Yesterday's New York Times offered up a new look at weddings in this Great Recession. Until your mother happens to be Secretary of State and your father an ex-president, you probably aren't having Le Big Ceremony with All the Trimmings.
How old is old enough to say "in my day?"
I voted and decided it is fifty-five, so here goes: in my day weddings that had three or four bridesmaids were considered appropriately grandiose. Of course I grew up in a area of 1,200 people and my husband grew up in a rural area, so it is not like we had access to the Rainbow Room and Lester Lanin and his Orchestra.
While I'm grateful to my parents who paid for our typical and lovely Hoosier hoedown nuptials, I always harbored a secret desire to be married by an Elvis impersonator or while jumping out of an airplane.
What I was getting at before I so rudely interrupted myself was that I want to tell you about the funkiest wedding I ever attended.
My Beloved and I had been engaged for about six months, and our own wedding was three months away. We were invited to a party in one of those high rises that dot Sand Key south of Clearwater Beach, Florida.
The hosts were our friends John and Libby. This was during the period of time I like to refer to as "The Bad Judgment."
For example, Libby had a white Porsche Carrera that she liked to drive really, really fast. As in, "Let's go to the liquor store and buy more vodka and then run up and down Gulf Boulevard as fast as we can and see if we can evade the cops."
Nothing bad happened to Libby, even after she chased the vodka with prescription drugs and made what she liked to call "peach shit."
John and Libby usually invited us over for holidays and one Thanksgiving asked my elderly grandmother. She had a lovely time and a great deal of peach shit (sans the prescription drugs.)
On another not-so-memorable night (meaning I can not remember much), Libby and I decided to pretend like we were Jennifer Jones at the end of "Portrait of Jennie" and walk straight into the Gulf of Mexico without stopping. We had been to several comedy clubs and about four bars that night. It was long past time to go home.
This is another exceptionally good example of Bad Judgment.
We stopped in the cold Gulf when we got about to our hips. Yes, it was a dark and stormy night and the Menfolk sat on the beach, laughing themselves silly, not really caring whether we came back or not.
One August night John and Libby hosted a party at a company condo on the beach, eight flights up with a spectacular Gulf of Mexico view.
Libby asked us to bring records, because "in my day" (there it is again) listening to records was something one did when drinking peach shit or eating those special brownies she sometimes made.
That night we selected a few albums from our extensive collection, Bob Segar, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson and Leon Redbone, Fleetwood Mac, yada yada yada.
When we got there, Libby yelled at me and said I made miserable selections with the music. Whatever.
I poured myself a drink at their well-stocked bar and headed out to the balcony with my Beloved.
The crowd inside the condo didn't look too fun. What a mixed-up group it was. There were mutual friends as Libby and I worked together, John's adult kids were there, a bunch of people we didn't know who looked like stiffs, and one decidedly strange guy in a black suit who kept to himself in a corner.
He looked like a preacher at a hanging in an old western.
I remember distinctly the conversation my Beloved and I had on that balcony, nursing our drinks and taking in the spectacular view that preceded sunset. Directly next to us were some of Libby and John's friends we didn't know who were enjoying the "special" without the "brownies" part.
That setting made us think about our upcoming marriage. We both agreed right there on that balcony that we were going to start acting like adults. We had both been out of college for five years, and the Bad Judgment had to stop. No more drinking for hours and driving with people of dubious sobriety. No more walking into the ocean for effect. Absolutely no more association with anyone who bought, sold or ate the special brownies. Time to clean up the act. Too much to lose.
We went back into the condo in time to hear John say, "I have an announcement. This is not just any party; it's an engagement party! Libby and I are engaged."
Rounds of applause, and an easing up of the overall mood.
John's adult son made three champagne toasts to the happy couple. This would be a second marriage for both, but they seemed a lovely pair and we were all happy about it. At least it made some sense as to why this eclectic group was brought together.
After the third toast, John said, "I have another announcement. The engagement party is over. Welcome to our wedding party."
Libby's daughter went into the kitchen and pulled out a large wedding cake out of a mysteriously small cabinet, like a rabbit from a magical hat.
Libby came out of the bedroom dressed in an elegant dress and John put on a suit coat. Libby's daughter put "Willie and Leon" on the stereo because with its standards it came the closest to wedding music that she was going to get out of my Nightmare Collection of Seventies Rock.
The odd-looking man in the corner was indeed a preacher.
He pulled his Holy Book from inside his dark suit jacket and invited everyone at the party back to the balcony, where the sun was just about to dip below the Gulf.
After the brief ceremony, we all raised our plastic glasses of peach shit and toasted the happy couple.
My Beloved and I were married three months later, and never again ate any special brownies (though I do have glaucoma now, so its always a possibility.)
John and Libby were only married for ten years -- her constant state of inebriation didn't help their relationship much. She totalled the Porsche and like many alcoholics lived to tell the tale. Thank God she didn't kill anyone.
We didn't stay in touch with them. They found us too tedious. Somehow, we've made living without Bad Judgment work for us.