Weddings need themes these days. I know this from a TV show I’m addicted to where brides compete with each other for a honeymoon. As guests, they score things like food, dress, and venue. Then they get to be interviewed and tell where the other brides dropped the ball.
Sometimes they’re riled up about having to wait too long at the bar for the signature drink. Sometimes it’s the bride’s dress that sagged at the bottom or didn’t have enough bling. Bling is big.
I’m most obsessed with the theme part. It allows the bride contestants to walk into a reception area and moan “I don’t see enough of her winter wonderland theme.” Or, if the bride has been successful, one of them might say to the others, “You can really see how she carried off her peacock theme.”
When my boyfriend and I decided — over a bubbling casserole of mac and cheese on a Tuesday night in 1974 — that we would get married, there wasn’t much to it. He hadn’t bought a ring. Why would he when I could use my grandmother’s just-fine engagement ring she’d given me for my college graduation? And it almost fit, so there was that.
I called my parents, announcing the date we picked out, giving ourselves five months to plan everything. This would be unthinkable in today’s wedding world, where you have to book a florist two years in advance. Plus I didn’t have a binder (or seven) that I lugged around with all my DIY ideas for place cards and cake toppers.
My mother’s first question: “Are you sure you’re ready to get married?” It was a ridiculous question, because at 24 I was sure of everything, and I wondered how she could have missed that.
She sort of sighed at the end of our conversation and said, “Well, I guess you’ll have to come home soon so we can get the details arranged. We should be able to get it done in a weekend.” She said this with the tone usually reserved for “The dog had diarrhea on the carpet.”
The call to my future in-laws was even less lukewarm. I’m guessing here, since there was no speakerphone in those days. I could just see my boyfriend’s mouth turning down slightly as he listened to them tell him he was making the biggest mistake of his whole life (I’m assuming). Then every few minutes he’d spot me, still looking at him intently, and he’d try hard to turn his mouth upright. Once or twice he gave me sort of a half-assed thumbs-up sign, but I knew he was lying.
On a suggestion from friends about where to have our reception, my mother got an appointment at the Riviera. It seemed decadent because it was in the section of Massapequa we called, “the rich part of town.” It could accommodate 125 people, and we had 120 on the guest list. The catering director gave us three menus to look over. My parents had been saving for my wedding a long time, long enough that even though it wouldn’t be the truly white wedding of their dreams, a buffet would not do.
The Riviera people told us, “Everyone uses the Buddy Guy trio.” From the photographs, the trio appeared to be a sweet group of older Italian men who knew their way around the “Hokey Pokey.” My mother took out her checkbook. We were in business.
We stopped by a florist and ordered a bouquet for me, corsages for the mothers, and flowers for my matron of honor. She was going to wear a multi-colored dress she’d worn for someone else’s wedding. When he asked about shades and hues, I said, “Anything you think will look nice.” He didn’t drop his chin the way florists of today would at hearing this crazy talk. And among the roses were a few carnations, which would have dropped my overall score on TV. I just know one of the more critical bride contestants surely would say, “What? Carnations in a bridal bouquet?”
Our last stop was the photographer. We overlooked the yellowing pictures and plastic lilacs on the dirty ledge in his storefront window. My mother knew someone who knew him. “I heard he’s nice,” was her complete report. He seemed happy for the business.
My mother and I conquered the complete planning of my wedding in six hours. It would be years later, looking at the photo album, that I’d notice a few details I might have put more thought into. And be glad camera crews and competing brides hadn’t followed me into the reception hall that day.
I stayed married for 22 years. So I’d like those brides of today with their penguin-themed receptions or the ones who have to have everything covered in chevrons and twinkling lights to give me the credit I rightfully deserve. Two decades count for something, even if there were a few carnations in the mix.