Last week we went to a wedding in Chicago. A wedding in Chicago means that in addition to the hours spent at the affair itself, there is an extra 3-4 hours of driving. And if you add that on to my predisposition against weddings to begin with, you end up with a sure-fire formula for a cranky PT. As we drove down through traffic to get to the hotel, we passed through sheets and sheets of hard rain.
So imagine my dismay when, as we arrived at the hotel, we spotted a Chupa and rows of chairs set up in the parking lot. I know it is a custom to have the wedding ceremony and the Chupa (the canopy) outdoors. But too many weddings don't seem to allow for a "Plan B" when the weather doesn't cooperate.
It was not a surprise to anyone when it started to drizzle as we were asked to go outside for the ceremony. As I stood there in my freshly dry-cleaned suit ($9.47), I seriously thought about going inside. Then I though, well, it's not too bad yet, and it's only water; maybe they'll hurry up and it'll be over before it really starts coming down.
No such luck. Before anyone started marching down it began to rain heavily. And by the time they were doing the blessings under the Chupa, it was dark, wet, and thunder and lightning could be heard and seen. And the occasional airliner taking off (it was near the airport).
Something funny happened. Instead of running inside, more people came out. In fact, the heavier the rain, the more people rushed out to participate. And instead of sitting bored in the rows of chairs, which were now soaked through, people got up and crowded around the Chupa, the better to see and hear what was going on. A few people got into their SUV's, and drove them around to face the ceremony. Some turned on their headlights. Of course, I didn't sit in a car; not that I was invited. But one Rabbi was inexplicably dry when he ran up to say his blessing.
It ended up being incredibly cool. I was only a few feet from the canopy, and every few seconds, a flash from a camera would go off, and thousands of drops of rain would suddenly flash motionless into view, as if the ceremony were taking place in a field of stars. The feeling of genuine joy was palpable through the damp air. I turned to see a semicircle of cars surrounding the group, their occupants sitting quietly and observing the ritual. It was surreal.
I had arrived at the wedding annoyed, and feeling sorry for the bride, the groom, and their families, thinking that their wedding had been ruined by the weather. I left realizing that this was a celebration that none of us would be forgetting any time soon.