Consuming the Invitation

- Troy Hatfield (Photo Credit: Monica Ayers Photography)

Try and picture the last time you received a wedding invitation in your mailbox. How long did it take to hear something like this (cynical) little voice: “Ugh. There goes an entire Saturday, lost to uncomfortable shoes and fake smiles. I wonder what will be longer, the time between the ceremony and reception or the toasts filled with inside jokes that no one laughs at. I predict the solo from the not-quite-in-tune cousin will be 13 times longer than it takes the couple to light that unity candle, leaving the rest of us staring at the couple staring at each other.”

Or something like that? Please tell me someone else knows what I’m talking about.

That little voice in my head was put in its place a few weeks ago. I got to be part of a wedding of two dear friends, neither of who has loads of extra cash just lying around. They needed to be really intentional about who was invited to their wedding. I know they had to make difficult decisions about their guest list. It dawned on me, embarrassingly for the first time, that it might very well be a gift to be invited to someone’s wedding.

In his book “The Gift,” Lewis Hyde writes that “a gift must always be used up, consumed, eaten.” I’ve never forgotten this idea. The most true thing I can do with a gift is to enjoy it, to make it part of myself, to consume it. So, if being invited to a wedding is a gift, how do I best consume it?

I often have a unique perspective at weddings. In addition to making music and officiating ceremonies, I also lead a cover band, called PleasureTowne, to facilitate the dancing portion of wedding receptions. We are typically responsible for the final hours of the day’s celebrations – after the meal and toasts and cake cutting and bride and father slow dance, the band kicks in and tries to get both great-aunt and the teenage cousin to stand up and “shake your groove thing.” And it’s in those holy and joyful moments that I am reminded of a significant way to consume the invitation gift.

You dance. You sweat. You put your arm around another person and sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” loud enough to lose your voice. You join the conga line or Electric Slide or the Dougie every single second the bride (in particular) is on the dance floor. Because I’ve seen the expressions of the newly married couple when they are surrounded by these well-dressed guests – in some kind of mysterious way, your consuming the gift offered to you is a gift back to those who gave it to you in the first place.  

I know it’s “cooler” to stand off to the side, holding a drink, barely nodding your head to the music, watching other people sweat through their fancy clothes. But I am more and more convinced that each invitee is essential to helping make the celebration a reality. So may we find a way to “eat up” the invitation whenever it is extended and listen to the music more and that cynical little voice less. 

Troy is Lead Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI, where he’s been on staff since 2004. A musician, Anglophile, voracious reader and owner of more black clothing than anyone he knows, Troy has also recently married Lis, a violinist and lover of every member of the animal kingdom. Follow Troy on twitter@tr0yisbald.