us all good. And I believe in dancing at weddings, because dancing is absurd and communal and intimate and a physical affirmation of the promise we make earlier in the evening—we’re here, around this marriage, to be joyful and present, late into the night, if need be. And dancing reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, which is a good prescription for marriages as well (not that I’m an expert on the topic). It feeds a hunger in us that we can’t quite name. And weddings, and marriages, are an occasion for delight, which is why we dance and sing loudly and laugh at our awkward hip-shaking, arm-raising, and half-stepping.
The groom of this most recent wedding is reserved. I’ve known his wife for a long time, and she is effusive and silly and full of life. They’re funny together. But at their wedding reception, he danced with more vigor than I’ve ever seen him display. He beamed the whole night. And he danced like he just couldn’t contain how excited he was to marry this woman. And we danced like we didn’t know how else to say how happy we were to celebrate with them. We shoulder-popped and hip-shook and arm-raised and half-stepped and shimmied and stopped for water and did it again, because of the wonderful absurdity of marriage, and the wide web of love around the newlyweds and between these good friends, who have grown together and are still growing up.
Katie is a doctoral student in English and education at the University of Michigan. She loves the New York Times crossword puzzle, advice columns, oceans, and dogs of all kinds.