Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight: Infidels of Love & Religion in Memphis

Mike Grabman



This month has once again brought lots of travel. The rental car guy and I are on a first name basis at this point in the year. I’m currently writing this blog post while stuck in Greenville as my wife spends her weekend working a moonlighting position. The weekend before we were in Memphis attending the wedding of friends of ours.  




the rental car


My friends Laura and Evan decided to get hitched a couple of months ago. I’ve known them both for a number of years. Laura and I went to college together and Evan and I worked together. Evan is the person I refer to as my little brother, despite our lack of blood relatives and the fact that he’s a pretty big dude. So while on my last trip to Memphis, Evan and Laura asked me to officiate their ceremony.


I am an ordained minister, which is not a fact that I readily tell most people. It usually involves quite a lot of questions because I’m also an atheist. But I have performed a wedding ceremony in the past, a ceremony which Evan also attended and got the idea that I should speak in front of his new family.


So the wife and I began to prepare for this weekend. Tracy started pumping and freezing extra breast milk as my in-laws said that they would watch our child. She bought herself a sensible dress that she could also wear to work and I got a couple of my suits dry cleaned. Then I had to write what I was going to not only tell the couple on their wedding day, but what I was going to tell their families.


Laura and Evan both have family members that are Deep South religious. They are conservative, right wing, bible thumpers. I’m pretty sure the preacher father from Footloose would be somewhere in attendance for this wedding.  So I asked some friends for advice. One of my greatest friends and influences in life is ordained as a Southern Baptist minister. He has a masters degree in theology (among his multiple masters degrees) and I turned to him for answers I had regarding the ceremony. I also was able to turn to my sister, a practicing Catholic, for advice. And finally, from the wedding I performed before for two other (atheist) friends, I just copied their vows. In the end, I (we all) came up with a pretty good speech.  


With everything ready, I packed up the car. I'm pretty sure I managed to pack my entire closet. I normally pride myself in my ability to pack light, but this was not the case. We had rented a Ford Escape, which turned out to have (much) less interior room than the Toyota sedan we normally drive. Between me, the wife, the kid, and all our things, we had this sucker packed. We got on the road and headed to Knoxville where we would spend the night and drop the kid off with her grandparents. They were excited to watch her for a weekend and we were pretty excited about sleeping through the night and having some alone time. This was the first time my wife has left our kid overnight.



Grandpa and Baby


After saying our goodbyes, we headed to  Memphis to meet up with the wedding party. The first night there we stayed at the groom’s house. We had the rehearsal and then the dinner. Afterwards the bride had taxed us with keeping Evan on the straight and narrow.  



Bride, Groom, Officiant


I learned the day of the rehearsal that the wedding procedure was going to be left to me, which temporarily caused an “Oh Shit” moment. But, with years of bartending lessons to have learned from, I faked it and everyone seemed to think I knew what I was talking about.


After the rehearsal, the dinner was at Andrew Michael’s Italian Kitchen. The wife and I made an agreement that I would drive Friday night and she would drive Saturday, after the wedding. The food there was fantastic—a 5 course meal that they pulled off for 53 people.  


The next day, Evan and I were up at 7am for haircuts and breakfast. Well, he was up for a haircut. Because of the medicine I’m on I can’t shave, and because I can’t shave.  I also have kept my hair long. I currently look like the cover of Bob Dylan’s album Infidels.  




We get to the salon where one of my old regulars from Memphis, and one of Evan’s current regulars, is cutting hair. Rob is a throw back barber. He gives fantastic cuts and shaves, and does so while telling inappropriate barber shop jokes. 



Rob might also be the inspiration for a character from The Simpsons


The groomsmen broke out the beer at this point (8:30am) and started drinking, laughing, and generally doing a great job of releasing any pre-wedding anxiety Evan might have been feeling. Around 9:30 or 10am, two 12 year old boys came in with their dad. I’m pretty sure they were going back to school on Monday with a new vocabulary.  


After the barber shop, we headed out to the wedding site, but not before stopping to grab a TV from one of the groomsmen’s houses. See, the other big thing going on in Memphis that day was the Old Miss / Memphis football game. Memphis has a pretty decent team this year and it seemed like an upset might occur of a mighty SEC team and the city was abuzz with excitement. Memphis is a city where maybe 20% of the population pulls for the Tigers, 20% for the Volunteers, 20% for Old Miss, 20% for Alabama, and 20% for Arkansas. So for that 1/5 to finally be even in a game with an SEC team was a big deal. The Tigers ended up wining, pulling the upset, and moving into the top 25. 


After watching the game (I mean getting dressed) we went for photos.  


Evan, Bob Dylan, and Dave Matthews



Evan saw Laura and the water works flowed. And then came my moment. Err, Laura and Evan’s moment. I was able to mix in stories about my dealings with Evan and Laura, with information that they had given me about how they felt around each other. I was able to pull from multiple religious texts (start quoting the Quran at a wedding in rural Tennessee. I dare you. I did it.). I’m an atheist, however, I’m smart enough to know that religious texts do offer some relevant advice on how to be a good and just person. 


The Wedding Party



The ceremony went over well and I believe everyone was happy with the service. Afterwards at the reception everyone danced to old Stax hits, ate hot chicken, and drank wine (or maybe bourbon from an inside suit pocket). 


That Diet Coke can might have had Bourbon in it…


Then we wished the couple well, said our goodbyes, and went and slept all night long. We got up early, jumped in the car, and were ready to be reunited with our daughter. We had missed her, being away for 2 days had seemed like 2 weeks.