Weddings Keep Me Engaged

I look forward to retirement in about 10 years, but I don’t want to stop being active, engaged, and a contributor to my family’s needs.  Working has also given me an activity to keep me connected to other people.  I enjoy being involved with people, and don’t want to lose that “muscle.”   One of the part-time gigs I have worked over the last 10 years is with a catering company – mostly Saturday work, and mostly weddings.

Bart and KK on their wedding day! Simpler affair than most of today’s weddings, but I think all were happy. I know I still am.

Most of the weddings I’ve worked have been fun.  To see families rejoicing, and to help them do that from the catering side of things can be very fulfilling.  Yes, it’s hard work at times, and other times it’s stressful, but usually, I tend to enjoy it.  It helps to work with good people.  And it helps to have been in the families’ shoes before.

As a makeup artist, my wife is also involved in a lot of weddings.  We are always talking about weddings!  Many times, these other people’s weddings make me thankful for my own, and other weddings in my family.

Now that I’ve had two children get married, one where I was the father of the bride, the other father of the groom, I might be an expert!  When KK and I got married, we kept it very simple: 50 at a church ceremony, no maids or groomsmen other than the best man and matron of honor, and jambalaya at a friend’s house afterwards with a 1 tier cake.  Wedding parties seem to be 12 – 20 people these days. 

When my daughter got married, we worked with her to plan, make decisions, and stay within a budget.  We also decided we could cater the reception ourselves – with a little help.  It was amazing how much help we received!  People from the church and from our network of friends all lined up to ask how they could be involved.  It was a bigger crew – all volunteers – than any of the wedding crews I’ve been a part of “professionally.” 

Someone volunteered a cake!  We had volunteers for wedding coordinator and kitchen manager; all the “behind the scenes” roles were filled.  My daughter worked with my wife’s mother to afford the photographer she wanted, and we had budgeted for hair and makeup.  But the dress – a remodeled, modernized version of my wife’s older wedding dress – was taken care of by a generous friend.  I think we had to spring for the extra material, but she did all the work gratis.

All this happened before I had my spectrum diagnosis, but my family knew somehow to give me specific tasks.  My roles – walking down the aisle, welcoming the guests to the reception, dancing with the belle of the ball — these were all things I could handle.  The family asked my brother-in-law to officiate, and although I legally could do it as a previously ordained minister, I agreed with them that we would be better off leaving that responsibility to another.  I enjoyed the moments so much more than I would have worrying about the ceremony.  I’ve mentioned many times that I thought that wedding was so special, so classy, that I usually wouldn’t get invited to such an event!  It was a blessing and a joy to be there.

The latest wedding in my immediate family was that of my youngest son; we had much different responsibilities.  We were able to connect with a local restaurant to provide a buffet at the rehearsal dinner that met all the varied palates of the family and the out-of-town guests. Coordinating accommodations for family – one state away – was challenging but worked out very well.  Once we arrived, I worked with the bride’s parents to decorate the reception hall, even ironing tablecloths. I helped gather last needed items on the wedding day and prayed with the groom and his entourage before heading out to the altar.   Somehow, we fit in a grandchild’s birthday party complete with piñata.   Great times, and we again came away with grateful hearts and a huge sense of accomplishment.

Autism did not keep me from appreciating, enjoying, or contributing to these major events my family’s lives.  Everyone’s autism is different.  I’m sure there are traumatic stories around weddings in the autistic community.  I’ll continue to enjoy them and stay aware of the idea that everyone has their own stress, their own anxiety, their fears and their hopes when it comes to these huge family events.  Maybe that has been a reason I have enjoyed serving at weddings; hopefully I’m helping relieve some pressure from those involved.  The radiator cap on the Mini is built to do the same thing.  As a driver, I need to make sure it and other systems stay in balanced working order.  Let’s keep shiftin’.

Published by Bart Shoaf

Blogging about victories and challenges as a middle-aged man with a late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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