Nuns. I kept seeing nuns. It was my wedding day and I was feeling like Maria in “The Sound of Music.” But, I wasn’t wearing a wedding gown yet. I was in a simple dress and it was 7:15 in the morning, in the convent chapel in Malone with my mom, my sister, Cindy DesParois and Pattie McEnroe and maybe Connie Gibbons, but I don’t think so. We were going to Mass. Marrying a Jewish guy precluded me from having a wedding in Notre Dame Church, even though I was having a priest, a rabbi and a minister officiate at my ceremony later that day. Father Giroux (so handsome that we privately called him Father What-a-Waste) suggested I come to Mass that morning with the nuns.
“My mom wants me to take Communion,” I muttered to him the week before as Mitch and I finished our last Pre-Cana Conference.
“You can take Communion.”
“I haven’t been to confession in at least five years,” I stated, somewhat defiantly.
“Have you murdered anyone lately? No?” He smiled as I shook my head.
“Then I’ll give you Communion. God won’t care. You are doing it for your mother.”
No way for me to get out of it. Mitchell’s smug little smirk that let me know he would be sleeping in until our rehearsal later in the morning had me contemplating no end of venial sins I could commit at his expense.
As an honor, the nuns let me sit in the first pew. They could be magnanimous, I was only marrying a man, they were Brides of Christ. And I had to be first in line for Communion. Father Giroux laid the host on my tongue then we both glanced Heavenward at the same instant to make sure that the roof was not going to be sent down upon our heads for this sacrilege.
The Country Club provided another potential disaster a few hours later. We were supposed to be married on the patio, overlooking Owl’s Head. The staff had removed all the chairs and umbrella tables to clear the way for us. However, there were pipes sticking up out of the concrete all over the patio, revealed as soon as the table umbrellas had been removed. Flowers, chairs, and the traditional Jewish wedding canopy, the chuppah, all sat waiting our decision. We couldn’t use the patio; people would be tripping and falling all over with those damn pipes.
“Move over onto that lawn.” My father, a problem solver but no golfer, pointed to the putting green. The Club manager paled at the thought of multiple high heels poking holes in the pristine grass surface, but he reluctantly agreed. Problem solved, we sat down to lunch and laugh with friends and family.
A quick trip to the hairdresser for a wash and dry of my poodle cut (I still cringe at pictures of that popular do…what was I thinking), a fast manicure in pale mauve by my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Margot, a bubble bath and I was on my way back to the Country Club in Cindy’s car. We had commandeered the Ladies Locker Room.
Insanity. Seven women plus me. Two matrons of honor (my mother made me pick my sister and my college roommate, Susie, had beaten me to the altar), five bridesmaids and the bride, trying to get dressed in a locker room and lounge. Someone took a photo of me in my white lace bra and panties, leaning way over a sink, my nose almost pressed against the mirror, applying coat after coat of mascara. In the corner of the lounge, Connie and Leslie Kriff were arguing with my sister-in-law Margot about the floral hairpiece she was supposed to wear. Cindy was trying to find us some glasses of champagne; she did manage to score some innocuous white wine to calm our nerves. And from the window, I heard the voices of the Rabbi and the Priest arguing about whether the name of Jesus Christ could be mentioned during the ceremony. Mediating that battle was Irv, Mitch’s roommate from his VISTA volunteer days, a final year Yale Divinity student.
We had photos taken all over the Country Club and immediate grounds before the guests arrived, despite my Aunt Gaye’s predictions that since it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding, our marriage would probably not last. But, I wanted those photos while there was still daylight and I needed Mitch.
Tall, dark and handsome in his navy blue tuxedo, a small smile revealed under his bushy moustache, his hand firmly holding mine, he was everything I wanted. Knowing I was not altogether pleased with my dotted swiss wedding gown (my mother cried when I tried it on, what else was I to do but buy it), he told me I was breath-taking. And I believed him.
The ceremony was scheduled for 7:00 p.m., enough after sundown to satisfy our Rabbi-for-Rent. Our guests gathered around the chuppah. The sky was a tangle of pink, purple and blue clouds with a few weak rays of sunshine piercing the impending dark (my mother had hung a dozen rosaries on her clothesline all day to keep the predicted rain away). My two oldest nephews, Craig and Marc, handed out programs to the mixed faith crowd of Jews, Catholics, Protestants and one Buddhist. This was to be an event unlike any they had seen before. We had designed the ceremony and written our own vows. “Obey” was not a word that either of us was comfortable with. Aunt Gaye commented after the ceremony that we probably were not legally married because our vows did not have the required language.
Mitch’s parents walked him out, and then I was escorted by my mom and dad, to the strains of “Color my World” by Chicago, played by my brother Jon’s girlfriend, Jenny, on flute and our law school friend, Nelson, on guitar.
Irv was to open the service with a prayer. He stepped forward, all Episcopalian, in his grey robe and white collar and intoned, “In the name of Moses our Father and Jesus, our Brother….”
I gasped, Mitchell snickered, Rabbi Roth frowned and Father Giroux rolled his eyes. It was all uphill from there.
The reception, it was agreed by all, was the best party Malone had ever seen. The misplaced challah was retrieved from my mom’s house thanks to a quick trip by Brother Bob, but we forgot to put out the favors: matchbooks with our names on them (I still use them to light birthday and Hanukkah candles). Uncle Bill and Uncle Paul both passed out at some point. After my father and I danced to “Daddy’s Little Girl”, Margot taught the band to play “Hava Negila” so we could dance the Hora. Every song they played thereafter sounded like a combination of the two!
We broke with Malone tradition and did not open our gifts at the reception, but to appease my sister, around midnight, the wedding party and assorted friends and relatives congregated at my parents’ house to open presents. Seven pairs of candle stick holders in every material imaginable first brought appreciative comments, but by the time I opened up the box with the seventh set, in pewter, I think, we were all giggling out loud.
It was after two when Mitchell and I drove up to the View Motel to go to bed. Unfortunately, Mitchell had failed to confirm the reservation and our room had long since been given to someone else. It was Fair Week, so there were no vacancies anywhere. We hurried over to the Gateway Motel and to our great relief (and astonishment) there were some unused rooms amongst members of our wedding party and law school guests. It seems some had decided to “share” rooms that night in a spirit of good will, many drinks and wedding party congeniality.
While our friends and relatives were romantically involved, my frugal husband counted money and checks to make sure we had enough for our honeymoon and the florist’s bill, inflated at the last moment with all the pots of white mums that were necessary to direct the guests to the putting green and not the patio.
We collapsed into sleep just before dawn, husband and wife. But not Mr. and Mrs. Hallow. I had decided not to change my name and Mitch was fine with my decision. Not so our resident legal expert, Aunt Gaye, who had stated to me that morning that it was illegal to be married and not take your husband’s name. Two recent law school graduates who had decided that we couldn’t be married until after we took the Bar Exam in case one of us killed the other in a fit of panic and frustration. We got through that test and the blending of two faiths and two vastly different backgrounds at our wedding.
Yeah, we were SO married.