Last week, my husband, Bill, and I went out to dinner, and were seated at a table overlooking a terrace where a wedding was in progress. We looked out the window, looked at each other, and burst out laughing, remembering our own wedding. Our wedding wasn't a romantic fantasy -- it was more like something out of a Marx Brothers movie.
It started with trying to figure out how to get married. I didn't belong to any church at the time, and Bill belonged to a congregation that offered no wedding ceremony. We considered taking a short cruise and having the captain marry us, but we were both afraid we'd get seasick. We finally decided on the time-honored method of going down to City Hall. When we told my mother what we had in mind, she announced that doing it that way would "kill your father."
Eager to preserve my father's life, we agreed to get married in the house. That still left the problem of finding someone to perform the ceremony. I finally remembered that a minister had taken part in my high school graduation. I called the school, got the name of the church, and called to make an appointment to see him. He wasn't available, but he had an assistant who could do the job. The assistant was a Presbyterian temporarily assigned to the Episcopal Church -- something I'm still trying to figure out.
That was the start of the mixture of religions. I wasn't any religion. Bill and his brother (the best man) were Christian Scientists. My maid of honor was Catholic, as was my mother. My father was a crusading agnostic. Bill's sister and brother-in-law were Methodists. My sister was in her Zen Buddhist period. And the minister seemed to be two religions.
The big day finally arrived. You know how the bride's father always takes her aside before the ceremony to ask if she's sure she knows what she's doing? Not my father. He took Bill aside and asked him if he knew what he was doing. (He probably didn't, but said he did.)
We had reworked the ceremony slightly; I had refused to promise to obey (I knew I wouldn't), but for some reason we left in the part about "Who gives this woman in marriage."
I had told Bill that my father, being a lawyer, would never settle for two words (I do), but Bill pooh-poohed the idea. "It's a wedding," he said. When we got to that part of the ceremony, my father rose and said, "As her father, and on behalf of her mother and myself, I do."
I caught Bill's eye, he caught mine, and the two of us burst out laughing. The ceremony stopped for five minutes while we recovered. Apart from the fact that I couldn't get the ring on Bill's finger, the rest of the ceremony went smoothly, and then it was time for the reception. We had a wedding cake. And after some kind of sandwiches or something, Bill and I went to cut the cake. We had a lovely silver knife, and we both held it and touched the cake. Nothing happened. We pressed harder. Nothing. Still harder. Still nothing. Finally Bill said, "Step aside," and he took the knife and wielded it as if it were a machete. He didn't cut the cake, he shattered it. I don't know when the bakery made that cake, but it wasn't during the year we got married. The blasted thing was like concrete. If anyone had slept with a piece under her pillow that night, she would have awakened with a dented head. Again, we were in hysterics.
The only thing left was to fill out the paperwork that made the whole thing legal. But the minister had never performed a wedding before, and didn't know how to do it. Fortunately, my maid of honor came from a huge Italian family and had been a bridesmaid more times than she could count. She filled it out and told the minister where to sign. I've always had the weird feeling that Madeline really married us. It was months before the marriage certificate arrived and my poor mother was convinced we were living in sin, which also struck us as wildly funny.
But in retrospect, that kind of wedding may have been the most appropriate for us, because one way or another, we've laughed our way through the last thirty-eight years.