Sunday, July 5, 2009

Notes for a Wedding

The last of my young cousins married this past week, as did one of Fritz's favorite cousins' son (got that?) and three of my closest friends have children marrying or married. There is surely something appropriately Shakespearean to say about all this - the world must be peopled!? Or, Get thee to a nunnery!?

Of course the weddings were all lovely, the brides all beautiful, and their grooms all such promising young men. But attending all these weddings makes one pause - what should, what could a wedding celebration be?

How - for example - would I do it, if I ever had to plan a wedding fest someday or other? Not to rush things. I have years yet, five or ten or more at least. Let's not be precipitate just because in five years Eldest will be the age I was when I married, in seven Middlest will be. 23 is much younger now than it was then.

I know, of course, that all that's really required is what every wedding I've seen this summer showed: two happy young people, full of hopefulness and dewy love.

But I'm noticing for the first time, the busy eyes and tired smiles and quick scurryings of the mothers of these young people.

For my own wedding celebrations, I had next to nothing to do with the planning and preparation beyond choosing fabric for my dress and mowing my in-laws-to-be backyard - I was in my first year of graduate school, teaching a writing class, TA-ing two lit sections. Mother, grandmother, mother-in-law-to-be planned everything and carried it out and I just showed up in a white dress. The only thing I insisted on was (?)artificial flowers(?!)

Because I thought they would be more practical.

You know, rather than trying to save the bouquet in the fridge for the week between the two receptions - right? I didn't want to buy two bouquets - did I? And I did so want to be practical now that I was embarking on something so sensible as marriage. Mother and grandmother tried gently to suggest I might possibly prefer . . . but I was quite sure, thank you.

So that I regret. I should have let my three Fates have their way in everything. Because everything else was lovely and most importantly the deed was done - Fritz and I thoroughly wedded - which was all that really mattered to me at the time.

Likely, my eminently practical, already sensible (and also aesthetically astute and opinionated) daughters will want to have more say about their weddings than I did. But just in case you ever ask, my dears -

There was one of the receptions we've recently attended that I particularly enjoyed - or a dinner, rather than a reception - where the bride and groom stood at the door, just the two of them, and welcomed each person entering the hall, one by one. I had the sense of this generous welcoming as their first public act as a couple as they drew us all into the circle of their happiness. The room beyond was filled with round tables and milling with family and friends - many children, much laughing and everyone clean and in their best duds. At every table, set with unbreakable dinnerware, was a bouquet of star-gazer lilies, just beginning to open.

After everyone was seated, it was the bride and groom who each proposed the toasts, taking turns - to their parents, to a particularly helpful friend, to each other - explaining first how it was to be done to their mostly teetotaling audience, with bottles of sparkling cider at each table. The meal was straightforward - the groom's parents raise some cattle and so after the salad of fresh mixed greens, almond slices, dried cranberries, there was a substantial chunk of roast beef, baked potato, corn, fresh fruit and berries on a skewer, rolls. Nothing over-done. Young nieces, mostly, and some nephews served the tables. The comfort and ordinariness of the food put it pleasantly in the background to the conversations and family catch-up.

At the end of the meal, plates cleared again by the older children, the couple stood up at the front of the hall, thanked everyone, their young faces flushed with happiness. They shared 3 things they admired about each other, illustrated with a brief computer-generated slide show - and how they met and fell in love, what their plans were for the next few years together. They fed each other cake with kindness and care and invited everyone to come and partake. She tossed her bouquet. They danced.

As we left we signed our names and best wishes in a scrapbook full of photos from their courtship and quotes they'd chosen about love and friendship.

I liked it - the coziness, the general happiness, the ease of visiting. It was a party up there with the best two wedding celebrations of my girlhood - one a dinner of friends and family in the low-ceilinged basement of an old church with polka-playing accordions and general hilarity as everyone tried to dance along - the other an easily elegant picnic above the creek in my grandparents' green and shady backyard where the bride and groom visited merrily from table to table.

