May

2000

Wedding

When my old friend Michele asked me if I would go to her mom’s wedding with her, of course I said yes. When she asked if I would go in a dress, I had to think for a second first.

I’ve known Michele since my freshman year of high school, and she’s always done right by me, so if it was that important to her that I make an ass of myself at one of the most precious days of her mother’s life, I was going to do it, for God’s sake. So I borrowed a nice frock from my housemate Rachael, and squeezed myself into it. I have to say, I looked pretty good; I’ve got a fine set of child-bearing hips and fill out a dress well.

Michele was supposed to come pick me and Tomas up at my old house and then we would drive out to Issaquah for the wedding, so I was well prepared ahead of time, but when she called and told me that the dress was out, I was caught by surprise and so was still pulling on a reasonably formal outfit when her car pulled up. I climbed into the back seat with Michele and Tomas. Her mother and her new stepfather sat up front, and I began to realize the true horror of the situation.

Gary, the man her mother was marrying, had been described to me as a 40-year-old in the body of a 90-year-old, and this was nothing but accurate. He twitched and shifted around madly, his grey skin hanging off of his bones, his white hair tufting crazily in patches off of his head. His conversation was erratic; he seemed fascinated by the fact that I played the banjo. He talked about some ragtime band that he’d seen as a child, straying off into quiet tangents as we sat in the back seat, driving out to Issaquah.

The wedding was being held at the Boehm’s Candy Chapel. Boehm’s is a fairly famous local candy company, and apparently the founder had some kind of mental breakdown and built a replica of a Swiss chapel “in the shadows of the Issaquah Alps.” Needless to say, there’s no such thing as the Issaquah Alps. So the chapel is just this bizarre little schlocky hut, next to a gift shop selling chocolates and salt-water taffy. Michele, Tomas and I split off and walked around, joined shortly by her gangster little brother. Out in front of the chapel, there was a small fountain with a plaque dedicating it to Julius Boehm’s first water safety instructor.

Eventually the wedding was ready to start and we filed into the chapel, decorated with inept paintings of God reaching down from Heaven and a huge, fake plastic rock where the pulpit should be. I’ve never been much on churchery, but I’m pretty sure what a chapel should look like, and this wasn’t it.

So me, Michele, Tomas and her brother were seated in the front pew, and the ceremony began. The minister delivered a fairly generic, if long, New Agey service, but the real action was in the wedding party. Michele’s mom looked fairly normal, keeping as calm as I imagine she could. Her maid of honor, however, was a completely different story. A woman in her 40s, clad in a too-tight electric blue Lycra dress, her artificial red hair piled high atop her head, as soon as the minister began to speak, she was overcome with tears, and cried throughout the entire thing, her mascara running in thick black tracks down her face, her pot belly heaving gently in time with her sobs. On the other side of her was Gary, resplendent in his tuxedo. As soon as he stood up in front of the 15 or so people assembled, he began to frantically twitch his face. We hadn’t seen any evidence of a facial tic in him up to that point, but once the ceremony had begun, his face was uncontrollable.

Michele, Tomas and I grabbed each other’s arms as we sat in the pew, all thinking the same thing: don’t start laughing. We all knew that if one of us broke up, the other two would too, and the wedding would be completely and utterly ruined. So we sat, pinching our arms and biting the insides of our cheeks, for a half an hour. Blood started to pool inside my mouth. Eventually, it was over, and the bride and the groom didn’t kiss. And we left.

The reception was even worse. They had rented the Issaquah Kiwanis hall, a faux log cabin painted a battleship gray on the outside, decorated like a half-hearted tearoom on the inside. There was a punchbowl full of watery yellow punch, three small cakes (not even wedding cakes, just white-frosted layer cakes), and some Dixie cups full of nuts on the tables. That was basically it. I regretted not eating before I left home. As soon as we got into the Kiwanis hall we ran into the bathroom and collapsed laughing on the floor in a strange mix of hilarity, horror and disbelief in what we had just seen. Our faces were red and tears were running down our cheeks, it was like we had stepped into some surreal Farrely Brothers universe where human misfortune was the source of amazing comedy.

Wait, that’s this universe.

And then Tomas’s dad got married in a traditional Buddhist ceremony and my mom got married by a club-footed Texan in Las Vegas but those are two completely different stories.