Today has been my 52nd birthday.
It was also the day I presided at wedding for a young couple. They knew it was my birthday, but it seemed good to them that they get married on St. Patrick's Day and I am their pastor. And the groom's parents thought it was good that, as part of the post-wedding festivites that they treat me to a "birthday dinner" as the wedding party continued their celebration at one of the local Irish taverns. Peoria does St. Patrick's Day well. Very well.
The wedding was not at the church, so after the ceremony and the cake and punch, the wedding party undecorated the setting and then departed for Kelleher's, where there was a huge crowd. It's St. Patrick's Day, after all. The bride and groom, as often happens, had some things to take care of before they were able to join the rest of the people at this part of the post-wedding celebrations. But the father of the groom and I were able to find a place to sit and eat way in the back of the tavern with some other people who had nothing to do with the wedding at all. Because of the crowds, no formal reserved seating was possible, and people were sitting wherever there was room. But the women who had graciously let us sit at their table departed, and we knew that the bride and groom were about to arrive -- and we were able to hold those seats, telling people who walked inquiring about those seats that we were part of a wedding party and the couple was on their way.
Getting through the crowd of the tavern was not easy -- wall-to-wall people -- and the groom, still in his tux, arrived a couple of minutes before his bride, who was trying to negotiate in her wedding gown. Everyone else there had changed into more comfortable clothes, but I was attired in my suit with black shirt -- though I had removed my clerical collar.
As the groom was walking to the table, another patron asked one of our party if the seats across from us at the table were taken. "Yes," came the response, "they're for the rest of our wedding party."
And seeing the groom walking towards us in his tux, the partron looked directly at me and said, "Congratuations!"