Every other wedding celebration I'd attended up until then had been more staid - only varying in degrees of elegance and money invested - the display of gifts, the signing-in with feathered pen, the shaking hands with a receiving line of mostly bored bridesmaids, the dainty canapes, tartlets and pillow mints, the awkward perching at tables to nibble and then depart.

So, my dears, when the time comes, I think we - or you - or however it works out - should do something that puts the emphasis more on celebration than on display, that welcomes and includes and dances with joy. Something fun and full of love.

And have real flowers.

I'm so helpful, aren't I? Beyond that - you could do far worse than to take the "best novel written by a 9-year-old" for your guide:

Little Daisy Ashford explains all that is necessary in Chapter 10 - "Preparing for the Fray"

The next few days were indeed bussy for Ethel and Bernard. First of all Ethel got some dainty pink note paper with silver crest on it and sent out invitations in the following terms to all their friends

Miss Ethel Monticue will be married to Mr Bernard Clarke at Westminster Abbey on June 10th. Your company is requested there at 2-30 sharp and afterwards for refreshment at the Gaiety Hotel. r.s.v.p.

Having posted heaps of these and got several replies Ethel began to order her wedding dress which cost a good bit. She chose a rich satin with a humped pattern of gold on the pure white and it had a long train edged with Airum lilies. Her veil was of pure lace with a crown of orange blossom. Her bouquett she ordered to be of white dog daisies St. Joseph lilies and orange blossoms tied up with pale blue satin ribbon.

You will indeed be a charming spectacle my darling gasped Bernard as they left the shop. Then they drove to the tailor where Bernard ordered an elligant black suit with coat tails lined with a crimson satin and a pale lavender tie and an opera hat of the same hue and he intended to wear violets in his button holes - also his best white spats diamond studs and a few extras of costly air. . . Then they ordered the most splendid refreshments they had tea and coffee and sparkling wines to drink also a lovly wedding cake of great height with a sugar angel at the top holding a sword made of almond paste. They had countless cakes besides also ices jelly merangs jam tarts with plenty of jam on each some cold tongue some ham with salid and a pigs head done up in a wondrous manner. Ethel could hardly contain herself as she gazed at the sumpshious repast and Bernard gave her a glass of rich wine while he imbibed some whisky before going to bed. Ethel got speedily into her bed for the last time at the dear old Gaiety and shed a few salt tears thinking of her past life but she quickly cheerd up and began to plan about how many children she would have. I hope I shall have a good lot she thought to herself and so saying fell into repose.
As for the other details, my dears, you will have to decide for yourselves. What for example do you think of including in your invitations those little cards stating that the bride and groom are registered at Target and Nordstrom and Bed, Bath & Beyond?

"Useful," says your father.

"Hmm," says your mother.

Trusty Daisy Ashford says,

The earl of Clincham sent a charming gift of some hem stitched sheets edged with real lace and a photo of himself in a striking attitude. Mr Salteena sent Ethel a bible with a few pious words of advice and regret and he sent Bernard a very handy little camp stool. Ethels parents were too poor to come so far but her mother sent her a gold watch which did not go but had been some years in the family and her father provided a cheque for L2 and promised to send her a darling little baby calf when ready.

And wouldn't it be a pity to risk losing out on such delights and offerings of love as these?


B said...

Mark and I went to the courthouse. And told no one. For three days. We wanted it to be about us, 100%.
True, it is not for everyone, but it worked well for us.
And as far as gift registry goes, eh. I don't really care for it.
I would rather have a small basket of canned goods from someones pantry, or a grandmothers set of candlestick holders or something.

Anonymous said...

I like that - the basket of bottled fruit, the candlestick holders from an earlier generation - that just sounds right, doesn't it?

Linnea said...

The thing that gets me was after the "we're registered at Target" notice, they put in the reminder "Please obtain a gift receipt." What, to make the returning of gifts easier? Don't they know that surplus gifts make great presents for future wedding receptions of friends and family? (Where would you be today without your silverware tray? To think we could have taken it back to the store for a measly couple of dollars...)

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

I think you should know that it is the guests that make the reception! Thanks for making ours.

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