I’ll take a funeral over a wedding any day.
You don’t have to rehearse a funeral. And there are no formal meals or receptions involved. You stand up in front of the honored guest, and do your thing, say your prayers, enjoy a couple of great songs, and go your way.
But with weddings, you have these rehearsals where a thousand things can go wrong, where the bride and her mother argue, where bridesmaids sometimes see how risque’ they can dress, and the groomsmen how rambunctious they can behave. You have a wedding director who may or may not be capable. (I’ll take a drill sergeant from Parris Island any day over a lazy director who has no idea all the awful things that can happen the next day.)
Weddings have a hundred moments where slipups can occur and trouble can happen. Brides are late to church, grooms forget the rings, someone has been drinking, the flower girl is crying, photographers are arguing, the wedding director is pulling her hair out, and the caterer is trying to get paid. The candles either did not arrive, will not light, or are dripping wax on the carpet. The limo is late bringing the maids and the bride because, this being his third wedding of the day, each one took more time than he had allowed, so instead of arriving at the church at 6:30 for a 7:00 wedding, the limousine pulls in at 7:45.
Charles and I were standing outside the sanctuary waiting for the musical cue from the organist signaling time for us to enter. He was marrying a lovely young lass whose father was an Air Force officer. We had done the obligatory pre-marital counseling sessions, although they both seemed reluctant and uninvolved, like this was something they wanted to get over. My watch said “Two o’clock,” but the organist kept playing. He and I had done a hundred weddings before, so I knew to listen for the Trumpet Voluntare and not to enter until he sounded it out.
Something was amiss.
Ten minutes Charles and I stood there waiting and wondering, both of us getting more antsy and concerned by the minute. Finally, a groomsman came around the building. “The bride’s not here.”
“She and her mother were still here at 1 o’clock,” he said, “putting the finishing touches on the decorations. They were in blue jeans. And they had to drive back to the Air Force Base to change.”
So we stood there waiting. Cell phones were not in existence then, so no one had the first idea where the bride was or when we could expect her. The organist played on, and we waited.
All the while, Charles the groom grew madder and madder. He was in no mood to get married that day.
The church was filled with hundreds of family and friends, all of them wondering about the delay.
“Charles,” I said, “let me talk to you.”
“In a few minutes, Sherilyn is going to arrive and we’re going to have a wedding. You are going to get married today. But right now, you are in no frame of mind for this. You need to cool down, my friend.”
Honestly, I could not tell whether he was processing a thing I said or not. He was fuming.
So I tried again.
“Charles, if you want to ruin your marriage, I mean completely sabotage your honeymoon and get off to a terrible start, be sure to unload on Sherilyn and let her know how angry you are. Are you listening to me?”
The jury was still out on that.
The bottom line is that this groom-to-be simply did not have enough self-control to rein in his emotions. He was angry as he could be, and he would make sure his bride knew how mad he was for embarrassing him and his family before all these important people who had come to see them married today.
During the ceremony, Charles was stoic and unemotional. During the picture-taking time following the ceremony, he was sullen. He endured the reception. But as soon as they were in the car leaving the church, he unloaded on her. I was not there and did not hear what he said, but I can imagine.
The honeymoon was over before it started, and the marriage became a disaster.
They were divorced within the year.
I did one wedding with a bandage across my forehead. The day before, the funeral car in which I was riding broad-sided a pickup truck that ran a stop sign. My head broke the dashboard. To this day, what looks like frown marks between my eyes are actually scars. Those wedding pictures show up on Facebook now and then, thanks to the sense of humor in a bride and groom. Everyone looks great, the wedding party is beautiful and impressive. But the preacher has a small white bandage in the middle of his forehead.
In one wedding the bride fainted in the middle of my opening remarks. At first, I thought she was swooning on her father’s arm. Then she dissolved into a puddle at his feet. I asked the party to be seated and the best man to carry the bride into the parlor. A few family members gathered around as the young lady was laid on the carpet. Someone broke open a capsule of smelling salts. As she came to, the bride up looked into her mother’s face and said, “Oh, mother. I’ve embarrassed you before all your friends.” “Hush!” said her sweet mama. As the bride regained her composure, I asked, “Would you like to shorten the ceremony? We can cut a lot out of it.” They planned this for so long, she said, she didn’t want to lose any of it. “But talk fast.” I did.
Once, a woman called to ask if I could tell her when she’d gotten married. I said, “You don’t know the date of your own wedding?” The marriage had not been a good one, she said, and they were no longer living together. But she was trying to get some health benefits now, and the Veterans Administration needed the date of her wedding. She named two possible dates. “It’s one of those, I think,” she said. Strangely, the dates were not in the same years. An hour later, I called her back. “I found the correct date in my records,” I told her. She had been wrong about both dates. Her marriage was on another day altogether.
I’d rather do funerals. No corpse has ever been late or demanding or forgot the date. They’re all satisfied customers.
At least, I think they are. I’ve never had one to complain.