Me? I headed to my favorite thrift shop where I had my pick of a half dozen tuxedos.
My kid brother had just gotten out of the Marine Corps, met a girl, and after a three month, whirlwind courtship, decided to get married. Since neither family had much in the way of money, everyone realized the wedding would have to be modest, yet festive. It was agreed that it would be a church wedding, the reception to follow at the local American Legion hall.
With a date set for October, my brother went out to a nearby farm and bought a carload of pumpkins which he used to create centerpieces, placing one on each table, and adding an arrangement of dried flowers around them. The night before the big day, the wedding party happily strung white crepe paper from every beam and cornice, transforming the drab rented hall into a fall fairyland.
Following the ceremony at the church, nearly a hundred guests arrived at the hall while a local band’s tunes welcomed them inside. There was a bottle of rye and a bottle of scotch on every table, kegs of beer were tapped, and a hearty buffet was laid out on a long table supplied by a neighborhood caterer. All the usual traditions were followed. After the couple danced their first dance together, the bride danced with her father to the tune of “Daddy’s Little Girl,” then my brother joined in and danced with my mom. The best man toasted the couple, there were choruses of “The Bride Cuts the Cake,” and then the newlyweds playfully shoved smears of frosting into each other’s mouths. Folks ate and drank. They laughed and danced until the wee hours of the morning when the bride finally tossed her bouquet, the groom threw the garter, and the happy couple spirited off, leaving an exhausted crowd wildly applauding behind.
That night, back at home, as we were getting undressed, I said to my wife, “Good time, huh?”
My wife collapsed on the bed, a grin on her face. “Now that was a wedding!”
The following year, I received an invitation to a cousin’s wedding. The family of his bride-to-be owned a nationwide chain of restaurants and was quite wealthy. It was announced that the wedding would be held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, black tie required. Confused, I wondered why they were asking people to wear black ties. It wasn’t a funeral. That’s when my father informed me that black tie meant a tuxedo. Everyone in the family agreed. This would be the wedding not to be missed.
Operating on a limited budget, my wife spent weeks searching every dress shop in the state until she found a beautifully exotic purple gown buried in the back of a rack of sale goods in one store. Me? I headed to my favorite thrift shop where I had my pick of a half dozen tuxedos. In the sleeve of the one I liked best I found a price tag for five dollars which made me like it even more. So, I was all set, except for a bow tie to go with the monkey suit. As it turned out, I wound up spending more money on a bow tie than I did for the tuxedo!
The evening of the wedding felt like opening night at the Academy Awards. One after the other, we watched limousines pull up to the entrance of the Plaza. Nattily dressed men accompanied bejeweled women in shimmering gowns. A string quartet played softly in the background as we followed red-carpeted stairs into a gold-gilded lobby. Huge crystal chandeliers sparkled above us, ornate chairs lined the walls between bunches of potted palms. We followed the crowd into a chapel-like room where the wedding vows would be exchanged. A garden of pastel-tinted flowers of every variety filled the place as we took our seats. Violinists played as the couple made their entrance. The bride was elegant, the groom handsome, the ceremony simple, and then it was on to the reception.
We were led into a huge room that housed a table that Louis XIV could have presided over. An array of seafood was displayed – amber-colored, whole smoked white fish, piles of pink salmon, herrings in cream and wine sauces, mountains of shrimp cascading over silver platters. As guests shuffled food onto delicate china, bubbling champagne in crystal glasses was passed around. With plates piled high, we found our table. We ate, we ate…and then we ate some more. I took a deep breath, smiled at my wife and said, “That was the best meal I’ve ever had. I couldn’t eat another bite.” That’s when we heard the announcement.
“Please find your way to your table. Dinner is about to be served.”
I turned to my wife, puzzled. “I thought this WAS dinner!” As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A multi-course meal was served over many hours, accompanied by more silverware than I knew what to do with.
When sorbet was brought between one of the courses to cleanse our palettes, my wife jokingly whispered, “I hope this is dessert. I don’t think I can eat much more.”
A couple or two attempted to squeeze in a dance around the serving of food and the non-stop entertainment. Somewhere between the veal chops and the Angus tenderloin, a singer crooned. In between the serving of the Cornish hen and the lamb loins, a comedian who had made appearances on late night shows like Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, did his act.
In between performances, a vocalist came to each table offering to fill a personal request. “Can I favor you with a song?” He smiled.
One of my smart-alecky cousins sitting next to me said, “Do you know Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hundred and Fifteenth Dream?’”
“Ahhh…I’m not sure I know that one. How about ‘Moon River?’ ‘That’s Amoré?’ ‘The Shadow of Your Smile?’”
My cousin smiled slyly. “How about ‘In-A-Gadda-Davida,’ by Iron Butterfly?”
“I’ll have to think about that one and I’ll get back to you.” The singer bowed and happily drifted off to the next table.
The food, the champagne, the entertainment, went on and on. To be honest, as chic and as grand as the night was, after a while it all began to be a blur. The evening felt like it might never end. By the time they got around to serving the crème brulee and the passion fruit and mascarpone, we were exhausted.
That night, back at home, as I climbed out of my tux, my wife slipping off her gown, I said, “Good time, huh?”
“Yeah, it was,” she sighed. “But…”
“Not as good as my brother’s?” I added.
She grinned, thinking back. “Now, that was a wedding!”