There is an old adage, “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray.” I didn’t believe the old adage applied to me until the summer my son got married.
The wedding had been planned for months; every conceivable detail with the greatest economy in mind. There wasn’t a great deal of money to spend on the event. The bridesmaid dresses were to be a traditional oriental design, sewn by a friend. The girls would carry fans with artificial flowers and streaming white ribbons, lovingly handmade by the groom’s sister. The flowers would be simple pots of brilliant yellow chrysanthemums from the local grocery store placed by the side of tall candlesticks already on the church altar.
The groom’s best friend from the Bay Area agreed to be Best Man and the groom’s attendant’s had simple dark suits. Why waste money renting tuxedos? The church organist would play, and the bride’s little cousins became the flower girl and ring bearer. Friends with camera would take pictures to be developed at the local drug store. We were simple folks and our son’s wedding would be simple and beautiful. And did I mention, cheap?
Following the ceremony, we arranged for an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant for the hundred guests who had RSVP’ed.
We tried to honor all the bride’s requested Oriental traditions. Before the wedding ceremony, we must take a loaf of bread in a basket to the bride’s house and there would be an honorary exchange of tea and bread as a symbol of a ‘bride price.’ I should have asked a LOT more questions about tradition.
We allowed about an hour and a half before the ceremony for the traditional tea and bread ceremony. I planned to return to the house to pick up the chrysanthemums so I could place the flowers on the altar before the guests arrived. Thinking back, I realize I was cutting the timing pretty close even if everything had gone as I expected.
Unknown to me, the bride’s auntie had invited about 50 guests to her home, now waiting patiently for the groom’s family to appear. They were seated at tables in the garage, loaded down with a multiple course meal. What was she thinking?
Perspiration stuck to my forehead in the hot garage. Time crept closer to 2:00 PM when the ceremony was scheduled. Course after course of shrimp dipped in walnut sauce and Peking duck wings was served. I couldn’t get my mind off the $500. meal waiting to be consumed in less than two hours at the restaurant.
When we finally got away from the banquet, we still had to go home for the flowers. (Did I mention that it was close to 100 degrees in the shade?) We made excellent time across town, grabbed the flowers and streaked back to the church. It was already 30 minutes past the announced time of the wedding and guests were seated in the church waiting for the bride and groom. The organist had been diligently playing for 30 minutes as the guests stared wide-eyed around the empty church. Imagine what they must have been thinking when not one of the bride or groom’s family were in sight?
“Are you sure it was today? Check the invitation.”
“Of course I’m sure. See, right here on this homemade mimeographed invitation! July 29, 2:00 P.M. That’s today, right?”
Whereupon, the frazzled mother of the groom comes racing down the aisle to the tune of Handle’s Messiah, in a long yellow dress clinging to her sweat covered torso, dragging two pots of yellow chrysanthemums.
The Best Man had not shown up at all and wasn’t answering his phone. One of my son’s friends, coincidentally wearing a dark suit, was yanked from the audience, and was pressed into service as the Best Man.
The bride arrived and the wedding began. The bride was beautiful, the bridesmaids are exquisite in their fuchsia dresses with white pants and sweet little flowered fans. The flower girl is precious and ring bearer regally carried the satin pillow. Even the yellow chrysanthemums lifted their bright yellow faces toward the warm glow of candles in the candlesticks. A friend wandered around the church taking pictures. The bride moved closer to the candlestick and the audience gasped as her veil comes dangerously close to the flame. I grasped my husband’s hand.
At the last moment, before the veil touched the flame, the newly conscripted Best Man pushed the veil safely away from danger. I breathed a sigh of relief. All will be well, after all. Whereupon, one of the bridesmaids fell to the floor in a dead faint. This was indeed the last straw. I burst into tears.
It happens. You see it all the time on Funniest Home Videos, you just don’t think it will ever happen in your own family. But there she is on the floor, being assisted to her feet by a guy in the first row. Within a couple of minutes she was back on the firing line. The priest hasn’t missed a beat. He’s seen it all before, probably hundreds of times.
The bride and groom kiss and start down the aisle. We’ve done it. They’re married. There is a hubbub at the back door.
“What now?” I asked my husband. He shook his head. This has all moved far beyond his control and we have entered the Twilight Zone.
Outside the auditorium, a crowd clustered on the church steps. The church, in their infinite wisdom, had scheduled another wedding on the heels of our ceremony and because we were late to start, the next wedding party is having a fit on the steps. The bride wept in a limousine at the curb. Our delay has created a delay in their carefully planned event and we know all to well the consequences of getting behind schedule. (Could another bride be waiting around the corner?)
I apologized and with red faces we scurried away from the church headed for, god forbid, the $500 meal that we are now suppose to eat, for which we are also one-half hour late. About half way across town, I realized we had not taken any formal wedding pictures in the church. We had not even thought to take the group out by the side of the church for pictures. Oh Lord, what more can go wrong?
As we drove frantically across town toward the restaurant, I imagined the staff wringing their hands in despair wondering, where was their wedding party? Imagine their concern, when not one of the bride or groom’s family had arrived.
“Are you sure it was today?”
“Of course I’m sure. See right here on this homemade mimeographed reservation! July 29, at 3:30 PM. That’s today, right?”
Inside the restaurant one hundred and fifty guests arrived. Half of them didn’t bother with the RSVP! There were people that came to eat that hadn’t even attended the wedding. Some of them had fed sumptuously at the bride’s house, an hour ago and were ready to eat again. So now we had more people than chairs, though I would gladly have given up my chair, still feeling bloated with shrimp dipped in walnut sauce and Peking duck wings. A car load of my son’s friends who had driven for two hours to attend the wedding, left without dinner because there was no where to sit.
Somehow, everyone got fed and eventually went away. The newlyweds came by the house that evening to open wedding presents. When all the toasters and towels were packed back in their car, they headed back to their honeymoon hotel. They had reserved a room overlooking the pool in a cheap, but clean motel across town. They would leave the next day for a short honeymoon.
I was so sure I had everything under control but somehow the day completely got away from me. I had done my best. At least it was over and the kids were married, on their honeymoon with their car full of wedding presents. Nothing else could go wrong.
Oh yeah, my son called the next day. They were having fun. They had breakfasted by the pool. Married life was great, but during the night, someone broke into their car and stole all their wedding presents.