There’s no time for cake. Wait, I take that back. That was an absurd comment I just made. Put a slice at my table and I’ll get to it when I can. This band is too busy conquering my soul right now. The bride and groom’s $1,500 dessert they spent days picking out will have to be inhaled by me later. This will be when I’ve had enough drinks that it could be a day old Rueben, I’d still peg it as the best cake I’ve ever eaten. But right now I’ve got to be on the dance floor because it is rockin’ like a wagon wheel. As John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey said best, “grab that net and catch that beautiful butterfly…its wedding season!”
I can only partially explain why a wedding dance floor is so much fun. The easy answer is booze, but we’re more complex creatures than that, aren’t we? The isms behind the fun of a wedding are not completely rooted in alcohol (if you believe otherwise you may suffer from alcoholism). Sure, there’s an element of liquid courage involved, but a wedding has way too much buoyancy to be drowned by it. And besides, I had significantly more booze in me on any given weekend during college (after a hard day at the library, Mom and Dad). I didn’t approach a dance floor then the way I do at weddings now. Wedding dancing is a much more extensive playbook, full of trick plays, strange cadences, and Hail Mary’s. The large playbook allows for a potent offense. And that’s good for me, because I’m often described as offensive.
On the other hand, the college dancing playbook was real short. The game was simply ground and pound. And unfortunately, it required a semblance of cool. I’ve only been described as cool in two places: nursing homes and work bake-offs. Not in college. If there was dancing, I stayed by the bar or at the beer pong table until I had the confidence (blood alcohol level) to give it a shot. “Grinding” on girls involved a scheme to imply carnal mystery. My mysteriousness wasn’t suave. It was literal. “What are you doing?” was the common reaction. And it was always so dark I didn’t know if I was dancing with Jessica Alba or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She could see even less, as it is every guy’s strategy to approach from behind and replace a cordial greeting from our mouths with a witless greeting from our genitals. That’s when they would call in the friend standing idly by to signal either “cut him loose” or “he’s not that ugly.” The latter was a real stroke to my confidence. Nevertheless, I press on and nervously try to keep pace with the formidable rhythm of Usher’s “Yeah” while wearing flip flops and holding a vodka-red bull. This was not my element. No amount of alcohol was going to make me good at this. I needed to be allowed to move naturally at my jagged and some might say, clownish pace. My innate dance skills are annotated with equal parts “oh, that poor guy” and “do you need a doctor?” That’s when I know I’ve hit my stride. It’s certainly not when Lil Wayne instructed me to “make that ass jump, like jerp, jerp.” College bar dancing isn’t friendly. It’s a denim dry hump. The type of dancing I do is best suited for another forum. My seduction resides in humble affability. And nothing is more affable than the motion that occurs on a wedding dance floor.
It’s a 20’ x 20’ space of inconsequential, judgment free, harmonious jubilation. I would say my moves rival John Travolta’s in Pulp Fiction, while others tell me they more resemble John Candy’s in Uncle Buck. And nothing is off limits. You want to get on a knee and fist pump to “Don’t Stop Believing” like you’re actually vowing to never stop believing, or just start shouting obscenities while pumping your arms like Frank the Tank (yep, done that – Steve & Katie, 2009), you go right ahead. You’ll only blend in with everyone else performing equally absurd moves. It’s a fearless environment. You’ve got to take chances. The worst that happens is you show up to brunch the next morning and suddenly have a few dozen strangers reminding you when you accidentally kicked that girl in the vagina during “Runaround Sue.” It was simply out of your control. If you see her you could diffuse the tension by joking that at least she doesn’t have balls. If she did she’d know what it feels like to want to shit, puke, and die all at the same time.
Regardless of our proclivity for unruly dance moves, the wedding dance floor remains a noble place. My generation spends a lot of time nitpicking things with snarky cynicism. Things are cool, then they trend, then they’re ridiculed. The monoculture is dead, for better (music access, craft beer, small business) and for worse (“news” feeds, hipsters, disassociation). One of the few places left that serve as a melting pot of personality types coming together to restore communal recognition is the wedding dance floor. Who among us hasn’t relinquished their snooty cultural standards because Flo Rida determined the club can’t even handle them right now? And how many insecure stiffs were convinced by Chubby Checker to put down their guards and do the twist? I plead guilty on both accounts. Nothing brings different people together like love and tragedy. And we’re on that dance floor together celebrating the love of a new marriage with the tragedy of a Pitbull song.
My brother’s wedding was a few weeks ago in Nashville. They had a really good band perform a long list of country and classic rock hits. This was one of the rowdier wedding’s I could remember. Even my sweet, adorable, little three year old niece, Maddie, absolutely terrorized the dance floor. She warned me during cocktail hour, telling me she’s “about to get turnt.” And she did. She went full Kevin Bacon on us. The flower girl shouting “everybody cut footloose!” definitely gets a crowd going. When a 3 year old tells her Uncle Mike, “I remember my first beer” after what I thought was one of my better dance moves, you know you have to leave all inhibitions at the table. There can be no concern about how you look. It was a hot night and I was a sweaty, odorous, disheveled mess. But the best part about a wedding dance floor is…so was everybody else. You’re all in it together. And when you’re all in on something together, you tend to have a really great time just being yourself. I don’t have to be mysterious because a wedding dance floor makes everything familiar. Nostalgic songs, arm in arm hilarity, celebrated vulnerability, and unbridled farting that nobody bothers to source—I mean great times.
After the last song when the stage lights go down we’re left standing there with that look like you just woke up at a stranger’s apartment. It’s in that moment someone shouts what everyone’s wondering: “where are we taking this party to next?” Nobody ever calls it quits after the last song. The end of the last song is a 3rd cup of coffee. It’s bitter, but you’re ready to bench press a fire truck (sans a massive coffee dump). Unfortunately, as with coffee, there is a crash coming, you just don’t know when it will hit you. The after-party is never confused for the party. Everyone arrives at the chosen bar. It’s a fun time, but it’s not the wedding and it’s not the wedding dance floor. You have to realize the other people at that bar don’t care where you just came from. The exclusivity of your intimate entertainment no longer applies. Judgment, cynicism, and worst of all, paying for drinks have been restored. You get a round of post-wedding beers. It’s the first drink you’ve had in at least two hours that you’re standing still to consume. That’s right about the time the crash hits. You realize that you may have had enough, and that you could eat a Winnebago.
What a party. The reception is candor we rarely get anymore. When you’re surrounded by happy people celebrating a great couple the party is never long enough, but the night has to end eventually, right? I should probably think about getting some sleep and be up for that brunch tomorrow when I’m reminded of things I did I have no recollection of. I will never admit that. I’ll say, “of course I remember taking my pants off.” Or “Yes Mrs. McMullen, that was silly how I bet your son he couldn’t throw me over that ice sculpture. Boys will be boys. They said the internal bleeding should stop in a day or two. I’m gonna get some coffee.”
…Okay, maybe the dancing really is just propelled by booze.
The music is gone, the bars are closed, and the quest for a room key and my dignity ensues. A memorable wedding night is wrapping up. A little bit softer now. A little bit softer now. A little bit softer now…wait, party back at the hotel? There’s leftover cake? A little bit louder now. A little bit louder now. A little bit louder now.