MY TURN: Ceremonies take on lasting flavor for newlyweds

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Over the past two years, I’ve attended a half-dozen weddings, some of them involving friends of my son, who at nearly 37 years of age is still enjoying the freedom of bachelorhood.

If and when he decides to get married, I have suggested he might consider the possibility of an elopement, pocketing the cash that his parents might have spent on the wedding and banking it instead for something of more lasting value than a photo album full of fleeting memories.

My late father, a newspaper columnist and PR consultant for more than five decades, looked upon large weddings with some disdain, expressing as much in one of his final columns:

“In my limited experience,” he wrote, “crowds don’t disperse as readily from over-blown weddings. They settle down for a big ‘sit in,’ in a glorious attempt to outlast the happy couple, and the poor father’s supply of liquid refreshments.

“The blissful young couple – who in most cases have yet to make an orthodontist payment, replace a leaky roof, or attend a PTA meeting – escape only after several hours of handshaking, tearful endearments from un-remembered aunts, a multitude of lame quips from their dearest friends, and after feeding each other sticky globs of tasteless cake.

“When you wander through the reception line (while the more seasoned guests are clustered around the punch bowl), you feel like a feathered nut, explaining to both bride and groom (in 3 seconds) who you are and what you are doing there.

“I’ve boiled it down to ‘I play golf with your dad, good luck, and we sent the silver bud vase.’”

His immortal words reminded me of a story I wrote early in my newspaper career about a happy couple whose wedding dreams turned nightmarish over the course of their nuptials.

The bride and groom reported that everything had gone smoothly during their months of planning for the big day.

“Things just kind of fell into place,” the bride told me. “It was working like a well-oiled clock.”

But just as a clock can break down for no apparent reason, so can the best-laid plans of brides and grooms. In this case, breakdown time came just two hours before “I do” time.

The first glitch came when the limo, hired to carry the bride and her attendants to the wedding venue, stalled at the bride’s door. A crisis was narrowly averted when the balky engine finally came alive and the bridal party took off.

Relief was short-lived, however. The limo’s air conditioner broke down, and the bride and attendants became painfully aware of the heat when their sweat started pouring out onto gown, hair-do, and make-up. They rolled down the windows for fresh air, and the blast wreaked havoc with their carefully arranged curls.

The bride, a former project manager for a utility company, wondered how this carefully coordinated project could have come so unglued.

Then, just as the bride was thinking that nothing else could go wrong, something did. The engine conked out on the exit ramp, not long before the wedding was scheduled to begin.

So, in that pre-cell phone era, the bride and her party did what anyone would do in the same predicament. They gathered up their trains and gowns in the left hands, and with their right thumbs started hitch hiking. The sight caused considerable confusion and consternation among double-taking drivers on the exit ramp.

Not surprisingly, they had the good fortune of finding rides to the wedding hall. Eventually, the bridal party showed up for the ceremony a bit windblown, but intact. 

The groom and his party pulled themselves together. The wedding took place an hour late. And according to the groom, it was “the most elegant, beautiful wedding ever.”

And that was the end of the story. The end until the wedding night, that is.

Mr. and Mrs. Newlyweds were supposed to be booked into the honeymoon suite of a swank hotel in a nearby city. The arrangements had all been carefully made. So it should come as no surprise that the reservation got scrambled. They didn’t get the suite they’d reserved, and what’s more, their wedding gifts wound up in still another room from the one they were assigned.

Then there was the honeymoon – in an idyllic spot, long popular as a vacation destination for newly-joined couples. While there enjoying the sights, the couple was involved in a costly fender-bender while driving their rental car.

But fear not, the couple could cope.

“I was a nervous wreck at the wedding,” said the bride, a few months removed from her big day. “But it’s funny now. Actually quite funny, when you think of it all. Something, someday to tell our grandchildren about.”

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