March 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve already addressed the subject of football weddings elsewhere in this anthology (see “An Italian Childhood”). Our children didn’t have them, but that doesn’t mean what we DID have was any less wacky.

Take Cindy’s marriage to Michael, for example. Her bridesmaids met at her apartment in Whitestone, Queens for photos on the day of the wedding. From there the limos had to travel to Inwood in Nassau County for the ceremony at Our Lady of Good Counsel church. Maureen and I and both sets of our parents had gotten married there. It was about a twenty mile journey that should have taken perhaps thirty minutes.

Well, the photography session went flawlessly, but then things began to slip. Cindy and I hopped into the white roadster that would transport us to the church. Another limo behind us carried the bridesmaids. It was a Friday afternoon and becoming overcast. We had anticipated congestion on the Cross Island Expressway, but were unprepared for what we found. Traffic was virtually bumper-to-bumper and barely moving. After ten or fifteen minutes of this we began to get a bit fidgety. A gentleman in a car alongside glanced at us in our wedding finery and called out, “I hope you get to the church on time!” So did we, believe me.

The two drivers communicated by radio and decided to change the route. We got off at the next exit only to find the highway blocked ahead as well. Our vehicles continued to inch along as the clock ticked steadily. I glanced at my watch. We were going to be late, but I said nothing. Cindy was becoming flustered, and I tried my best to keep her calm.

A trip that should have taken perhaps half an hour lasted an hour and forty minutes! By the time we pulled up to the church we were already more than an hour late for the ceremony. To make matters worse, it had begun to rain. As we exited the limos, I spotted the priest, Father Larry, pacing back and forth on the church steps. He looked hopping mad. “Where have you been?” he growled.

I tried to explain that we had been stuck in traffic, but he was having none of that and started shooing us into the church. I guess my last best chance of eventually making it through the Pearly Gates vanished that day. Anyway, after we finally got everyone inside, the service went just beautifully, with one minor glitch.

After walking Cindy down the aisle, I gave her the traditional kiss and then passed her hand to Michael. As they began to approach the altar, I turned to my left to enter the pew where Maureen sat, and almost stepped on Cindy’s train. The witnesses seated to my right let out a collective “NOOOOO!” After all that had gone wrong thus far, I guess they didn’t want to see any additional mishaps. When I realized what was happening, I did an awkward little tap dance to avoid stepping on the train until it was safely out of range and the service proceeded without further incident.

But as we left the church following the ceremony, things began to go south again. One of the limos bearing the wedding party now had a dead battery and wouldn’t start. The driver came over to our vehicle where the families sat waiting and informed us that he would have to call in for a replacement. Charming!

Poor Stephanie, Michael’s Mom, began to have a conniption. She started to rant and rave until her mother, Grandma Jeannie, quieted her down. By now I had also lost my patience and shouted to the driver, “Harvey, if we don’t get going soon, we’re going to miss our own reception!”

Fortunately, my daughter-in-law Lisa’s brother Andy was at the church. He had jumper cables in his truck and managed to charge up the limo battery so we could get on our way. But that was far from the end of the madness.

The reception was in lower Manhattan. It was now beginning to get dark and the rain was coming down in black squalls. Driving into the city any day during rush hour is no picnic, and bad weather only makes it even worse. Traffic was again very bad, so by the time we got close to our destination we were pretty well frazzled. Then it happened. Two blocks from the hall, our driver tried to make a turn from the middle lane and collided heavily with a taxicab. The grinding impact caused quite a bit of damage to the side of the limo, but amazingly, neither vehicle stopped! Only in New York, folks!

And that wasn’t even the strangest thing about that incident. When we reached the hall, we had to take an elevator to the top floor where the reception was being held. I waited for another couple to enter, and then stepped in behind them. As the doors closed, the elevator operator turned to the woman and asked, “So how is your night going?”

Much to my shock, she grimaced and replied, “Well, it was going great until some idiot limo driver crashed into our cab!”

Oh, Mamma! I rolled my eyes and tried to appear inconspicuous. Now what are the odds that in the big city of New York our limo would collide with someone going to the same wedding? I didn’t recognize this couple, and I was hoping they hadn’t seen who was in that limo. It was a relief to get out of that elevator, I can tell you.

We were now about forty minutes late for the cocktail hour. Fortunately, the caterer agreed to extend the session since so few guests had arrived as yet. But that still wasn’t the end of the madness. We had rented a bus to transport forty-three people from Long Island who hadn’t wanted to drive into the city. Somewhere along the route, the bus driver got lost! The passengers had to take over and direct him to the destination! We laugh about it now, but I have to admit that I wasn’t very happy to hear that particular bit of news. When they finally reached the hall, the food for the cocktail hour was being cleared away. What a fiasco!

I found Cindy in the hallway crying her eyes out. So far her wedding had been a disaster. I gave her a hug and said “Listen to me. This may have started out lousy, but it’s going to be great now that we’re finally here.”

And it was. I have never been to a reception where all the guests enjoyed themselves so much. The dance floor was packed the entire night, and people just seemed to be having a grand old time. Then the final farce of the day began to play out.

The announcer invited me as the father of the bride to say a few words. Big mistake. To be funny, I had made two “stone” tablets out of styrofoam and listed on them the “Ten Commandments of Marriage”. Beforehand, I had laughingly instructed my siblings and nieces and nephews to throw some debris at me as a joke when I began to read the “commandments”. To my chagrin, they not only complied, but went far, far beyond what I had asked.

As I started to read what I had thought were some pretty funny lines, the bombardment began. I had to dodge rolls, napkins, candles and pieces of fruit throughout my presentation. I think I even saw a rubber chicken go by! And later, everyone complained that I had spoken for far too long. I don’t know, I thought that half hour passed very quickly! The Maitre D tried to get me off a couple of times, and even had the band play some “traveling music”. All that was missing was “the hook”. But I managed to evade all that and finished my speech. At least I thought it was amusing if no one else did.

The rest of the night, barring my little talk, seemed just fabulous, perhaps because it had started out so badly. On occasion, people still compliment us on that reception, despite all the mishaps. I’m glad. Cindy had been such a beautiful bride and she deserved it. And it was almost as much fun as a “football wedding”!

Jackie’s wedding to Mike, on the other hand, ran flawlessly from beginning to end. The reception was scheduled to be held at a yacht club in Suffolk County with a marvelous view of the Robert Moses Bridge spanning Fire Island inlet. Jackie, not surprisingly, would prove to be just an absolutely stunning bride. Hey, we only produce beautiful girls in this family.

We changed the venue of the ceremony to St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre rather than run the risk of incurring Father Larry’s wrath again. That was most fortunate, because quite frankly, I couldn’t afford any more bad karma for the afterlife.

And the family gave me my marching orders: no long speech. Actually, after the last escapade, I hadn’t planned to say anything. But then Cindy came over and insisted that I offer a few words. Well, since she insisted… But by now I had learned my lesson. I kept it down to about five minutes. Even still, there was some incoming from the siblings table.

My reputation for being long-winded must have preceded me. When I put down the mike, everyone gave me a standing ovation – not for my speech, but because it had ended! Since then I have been barred from touching a microphone. Sheesh. I didn’t think I was quite that bad, but I’ll bow to the majority opinion.

And now there are no more daughters to give away. I’ll bet the family is very thankful for that.


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