We're all aware that potato chips aren't much good for us, but once we rip open the bag and our teeth crunch a crispy, salty, cholesterol grenade, we simply can't resist crunching another. Same with weddings.  
  It's been raining off and on all morning, and the road is slippery as I wheel my way to the secluded redwood grove where my friends, John and Mary, have decided to exchange till death do us part vows, she for the third time, he for the second. I'm thinking about how the vow, and death itself, become less formidable with repetition, how the eternity of eternal love shrinks a smidgeon as you go along in life falling in and out of it, kind of like the way the amount of the television movie you're allowed to see between commercial messages shrinks the closer you get to the denouement.  
  The parking lot in the woods is crowded when I pull into it. I recognize most of the people milling about in the drizzle. They're almost spectacularly laid-back. This may be the Age of Anxiety, but not when it comes to marriage. The majority of us have already been to a couple of our own weddings.  
  Belly buttons can be divided into innies and outies. So it is with the residents of our county. There are the pasty coasties, who pass their days in perpetual fog next to the sea, and the tannies, denizens of sunny inland valleys. Complexion isn't the only tip-off to voting precinct. If you want to know who's who, remember that the coasties are the ones dressed like gypsies, still saying good morning at two in the afternoon. The real coasties, of course, those condemned to mucking about in the abominable maritime climate for years and years, aren't here yet. They'll be arriving with their burning sage and healing crystals at a more fashionable, later hour.  
  Eternity, though it isn't what it used to be, still can't wait for them. John and Mary's plighting of troths is already overdue. Besides, there's an al fresco wake scheduled for the same magic stand of particularly majestic trees where John and Mary have elected to slip gold bands on each other's fingers. Rumor has it the lugubrious send-off is for a lawyer who committed suicide. As we begin the long trudge up to the grove of connubial conifers, the sun peeps out, scattering the mists. Surely this is a sign. The tannies, too clever to leave home without their umbrellas, fold them up.  
  The minister must've been paid well. His nuptial spiel is lengthy, laced with gentle warnings about the minor perils of marriage and the healing potential of love. A stick and carrot speech, it's more than worthy of a New Age traffic court judge. Sunbeams are whistling down through the bright green canopy of thousand-year-old trees and my mind is wandering. I don't catch what John and Mary say, though it's obviously a lot more than the I do they squeaked out their first couple of times around. I've noticed that the more times you get married, the more loquacious you are, as though by lengthening the vows you could stretch that shrinking eternity a wee bit.  
  When all is said and done, John and Mary's wedding really is a magical event. An improbable event, considering what you might call the Video Store Theory of relationships here in our rural county, where the census is small and the options limited.  
  Imagine you're in the mood to see a film. You go to the video outlet and pore over the offerings temptingly displayed on its racks. After a while you begin to realize that you've seen all the promising movies before, or your friends have seen them and told you about them. You leave the store empty-handed. The usual fate of single folks up here is to end up munching popcorn alone, in front of a blank screen. Until, of course, beleaguered by boredom and a rainy solitude, driven by primordial biological instincts, they wade into the chill waters of marriage, somewhat in the manner of lemmings.  

  This curious behavior can be partially explained by another pet theory, the Proof-Reader's Hypothesis. The reason there will always be typos in a text is that the eye has an irresistible tendency to read what's supposed to be there, what should be there, rather than what actually is there. As the astute have readily observed, relationships have a lot in common with proof-reading.  
  In any event, unlike the world of lemmings, those small-minded rodents who rarely turn back, our human world is peppered with possibilities. Rescue for those who've ventured into waters over their heads is always at hand. There are regular patrols of lifeguards on duty along the shoals of marriage. Attorney is neatly printed in block letters on the frosted panes of their office doors.  
  It's time to wind up this wedding. Strangers bearing drums and funeral wreaths are filtering into the magic grove to form a circle, hold hands and om in farewell to the suicide, a bright young man with a great future ahead of him, by all accounts. John and Mary's parents, all thirteen of them, are one by one embracing the one God-joined flesh no man may tear asunder. That, incidentally, is an additional plus of our high divorce rate -- it gives us an abundant choice of mothers and fathers.  
  I've always appreciated the wisdom and convenience of old San Francisco railroad flats, with shower and sink in one room, and the toilet in another, way down the hall. John and Mary's wedding is a split wedding, the ceremony outdoors among the brooding redwoods, the dinner reception in a rented hall sixty miles away. I'm not a picnicky sort of fellow. I like to sit down and eat in comfort, untroubled by ants, unvexed by dandelion puffs floating into my Chicken Kiev. The split nature of the wedding also means I won't have to drive so far home drunk.  
  There will, no doubt, be an I Ching reading at the reception before the food is served. Chances are the yarrow sticks will impart to the newlyweds sage advice, such as perseverance furthers. Myself, I'm still looking for the combination of hexagrams that will add up to eat, drink, and be married.