Trust me, I won’t forget. Ever. But with the date’s interesting configuration, today’s just as good a day as any to write it down.
I was raised in a mid-sized southern town. Although I wasn’t the type of little girl who began planning her wedding at the age of 6, I had two thoughts on the subject. I would wear Mom’s wedding dress, which in all the old black and white photos looked picture book pretty. And I would plan this event all by myself, as Mom had done. My grandmother died when Mom was 3 and she was raised by an aunt. Mom thought raising her was enough, so she paid for her own wedding.
Well, I paid my share. And I wore the dress. But the rest of my plan kind of fell apart. Why? Because the only southerner who loves a wedding more than a little girl is her Mama.
My hysterical journey begins with The Dress. Mom was married in March of 1957. Her dress boasted a round lace collar, long lace sleeves and a voluptuous skirt supported by a hoop. I kid you not. As a child, I’d ask if Scarlett O’Hara had been a bridesmaid. I tried on the dress one winter Sunday as Mom and I held our breath…me in hopes it’d fit, Mom in hopes of having a second generation take it down the aisle. It did. Them Mom became overwhelmed by Mother of the Bride syndrome, agitated by the fact that, of all days to try on such a dress, it was my parents’ anniversary. Poor Dad. Drug down the hall by weepy Mom, he tried to look impressed at the sight of his eldest in wedding attire as I looked down and muttered, “I am NOT wearing that danged hoop! And how many buttons does this thing have?!” That would be the 30. The pearl buttons ran up the back of the dress, making it impossible to don or duff solo. Had my brain been in charge instead of emotion, I would’ve contemplated that I was being married in August. But my beloved and I had met at 16, dated through high school/college and were more than ready to get married. Heart won out over head.
The day we got married, it was 102 degrees. But I digress.
The Dress ceremony began the strange Pushme-Pullyou dance between Mom and me. Since childhood, I’d planned it all out in my head. With a Mother’s heart, Mom knew a better way. I learned to compromise which, in hindsight, is actually the best way to prepare for marriage. When Mom informed me my younger sister would be Maid of Honor, I replied my best friend should handle that duty. You only have one sister, Mom reminded me cheerfully.
Yes, I muttered under my breath, the one I shared a room with who threatened to snuff me in my sleep.
Mom won. It was easier.
I’d address invitations, Mom would add to the guest list. I sat down to compose the write up for the newspaper. Mom informed me she’d already delivered one. It wasn’t until after I was married that I discovered why people believed I’d had some huge wedding; Mom’s write up included cousins I hadn’t seen in years as “honorary bridesmaids”.
Mom was there every step of the way; choosing flowers, the cake and photographer. Although politely voiced, her opinion was tantamount to law. I knew it was because she cared. At the point where the fiancé declared, “just do whatever!” out of fatigue, Dad wandered in and offered to pay for a ladder and a marriage license so we could elope. Although tempted, I jokingly reminded him we had a one story home. With a wink he replied, “See, just saved me the cost of a ladder.” This may be the moment Mom believes “the conspiracy to embarrass me” was born. I’ll get to that later.
Add to this fun me raised Baptist and the fiancé Catholic. First we talked to my minister, which took all of fifteen minutes. He asked if we loved each other, could listen & compromise and what would we do if the stork arrived before we invited it home? We answered truthfully, although I still think the last question was just his polite way of asking, “You’re not pregnant, are you?” Then we did this waltz with Father A., a priest old as Methuselah. When your future father-in-law say,”No matter what the Priest says, you stick to your guns!” it’s going to get interesting. There was 10 minutes of joint interrogation, 10 minutes solo between fiancé and priest, then it was my turn. He began kindly, but our conversation was clearly a test of my biblical knowledge. I’m happy to report I convinced Father A. that Baptists were not heathens. An hour later I politely offered, “I’ve really enjoyed our talk, but my fiancé probably thinks I got lost.”
After that, I thought it would be easy. My minister and Father A. would do the ceremony jointly. The minister’s wife was one of my vocalists and a college buddy, who owed me for years of sheltering him from undesirable female attention, was the other. We were good to go.
The phone rang the day before my wedding.
It’s a strange feeling, trying to reassure your minister that you’ll be just fine when he calls to say his Mom has died. I tried to comfort him, as he apologizes for the inconvenience of leaving me minus a minister and one vocalist. He offered to contact our Minister of Music, who was ordained and had wedding experience. I thanked him, biting back a giggle. His replacement was Rev. Romanstein. Yes, a Jewish Baptist. I thought it was a good sign our union would be blessed by the trinity of Baptist, Catholic and Jewish.
Until I contacted the organist.
My college buddy didn’t hesitate to do both songs. The organist, however, refused to cross the front of the church to switch from organ to piano for the second song. I called my buddy to request he bring his own pianist. The fiancé then called to say he wondered how we’d managed to find such a cool tux to wear in summer. It almost felt… air conditioned. That’s when he discovered the pants were ripped from crotch to mid-inseam. Someone traveled 50 miles back to where they’d been rented as my bridesmaids arrived. In an ironic twist, my wedding was 8/8, the next one was scheduled for 9/9 and yes, the last for 10/10. I never had time to get nervous. I was too busy laughing while watching them fall apart using my wedding as a test drive for their own.
