Above the ubiquitous, cloying strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” drifting from stadiums and auditoriums. Above the equally ubiquitous, headache-inducing, whump-whumping of bass reverberating from oversized speakers at all-night graduation parties, I hear the pealing of bells. Church bells. Wedding bells.
Weddings make me cry. And not in a good way.
The first wedding I remember is my aunt’s wedding. To be honest, I don’t remember anything about the wedding itself. I was only 4 or 5 years old. But I do remember my distress. My aunt was marrying my crush. She was taking him away from me. She might as well have been stealing a kitten from me.
It wasn’t fair. She had her dog. She had her horse. She didn’t need a husband, too.
I don’t remember the wedding, but I do remember the overwhelming grief. I whined. I cried. I threw a titanic fit that prompted my father to hoist me over his shoulder and haul me, thrashing and keening like a trapped animal, to our car.
I remember sulking — and then the curtain closes on my memory, as if I simply blacked out after that, as if I were sedated. I’m not entirely sure I wasn’t.
My impression of weddings was set for life before I reached grade school. It hasn’t changed much.
Being a bridesmaid is its own special category of misery. And, if you are female, you are going to get roped into being a bridesmaid at least once in your life — unless you decide to emulate Christopher Knight, the North Pond Hermit who spent 27 years living in the Maine wilderness.
I was a bridesmaid. Four times. And I prefer the company of a good book to that of most people.
A bridesmaid’s nightmare begins long before the wedding day. It begins, in fact, the moment the bride announces her engagement.
A bridesmaid must pretend that she thinks the ring is gorgeous, even though it looks like something out of a machine at the arcade. She must pretend that she thinks the groom is the world’s greatest catch, even though she can’t see in him one single marriageable trait. And she must pretend that her friend is still the same sane, sweet person she always was — when of course she isn’t.
Something happens to a woman the moment an engagement ring slides onto her ring finger: She turns into a self-important, self-absorbed shrew.
When the wedding day arrives, a bridesmaid’s job description is simply to walk down an aisle when she hears music, then stand still and look pretty.
A bridesmaid should never be too pretty, however. The bride is expected to be the most gorgeous woman in the room. She purposely chooses the most heinous dress colors and cuts for her bridesmaids in order to "uglify" them. If they’re still too attractive, she will require them to endure hours of painful and expensive hairstyling so they look they’re wearing giant loofahs on their heads.
Once your closest friends are married, you’re off the hook as bridesmaid and on the hook as guest, which is only slightly less miserable.
Don’t get me started on outdoor weddings. It’s Michigan, people. The weather changes every 10 minutes. Keep weddings and receptions indoors, where you have climate control. I am not happy to drive three hours to alternately roast like a hot dog on the grill on the Fourth of July and shiver like a nudist camping in Antarctica.
Do I have to mention the bugs? Deep Woods Off! does not mix well with my favorite Estee Lauder perfume.
Since I have to drive three hours to your out-of-the-way shindig, I’d appreciate it if you would at least see to it that the food is served in a timely manner. And please, let the food be edible. Let it be mainstream American cuisine, in other words.
At one reception, I was less than delighted when I discovered that I was expected to consume a salad that looked like the cat had beheaded every flower in the bridal bouquet. And the stench coming off the compost pile created a less-than-appetizing ambience.
I have gotten migraines at wedding receptions because I either couldn’t eat the food, or the food was far too long in being served. Munching on appetizers or even a protein bar stashed in my purse only delayed the migraine.
People have given me strange looks when I bolted from a reception to chow down at the nearest fast-food joint, then returned for the dancing and drinks. I don’t care how they look at me.
I have forgiven my aunt for marrying my crush. After all, he is now my uncle.
And how do I feel about weddings? Is that an engraved invitation in my mailbox? Please, no.
— By Kelly O'Toole, Tribune community columnist