When you’ve been in the ministry as long as I have–I began pastoring when JFK was president!–there are few things you haven’t seen or experienced. This one is about weddings I have done (or had done to me!).
There was this one wedding….
–Which was attended by Sandra Bullock. I didn’t know it at the time, and learned it later. The famous movie star was all of 10 years old. The bride was her aunt or a cousin of her mama’s or something. (I wonder if she remembers me. lol. )
–Where I called the groom by the name of the best man. Oops. (Thereafter, I wrote the names of the bride and groom in large letters at the top of my materials.)
–Where I dropped the ring. For years in rehearsals, I would instruct the bride and groom, “If it drops, let it go. No one will know and we’ll get it later.” So, when it happened I’m the one stooping down to pick it up. Oh, well. Not that big a deal.
–Where the groom was wearing cowboy boots with his formal tux. During the picture-taking, I said to the bride, “Debbie, you should have worn yours.” With that, she hiked her dress up and showed me. She was wearing her boots too.
–Where the bride fainted. See below.
–Where the bride was an hour late for the wedding and pretty well sabotaged her marriage. Also below.
–Where the bride had lost her voice and was unable to repeat any of the vows! (below)
–Where the bride and groom insisted on writing their own vows and I let them. (Hey, I was young.) It turned out they were on the leading edge of a new trend. Soon everyone wanted to craft their own ceremony, and not just their vows, but the whole shebang. Nothing about that was good. Here’s what happened…
As the couple settled into my living room, the bride-to-be said, “We do not want to say ’til death do us part.” I asked why. “Because everyone says it, but then they get divorced. We want to be honest.” I said, “What do you want to say?” “We want to say ‘so long as love shall last.’” I said, “That’ll be about Tuesday.” She asked, “What are you saying?” I said, “That there will be plenty of days you do not feel the love. Your marriage has to be based on something stronger than love.” “Like what?” “Like a commitment–till death do us part.”
I wish I could say because they recited the correct vows their marriage lasted. A decade later when the groom found someone else he allegedly loved better, he was gone.
In one wedding the bride fainted.
Susan was as lovely as any bride ever. Early in the ceremony, during my preacher-remarks, I noticed her swooning on her father’s arm and thought, “How sweet.” Then, she dissolved into a pile at his feet.
Everyone went into shock. Nothing prepares you for what to do at such a moment. I said to the best man, “Pick her up and carry her back into the parlor.” And then, “Wedding party, have a seat on the front pew. Everyone, give us ten minutes.”
In the parlor, they laid her on the carpet and someone broke open a vial of smelling salts. As she awakened, Susan looked up into the eyes of her mom. Her first words were, “Oh, mother. I’ve embarrassed you in front of all your friends.” Her mom said, “Hush. Everything is fine.”
The bride had not eaten anything that day and her blood sugar level was low. That, plus the usual wedding day jitters had made a terrible combination.
Exactly 10 minutes later, we were back in business. In the parlor I had asked if the bride wanted to shorten the ceremony. “No,” she said, “but talk fast.”
We still laugh about this.
When the groomsmen got creative…
During the processional, the groomsmen brought in a spittoon with great fanfair and placed it beside the kneeling altar. He told me later he had hunted all week for that thing and polished it to shine like gold. The congregation tittered as he set it beside the kneeling bench.
In the foyer, before we entered the sanctuary, I noticed Mike the groom removing something from his pocket and laying it on a table. It clunked. I said, “What was that?” “My Skoal,” he said.
I laughed, “Man, you’ve got it bad, if you have to carry tobacco in your tuxedo.”
It was worse than I knew.
As the groom and best man took their places in the front of the sanctuary, I noticed something out of place. A shiny, brass spittoon was on display beside the kneeling altar.
I calmly picked it up and laid it behind the choir railing and the wedding party was none the wiser. Many in the audience did see it, however, and some broke into laughter.
In the ceremony, as the couple knelt for prayer, the groom father whispered to him, “Watch out for the powder.” It turns out that those enterprising groomsmen had also brought in a can of talcum powder which they opened and dumped on the white cushion adorning the kneeling bench. Mike the groom let Harriet kneel first, then he laid her dress over the offending powder. I was impressed.
