OUR WEDDING AND OTHER MIRACLES
The matron-of-honour was keening rapturous wails while clutching my shoulder for balance. The Groom was quivering gently beside me that fine snowy day in mid-April. The Minister stood bedecked in his finery intoning those last fatal words:
Those Whom God Hath
Let No Man
Wisely I heeded sundry prophets of doom and married a little later than average. That I am now married at all is still a bit of a surprise to me; however, I did live to call myself a Missus. So, at the expense of persuading a few singles to forgo their own nuptials, I tell you my tale.
It started so innocently with my boyfriend of five years pronouncing that he was being transferred to Mississauga in a little under six weeks. During a fit of nostalgia at our favourite tavern, perhaps egged on by the mention that my mother had several prospective husbands lined up, with a delicately trembling hand, he took mine in his and gasped, "Wanna get married?"
With tomblike gravity, my response was a quick and decisive utter silence. "Take your time." he told me, so I did.
After half an hour of maniacal giggling and catatonic wall-staring, my dearly beloved announced, "I have to go to the can."
Five minutes later, I brushed off the cobwebs, sipped some tepid wine and followed him to the bowels of the restaurant. As I descended, there in the shadows at the foot of the stairs emerged my intended.
In a wave of impetuous affirmation, I fell into his arms and whispered a firm, "Uh huhn."
I'd like to say that at this treasured moment a choir of angels sang and flowers rained down from above. But the angels were singing for some other lovers and all that rained down on our blissful kissing was projectile vomit that flew past our heads from a woman who lurched down the stairs.
Now lesser souls might have taken that as an omen of what was to come, but not us. Instead we began our plan of attack.
First there was the sticky problem of telling everyone that no, we are not crazy, and yes, we really intend to do this. My father was of some concern to me since he held the firm belief that if I really wanted to I should have children but, "for God's sake don't get married!" As for the others there was the inevitable "you pregnant?" which we expected after the length of time we adamantly refused to get married or even live together.
There was also two apartments, two cats, a piano I'd had mouldering in storage for four years and of course, the delightful chore of telling my wholly disliked employers that they could stick it. Also there was the matter of finding an apartment in an area where only dead relatives and lottery winnings will ensure you a place to live. And last but not least was the question of where and by whom we'd get married.
Telling people was the easiest part. Everybody loves to see others get themselves into the same mess they've been in and so they were delighted. Friends and relatives from near and far were happy to come to the wedding to see this for themselves. A Minister was found in the form of my brother-in-law's brother and the church where I had once sung in the choir provided the place.
Now came the dirty work. While my fiance was apartment-hunting I had one week to pack up five year's accumulated detritus from my apartment. We decided that it would be better for me to move to his place before the wedding which left me cheerfully attending to a myriad of details, lunches and meetings at work, things to buy and movers to coordinate.
Our local charity organization would pick up the furniture, and yes, it was all in good condition, sort of. They came the day before the movers and after an opera of expletives about the front stairway, they decided there was no room for the couch. Instead, one particularly avaricious helper was entranced by a waterbed I was planning to throw out. Sure he could take it; of course it was in mint condition. Except for the two supports I forgot to tell him didn't exist any more. Just slipped my *%&! mind. Honest.
The boxes came forty-eight hours before the move, and at midnight the day after, I ran out. In desperation I crammed all my left-overs into garbage bags; with a livingroom that resembled your basic town dump, I finished my packing at dawn.
My movers were friendly, efficient and late; they worked wonders but not miracles. They didn't have room for the couch. Mario, if you read this, sorry about the poor lonely behemoth I left in your livingroom...
Suffice to say that the apartment-hunting trip is a story in
itself, best left for my husband to tell. After one false start and two and a half month's rent deposit, we weren't going to have to live in the parking lot of Pearson International after all. Mildly exasperated, he returned home triumphant only to find that the woman he left just barely resembled the simpering wraith that awaited him. You see there was a wee problem with the church...
I will confess here and now that neither my intended nor I were avid church-goers in the past; in fact, I never quite got around to getting confirmed. My taller half had never been baptised and was raised in a different church. No matter, we were both Christians. We just didn't have thirty days to post the banns. Barring a marriage in the middle of Bank Street by a justice of the peace, we decided to go for a dispensation from the Bishop.
As Norman Mailer could tell you, waiting for a dispensation from the Bishop is much akin to waiting for the Governor's word on the eve of the dawn of your execution. With promises of hurried marriage preparation meetings, post-marriage courses and assurances
there was absolutely no way we would get married two weeks after we moved (what? you want us to live in sin for a month? Shame on you!) we were finally, two weeks before D-Day, given dispensation.
Our meetings with the Minister were delightful except that I would burst into laughter every time the word troth was uttered. You see, my first reaction to hearing "I give you my troth" was where can I get one? With visions of little hairy fang toothed troths dancing in my head, any mention of a troth was enough to get the giggles started.
Complimentary banns were read the Sunday before the wedding at the request of my mother. Naturally we attended one of these services.
After vowing - and yes, believing - that any offspring to this union should partake in religious training, this was a good refresher course in church activities for both of us, and a source of considerable admiration by all. And the bets were heating up nicely on whether I'd break out laughing at "I give you my troth" during the service.
The week before was a joy of coordination. The Matron-of-Honour, living in Philadelphia, came to Ottawa the day after being a Matron-of-Honour at another wedding. Now this was also the city where she had lived with her late husband shortly before he died;
she hadn't been back since, but for the delight of seeing us married (and as for the wager on that, Russell, wherever you are, you won) twenty-two teams of wild horses would not have stopped her coming. Those same horses would not have stopped my fiance's mother and grandmother either; they had long since given up on his ever getting married. But I digress.
