When it came to planning our wedding, my wife had the ideal temperament – indifferent. The nuptial fever dreams that haunt some young women, turning them into romantic comedy caricatures, were blissfully absent. She had no yellowing, overflowing scrapbook of wedding ideas, no jealousy-tinged agenda to outdo friends and family. As long as the details were handled and everyone had fun, she would be happy.
A couple of months before the big day, we examined our list of accomplishments, impressed by the surplus of check marks and absence of hurt feelings, and realized that we hadn't chosen a wedding song. Not a big deal. Finding one would be as easy as locating a reception hall or buying matching ties for the groomsmen. We could squeeze it in during lunch.
I had little idea that we were about to enter, in my opinion, the most vexing phase of the entire planning. How do you find a song that embodies the uniqueness of any couple? Look at my wife and me: There are few songs written about two souls who bond over "Tommy Boy" and sarcasm. I'm pretty sure there are no sweeping ballads written about two shy souls with a passion for used-book sales and giant, messy sandwiches. Looking back, I guess that's why we hadn't previously identified "our song." Then again, any relationship that can be perfectly summarized in less than four minutes – including an overheated sax solo – is probably not worth celebrating.
My wife, armed with the confidence born of an impressive doctorate and extensive professorial work for two college music departments, was undeterred. She even enlisted my pop-culture savvy, which I came to regret. Laura's background turned her into an inscrutable academic in the shamefully ignored genre of reception hall music. I dug deep into my trove of useless knowledge, unearthing songs that were fun and romantic and upbeat. Nothing took.
Fleetwood Mac's "You Make Loving Fun" was an early front-runner before it was rejected for being in a minor key. "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)," Van Morrison's mumbly, soulful number, had irrelevant lyrics. "You're All I Need to Get By" is one of the most romantic duets of all time, right? Not to my wife, who couldn't abide by Tammi Terrell's vow to "go where you lead." The positively groovy "You Don't Have to Be a Star (to Be in My Show)" by Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo didn't pass muster because the lyrics portrayed the husband-and-wife singers as settling for each other.
I thought I had cracked the code with The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," which is featured in "Love Actually," a movie we both love. That got eliminated in seconds, right after Carl Wilson uttered the first line, "I may not always love you." Bonnie Raitt's sweet, bluesy "Thing Called Love" got into the all-important dancing practice stage, but Laura dismissed it as more seductive than sweet. Plus, it was in a dreaded minor key.
It was enough to surrender. Just have the DJ play "At Last" or "Just the Way You Are" and we will segue to the salad course. But as we debated the merits of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and the collected gloominess of Paul Westerberg, my frustration mellowed. I've only recently realized why. As a freelance writer, a significant part of my work is reviewing movies, which has made casual viewing impossible. I see movies the way Laura hears music. She is diplomatic and friendly in expressing her opinions; in expressing mine, however, I become the hyperanalytical killjoy you dread at office parties.
Getting a taste of my own medicine (with a spoonful of sugar) made me realize I'm needlessly antagonistic, sometimes pedantic. Fluency in a subject doesn't grant me permission to wield that knowledge like a club.
That Laura has not stabbed me in the jugular with a soda straw during a trip to the movies is just one reason why I love her. There is also her attention to detail, her refusal to accept anything as good enough. She strives for greatness, whether it's planning a class, making eggs, or even choosing a song to dance to. That's the attitude you want when you're building a life with someone.
Goodness knows it took forever to find her. It felt even longer to find the representative song. So, I guess it's fitting that we chose "The Waiting," by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And the best part? It's not in a minor key.