I was somewhat alarmed about wrangling my kids through the wedding of my dear friends Kenny and Paul.

Not that I wasn’t thrilled about the event. And not that we weren’t ready. We had the dress up outfits ready. They love their uncles and were excited to go.

But they’re also in a feisty anti-authority period. I might have mentioned this before. It seems to have dawned on both of them that while I can withhold candy or send them to their rooms, I can’t really make them do anything. Also, they do not have a great deal of practice with quiet, respectful occasions.

Perhaps a true estimate of my feelings would have included the word “doom.” It’s wonderful to be honored with an invitation to an important event. But it’s daunting to be the most likely source of trouble. An outburst seemed nearly certain. I had a dream Jaden plopped his face into the perfect icing of an elaborate wedding cake. Luckily my friends are kind and forgiving, so I knew they wouldn’t hold the imminent disaster against me. But still. I longed to be a dad with quiet obedient children. Could I find some in time?

The ceremony was in the small chapel at Sea Ranch, a gorgeous little hat of a building in an impossibly green field on a wild stretch of the northern Sonoma coast. My unease grew as the kids refused to sit with us, putting themselves in the row in front, not quite out of reach, but close. Surely parents should be able to control where their kids sit? Not me.

But then something remarkable happened. One of the grooms (the generally stoic one) burst into tears, no doubt moved by the prospect that after 17 years of being all-but-married, it was happening. Legally and for real. His husband-to-be gave him a big hug. The tears increased. Jaden was startled. He leaned back to me. “Are they doing the kiss?” he asked. I explained that they were doing happy crying.

The ceremony proceeded. Shayla read a Dusty Springfield song. The kids brought up the rings at the appointed time. Jaden at first refused to return to his seat, yearning to be part of the action. He glared at me. But he was quiet, and eventually he sat down. The power of the wedding overcame us all, even my anxiety and will to control things.

One unruly family is not enough to derail a perfect and beautiful event, and my own happy crying was for my dear friends uniting in our culture’s most sacred institution.

Later, there were toasts, and funny stories, over an amazing dinner (by the grooms’ friend Forrest and his family, a touching, extravagant gift for all present). I’ve known Kenny for 27 years, so there’s a lot of material to work with. I’d relaxed into the party, secure that however loud or annoying the kids could be now, it wouldn’t matter much. I made the kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so there’d be no fuss at the kids table.

But I was startled to see Shayla take off her headphones and sit down at the grownup table as the night wore on and the laughter continued. I’m not sure she understood the stories completely, at least I hope not, but she could feel the intimacy and benevolence in the room, and wanted to be a part of it.  She was drawn to the candlelight, the snickers, the smiles.

I felt so grateful that my kids got this experience of what love is. The happy crying, the laughter, the friendships old and new. It’s a rare and precious thing, and something I hope they’ll cherish forever. It would have been just as good if they’d caused a scene, though I’m glad they didn’t.

Maybe I don’t have much control of these little beasts, but they know a good thing when they see it, and they want to be part of it. On that we most definitely agree.

My children didn’t destroy the cake.

Jaden can’t tear himself away from the exchange of rings.

Jay and I with the beautiful grooms.