I have married more than 150 times. What I mean is I have officiated as the minister at a whole lot of weddings, and usually managed to get so involved in each occasion that it feels like I am the …
I have married more than 150 times. What I mean is I have officiated as the minister at a whole lot of weddings, and usually managed to get so involved in each occasion that it feels like I am the one getting married, especially with the brides and grooms I have come to know over a number of years.
Still, I always look forward to marrying again, because most weddings are not only very special occasions, but also special comedies. Not that they are intended as such. But since weddings are high state occasions involving amateurs under pressure, several things never go quite right. Weddings seem to be magnets for mishap and for whatever craziness lurks in family closets.
Although I have experienced a number of mishaps worthy of telling, none of them compare to the story told by another minister. His is the quintessential wedding tale, and is one of disaster. Surprisingly, it has a happy ending, though you may be in doubt, as I was, as I heard the story unfold. He tells this story.
The central figure in this drama was the mother of the bride — not the bride or groom. Mother was mentally unhinged by the announcement of her daughter’s betrothal. I don’t mean she was unhappy, as is often the case. To the contrary, she was overcome with joy. And just about succeeded in overcoming everybody else with her joy before the dust settled.
During the lengthy process of planning this wedding, a wedding fit for a princess and as expensive as royalty might afford, the father began praying for an elopement. His prayers were not to be answered. The mother of the bride had seven months to work, and no detail was left to chance or human error. There were teas and showers and dinners, tuxedos to rent, bridesmaids’ dresses to be custom made, caterers to prepare a gourmet spread for the reception, enough flowers to open a perfumery, enough candles to light a small neighborhood and musicians to hire.
Finally the long-awaited day arrived. The candles were lit, the orchestra began to play, and the mother of the bride coasted down the aisle with the grandeur of an opera performer. Never did the mother of the bride take her seat with more satisfaction. She had done it. She glowed, beamed, smiled, and sighed. Her daughter was to have the wedding of the decade.
Finally, the wedding march thundered from the orchestra. Here comes the bride. The bride. She had been dressed for hours, if not days. No adrenaline was left in her body.
Left alone with her father in the reception hall of the church while the march of the maidens went on, she had walked along the tables laden with gourmet goodies and absentmindedly sampled first the little pink and yellow and green mints. Then she picked through the silver bowls of mixed nuts and ate the pecans. Followed by a cheeseball or two, some black olives, a handful of glazed almonds, a little sausage with a frilly toothpick stuck in it, a couple of shrimps blanketed in bacon, and a cracker piled with liver. To wash all of this down, a glass of pink champagne. Her father gave it to her. To calm her nerves.
What you noticed as the bride stood in the doorway was not her dress, but her face. White. For what was coming down the aisle was a living grenade with the pin pulled out. You guessed it. The bride threw up. Just as she walked by her mother. She threw up all over two bridesmaids, the groom, a ring-bearer, and the minister. What did they do? Well, they went back to real life.
Guests were invited to adjourn to the reception hall, through they did not eat or drink as much as they might have in different circumstances. The bride was consoled, cleaned up, fitted out with a bridesmaid’s dress and hugged and kissed a lot by the revived groom. She’ll always love him for that. When he said, “For better or worse,” he meant it.
Everyone reassembled, a single flute played, the words were spoken and the deed was done. Everybody cried, as people are supposed to do at weddings, most of all because the groom held the bride in his arms through the whole ceremony. And no groom ever kissed a bride more tenderly than he.
If one can hope for a wedding to be memorable, then theirs was a raging success. Nobody who was there will ever forget. Incidentally, I am told they did live happily ever after. In fact, on their 10th anniversary, the mother of the bride organized a party to commemorate the event. The video of the wedding had caught all of the action. It can even be played back in slow motion. The mother of the bride can now laugh at the event. She not only forgave her husband and everybody else for their part in the debacle, she forgave herself for being so uptight.
Mother’s example ended up being a great one. I wish we all had the same ability to go with the flow (as this mother literally did), especially when things go awry from what we had hoped or expected.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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