The cats were getting along fine, all and sundry were in various stages of ecstasy, the gynaecologist had his grope and our Matron-of-Honour was stepping off the plane. The wedding rings were bought, thankfully, by a generous donation from my aunt.
Four days before the wedding, my dress (yes, the real thing) was bought on sale in one hour. The next day was shopping with my Matron for everything else and getting into arguments with salesclerks and waiters. My intended meanwhile was arranging for a loan with the bank to help pay for the move. Despondent, he returned with the verdict that without collateral no one can get a loan and without a loan no one can get collateral. The employee counsellor at his work put it most wisely; moving and changing jobs is right up there with getting married in terms of stress. His face said it all when my working half told him he was also getting married. He knew whereof he spoke. Wait, it gets better.
In our last week of frantic activity, grandmother, mother, aunts, uncles, sister and brother-in-law complete with nephews began arriving. Ma Bell is still enjoying this and I'm sure Blue Line Taxi is still thanking its blessings. You see, our not having a car meant that it was also necessary to arrange our transportation to and from the church, something that occurred to us the day before the wedding.
The last two days were the greeting of relations, the packing of bags, the long nights of heartfelt discussion with anyone but my almost-husband. I had not gotten to the stage where I was wondering "who is this person?", but getting awfully close to "what the hell am I doing?" Everyone involved naturally had their own ideas of what should be done and everyone contradicted the other. Small things like what brand of champagne to buy suddenly became issues of monumental proportions; for example the realization that one magnum of champagne couldn't possibly serve 32 people for a toast, which occurred to us the night before. This critical situation was nicely solved by the intervention of our "missing link."
The whole procedure being such a hurried affair, it came right down to the wire when we realized we still had NO BEST MAN. Attempts had been made, sure, but travelling persons and unanswered phone messages do not a best man create. Finally, two days before Ground Zero he was found in the personage of a long time good friend. In the amount of time given, we can only say that he did his job admirably. This man deserves an award.
Day One was a delight and everyone was up for it. The phone was surgically removed from my ear in time for the rehearsal and all parties concerned were at the church before it was unlocked. The torrential downpour was really refreshing.
Once inside the church, all of us giddy from too little time and not enough sleep, the jokes came fast and furious. The Minister, meanwhile, tried desperately to keep things in some semblance of propriety. The Matron-of-Honour remarked that the Mets were playing the next day, so we concurred that the wedding should be postponed on account of the Mets. By this time our Minister could only shake his head and regard us with baleful eyes. At the trading of the troths the proceedings ground to a halt with everyone, including our poor beleaguered pastor, laughing so hard we were crying.
Wine on top of the lack of sleep and high emotions made for a very interesting post-rehearsal dinner-and-meeting-of-the-grandmother. We tried, really tried, to behave ourselves but things did get a little out of hand. One such moment begs to be repeated: the tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding flew out the window with our sanity. When grandmother remarked that we shouldn't see each other, our Matron quipped, "Why not? They've been sleeping together for the last two weeks." Needless to say, Grandma nearly fell off her chair with that one. Our idiocy was reaching gargantuan proportions.
Dinner over, the rehearsal group retired to our apartment for toasts to tomorrow. Of course it was tomorrow by the time the toasts were finished. Living on adrenaline and hysteria we went to bed just in time to get up.
The alarm clock rang with the subtlety of an air raid siren. Time for Armageddon. After five cups of coffee and countless cigarettes, I went to get my hair done. Apres french braids, the flowers arrived and then came the dressing. Our Matron was quietly lurking around taking X-rated pictures to kill time. We weren't nervous at all, just shell-shocked.
At last the cars arrived and amid a slight blizzard we were off to the church. The groom was ushered there by a psychiatrist; meanwhile Matron and father were plotting possible escape routes and getting pretty emotional, complete with lectures on sex from the bride.
At the church our psychiatrist (every wedding should have one - I highly recommend it) quietly passed around prescriptions of Doctor's Own - little sample bottles of Cutty Sark. Pockets bulging, we retreated to the church library to await the arrival of the groom to the altar.
One o'clock came. No sign of the groom at the altar. One ten arrived. Groom, but no bride. One fifteen: bride, father and Matron-of-Honour are running down the aisle with the song "Can you hear that funky dixie land? Pretty Mamma's gonna take you by the hand. By the hand! Hand! Take you by the hand!" playing in our heads.
The service began beautifully and everything was going as planned. Soon I could hear heaving sobs to the left of me. A hand began massaging my left shoulder. Looking over, my Matron was standing in a torrent of tears. The groom glanced over, smiled, and we waited for the troths. No laughter here. Fine.
The licences were signed, the end was nigh. A sombre Minister intoned, "Those whom God hath put asunder, let no man join together." This is a moment of comic relief truly meant to be savoured.
The service over, we forgot to kiss, raced down the aisle, down the stairs that eventually led up to the church annex where the reception was being held. From the depths of the church came a thundering "YEE HAH!!!" compliments of our Matron-of-Honour. The celebrations began.
Our reception was short and sweet, much enjoyed by all. We hitched a ride to the train station in a taxi and soon were off to four days of feverent honeymooning.
Now most people would think that our honeymoon went well, replete with joy every living moment. Well, it certainly was memorable. Stay tuned for the sequel, "Robert Bourassa, the night the lights went out in Montreal and the Honeymooner's Guide to Pharmacopoeia in Quebec."
Names of the living have been omitted to protect the guilty. Any resemblance to actual events is purely intentional...