To some brides, this was hysteria-ville. To me, it was hilarious. The more that went wrong, the calmer I got. I began believing getting all the nonsense out of the way now meant a long, happy married life. I only had to survive the next 24 hours.
At the Rehearsal our Wedding Director, a.k.a. Hitler, grabbed me, plunked me down in a pew and told me not to move. When I asked why, she said it was bad luck for the bride to participate. Yes, I laughed out loud. As Hitler rearranged her troops, an anxious nun scurried up and down the aisle, rosary twisting in her hands. Unbeknownst to us, Father A. had retired and Father J. was suppose to replace him. Rev. Romanstein, the Jewish Baptist, was extremely nervous. Turned out the only wedding he’d ever presided over had been his son’s. As the nun wandered up and down the aisle constantly checking the door, her prayer for Father J.’s safe arrival probably changed when she discovered why he was absent; he was 120 miles away, playing tennis. He’d simply forgotten.
For the Rehearsal Dinner I wanted casual, so we went to my fiancé‘s parent’s home. Then college buddy, who had been bemoaning that he was the last of us, without an attachment in sight, decided to get out his guitar. He had a beautiful voice and entertained an ever swelling crowd. Knowing I hated being the center of attention [I know, how un-bride like], he said, “This one’s for you.” He launched into a song he knew would make me cry as everyone oohed and ahhed. Then he looked at me rather oddly as he sang, “I wish that you could know, how much I love you.”
Oh good grief!
The wedding day was a blur, with me reassuring the bridesmaids they’d be fine and locking my suitcase to keep Sis out of it. Mom looked into the church and sighed, “Oh, there’s not that many people here.” Envisioning 15 people, I counted over 125, one of which was testing the church’s new “openness” policy. Antiquated as it seems, our church had only recently encouraged black folks to attend. So far, no one had done any “encouraging.” Until our wedding, when a 6’2” muscle bound black Sheriff’s Deputy came through the door. In uniform. The expressions were amused, anxious and well, me laughing gleefully.
The music started and so did my future father-in-law’s technical difficulties. As his only son’s Best Man, he’d insisted on wearing his military dress uniform. One he hadn’t tried on in 4 years. As the music began, the jacket chain popped. My fiancé wired his Dad back together with a paper clip while asking the clergy to walk slowly. I thought my father-in-law looked distinguished but someone in the receiving line would later ask why we had a Matre ‘d on hand.
And then Dad and I committed the ultimate wedding sin. All because neither of us likes being the center of attention.
Dad asked, “Ready?” I nodded and he took off. Literally. We went down the aisle so fast I wondered what I’d done to make him want to get rid of me. He was just nervous. But trying to keep up with his long strides on my 4” heels made me look more drunken than bridal. I can still see it. Mom rising elegantly as Mother of the Bride. Turning slowly to watch us come down the aisle. Glaring angrily when she discovered we’d already arrived. She never forgave us. To this day, mention a wedding and she’ll groan about the day Dad and I ran down the aisle.
Our reception was…odd. The photographer literally grabbed folks to pose them. Everyone stood at a respectful distance, smiling idiotically, as if we had the plague. We wanted to chat, the photographer insisted it was time to go. I resisted but lost. I had the bruise to prove it. Ignoring Mom’s suggestion to toss the bouquet to my sister, I was delighted the Flower Girl caught it. The garter toss caused a shoving contest. My college buddy caught it, but the neighbor guy who never could get a date snatched it out of his hand, waving it like a flag of availability.
My sister, who’d offered to put my watch in my suitcase earlier, had filled it to the brim with rice. While people gently tossed rice in the air, Sis grabbed the front of my dress and shoved rice down it. I have photographic proof. Our get-a-way car had been decorated but it wasn’t the car we were taking on our honeymoon. Oh no, hubby had decided it would be better to take the VW Bug, which he’d hidden. We retrieved it, stopped by his parent’s house to pick up something and found them having a party. It looked fun. They told us to get lost. Having failed to eat, we stopped at a burger place on the way out of town. As we pulled away from the drive-through, the car died. I’ll never forget the grinning redneck on my side of the car who helped push to get it started. He had a very graphic tattoo on his arm which boasted um…that um…let’s just say it had something to do with eating and cats.
The beach was our honeymoon destination. Ever tried to park on a hill at the beach? Because any time we wanted to go somewhere, hubby pushed the car and I had to pop the clutch. I’d never driven a stick before. And why, you’re wondering, would anyone want to GO out on their honeymoon? Because she who gets to the church calendar late in a huff doesn’t recall that Mother Nature will hit in the middle of said honeymoon. I actually went fishing at the crack of dawn on my honeymoon.
We survived. Our stuff wasn’t as lucky. The guy watching our home welcomed us, then suddenly fled. Seems he’d forgotten to water the 50 ferns I’d repotted. Or feed the pet raccoon who’d burrowed down in his pen to get away from the heat. At least the dog merely ran away instead of dying. He’d also decorated the car with shoe polish, which hadn’t washed off.
I married an optimist. “Well,” he said with a smile, “now that the wedding’s behind us, the worst is over. But promise me that when we’ve been married 25 years, we don’t have to renew our vows.”
I promised him that if we’d done it right the first time, why would we need to do it again?
I kept my promise. And 28 years later, I’d still marry him again. What's better, he'd let me.
My best friend and I caught...giggling as usual.
Yep, we still giggle.