Saturday, October 18, 2008

It IS West By God Virginia, After All

Having had a week to recover, I just had to share my experience officiating a wedding last Saturday. The only person I'd met from this event prior to the date was the bride. She hired me on our first day in the new studio and was a very pleasant person with whom to deal. (man, proper grammar can be tortuous!) We met again a week before the service. She mentioned that she'd rather start about 15 minutes after the official start time, because she knew her guests, and there would be stragglers. Okay, said I.

On the day, all gussied up in an official but dressy-looking pantsuit, I arrive at the local hotel where the wedding is being held. Not one of our more up-market locations, I knew what to expect having done a wedding there before. I walk in, see a young man in fairly nice dress sitting near the ballroom, and ask him if he knows where the bride is. Sure, says he, and proceeds to take me to her.

To get to the room, you have to key in a code on the hall doorway. He keyed it over and over, and it didn't work. Finally one of the bridesmaids opens the door, telling him he transposed a number. He walks me to the bride's door, knocks, tells them the minister is here and walks away so as not to see the bride. I wait. And wait. Finally I knock again, explain that I am actually standing here, not just in the building, and would like a word with the bride. After ascertaining that I'm alone, they let me in.

I like to see the bride before the service for a couple reasons, especially when, as with this couple, there was no rehearsal. As an aside, unless your wedding is tiny and NO children under 12 are involved, have a rehearsal. Anyway, I like to let the bride see that I'm present and show an oasis of calm demeanor in the chaos that is typically surrounding her. I check for any last minute changes, remind her that no matter how people are pushing her, nothing starts without her, and re-establish how word will get to me that she is indeed ready to start. I get the license, which must be in my hands before the service can be done. All that done, I clear out of the way.

I headed to the ballroom to check out the arrangements in there. I walked in the door to be assailed by the strong smell of bacon, of all things. People are milling around in everything from formal wear to Nascar gear. The arch is nicely decorated, the cake is set up with a twirling cake topper, and the head table is pretty. Everyone else will be seated at tables to watch the service.

Looking around, I see one man the right age to be the groom that's in the right clothing. He's drinking a beer, from a can, in, heaven help us, a cooler-style cozy. It's very apparent that it's not his first. Not that he's incapacitated by any means (I wouldn't do a service if he were; it wouldn't be legally binding), but he's a bit lit. Clinging to his leg is the couple's small son, about age 2, the ringbearer. Said son is very fussy, although dad says he's had a long nap that day. I consolingly reply that it's a lot of strange goings-on for a little one, as I watch with a faintly horrified eye has Junior picks his nose and proceeds to have his own little feast for one. Dad scolds him, and tries to farm him out to a willing helper, but Junior is at that unlovely stage where kids discover the joy of screaming. We let him cling to Daddy.

Someone mentions how good the food smells. Yes, it's all being set up already, like a picnic brought inside. I make my bacon smell observation and am informed that that's because there's a roasted pig back there. I take their word for it. I also listen to remarks that the Mother of the Bride (MoB) is ticked off because the FoB (you work it out) has been drinking already. I get the sense that he shouldn't be drinking at all. But the groom says, "What's he supposed to do when everyone else is having beer?" I refrain from expressing my opinion. I'm feeling almost saintly in my restraint.

The saintliness continues through two more encounters. First, I'm told by the groom and some guests that there's another wedding going on in a different room...and the color scheme for everyone but the bride is camouflage. One guest says with an odd sense of pride, "I told everyone that they're the West Virginia wedding, and we're the Redneck wedding!" Oooookay. Then I'm flagged down by a faintly familiar looking woman. She reminds me that we've done photography for her family before...when we shot her daughter's FIRST wedding a couple of years ago. I wince a bit.

I busy myself filling out the license, and watch the flower girls racing around the room, almost toppling the arch. I help the 'videographers' set up camera angles. And as it gets to be time, one of the bridesmaids tells the groom and I to come out to the lobby, the bride is almost ready and we'll formally walk in. We get out there, and I send the bridesmaid in to ask if the bride is ready to start. She doesn't come back. As the groom wanders off, I send one of the older boys in the wedding party...he doesn't return. While I'm standing alone, I hear a loud noise outside the big entry windows. I turn my head, and am flabbergasted to see an ATV being driven past, beer cans and old boots tied on back. A man whom I assume to be the groom in full camo is driving, as the bride, all in a formal gown, clings to his back and grins like a loon. It's official. I've seen it all.

Finally the groom saunters back, and I send in the bride's dad, who backs out quickly, because she's about to walk out with her groom there! I put a halt to that, and get ready to walk in with the groom. The FoB, definitely a bit worse for that forbidden beer, makes to come with us. I remind him that his daughter might actually like his escort. As we go back in, I ask one of the women who've been arranging things to have everyone be seated, corral a groom who wants to socialize some more, and get things started. The mother of the groom is seated and loudly scolds her husband, the best man, for not having his collar buttoned and his tie at half mast. He answers equally loudly that he can't button it, and the groom backs him up. Then the bridesmaids come in an outside door...and the DJ has vanished. No music is playing, and these girls come down the aisle like they're getting ready to clear a ditch on all four hooves. I sigh, unnoticed.

The little ringbearer comes down, races to Daddy howling, and refuses to let go. I tell the groom to leave him, knowing it will be worse if we try to move him. Then the two flower girls, sisters and adorable. They have lovely silk fall leaves in their basket, and the younger, in front, is clueless. Everyone tries to coach her. Ringbearer sees the older girl dropping her leaves, thinks it's intriguing, and goes to help. Littlest girl drops one or two, and raises her hand to her hair in befuddlement, leaving one leaf as big as half her head stuck in her hair. I laugh, but so does everyone. As she looks around to figure out why we're all laughing, she sees Big Sis dropping leaves, and promptly starts to pick them back up and put them in her basket.

We finally get them down the aisle, and in comes the bride, looking lovely. Her Dad looks wasted. I start the service, and Junior begins wailing. I speak over him, pausing when his parents try to comfort him. This, folks, is the best argument for marriage before children. He continues to scream, and when one line in the service refers to future trials, I make an audible aside and say, "Or even present ones!" This has the effect of cracking everyone up, showing them I'm not upset, and calming the bride and groom. Someone sweeps the little guy away long enough for us to get through the ring portion, and he's back, holding on like a leech, as they share their first kiss as husband and wife. *shew*

I grab my stuff, give the bride her portion of the license and tell her I mail the court copy for her. I give her a hug, and she is profuse in her thanks, and then I dart out the side door to the parking lot. Thinking I've made my escape, I see one of the bridesmaids coming out the front, sobbing her heart out. She's in her late teens, and I'm at a loss as to what's wrong. Figuring that I'd better act my ministerial role, I ask if she needs some help. But the mother of the groom comes out and goes to her, and I'm off the hook. I duck into my car and bolt.

A few days later, I got an email from the bride. I quote (sic):

"I just wanted to thank you for performing our ceremony. We enjoyed everything. And despite the chaos surrounding the beginning, we still thought it went well. Thank you for waiting and being so patient while we straitened everything out. We had a wonderful day. We resolved a payment issue with our dj after a conversation about the ceremony music that didn't get played. He also didn't play anything for the bouquet and garter toss or the cake cutting. It was still nice. Oh, and our cake table caught on fire! But believe it or not, we took everything with a laugh and had such a good time. Thanks again for everything."

That was, if you'll pardon the pun, the icing on the cake.

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