When you hear the word “wedding,” most of us think of ordinary and banal things like music, toasts, hankies and tears, gifts and cake. To the participants, however —and particularly to the Mother of the Bride — the word carries frightening possibilities. Think about it. Staging a wedding often requires balancing a pretty unstable combination of variables: the weather, small children, electrical issues, pastry and true love, just to name a few. I think everyone would agree that these things are not natural companions nor are they reliable — it is little wonder that typing in “wedding mishaps” on YouTube brings up an entire section of misery and/or hilarity. I will share a few of the more memorable ones I have experienced, or have been told of, in hopes that this might help you avoid that fate.
Gone With the Wind
Everyone knows that a fundamental rule of planning an outdoor event is to have a Plan B in place in case of inclement weather. A poor bride who married several years ago in the Louisiana Delta had the misfortune of having a mother who didn’t get that memo. She forged ahead with the tents, outdoor bars, borrowed Oriental rugs to cover the ground under the tents, and available parking was spread over acres of farmland. The storm of the century, unfortunately, struck in the middle of the church service. By the time guests arrived at parents-of-bride’s home for the reception — straggling in on foot because the golf carts were stuck in the mud — the carpets were soaked, the tents provided little to no shelter, and the bar was unreachable except possibly by boat. With the sodden guests coming in from the rain-soaked fields, she forged ahead as if nothing were wrong. Continuing her theme of total denial, the wedding write-up in the paper the next morning — which she obviously had previously authored — described a scene of pastoral beauty and tranquility, complete with descriptions of the lovely sunset over her home. Really? When I rode by the next morning (the curious always want to know the rest of the story), I caught her and the caterer red-handed scouring the fields for serving pieces, chairs and everything else that had blown away. Needless to say, it was a horrible experience for everyone. Always, always have a Plan B.
The Shrinking Tuxedo
This little tale is from my own nuptials, but I suspect it is not uncommon. (I think of my John every time I see Father of the Bride, with Steve Martin insisting that his old tux fits.) My darling husband was basically a full-grown man when we married. Being from a social family, he naturally owned his own party clothes and had for some time. When we determined that white dinner jackets would be lovely for a late afternoon wedding at the end of May, he insisted that he had a white dinner jacket and that this was covered. Not having been married to a man before, I accepted this statement. When I came down the aisle, he was standing at the altar, surrounded by men in handsome, perfectly fitting white dinner jackets. And there he stood, beaming, in a yellowed linen jacket that was obviously straining at the seams. And he was so cute that it didn’t really matter, but check out your outfit before it’s time to get dressed for the big event.
When Lisa Percy married in her hometown of Meridian, her sisters and mother were gathered at the reception venue the afternoon of the wedding to oversee the final details. They admired the gorgeous cake with “oohs and aahs” and took note of the pretty glass dessert plates, all lined with doilies.
The caterer’s assistant, a teeny-tiny little lady, happened to notice something disturbing about the table on which it was all perched it was going into a slow collapse. Suddenly, the tiny cateress appeared and somehow picked up and held the cake aloft the instant the table tumbled. While being utterly surprised that she rescued the cake, though all of the glass plates clattered and smashed to the floor, the day was saved. There would be no need to rush to the cake department at the Winn-Dixie. The moral of this story is to be sure to hire a cateress who could moonlight as a running back with the NFL. Or, perhaps just check the legs of your tables.
A wedding planner I spoke to recently told me about an incident involving the mother-of-the-bride and the girlfriend of the father-of-the-bride. Relations between the parties were not good. The wedding planner happened to see the girlfriend emerge from the limousine, and her eyes grew wide when she realized the girlfriend was wearing the identical dress as the mother-of-the-bride. The bold planner knew exactly what she must do. She marched up to the girlfriend and ordered her back into the limo that moment and sent her home to change clothes. And the girlfriend did just that. Thus, eyeball clawing was averted for the day. Moral of the story: Hire a pleasant drill sergeant for a wedding planner and pray the girlfriend is meek.
The Pompous Priest
Shortly after I became engaged, I went to the little Episcopal Church in my hometown and told the resident priest that I had a very close friend who was a priest in Sumner, Miss., and asked if it be alright if he performed the wedding. Unfortunately, the priest at that time was a dead ringer for the narcissistic friars that so often pop up in Jane Austen’s novels. He was very territorial about the whole thing and only grudgingly allowed my friend, Fr. Shannon Johnston, to assist. He was especially adamant that HE would perform the Eucharist at the rehearsal. After many similar encounters with him, it came time for the rehearsal Eucharist. Because he had not marked his readings or done any preparation, what was meant to be a small meaningful service among just the wedding party turned into a comical affair, complete with the awful spasmodic laughter which results when you try to suppress inappropriate mirth at funerals.
After dealing with this kind of thing throughout the process, I was not pleased, and I am sure I did not look pleased. As I was leaving to go to the rehearsal supper, he insisted that I accompany him to his office where he offered me his counseling services since I didn’t look “happy.” He insisted that I stay and urged me to unburden myself — I think he was genuinely excited at the prospect of the drama of a last minute cancellation of the wedding. Imagine his surprise when I finally said, “If you insist on knowing what is wrong with me, I will tell you, if only to get out of here. I don’t look happy because I AM REALLY, REALLY MAD AT YOU. The Eucharist, which YOU insisted on doing, was a joke.” And that ended that conversation. Moral of this story? Shannon Johnston is now the Bishop of Virginia, and I don’t know where that guy is. Be sure you’re on the same page as your officiant.
I could go on and on with tales of awkward toasts, inebriated groomsmen, neurotic brides and the like; but I’d like to end with the sweetest little wedding story I’ve ever heard. One of my friends had a young boy who, years ago, was the ring bearer at a wedding. Afterwards, they couldn’t find him for a couple of hours. When they finally located Tom, he was leaned against a tree by himself at the reception and he looked so sad and forlorn that they asked him what was wrong. He looked up at them, sighed and said “Mama, does this mean I’m married now?”
Aren’t children wonderful? Moral here? While it is proper only to say “Best Wishes” to brides; I think we should say “Congratulations,” especially to whoever in the future changes little Tom’s mind about marriage — you must be special!