COMMENTARY: Father of the bride

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c. 1996 Religion News Service

Eds: Robert Kirby is a Mormon humorist and columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune. Check RNS Online for his photo.)

(RNS)-My Mormon ancestors were polygamists, but lately I’ve been wondering how they could afford to get married more than once. I just finished marrying off my daughter, and it cost me slightly less than a college education and a little more than a medium-size war.

Of course, they kept it simple back then. When Great-great-grandpa Korihor Kirby found another wife, they drove straight over to the church and got hitched”for time and all eternity.” By noon, she was pregnant and he was back in the fields.

Mormons have a concept of marriage being eternal. Small wonder. With eight or nine wives nattering away at you, marriage would undoubtedly seem like something that was going to last forever.

My daughter’s wedding day lasted a week short of eternity. Great-great-grandpa Kirby may have gotten married in an hour, but his descendant needed all 24 of them to get the job done.

On the day my daughter got married, I personally drove 200 miles, wrote 14 checks, carried a short ton of gifts and changed clothes six times.

Throughout what was to be the longest day of my life, I experienced flashes of what is known among Mormon fathers of the bride as”gentile envy.”It’s a strong, nearly biological urge to prepare ourselves for debtor’s prison by getting stinking drunk.

Notwithstanding considerable internal pressure, I got through the day stone sober. Like most Mormon family patriarchs, I’m not nearly as God-fearing as I am terrified of my wife.

Aside from writing checks, my primary function on the big day was to have a talk with my soon-to-be son-in-law. Scott is a good kid with a spaceman haircut and absolutely no clue. He listened intently as I told him what it meant to be a husband in the `90s.”Even though you’re technically a man, you’ll be doing twice as much housework for half as much affection,”I told him.”And if Christie turns mean, you can sleep in the station wagon. Congratulations and welcome to the family. No exchanges or refunds.” I wasn’t the only one with counsel to give. The church official who performed the ceremony had something to say, too. His talk lasted about as long as the Vietnam Peace Accords and was all about … something. I forget what.

Scott, who understandably wept after hearing my speech, looked bored and listless through the church guy’s talk. Christie cried, although she later told me it was because she wanted me to make the man stop talking so that she could get on with the ceremony.

It’s a problem no matter what religious faith a person belongs to. Church officials sometimes forget that the Big Day isn’t Their Day. The last thing anyone wants on this day is another sermon. Most people who get married are barely out of their teens, a crazy time when the sole apparent reason for existence is to serve as a life support system for a set of reproductive organs.

If hormones could talk on a wedding day, they’d be telling priests, bishops, reverends and pastors to shut up. People who get married are only after one thing: Permission. So save the sermon for Sunday.

None of this means Christie’s wedding wasn’t a great event. The little girl who once tucked her jam-covered hand in mine is off now with some guy I barely know. If I’m real lucky, maybe polygamy will return in time for him to marry her two sisters. I can’t afford another big wedding.

LJB END KIRBY

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