There is no better source of humor than my dysfunctional family gatherings, especially the wedding ceremonies. My excitement begins with the arrival of the invitation, be it raised script on fine parchment with a stamped RSVP envelope or purple crayon on a Garden Collection Bounty napkin with “Call Mama if ya’ll are comin’” scrawled on the bottom. Either way, I immediately mark the date on my calendar…denoted with bells…and thus begins the anticipation.
My all-time favorite family wedding occurred many years ago and involved very distant relatives; take that statement however you want to, for I have left it wide open. The humor in the situation came to me only in hindsight, for it is the human body’s natural defense to numb itself when exposed to trauma. Literally, I went through the ceremony and the reception in a state of shock. Of course, the 110 degree heat index inside the non-air-conditioned facility could also have fried my brain a little, thus creating a temporary, amnesic effect.
It was a mid-summer afternoon, as myself and the other guests drove our vehicles down the winding road toward the Cathedral of Snake Handling. Like a stripper at a bachelor party, the road kept removing its layers of as we traveled. From lined asphalt, to lineless asphalt, to gravel, to red dirt and mud, its final raw state left me wondering if my car would be able to escape when this ordeal was over. The familiar sounds of the country transformed as we continued spiraling into the depths of the Land of the Lost. The birds’ gentle tweets disappeared, and were replaced with the prehistoric calls of unknown creatures, perhaps Sleestaks. Where in the Hell is the church?, I wondered.
And then, I saw it…a white structure, with 4 x 4’s holding up the covered porch. No, wait, was that a double wide? Sure enough, there was a “birddog” tied to an oak tree in the “church” yard who had ran a circle of bare dirt in what may have once been grass. And a blue, rusted Nova with no tires sat on cement blocks in front of a shack adjacent to the house of worship. I swear to God, no pun intended, we must have crossed through some kind of rip in the Chevy time/space continuum.
We were greeted by the pastor on the front porch. He had a large grin on his face and a permanent tobacco juice stain on the left side of his chin. “Saved by the Blood, how ‘bout you?” he said to each guest, clasping there hands with both of his meaty claws. I just smiled back, and thought, “Yes I am saved. And it’s a good thing because Jesus is the only who will be able to maneuver my car out of this forsaken hillbilly hideaway.
Beside the minister stood two extra-large toothless women, clad in matching burgundy, strapless dresses. Apparently, the inhabitants of this foreign land had not yet acquainted themselves with Spanx, for the boobage, it was riding mighty low. At first I thought these two may have been the pastor’s wives, or his cousins, or both; at this juncture I don’t think polygamy would been much of a stretch. But when they introduced themselves, I think they said their names were Billie Lou and Randi Sue, (I am not certain as I was starting to disconnect with reality at this point), it became evident that these girls were serving dual roles - as bridesmaids and greeters.
As indicated by the Bounty napkin, this was a casual, seat-yourself affair, so I found a pew with an unobstructed view of the altar, not wanting to miss anything when the strychnine drinking broke out. At , just as the service was about to begin, a loud thump resonated through the sanctuary. I figured the bride-to-be had experienced a syncope episode and fell out…a logical conclusion. But, alas, it turned out that the “smaller” of the Merlot-clad bridesmaids had hit the floor after being cold-cocked by the “not smaller” one. Later, I found out these bridesmaids actually did share a man, not the pastor and not a blood relative, but the source of their altercation, nonetheless.
The processional began shortly after Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum rolled up onto to their feet and sauntered down the aisle, stopping occasionally to chat with friends. As the congregated stood, the bride began her promenade and from a distance, it appeared that she was wearing a vintage lace gown, actually a very beautiful vintage lace gown. It was only when she neared the altar that I noticed her frock had probably originated from Fredrick’s of
. Simultaneously, it occurred to me that this ensemble was intended to be worn for her wedding night as it was completely sheer and left nothing to the imagination. Hollywood
The temperature in the building immediately rose 10 degrees. Out of respect, some of the guests averted their eyes; others, like myself, stared in horror, their mouths agape. “Bless her heart,” I whispered, which is the appropriate Southern response when you don’t have anything nice to say but you can’t keep quiet. Like Eve before that unfortunate apple business, the bride was completely oblivious to her nakedness. On a positive note, she was probably the only one in the church that was comfortable in the scorching, un”bare”able, heat.
Between the lighting of the unity candle with a Bic from the groom’s front shirt pocket and an evangelical rant on fornication, I think the couple exchanged vows. It was sometimes hard to hear over the howling of marital hound, Duke Clampett, who apparently got a scent of a woodland creature midway through the service. Amazingly enough, although facial hair and the consumption of alcohol were condemned, the pastor did not say one word about being naked in the House of the Lord. As primitive Baptists, I guess he figured her being nude was less blasphemous than if she had been wearing pants.
After the recessional, we were all herded to the picnic shelter behind the church for the reception. I use the verb “herded because the picnic shelter was parallel to a cow pasture, and from the distinctive odor that abounded, apparently, in the vicinity of a hog farm. The refreshment table was lined with a plethora of
2 liter generic sodas, a wide selection of Sam’s Club chips, and cake squares adorned with, you guessed it, wedding bells. The Boobsey twins then broadened their ceremonial resumes by pouring sodas for the guests, and then serving the cake squares. While we supped, the bride and groom opened their gifts…during the reception…thanking everyone personally right then and there. No need for silly Thank-You cards what with the expense of such a lavish reception spread!
I left the reception after the ceremonial unwrapping of the gifts, fearing that Briscoe Darling and his family’s jug band would be next on the agenda providing the entertainment. By the grace of God I made it back to civilization, relatively unscathed.
As far as I know, the happy couple remains espoused. Which just goes to show you, it’s not about the pomp or the venue or the dress (or lack thereof)…the foundation of any long-standing union must include versatile friends who fill a variety of roles, family who can overlook the rough edges (and/or outright nakedness) and an old-fashioned fornication sermon.