Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Younger Daughter's big day -- even if she didn't have a license

You'll have to have been following along to catch the reference in today's title. Scroll down to this post and work backwards if you need to keep up.

Long Suffering Spouse was enthusiastic, even triumphant. "The dress works!" she said repeatedly.

Younger Daughter's wedding dress had a high waist (fashionistas will cringe as I struggle through this description) -- an empire waist, I've heard it called, and it was pleated so that, as it draped, it looked like it was but was not in fact clingy. If I was selecting costumes for a sword and sandals epic, this dress could have been the costume for a temple priestess. Does that suggest a picture? There was no train. But with the veil it was unquestionably a bridal gown.

The most important feature of all this from Long Suffering Spouse's perspective -- the thing that made it 'work' -- was that the dress did not emphasize the fact that Younger Daughter was about 5½ months pregnant. Oh, you could see the bump, if you knew to look for it. But if you didn't know, you might not figure it out. Not for awhile. We had to coach Younger Daughter to keep her hands holding the bouquet above said bump -- which rendered the bump nearly invisible, especially looking straight on. When she'd slip, letting her hands drop below the bump, you couldn't help but notice.

The most important feature of the dress -- what made it 'work' -- from my selfish perspective was that this dress cost nearly $2,000 less than Older Daughter's. But Long Suffering Spouse was right, as always. Younger Daughter looked beautiful in the dress.

I've already mentioned that Long Suffering Spouse claims to have dressed in approximately five minutes. I admit: I took longer. It took me five minutes just to press the studs through the tuxedo shirt. And I had trouble adjusting the bow tie.

And it took all day to get the bridesmaids ready. Most of them had gone off with Younger Daughter to a hair appointment first thing in the morning (courtesy of Oldest Son's wife, Abby) and most of them showed up at our house after (Abby came later) to put on their faces. But maybe putting on the dresses really did take five minutes, even for them. I know that, at one point, the bridesmaids were in shorts and t-shirts, sprawled all over the living room, working their lotions and potions and brushes and whatever else you call the many make-up tools and then it seemed that -- in an eyeblink -- they were all in their dresses.

We weren't even that late getting over to the church; in fact, according to Catholic wedding time, we were even arguably early.

The wedding was supposed to go off at 3:00; I dropped the bride off by a quarter to.

I contrast this with my experience with Older Daughter. She got married at Hank's church in Indianapolis -- an Episcopal church. Everyone -- even the guests -- were expected to arrive hours before the ceremony was supposed to start. Their invitation even specified that the music program would begin an hour and a half before kickoff, or something like that.

This was crazy stuff as far as I was concerned. But I've been around enough to know that not everyone does things the same way.

I remember once, many years ago, taking my wife to the wedding of one of my high school friends. It was (if I recall) at a Methodist church. The exact time doesn't matter, but if the wedding had been set for 3:00, we were arriving no later than 3:10. My good wife, raised Catholic as I was, could see the bride in the vestibule as we pulled up and was relieved. "Oh, good," she said, "she hasn't gone down the aisle yet."

Actually, we were seeing the receiving line.

Protestants are punctual people, apparently.

Another thing I remember -- now -- about Older Daughter's wedding was that the ushers were actually expected to seat people.

Now, yes, I understand that this is the function of an usher -- but, in my experience, at Catholic weddings, no one stands around waiting to be guided to a seat. The bride's guests sit on the Mary side of the church, the groom's guests go on the Joseph side. (Modern churches, with just a single 'Holy Family' side altar didn't really pose a problem -- it's still bride's guests on the left, groom's on the right, right?)

Naming someone an usher was just something that one did to keep peace in the families. Everybody's brother or favorite cousin then had something to do -- and the best part was that most of them didn't have to do anything.

But Younger Daughter was angry before she got out of the car because the vestibule was packed with Olaf's family and friends, Protestants all.

"They're just here to gawk at me," she said angrily, "they want to see how big I look." Long Suffering Spouse tells me that Younger Daughter expanded liberally on that theme in the privacy of the bride's room at the back of the church. In fact, my wife had to remind her (a) to stop shouting lest she be overheard and (b) it's probably not a good idea to drop f-bombs in church.

But it may not have been quite that sinister. I think they were actually waiting in the back to be ushered in. When we sent Middle and Youngest Sons out to handle this duty, the crowd quickly dispersed.

Someone will have to tell me if I'm guessing correctly.

Olaf was stuck up at the front of the church, in a storage closet across the altar from the Sacristy. I went up front to bid him good day. Here was another contrast with Older Daughter's wedding: Hank had been ensconced in a rather ornate conference room. Olaf's experience was closer to my own. The soloist walked in and we introduced ourselves to each other.

Having satisfied myself that Olaf was in place and accounted for I found Fr. Ed and pulled out the readings that I'd typed up and got them positioned on the lectern. After the license fiasco, Fr. Ed wasn't counting on me: He had readings and some generic Prayers of the Faithful lined up just in case.

