My little brother has this face he makes, kind of a scrunched-up goofy smirk. He has perfected it since early childhood, when he first discovered this Stan Laurelesque look could make one of our sisters laugh like crazy. As the years went on, he tested his power from time to time. He usually got a chuckle, from her at least. Everyone else in the family had long since become immune.
Sadly, on my wedding day, one susceptible grown womanâ€™s mild amusement incited full-out group hysteria. Church hilarity is a well-documented phenomenon. I believe it could be some kind of biological imperative. Its evolutionary purpose is not clear, but I donâ€™t think I care to know anyway.
Weâ€™d planned a brief ceremony on the campus where my husband and I met. The university chapel was small, peaceful and surrounded by redwoods that gave the place the dignity of a cathedral. However, I hadnâ€™t considered the down side. An intimate setting makes it impossible to overlook the behavior of your guests.
The wedding began relatively smoothly. A minor problem of lost luggage forced my future father-in-law to attend in a t-shirt that said â€œI Got Leiâ€™d in Hawaii.â€ Not ideal, but what can you do?
The minister had encouraged us to personalize our vows so I had naturally tried hard to find passages that reflected our serious commitment. I knew our guests would find the selections thought-provoking, profound, even witty.
Unfortunately, as the minister began to read, suppressed laughter emanated from a middle pew. On the brideâ€™s side. Very near that particular brother and sister.
Giggles rippled like dominoes along the pews. One by one they fell: brothers, sisters, their spouses. The minister was all but drowned out by a crescendo of muffled snorts. I shot dirty looks in the familyâ€™s general direction but I knew it was futile. Itâ€™s very much like a stadium wave. Once it starts, you can either watch in helpless fascination or join in. I opted for helpless fascination and barely noticed what the minister said until the kissing part.
The experience reminded me of the Monty Python skit about the funniest joke in the world. The jokeâ€™s punch line results in fatal hilarity. Anyone who hears or reads it laughs so hard they die. Of course the joke turns out to be something incredibly dumb. For a few minutes on that day, I wouldnâ€™t have minded an outbreak of fatal hilarity.
I found my little brother after the ceremony and reminded him, â€œWhat goes around, comes around, buddy.â€ Sure enough, ten years later, it was his turn to stand at the altar. His wedding was a traditional Catholic mass, with all the trimmings. Suitably, the person giggling helplessly at his side was his own bride. We all sympathized, though. She was entitled to be punchy after all the excitement, what with the exploding limo, the twenty foot flame and the burning palm tree nearly igniting the bridal suite balcony.
So as it turned out, I didnâ€™t consciously have to do a thing to disrupt his wedding. Except hire the limo.