I hate weddings, perhaps because of my own marital disaster, but I am also not fond of birthdays (which remind me of the passing of time), funerals (which make me aware of my mortality), and anniversaries, but I don't mind Christmas with its presents or April Fools' Day with it puerile pranks.
I was surprised, however, to find myself on a recent Saturday driving the twenty miles – or thirty-two Trudeauian kilometres – from Blandsville to Blissburg for the nuptials of a second cousin's daughter. Most of the guests would be relatives three or four time removed whom I wouldn't know from a band of Inuit seal-hunters. I hoped I hadn't been invited just to help fill the bride's side of the church.
The Church of St. Vitus was not hard to find: the spire was the tallest structure in town and cars were parked on both sides of the street for two blocks either way from the church. I locked my car and walked to the site of the wedding. My black leather shoes were hard and uncomfortable and the tie felt like a noose around my neck.
"Friend of the bride or groom?" asked an usher.
"The bride," although I hadn't seen Alison since she was twelve, a dozen years ago. The groom, Victor Wynne, I had never met.
When the organ began to play, the buzz of conversation changed to snickering as one key, each time it was struck, gave out a cacophonous squawk, like a crow with laryngitis, as the bride and her father walked down the aisle. She was beautiful, and when they reached the altar, she and Victor gazed at each other fondly. Had my ex-wife and I once looked at each other like that?
The ceremony began. The minister had a good speaking voice and projected well, the groom was audible, but Alison, shy and nervous, could not be heard. I wondered if legally Victor and the clergyman were married. When it was time to exchange rings, neither Victor nor his best man could find the symbolic circle, so he had to pantomime the presentation.
"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride." Victor did – and from an unidentifiable source came a loud noise like a giant suction cup being pulled off a flat surface. More snickering.
The minister tried to keep a straight face as he announced: "Often we hold receptions in the church basement, but it is currently undergoing repairs, so the reception will be held a block down the street at the Bon Voyage Funeral Home." I hoped that the venue did not have any significance for the future of the marriage.
The room where the reception was being held was the one where the coffins on sale were displayed, but they had been pushed to one wall and covered with white cloths to serve as tables for refreshments and gifts. The latter was the usual array: five toasters (one of them mine); sets of dishes, cups, and glasses; pillows, sheets, and towels; two dozen monogrammed lighters for the fireplace (if they had one), a couple of obsolescent ashtrays, and the inevitable what-is-it? piece of statuary.