There is no wedding like a hometown wedding….
Back in the 1980’s, when most of my friends were trooping down to the altar, we had some moments that both solidified and threatened friendships that had existed for years. Since we had all known each other most of our lives, as opposed for only four years or so with my college friends, we had a tendency to pull fewer punches and react more immediately and honestly to situations. We were, shall we say, earthier in our interactions.
So many people were hitting their late 20’s and having the “I need to get married” panic, that so many in my generation experienced, that we almost all heaved a sigh of relief at engagement announcements by friends. It meant we wouldn’t have to spend quite so many nights hanging out on bar stools while they looked for Mr or Miss Right, in all the wrong places, within the limited pool available in a small, southern town.
When one of my friends confided she had met “the one” and finally lost her virginity, I was so relieved I sent her roses….
And most of my friends did rather well. They did something right as most of them are still married to the spouses they wed in the 1980’s.
But getting them to the altar was still fraught with drama-especially since so many of us had left town and were “coming back” for the ceremony. Not to mention working in College friends to our incestuous little group.
These weddings frequently meant making arrangements over the phone- the real phone- with a cord- in those pre-cell phone, pre-internet days when long distance calls cost a small forutne. No photo’s on Facebook or websites to check the accuracy of information….
I’ll call my first bride-friend Cassie. She was an old friend who was famous for once going with us to the South Drive-In Porn Movies, one night when we were bored, while wearing LL Bean duck shoes and a Lanz nightgown under an all-weather coat with sunglasses and a Big Gulp cup of “Purple Jesus”, which was her drink of choice at the time- a mixture of Tanqueray Gin and Grape Juice punch….
We only went to the Drive-In Porn Palace for amusement, as none of us had anybody else we were seeing and we were bored. And we couldn’t spend every night on bar stools at the Holiday Inn Disco.
So, we figured if we couldn’t have sex- or talk about it if we were- we would watch it, drink and make catty and extraneous comments. I remember Cassie remarked that night: “Those are Dan River Sheets. Made right here in Danville! I had those on my bed in college! But I never did anything like THAT on them…”
The Drive-in Porn Palace did major business. It was just across the state line in NC, so going there didn’t “count” as it was outside the City limits. We would sometimes drop by and cruise the parking lot to see if we recognized any other cars. For our amusement, we spent a lot of time in High School calling out there and asking for “emergency pages” for teachers, prominent citizens, well-known local preachers and professional virgins.
When we went, we would only stay a few minutes as we usually got bored…We were frequently bored. This was just something else to do to break the boredom on a “girls night out” with the girls and the closeted Gay boys.
I ended up a Groomsman in several weddings because of bonding rituals like this. Back then, Brides had to have girls as their attendants, so they would make the Groom make friends like me a Groomsman. They were all good sports…
Well, Cassie finally met a great guy and started planning her wedding. It was to be at “THE” Methodist Church on Main Street with the reception at the Wednesday Club. This was pretty top drawer for my town. I can’t count the number of weddings I was in or attended that followed this small, general geography. However, each was different and unique.
Now, the top places for the receptions were the Golf Club and the Wednesday Club. Cassie was all set for her reception to be at the Wednesday Club. Danville couldn’t do anything like any other town, so the Wednesday Club was our equivalent of the Junior League.
The Junior Wednesday Club was for the “girls” under, I think, thirty. Most joined so they could have their receptions there and resentfully bought Christmas gifts for underprivileged children as their payment. After one “aged out” of the Junior Wednesday Club, the Ladies transitioned to the Wednesday Club so they could continue to go to “educational programs” and drink wine in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon….
Cassie’s wedding included several people from “out of town”- either from College or old hometown friends who were living elsewhere by then. So she followed the usual pattern and went to Rippe’s to pick out her Bridesmaid dresses and order them.
Rippes was one of the two high-end ladies stores in town. They dressed all the Great Ladies in town and my Mother had shopped there for years until my Father made her stop and go to Belk’s to save money. She never forgave him….Rippe’s was an oasis of classic clothes and dignity in a little mill town…Just as Sater’s was for men- where the tuxes came from and where I shopped religiously.
All the Bridesmaids dutifully submitted their measurements and the dresses were ordered. Normally, everyone then came in for final fittings and minor alterations and all went smoothly…
Until Sally Ann hit town.
Sally Ann had been one of Cassie’s closet friends and they spent most of their time together until Sally Ann had left town a year or so prior. She was a unique woman who I will write more about later….
For some reason, she had moved to the mid-west, of all places. We never quite knew why….She called me one night to tell me there had been a tornado there and she was hiding in the bath tub talking to me until the threat passed. She was saying: “Hell, no one told me about the goddamn tornado’s out here! I’m standing here waiting for my tits to be sucked out the window by the wind and pull the rest of me along behind!”
