308 – The Wedding in the Snow

Even though I’ve attended so few weddings I’ve seen enough to know they all follow a fairly traditional pattern. The groom shows up first, followed by the bride and her nimbus of hairdressers and nail polishers, all of whom arrive a few minutes late–just enough time for the groom to feel a final scurrying desperation in the pit of his stomach. Those attending sigh and simper, and snap unflattering shots as the bride and groom are wed and united in the sight of God, the State of New Jersey or whatever. Vows–pre-written or otherwise–are said, lips are kissed, and then it’s all off to the nearest watering hole for drinks and food, after which everyone’s either pleasantly sozzled or engaging in fisticuffs while a distant female relative the size of a boat screams from beneath her precariously balanced hat “Leave it out, Kev–he’s not worth it!”

If there are children at their reception–as there often are–the bride still in her wedding dress and train will at one point dance with the smallest flower girl before breaking off to waggle her newly-wed wings to the birdy song; the little girl will then receive a kiss from a smartly-dressed little boy; the moment will be caught on camera, and the boy will grow up with an aversion to the opposite sex that will last until puberty stamps its customary confused worriment on his loins.

There might be cake. It almost certainly won’t be good.

This is the wedding, as it was and is and continues to be. The names and faces change but two souls collapsing into one another in a gaudy display of rites and vol au vents is something that will never go out of style.

And so it was that my wife and I, old hands at marriage that we are, were invited to a rather unorthodox wedding assembled in the wake of a snowstorm. There would be no photographer at the wedding, as blocked roads kept him from attending; neither would there be cake, nor dancing, nor Black Lace blaring from a mobile disco. This was a small affair with not even a double handful of guests, yet for all its strangeness it was still very much a wedding, and something we were privileged to attend.

The bride was Alina, one of Lindsay’s friends whom she describes as “WYSIWYG–what you see is what you get.” On the day of her wedding this meant Alina was a puff of red underskirts, burlesque stockings with black bows up the seams and glittering ruby slippers ready to be clacked together in the event of a tornado.

The groom was a Hobbit. “Everyone gets one Frodo joke,” he said as his guests snapped shots at the ceremony’s end. During one ill-advised photoshoot the four men at the wedding lined up, with three of us stooping to Matt’s eyeline. I got off lightly, captured in a rather fey curtsy; the guy at the other end wasn’t so lucky–he looked like he was squatting for a shit.

Until the photographs Lindsay and I were loose ends in a tightly knotted ceremony. I didn’t know any of the people there from Adam and Lindsay knew only Alina and Matt–and he only in passing. Matt, the groom, is socially avoidant; it’s quite possible he only survived the ceremony through judicious self-medication, something I believe to be the case as his wife-to-be offered to pass a diapazepam or two my way, should the whole thing prove too much for me.

As it was, the largest problem I had to contend with was Alina’s mother, who clung to me like a limpet. Smelling my Englishness on the air–eau de Marmite, perhaps–her Anglophile senses were tingling throughout the entire ceremony. She spent far more time talking at me than she did to any of the other guests–including her own daughter. She was especially pleased that both Lindsay and I had made the wedding, and ended up taking her own mini photoshoot of just the two of us, proceeded by her encouraging us not to say ‘cheese’ but to ‘Ello’, in a cod-cockney accent, like a pair of parrots.

“What do you think of the Queen?” she asked when I inched away–neither far nor fast enough to escape her attentions. “I love the royals. I think it’s good to have a queen so long as she doesn’t get above her station and start demanding ‘Off with her head!’. It’s good to have royals. And you British are so polite! I’ve visited England three times and each time everyone there was so kind to me, even though they’re all sort of Republicans over there. You know, when I was four I used to read all the fairy stories about princes and princesses and my mother, she’d tell me ‘You’ll never marry a prince!’–what a dreadful thing to say to a child! Of course, when I grew up I discovered there was such a thing as royal families and when I visited London, well–what was your name again?”

When Lindsay showed up to rescue me–having abandoned me with a grin sometime earlier, the rotter–Alina’s mother clutched her hands to her chest in a dramatic swoon. “Such a good-looking couple,” she said. “You have matching eyes! And look at your profile, Lindsay! Such a beautiful profile.”

As sorry as I felt for myself I couldn’t help feeling bad for Alina, whose mother was so obviously uninterested in the biggest day of her daughter’s life. After the other guests had congratulated Alina and Matt for tying the knot, in front of everyone Alina’s mother congratulated me for being there.

Away from her mother’s cloying affections and seemingly on the other side of the country, we’d followed Alina’s car in a snakelike parade to the wedding’s location. We’d gathered in the car park outside her home town’s library. With snow still resting on the trees and occasionally falling in sky-blown flurries, and a grand, sweeping backdrop, the snow-dusted valley far below, though a car park wouldn’t usually be considered such a romantic place in which to be married, on that day, on that hour, it was really quite beautiful.

The man who was to perform the ceremony wore a bright orange yamaka and towered above both bride and groom. He’d brought with him a glass to be stomped on to seal the wedding in true Jewish style, but being sugar glass it had already shattered or melted long before the couple could bring their boot heels upon it. Still, even an already-broken stunt glass can be symbolic; wrapped in a towel, trampled in a car park, nobody was ever the wiser.

I’d been warned ahead of time that the ceremony had been ‘inspired’ by weddings in Star Trek. “Will there be Klingon?” I asked. “They’re not going to say ‘Qapla’!’ are they?”

“Don’t be mean,” said my wife.

But they did say ‘Quapla’, and the guy presiding commanded the couple kiss with a jolly “Make it so!” There were no special costumes or bumpy foreheads though, so thank Roddenberry for small mercies.

Once the two were wedded the group broke apart, as lost as wedding congregations always are once the deed has been witnessed. The happy couple signed a few forms while the rest of us stamped life into our feet and tucked chilly hands into armpits. We all took and posed for photographs, shuffling as one many-legged beast to each corner of the car park trying to find the best balance of light and shade. If my own slightly unorthodox wedding had taught me anything it’s that wedding photos tend to come out confused, as everyone in them smiles toward at a different camera lens–the pictures end up looking as if everyone in attendance were boss-eyed. If Matt and Alina had this problem–and as I took my own pictures I was sure they would have–there were so many cameras flashing at them they ended up having quite a few photos that were flattering instead of being quite the opposite.

Alina’s mother tried to cajole the guests into joining her for a celebratory drink, but with Alina and Matt eager to go to Boston on their miniature honeymoon and the rest of us understandably wary about spending overlong in her company we peeled off one by one, making our excuses and getting the hell out of dodge.

Lindsay and I had plans of our own, wanting to grab a bite to eat at an IHOP down the road which proved impossible to find when facing the town’s layout from the opposite direction. We ended up circling over and over, crying our consternation only just loud enough to drown the grumblings of our bellies. Even though it took a while we escaped in the end–even if we did so still hungry, without pancakes.

As for Alina and Matt, they’re still in Boston. They’ll be returning on the sixth; already Alina’s making plans to hang out with my wife, each woman dragging her inferior half along with the promise to get us good and drunk so we might slur in some approximation of social activity,

Even if that doesn’t come to pass at least we all met once, on a snowy October day all four of us will remember forever.

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