If anyone had rolled past our church at 3:10 on the day of Younger Daughter's wedding, they'd have seen her and me waiting our turn in the vestibule. We didn't start more than a few minutes after 3:00 -- and we had to get the bridal party down the aisle first, you know. (But -- seriously -- this was pretty darn punctual for a Catholic service. Honest.)

I'd already been down the aisle once, to guide Long Suffering Spouse to our pew. Olaf's parents followed. Then I was to double back and do my fatherly duty.

Older Daughter (functioning at this event as Matron of Honor) had been careful to remind me to remove her sister's blusher before turning Younger Daughter over to Olaf. "Otherwise it's supposed to be in your face the whole ceremony and it itches. You almost forgot to do that with me, remember?"

Actually, yes, I'm sure I did forget. I'd forgotten the incident too.

It's hard enough to get down the aisle with one's daughter without crumbling. Older Daughter had been cracking wise at the back of the church at her wedding -- but fell silent as we marched in. Seeing all those faces, turned to look at us -- well, it's a little overwhelming. I know I'd gotten misty eyed back then.

At her wedding, Younger Daughter started bawling. This wasn't sniffle, snorfle, snuffle stuff either; this was full-blown Niagara Falls. ("Thank goodness I had waterproof makeup," she said later.)

This was unexpected. She wasn't unhappy, you understand; it was just all the emotion burbling to the surface at once. And, in that situation, crying, like yawning in most other settings, is contagious. You can imagine what that would have done to my Curmudgeonly-credibility if I'd started bawling too. I told her to knock it off.

Surprisingly, she did.

When we got to the front, I tried to remember what Fr. Ed had said about gripping which elbow with which hand and passing Younger Daughter over to Olaf. As I struggled to recall, the pssssting started from the front pew and the altar both.

"The blusher!" hissed Older Daughter.

"The blusher!" hissed Long Suffering Spouse.

Was it left hand on right elbow? I was still puzzling on this and not listening.

Long Suffering Spouse jumped out of the pew. "The blusher!!" she hissed again.

I gave up on the elbows and pulled up the blusher.

Crisis averted.

But this may have been the chattiest Mass I've ever attended. The stage whispering about the blusher was just the beginning.

It turns out to be difficult to kneel for an hour while 5½ months pregnant. Younger Daughter started to sway. We started buzzing back and forth, worried that she was going to topple. Older Daughter was halfway out of her chair on the altar ready to do her nurse thing on her sister. Fr. Ed eventually caught on and chairs were procured.

The two of them were very cute up there. The priest told them to join hands. Younger Daughter grabbed Olaf's mitt like she was shaking hands.

But for all the informality -- and the near-fainting spell -- and all the table talk -- I thought the Mass had gone quite well.

We were supposed to stay in our seats when Mass ended. The bridal party was to walk to the back of the church and keep walking right back down front to get the pictures over with. Fr. Ed was concerned about timing because our parish has an anticipatory mass at 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays -- and we needed to be out before that crowd came in.

But not everyone at the church was coming to the reception. I made an executive decision.

I followed the bridal party out and tried to line them up in some semblance of a receiving line. It was like herding cats, of course, and I encountered some resistance along the lines of "Fr. Ed said...."

The receiving line formed slowly -- but moved slower.

At Catholic weddings, most receiving lines I've seen have moved right along. You shake hands with each person and, literally, hand them into the outstretched paw of the next person in line. Conversation is minimal. The bride gets kissed and hugged, of course, but no guest can get a drink in the receiving line. So guests move quickly.

But I hadn't counted on the teetotaling tendencies of Olaf's family. Some of them abstain entirely; others frown on anyone who doesn't. So these sober-sided people felt no urgency in the receiving line. They wanted to share their life stories with Younger Daughter. Neighbors of Olaf's parents wanted to make sure that Younger Daughter knew just which house they lived in. "No, not the red brick house with the white siding; we're just south of them."

Some of the early crowd was starting to come in for 5:00. (Granted, it was only 4:25 or so by this point -- but these are the holy rollers who wanted extra time to pray. We'd be getting the stinkeye from them certain sure if we didn't quickly vacate the premises.) I made another executive decision and started moving the receiving line back toward the altar.

Fr. Ed was obviously not pleased.

"We have 10 minutes, people," I announced. "Let's get to it. Mr. Photographer, it's your show. Move us along."

The photographer was a college classmate of Olaf's and Younger Daughter's who hopes to make a living at this trade. He didn't expect to be ordering around old people like me under such pressure-packed circumstances. But he did pretty well.

Really, everybody did pretty well.

We eventually got over to the reception -- I've told you about the kitchen stuff already -- but now I want to give you a couple of stories from the "front of the house."

Is that OK?

If so, stay tuned.

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i just LOVE this curmy. i hope it never ends... my daily dose of fun stuff!

i was raised and married methodist and yes, they are tea totalers, except for one uncle and we all watched him pretty good. the reception was in the church basement and no alcohol. at all. but there was cake!

smiles, bee