31: Just a Few Little Changes

31: Just a Few Little Changes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Just a Few Little Changes

In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.

~Thomas Jefferson

Our wedding? It would be a small affair, my fiancé Bill and I quickly decided. No fanfare for us plain folks — just an afternoon with a few select friends and family members as we took our vows — me in a white dress and he in his favorite suit.

In the weeks that followed, I happily spread the news of our upcoming nuptials. Yet, when I got to the point in the conversation where I outlined our wedding-day plans, the enthusiasm balloon deflated, and I was generally met with the same glazed stare a listener gives when she notices a piece of spinach stuck on the speaker’s tooth, but is too embarrassed to point out the problem. One evening as I sat at dinner with my parents, I voiced my confusion.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “No one seems excited about my wedding.”

My mother looked up from her plate. “Of course, we’re all excited, dear. It’s just that…”

My father interjected. “Excited about what? I mean, your wedding doesn’t sound like much.”

Now, weddings in our neck of the woods are big business. Caterers and bridal shops can be found on almost every main road, it seems, and every hair salon within a fifty-mile radius of my home advertises “wedding party specials.” Most receptions in our community are large affairs, and those in our extended Italian-American family were no exception. I thought back to all the weddings I had attended — and enjoyed. The buffets, the live band, the floral arrangements, the Viennese hour… I was starting to see Dad’s point. True enough, what Bill and I were proposing was nothing more than an afternoon party. Surely there would be nothing wrong with a little compromise, I surmised. With a bit of tweaking, Bill and I could still have a scaled-down affair that fit our more modest style and at the same time would not disappoint common expectations.

Later that evening, Bill and I reviewed our plans. It was decided that I would wear a tea-length gown, with an understated spray of flowers in my hair; he would spring for a new suit. Our bridal party would consist of two of our closest friends, no more. The afternoon luncheon would become a sit-down dinner, and for those who enjoyed dancing, the services of a DJ would be retained. Bill and I shook on the deal. No matter what well-meaning advice we received, we agreed, we would not budge from our parameters. And so, with all good intentions, it began.

The next week, I went to a bridal shop in search of my tea-length gown. The salesperson looked around. “Hmm,” she breathed thoughtfully, “I have something else in mind for you.” She turned toward a rack, and then fluttered back with a full-length satin number covered in lace, crystals, and beads. “This would be just perfect,” she said as she hurriedly ushered me toward the fitting room.

My first impression: It was big and flashy and not anything like the dress that Bill and I had agreed upon only a few days earlier. But it was beautiful. I tried it on and fell immediately and totally in love. And I had to have that dress, complete with four-foot train. It was just a little more material, I convinced myself as I wrote the check for the deposit. As long as I kept to the small spray of flowers in my hair and didn’t wear a veil, what difference would a few feet of satin and lace make anyhow? Of course, now this development would require Bill to be fitted with a tuxedo. Just a small difference from a new suit, really; it was no big deal at all.

My mother-in-law soon caught wind of these developments. “Well, then, you’ll need gowns and tuxedoes for the entire wedding party,” she advised.

Bill and I reminded her that our wedding party consisted solely of two witnesses, and the decisions on what they would wear would be left to them. I watched as the color drained from her face.

“Only two?” she gasped before she rattled off a list of friends and family who would “simply never forgive us” if they were not included in the procession. The result of this discussion: a full bridal party, including a flower girl and a ring bearer dressed, of course, in matching gowns and tuxedoes.

From there, my parents accompanied us to the reception hall where dinner plans were to be finalized. “Just a dinner,” I said to the caterer as I planted my fist firmly on his desk to emphasize my resolve.

He cocked his head. “For only a few dollars more per person, we can add a full cocktail hour. It’s a special package. The wedding cake even comes out on a flaming cart.”

I hesitated, trying to imagine flames shooting from between layers of vanilla sponge cake and lemon frosting.

“If you take it,” he bargained, “I’ll even throw in the invitations for free.”

My mother leaned in closer to me. “Free invitations,” she whispered.

I held my breath and looked at Bill. “Might as well take it,” he answered.

“Now, what about entertainment?” the caterer inquired. “I have a very good band that I can recommend.”

I felt my father’s hand on my back. “I don’t know about this DJ thing you were thinking about. I’d take the band.”

I sighed as the runaway train that had become my wedding took another unexpected turn. “We’ll take the band, too,” I conceded.

Next, my mother and I went to the florist to order bouquets. Nosegays of pink carnations and baby’s breath were quickly selected for my three girls. Feeling confident, I proposed a full bouquet of lively red, orange, and yellow roses for me. The florist lifted her hand to write the order.

“Not so fast,” my mother said. She turned to me. “I think if you’re wearing white, you should carry white flowers.”

“But that’s so dull,” I argued. “I’d like some color.”

“Red, orange, and yellow,” my mother harrumphed. “That’s just a little too bright. Really.”

Needless to say, I left the flower shop that afternoon with an order for three pink nosegays for my girls and one bouquet of white roses for me.

My big day neared, and our final step before the wedding arrived: the church ceremony rehearsal. Carefully, Pastor Roy walked us through the choreography that we would recreate the following Sunday afternoon.

“First,” he said, “the bridal party marches down the aisle. Then wait a few beats before the bride and father follow. When you arrive at the altar, Father lifts the veil and kisses Daughter before taking his place next to Mother.”

I raised my hand meekly. “Um, Pastor, I’m not wearing a veil.”

Pastor Roy’s eyes opened wide. “No veil?” he said. “That’s highly unusual in a church wedding.”

Like a chorus, I heard my bridesmaids whisper “amen” from the sidelines, and my face flushed as I made a mental note to buy a veil first thing in the morning.

When the afternoon of Sunday, September 23rd arrived, it was as beautiful a day as any bride could have hoped for. The sun shone brightly in the sky as leaves of red and gold tumbled across the ground in the warm autumn breeze. I made my way into church precisely on time and stood patiently in my full-length, bridal-consultant-approved gown behind my large mother-in-law-approved bridal party. I walked down the aisle, and when I reached the altar, I handed my mother-approved white bouquet to my maid-of-honor. My father lifted my pastor-approved veil and kissed me on the cheek. I turned and looked at my husband-to-be. What had happened to our modest affair? I wondered as I gazed at him. It seemed as though my choice of groom was the only facet of our wedding I had not been convinced to change.

As we said “I do” I realized I was marrying the man of my dreams. In the grand scheme of things, the other details didn’t truly matter. Well, except for one detail, I mused — keeping a safe distance from that flaming wedding cake later. That would probably be important, too.

~Monica A. Andermann

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