With all the talk about Marriage- Gay Marriage, in particular- this week, I can’t help but reflect on all the Big Southern weddings I was involved with back in the 1980’s. It was the first few years after college and there was a rush of them- each trying to outdo the others.
I have mixed feelings about marriage, but I can’t deny it’s legal and societal importance. All I can offer to the battle is my memories and perspective of how marriages and weddings have been so important in my life…
So, I’m going to do what I do best: Go back in time and remember and comment….
I was a Groomsman in more weddings than I can remember and attended countless others. I’m going to reminisce a bit, then talk about where we are now. I’m thinking this will be a three-part post…
This is Part 1…..Hopefully, by the time I finish these posts, you will see how important weddings are as a rite of passage and why they are important to all of us; not just to Straight people. In addition to being a legal contract, marriages are a societal ritual that mean a lot not just to the Bride and Groom, but to their families and friends. I’m no real fan of the institution of marriage but I do love weddings….
I hope I don’t offend anyone along the way with these memories. If I do, too bad. These are my memories and my stories….you are welcome to comment, correct based on your own fading memories or counter-blog me anytime.
These are as I remember these times 30 years later. That says a lot in itself….that I still remember and think of them….
Also, remember, facts are not important in the South, it’s how we think we recall things that matter….and we drank a lot.
But, believe me, there is no wedding like a Southern Wedding. Every Southern Girl lives for the pageantry of her Wedding day. As do more than a few Southern Boys…
Most Southern Mothers start planning their daughter’s weddings before conception. And the Brides see it as their one day in their life when they are guaranteed to be the center of attention-which is what most Southern Girls long for-and want to make the most of it.
Now, the Brides would never admit this…they all say: ” I want something simple and elegant that truly reflects me. I mean us….”
But these weddings are, ultimately, meant to be a grand party….People would mortgage their homes and bury granny in the back yard, instead of paying for her funeral, if that’s what it took to afford these parties.
It’s a classic ritual, older than time, to celebrate joining two clans or families- not just two people. It’s pagan roots frequently show….The religious side is an afterthought- which is why I get so pissed off at people who claim Weddings and Marriage are a Religious Rite.
They are a party, a celebration and a legal contract. Mainly a legal contract. Period. Get over it….
And there is saying in the South that it’s not a good party until the police come, something gets broken, or someone leaves in tears….
Those are the Southern Weddings I remember best….and I’m going to tell my tales.
The first wedding, after college set a high standard for both elegance and drama. I still don’t think anyone has topped it.
It was a classic wedding, in our world, of Washington and Lee University Groom and Sweet Briar College Bride. The stuff of which dreams are made- as we were raised to dream them.
It really was a joyous occasion joining together a couple who had dated since their freshman year and are still going strong after 30+ years. All my best friends from college were there and it was elegance personified.
The first day we all flew into the bride’s hometown to prepare for several days of celebration. These folks had nothing on Lady Diana and Prince Charles. I think Charles and Di tried to live up to them….
One of my W&L friends was working a job near me and we flew out together on Piedmont Airlines, sitting in the back of the plane having cocktails, in the Smoking Section. They had Smoking Sections on planes then…
We were heading for a reunion and a party. We would not be disappointed.
My friends flew in from all over the country for this wedding and most of us hadn’t seen each other for at least a year- the longest we had been apart in four years.
The first night, we all drove down to a plantation in Mississippi for a party in honor of the couple and their out-of-town guests. Black tie, of course. We all ended up drunk, standing around a grand piano in this plantation house in the middle of nowhere singing Show Tunes. It was wonderful.
However, going back to the hotel- an hour away and across the state line- we got lost. We were driving one of the bride’s family’s vintage Cadillac convertibles that we had borrowed, ended up on Beale street, then drove by Graceland and a few other sites before getting to the hotel in the early morning hours. It was a wonderful adventure to a bunch of drunk W&L boys in wrinkled tuxedo’s in a ’68 Caddy convertible, with vintage soul tunes blasting on the tape deck, in the early 1980’s- and is still an indelible memory. We were truly young and foolish and happy.
The next night was the rehearsal dinner. Black Tie, of course. Very nice, very elegant. Then we changed to Khaki’s and Polo’s and went to the bachelor’s party.
I don’t remember much about the bachelor’s party. We were all so drunk. I dimly remember leaving the bar near Beale Street and heading back to the hotel. My friend Bob and I were sharing a room. We dumped our clothes in the floor and tumbled into our individual beds more than ready to sleep late until the pre-wedding brunch at The Country Club the next day.
It seems we hadn’t been asleep five minutes before the hotel phone rang. I knew any call that late at night had to be a crisis. It was too late for another party even for us. Bob, who was in Law School and always handled every crisis so well, took the call. I just wanted to sleep…
Bob shook me and said, ” We have to get dressed and go down to the jail.”
I think I mumbled: “Is it Black Tie?” And burrowed down in the covers…
Bob, said: “Goddamnit, wake up, Scott. I can’t drive down there alone. There is a situation we need to deal with. This is serious. We have to straighten this out fast, before the wedding tomorrow, and not get arrested for being drunk in public ourselves. ”
One of the requirements for a degree from Washington and Lee University, at that time, was to be able to exhibit grace under pressure and not seem drunk while doing so. Therefore, we both got our act together and headed downtown.
I don’t remember the details, but it seems, after we left, there was some unpleasantness in the parking lot after the bachelor party that resulted in the Father of the Bride, the Maid of Honor and a few other folks ending up in jail. I dimly remember driving to the jail and making polite conversation while Bob worked his magic. Bob eventually announced all was taken care of -just before dawn….
We had a couple of hours sleep and then dressed, suits, not Black Tie, for the Brunch. Before we went in, the Mother of the Bride, pulled us aside at the Club. She thanked Bob for his help and reminded us no one needed to know about the events of the preceding evening/ early morning. We were sworn to secrecy and like good Southern Gentlemen agreed to hold the secret to our graves. No one was to know what happened.
I made it about 5 feet into the ballroom before the first little old Society lady pulled me aside.
She said: “You look remarkably well to have had so little sleep. It’s wonderful to be young. What time did you boys finish at the jail? Oh, everyone knows, but what really happened?”
I, of course, pleaded ignorance of whatever she might be implying…
She said: “Go to the bar and have a Bloody. I’ll ask again in a half hour or so…..”
But it was a lovely wedding for two wonderful people. That’s all that matters. It all worked out in the end. We put on the Black Tie again for the 6:00 p.m. wedding and danced all night to the band at the reception. All went smoothly from there….
The next day, we could all relax and breathe easily. The Bride and Groom were safely married and off on their Honeymoon. No one was in Jail and the parties were local.
This day after the wedding, the Bride’s Grandmother was giving another brunch for the guests before we all left town. It was a lovely summer day and we wore Blue Blazers, White duck pants or khaki’s and white buck shoes having Brunch in the Garden. We all talked about how beautifully it had gone, because it had….
We celebrated the joining of two people we loved, together, and that was all that mattered….
I was passed out cold from all the Bloodies and lack of rest in the Smoking Section on that Piedmont Plane all the way back home…
This wedding was a hard act to follow. Most of the rest of the weddings happened in my home town on a much smaller scale, but not without drama….
Let’s just say, the party continued as will this post…..