Well At Some Point I Had to Tell It, I Suppose
Comments on this blog have resulted in philipa coming to some interesting conclusions about typical marriage ceremonies in Canada.
I hastened to point out that slapping the groom is not usually a prominent feature. However, I felt that this begged more questions, and so here it is: The tale of the Metro/Mme wedding, which has never heretofore been publicly disclosed. It was taken from the secret files and until now has not been missed.
The reason Mme slapped me at our wedding had to do with the nature of weddings, and the nature of Mme, and plain ol' nature.
The first two came into serious conflict in the early stages--possibly even before I guardedly suggested, hedging my bets carefully and presenting a second, no, third-hand ring, that perhaps, in the immortal words of Rocky Balboa: "Yuh wouldn' min' marryin' me too much."
Mme is by her very nature not cut out to be the bride at every wedding or the corpse at every funeral. She is either observational, audience, or she's the eminence grise, the puppeteer, making it all dance. The spotlight is not where she feels most comfortable, and ironically she who of the pair of us most loves photography and is better at it, cannot stand to have her picture taken. I account this as false modesty. I am sure that Angelina Jolie also says "Another one of me? Don't be ridiculous!"
But the net effect is that no goldurn way in hell was she going to process down no aisle to no Pachabel, no siree.
Not to mention that since she utterly refused to get married in a church, it was likely that aisles might be in short supply.
Of course, as a one-time Catholic who was still somewhat in the uncertain phase, I still saw the Holy Mother Church as the institution I should turn to for all my being born, dying, and everything-in-between needs. I'd sort of assumed that marriage in a church was what I'd wind up doing, possibly just to keep my mother off my back.
I love her--she's my mother, for FSM's sake, but she can be very persistent, not to say "wearing". At my sister's wedding she asked whether Sis might, perhaps, just reconsider leaving "obey" off of of the promissory phrase "love, honour, and ..." She's also very devout, I feel.
But Mme was having none of it. She wasn't going to get married by a celibate wearing, for all intents and purposes, a dress, much less listen to a batch of 2,000-year-old advice on navigating the complex channels of marriage given by a man who himself had sworn off the whole business. She wasn't getting married in a building whose founding philosophy has grown to consider our cohabitation prior to marriage as a sinful thing. And after some thought, I realized: neither was I.
So we hashed out a few basic details:
My parents were out of the country in November, our "anniversary" month. Her mum was in Africa or somewhere for December. January all our friends were likely to be holed up paying off credit cards. And in February, Mum and Dad were off to Oz.
So March was the earliest we could manage. We narrowed it down to two weekends, and by purest coincidence managed to pick the one that my sister could actually make.
After some discussion of buildings, and the relative merits and prices of each, we came to the conclusion that outdoors was probably cheaper. Sure it was a bit early in the spring to be getting married outside, but hey, this was BC. We hardly have winters at all.
And that ended my part in things. When one of you is sort of terminally organized all the time, you leave the planning in their capable hands. I offered input as asked. I remember being consulted on things like the colour of the napklins, and the dinner menu.
The caterer was a friend, and family. And was willing to serve lamb, a dish I'm fond of. Mme's sister, herself a catering professional opined that "nobody eats lamb these days".
And when Mme asked me to drive her down to a houseboat on a local river to meet a slightly loopy lady who did some form of dog dressage on weekends, I agreed that she was an admirable choice of officiant.
And she was. She, a marriage commissioner and if memory serves, former ordained minister of some sect or other, understood and respected our desire for a secular wedding.
And so it was that two days before the outdoor wedding I found myself driving around the Greater Vancouver area cursing the unseasonably late snow.
Snow. Like the stuff we (coastal dwellers as we was) just don't get.
The day of our wedding I tried to avoid seeing the bride, but was hampered by logistics--we had to share a taxi. I wore my pea-green suit, and Mme had found a dress in the matching shade (which somehow looked better on her) for a price I believe cannot be mentioned her for fear of violating some sort of blog obscenity law.
The snow had melted, aside from dirty blue patches in the shade of some of the conifers. It was clear and sunny that day in the rose garden (or, given the season, stick garden), but cold. Cold enough that small children in the audience developed blue lips, and adults were seen tipping back dread quantities of medicinal alcohol from the open bar, once it opened. We stood in the rose garden and hoped we'd make it through the vows before either Mme or the ... bridesmaid, I suppose is the word ... froze solid.
But it was not quite cold enough. Against all reason and expectation, a few mozzies had hatched, and one particularly black and hairy one was buzzing about my ears. I took scant notice, being in that tunnel-vision, fight-or-flight moment when a long-term bachelor realizes that This Is It.
The officiant had brought along a "raku" glass heart. This she passed about and asked the gathering to pray or wish over, or just think nice thoughts about us onto.
Then it was "I-do" time. I yearned to take the natural, expected course, but my best man had my keys. So I found myself mumbling along in what Raincoaster claims is an Anglo-Aussie accent to some words, and then saying "I do."
It was while I was saying this that the previously mentioned black and hairy mosquito decided it was feeding time. I could hear its shrill nyyeee in my ear as I wound down and Mme began to speak her part, but we were holding hands, and it seemed to me that suddenly shaking my hands out of her grasp and dancing about smacking at the air might not be wedding-worthy.
But now the beast settled on my temple. In my ears there was an ominous silence. My neck flexed with the strain of supporting its weight. I tried to ignore it and concentrate on listening to Mme:
"... so long as you both shall live?"
As she ended her vows, Mme disengaged her left hand and slapped me across the temple, causing a gasp to ripple through the assembled throng (it may not have been a complete throng--it was a fairly small gathering) and permanently messing up friend Anopheles.
I feel that many of our friends came to erroneous conclusions as to the nature of our relationship at that point.
"There was this big black mosquito!" protested Mme, holding thumb and forefinger apart to illustrate the enormity of said insect to the crowd, who naturally had been unable to see it but for the pregnant women in the front row..
Once things had settled down, we were pronounced man and wife. The party was grand, if short--Mme's favourtie local band had been persuaded to perform for a ridiculous fraction of their normal fee (Mme introduced them to a whole new audience once, so they owed her), and despite Mme's sister's fears the lamb was the first thing to utterly disappear.
As I write this, the raku heart sits on the cookbook shelf in our kitchen, the heart of our home. I hardly ever think of it, but I catch a glimpse of it almost every day. I am not some sloppy sentimental jerk, but that heart, which in other circumstances would be a rather fey knick-knack, has come to have meaning beyond "someone spent too much at the dollar store."
And what did I take away from getting my face slapped at my own wedding? (I say "my own" because it may actually have happened before at someone else's ... or so I understand).
Firstly, I realized at that moment that I was marrying the right person: A woman who would not simply stand by for appearances' sake, but who would take necessary action as and when she saw fit; a streak of pragmatism that I value greatly. This is just the sort of person I would want to, in the hopefully long fullness of time, be found cold and dead next to.
Secondly, I realized that the dowry was totally insufficient.