Later, at the reception in the next block, these same pranksters had rented a flashing arrow sign that read: “To catch a Crowe (the bride’s last name), Skoal its tail.” That was cute, I suppose.
I told the groomsmen this was all mighty funny but if they ever tried this in a wedding of mine in the future, heads would roll.
The bride was an hour late and doomed her marriage.
Charles the groom and I stood outside the sanctuary waiting for the musical cue to enter. We waited and waited. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes past the hour. Something was going on.
Finally, someone stepped around the building to inform us. “The bride isn’t here.” The groom exploded. “What do you mean she’s not here?”
The young lady and her mother had been seen putting the finishing touches on the sanctuary’s decorations an hour before the ceremony. She was wearing jeans and her hair was in rollers. Then, they had to drive to the Air Force Base, a good 15 minute away, do her hair and makeup, get dressed, and return to the church.
As the groom and I stood outside the church, he fumed and fidgeted. Two hundred people were sitting inside, waiting for the wedding, and he was not taking it well.
I tried to calm him down.
“Charles, you have to shrug this off. Laugh at it. If you want to sabotage your honeymoon and get your marriage off to a terrible start, lower the boom on her. Ream her out for being late.” He needed to be as strong as he’d ever been in his life in order to restrain the natural urge to vent his anger. He needed to be mature.
He could not pull that off.
As I had feared, her lateness and his immaturity doomed the marriage. It didn’t last a year.
The bride had laryngitis.
Allen and Patricia had originally planned to memorize their vows, a nice little speech each had composed. The night of the rehearsal, they informed me that they had not been able to get this done. Would I simply feed them their lines?
What we had not anticipated is that the day of the wedding the bride lost her voice. She had none. Zilch. Here’s how I found that out….
The bride’s home church pastor did the opening part of the ceremony and I was to do the vows. I asked Allen to repeat after me and fed him his lines, which he repeated. It seemed to take five minutes. Then, I turned to the bride. “Patricia, would you face Allen and repeat after me?” I gave her the first line and looked at my notes for the followup line. At that point, I realized she’d not said anything.
I repeated her opening line and watched as she mouthed the words in silence. Yikes. She had no voice.
So, I gave her the next line and the ones after that, with her silently speaking the words but which no one actually heard. (I was young then. These days, I would explain to the audience what was happening. But I didn’t.)
In the reception, a man approached me and said, “Preacher, that boy promised that girl everything in the book! She has yet to make him the first promise!”
A funny line for a most unusual ceremony, I thought.
And the most fun wedding in a long time: In the French Quarter.
I was still living in New Orleans. And the couple were living in Texas. So, guess who had to make numerous trips to the clerk’s office downtown to make this wedding official. This city does not know how to make anything easy. So, no, this part was not fun.
The couple was married in a courtyard at the north end of the Quarter, then held a “second line” through the entire district to the reception next door to St. Louis Cathedral. (A “second line” is an impromptu parade, right down the middle of those narrow French Quarter streets.) We had cops to get us through intersections, musicians leading the way blowing their horns, and the wedding party wore their outfits. Everyone walked in the middle of the street, dancing around, having a great time. People came out of residences and stores to applaud, some gave the bride money–another local custom–and more than a few even joined the parade.
Two hours later, walking back to my car (near the courtyard where we had begun) I was fascinated to see how many street musicians were out doing their thing in the Quarter. There would be three or four musicians occupying a street corner, playing and singing. Most looked rather ratty, like they’d been hoboing or hitchhiking, but the music was as wonderful and professional as anything you’ll hear anywhere.
It was so delightful. I thought, “Is there another city in America like this? Lord, I do love this city!”
(P.S. I lived in metro New Orleans nearly four years in the 1960s, then from 1990 to 2016. I love a hundred things about this city, but I never learned to love the noise, the politics, the worldly culture, the traffic, and a few other things.)
These days in retirement, I do maybe one wedding a year. And I try to see to it that none of these make my list of funny stories while tying the knots!