The slow song's fading chords melted into the night like caramel into coffee, as did our dancing: our arms dropped slowly to our sides and our heads swiveled in unison to focus on the flower-festooned mic stand where there now stood a man with a balaclava pulled over his head that punctuated his white tuxedo like a period on a page. His bowtie was green as a mint.
We all knew what was coming, yet it still felt like a surprise when it did. This meniscus between the preamble and the wedding party was where the power of the ceremony coiled, still and quivering, waiting for the rush of descent. The eyes of the tuxedoed man surveyed the crowd as if from a haunted portrait, rimmed by margins of flesh that shone a ghastly white against the edges of the balaclava's eyeholes. No one dared to meet their lighthouse stare, except the bride, who picked absently at her corsage; she could afford her nonchalance, as she and her pale groom were the only ones who were safe, at least tonight.
It was on their third pass that the roving eyes of the man at the mic stand finally stopped, snagging on a little boy who tried, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to hide behind his mother's spangled skirt. The sound of the man clearing his throat into the mic cut through the silence like the rev of a chainsaw, and the crowd flinched reflexively in unison. "That one," said the man, his voice more tired and his enunciation more casual than anyone expected, and his hand rose to point at the little boy. The mother in the spangled skirt began to weep, but silently, and she pulled her boy into a short but fierce embrace before pushing him gently toward the stage.
It was an odd sensation to relax and fill with dread simultaneously, but after a few weddings, we'd all grown used to it. As the pulley system hoisted the boy by the ankles to dangle him headfirst above the punchbowl, the creaking of the ropes mingled with the rustling of the crowd as we shifted our weight and exhaled, diffusing tension and bracing ourselves in one collective movement. Some of the more seasoned of us wondered if the tuxedoed man was getting old or lazy; this was the third child in a row he'd chosen. The faint but still audible groans emanating from beneath the balaclava as the boy jerked higher and higher told of tightened tendons, gnarled joints, seizing shoulders. Perhaps by next year, it would be a more hale and hearty frame beneath the ice cream cloth and licorice shroud; perhaps it would again be time for adults to shiver like the children did at the sound of wedding bells.
But not yet: with a practiced motion, the blade cut cleanly almost to the hinge of the boy's elfin jaw, and soon there was enough punch to go around. Chalices were passed from hand to hand, and everyone drank deep - even the mother, in her grief, partook, as if giving her son a last sweet kiss. Before long it was time for the bride and groom to receive their due and blessing, crimson crosses painted on their foreheads, a shared toast that they themselves had written.
"Sweet dreams," said the groom as he tipped the still warm fluid into his beloved's mouth.
"Are made of this," finished the bride after swallowing, holding a cup of her own to her husband's lips.
It was their song, after all.
Still, the first half of the wedding was more like a funeral. But then, as people drank more, the bride ended up dry humping the hell out of the groom as well as a few other guests, and soon she was walking around with her pants down to her knees; as always, once the ceremony was over, things got a bit more interesting.