Now Sally Ann was not a Clothes Horse. Her preferred attire was khaki shorts and a polo shirt in the summer and, at this stage in her life, a purple sweat suit in the winter. Once, for Halloween, she pinned a bunch of purple balloons to her sweat suit and went as the “Fruit of the Loom” grape. Her disregard for fashion was so great that she, allegedly, went water skiing naked at Smith Mountain Lake one Fourth of July…after a few drinks, of course.
Sally Ann had apparently sent her measurements based on the size she wanted to be by the wedding as opposed to her real size. Reality and facts were seldom important in Danville, but in this situation, the facts did cause some challenges.
Sally Ann was a big girl. She was probably six feet tall and “healthy” in proportions. She rode horses and swam a lot, in between cocktails, and didn’t really give a damn what anyone thought. That’s why we all loved her….
Well, Sally Ann walked into Cassie’s apartment that day and Cassie saw red…
Cassie just screamed: “You bitch! I knew you were lying about your sizes! How the hell are you going to get your big ass into my Bridesmaid’s dress? Dammit. If Rippe’s can’t fix this, you are not walking down my aisle and ruining my wedding! You bitch!”
After a little more profanity and a couple of drinks, off we trooped to Rippe’s….
We went upstairs to Alterations and the lady in charge of weddings came over. She was a little bird-like woman, in a pink cashmere sweater set and grey wool skirt with half-glasses on a chain around her neck below her pearls…
She smiled and asked Sally Ann: “Which young lady of the wedding party are you?” Sally Ann told her her name. The Wedding Lady looked at her list of bridesmaids and sizes and blanched. She screamed, in shock and panic, “You can’t be! You aren’t a size 10!”
Cassie said: “She wasn’t small enough to be a size 10 when they dragged her out of her Mother’s womb. I knew I shouldn’t have believed she had lost that much weight since leaving town. Can you fix this?”
I don’t think the Wedding Lady at Rippe’s had every faced such a challenge.
Luckily, Cassie had several short bridesmaids and there was a lot of fabric left. To make a long story short, they remade the dress, added panels to the side and several inches to the bottom. Sally Ann was quite presentable…
Crisis solved. So we could move on to the wedding festivities.
When I was in the wedding, I gave parties for my friends at my Mother’s house. This usually entailed putting a keg in the back yard along with a table for open bar and putting the stereo speakers in the window so we had music. I would then takeover my Mother’s best silver and serving platters for a buffet in the dining room. Very casual, very informal and very comfortable
So comfortable, at Cassie’s party, I wondered by Sally Ann during the party, knocking back bourbon and explaining to my Mother how she had gotten scabies from the hot tub…My Mother looked at me in panic and I just kept going….I figured she needed the education.
I walked past Cassie’s mother siting in the back yard explaining drinking etiquette to a small group. She was saying: “Now you may want that fifth drink, but always stop after four.” I asked Cassie: “Didn’t she used to say ‘want that third drink'” Cassie said: “Well, she’s loosened up over the years….”
But, as usual, the wedding went off and was lovely. And they are also still together after around 30 years….
But what goes around comes around…..
A couple of years later, it was Sally Ann’s wedding at “THE ” Methodist Church and her reception at the Wednesday Club. She was marrying a military man she had met and going to live with him in England.
Her estranged parents got into such a fight in the Church vestibule before the wedding, that the Flower Girl, who her Mother was holding, was so upset she peed down the front of her Mother’s “Mother of the Bride” dress right before the ceremony. Her brother, a fellow Groomsman, was so drunk I had to reach out during the ceremony and steady him by holding onto his shoulders…
But the piece de resistance came at the end….
We were in the parking lot waiting for Sally Ann to toss the garter…She was beautiful in her classic white wedding dress. She looked like herself but like so many brides before her. She wasn’t quite Sally Ann. Someone brought her a chair to sit in and she lifted her dress….
Cassie was behind me and grabbed my shoulders in a death grip, dropped her head to my neck and said: “Oh, my God….I can’t believe it. She’s wearing white Knee-Highs”…
The party and posts will continue….up next: All in the Family…
Danville will always be the home of YOUR characters, but they are as universal and ubiquitous to the south as Burma Shave roadside poems from the 50’s. You describe them in a way that allows me into that domain for only and afternoon, yet I have known them my entire life. You are a keen observer of our lives and a spy in our bedrooms. Never cease your stories. One day, I’ll share my own when I get the nerve and a couple more ounces of The Balvenie 16.
Thanks so much, Frank!
Wow, I really wish I knew the “Real” names! However, I know you are protecting the innocent – Ha! Had a great time reading all this – thanks!!