Once upon a time, there was a little girl who dreamed of becoming a beautiful bride. Every year at Halloween, her Mommy, who never had a large wedding herself, shared her daughter’s dream. She would find a princess costume and add a veil so that the little girl could go trick-or-treating as a little bride.
On her 16th birthday, her mother gave her a subscription to “Brides” magazine and it was difficult to determine which one of them enjoyed the magazine more. They bought a scrapbook and began a “Dream Book” filled with wedding ideas.
Mother and daughter critiqued the different gowns. They discussed the pros and cons of each style of wedding invitation. The daughter had her engagement ring picked out years before she found a fiance–but that was what college was for, wasn’t it?
She was an attractive young woman and very determined, so she did find a handsome young man who proposed to her on Christmas Eve during their senior year at college. He was a handsome fellow with good career prospects. Better yet, he was happy to go along with any wedding plans that his future wife and mother-in-law made. It was just one day, he reasoned and his future father-in-law was paying for it. Let them have their day.
I met them all when they came into a photography studio where I worked to pick out their wedding album.
We did a fairly brisk business with weddings — at least one a week year-round. Although the photographer kept asking me to come along to help him with the Saturday evening weddings, I knew that I wouldn’t be paid for the extra time, so I usually declined. Besides, I knew that he would eventually turn the reception photography over to me so that he could spend the time with his family.
Even if he compensated me for my time, there really isn’t enough money to entice me to go to a wedding reception every weekend. This was in the 1980s and, really, how many times can a person hear “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog” before they lose their mind?
For some reason, however, I did attend this particular wedding. I suspect that the reception was held in the Hungarian church hall. He could usually bribe me with the thought of free chicken paprikash and stuffed cabbage at the reception.
At one reception, we went back for seconds and kept the entire wedding party waiting for the ever-popular picture of the bride and groom cutting the cake. “I’m the guy with the camera,” the photographer told me, “Let them wait a few more minutes.” The bridesmaids cleared the dirty plates from the head table and stacked them on our table, but we went back for more dumplings anyway. Those church ladies really knew how to cook!
But I digress, although I just decided to make chicken paprikash this weekend.
At this particular wedding (we called it the Ken and Barbie Nuptials), we arrived at the church early for all of the preliminary photographs of bride and bridesmaids, groom and groomsmen, parents, etc.
The bride had pre-ordered so many different photographs that we were grateful the wedding would be held in a Catholic church. A Nuptial Mass usually takes 45 minutes and we would need the time to get all the photographs taken. The young priest who would be marrying the couple was concerned about timing, however, because there was a funeral scheduled for 11:00 am. We needed to clear out about 15 minutes before the dearly departed arrived.
It was a beautiful June morning. The church and everyone attending looked lovely, even the guests who filed into the church. While they were getting seated, the organist played a few hymns softly. I was seated off a side aisle, just watching the scene. At some point, I realized that the organist was repeating a few hymns. I looked at my watch and realized that we were a few minutes past the scheduled start time. Where was the bride?
I caught the photographer’s eye and he sat down next to me.
“Something wrong?” I whispered.
“A crisis. She was all set to take her father’s arm to walk down the aisle when she noticed that the florist had forgotten the aisle runner,” he told me. “Her mother called the florist in a panic and now we’re waiting for the runner.”
“You must be kidding,” I said. “Those runners are nothing more than rolls of white plastic glued to a felt backing. What is the big deal?”
“It’s in the Dream Book,” he said.
So we waited.
The priest sent an altar boy back to the wedding party to let them know that we were running out of time; the bride and her mother were unmoved.
Meanwhile, in the choir loft, the organist was working his way through a liturgical year’s worth of music. To his credit, he skipped over the Christmas hymns that everyone would have recognized and possibly starting singing along. Hearing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” would never do, would it?
He deftly led us through lesser-known hymns for Advent and Lent and finally on to what I recognized as a May Crowning hymn (“Oh, Mary we crown you with roses today…”).
Finally, a full 42 minutes before the hearse was scheduled to arrive for the funeral, the florist and two ushers burst through the side doors closest to the altar. They had a roll of the runner material with a rod through the roll and two handles to pull it down the aisle.
The florist motioned for the ushers to line it up squarely with the altar. She couldn’t talk because her mouth was full of large pins (like those used to pin a corsage onto a dress). She quickly pinned the start of the roll to the carpet and the ushers ran the roll down the aisle. The material had barely floated down to the carpet when the talented organist shifted to the Wedding March and we were off and running!
The priest sped up the prayers, cut the sermon short, and practically tossed out the communion wafers. After the ceremony, we lined everyone up for the requisite photos and herded everyone out to the back parking lot before the hearse arrived.
I have a few regrets in my life: avenues not pursued, talents not developed. But when someone asks me if I regret not ever marrying, I think of the Ken and Barbie Nuptials and that resourceful organist, and I say, “Did I ever tell you I used to work for a wedding photographer? For six years I watched these train wrecks going down the aisle…”