It’s true what they say you know, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
Let me start at the beginning…
Thirty-five years ago this month, I was a June bride. You may have heard the old wives tale that “a June bride is a bride for the rest of her life.”
I believed that dreams really do come true on the night my late husband proposed so many years ago.
Since I married at 19, I figured that it would be a breeze making it to my golden wedding anniversary. After all, I would only be 69 at the time. I thought we could even pass 65 years and meet all of our great-grandchildren before leaving this earth.
During the year of our engagement, I would proudly polish my little diamond ring each night and tuck it securely into the black velvet jewel box that it had come in. I made a plan in my mind that if there should ever be a fire or any type of emergency during the night, the first thing I would do was to grab my engagement ring and hit the ground running.
My fiancé, parents, friends, and I spent many hours planning the perfect wedding. We would be married at the little Polish church on a corner in downtown Two Rivers, WI. The old pipe organ would resound with hymns of gladness while a couple of friends sang the wedding music that we had so carefully selected.
I imagined my wedding shower would be a wonderful affair full of many lovely surprises hosted by my best friends and attended by all my relatives.
I pictured my gown as a flowing white creation with short sleeves that would show off the figure that I had worked so hard to achieve. Instead of a veil, I thought a white picture hat much like southern women wear on plantations would be a nice touch and match the hats that I had dreamed my bridesmaids would wear.
We would have beautiful portraits taken while we were dressed in our finest. My new husband would look quite dapper in the tan tuxedo that he was to wear. Of course, the sun would shine as we greeted our guests outside of church on that lovely June day without a cloud in the sky.
In my mind, the wedding reception would be a spectacular affair attended by those nearest and dearest to my heart. My new husband and I would dance every dance together, and then we would have a champagne toast before cutting the wedding cake.
When we were finished, I naturally assumed that we would take off for a secret spot that my new husband had so carefully selected to spend our honeymoon night and then we would be off to a resort enjoyed only by newlyweds.
Now, in fairy tales, dreams really do come true.
Pearls & daisies & Tupperware…oh my!
However, as far as weddings are concerned, I’ve found that Father Knows Best — as in God the Father. And let me tell you, He truly did have other plans for me on that fine June day 35 years ago…
I do believe that God’s laughter began the day my mom and I went shopping for a wedding dress and hat. It all began when my mom took me to Berk’s Bridal Shop in downtown Manitowoc, Wis.
Almost immediately Mom spotted the dress of her dreams. It was a high-necked lace beauty with pearls and embroidery everywhere. The sleeves came down to my knuckles. It was love at first sight for Mom and that dress. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her how I felt about that gown, so I figured someone might as well have their dream wedding.
Mom’s good fortune held tight when she spotted a lace veil with a huge white bow, beaded of course, that perched right on the top of my head. The outfit would not have been complete without white vinyl low-heeled sandals. And of course, the bridal store threw in a huge blue and white garter and enormous petticoat for free, so how could we pass up this deal? Believe me when I say that not one iota of skin was seen on my wedding day except for my face.
As for the bridesmaids, they rebelled and cancelled the hats, secretly ordering themselves rings of daisies, coordinated nicely with their yellow halter dresses, to perch atop their heads. It was the height of the ’70s after all. Flower Power was seriously in vogue and not to be messed with. Luckily for me, one of the bridesmaids told me about the daisy rings and we were able to substitute yellow picture hats at the last moment.
My wedding shower was something else!
My husband’s aunt was a Tupperware dealer and, unbeknownst to me, offered to throw a Tupperware shower. The deal was that everyone attending had to bring a gift of money only to be used for Tupperware (except no one informed the guests that all the money had to be spent on plastic dishes). All I can say is some relatives were very unhappy that I couldn’t use the funds for sheets or silverware. I did take home about $300-$400 in plastic that day and received a free decorative mirror with a large plastic frame because of the size of my order.
As for my groom, his tux was delivered to the rental store very late on the evening before the wedding. When he tried on the pants and bent over, they split in two. Thus a mad dash ensued for pants on the morning of our wedding. Fortunately they arrived just before the march down the aisle.
As for me, the morning of my wedding, my hair stylist decided that my hair looked just a pinch too long, so telling me she was going to give me a little trim, I agreed. Believe me when I say I walked out of the salon like I had just been scalped. I went home and cried before I washed my hair and did it myself.
I assumed things had to get better as we set off for the church. I was already dressed in the white concoction complete with the bow apparatus on my head, the petticoat, garter and vinyl sandals. When we arrived at the church, a sudden storm blew in and I walked into the church through pouring rain.
The storm had blown the power out in the entire town and the old pipe organ refused to play. The singers got mixed up and nervously squeaked out a rather modern dance tune as I walked down the aisle on the arm of my dad in almost total darkness save for the altar candles.
As for the beautiful pictures, I have a total of twelve, taken by an inexperienced photographer. Steven has a serious smile in each photo, while I look like someone yelled “surprise” before taking each shot.
A comedy of errors
After the ceremony, my groom and I walked out to the front steps of the church to greet our guests when a large wind came up and blew the heavily beaded veil off my head across the street into a mud puddle.
After a rather lengthy car ride tooting our horns in celebration of the occasion, we arrived at the reception. We walked up to my Godfather, who was sitting at the bar, to have a pleasant conversation. It was then that Uncle Harry offered to buy us each a drink.
Unfortunately, he was so excited to see us that when he got up and moved his chair it landed on the train of my dress. Unaware that this had happened, I walked away. But the train stayed under the chair.
You get the picture.
It was lucky I wore clean underwear and had those classy vinyl sandals on my feet, because those were the only two things left on my backside!
Mom did her best to patch me up in the ladies room and we moved on to the dance. Of course my husband danced the first slow number with me. He was so excited he spent the rest of the night alternately switching partners until he had danced with every woman in the room once. Including me…
Next we moved on to what I assumed would be a champagne toast. Actually it was two plastic cups filled with Budweiser beer. My tea-toting hubby, Steven, was so nervous that while intending to lightly touch my glass in the toast, he knocked the cups together so firmly that both glasses of beer ended up down the front of my gown. So much for that ensemble! It was completely and utterly ruined.
At the end of the evening we were off to the secret wedding night destination. Too bad no one told Steven that he should book ahead. We ended up on the top floor of the Hotel Manitowoc, where a serious disco dance party went on until all hours of the night at a gay bar across the hall.
The next morning, we intended to pop in to our new apartment to grab a few things before heading off for the honeymoon destination. Lucky for us that Steven’s parents spotted our car in the driveway on their way home from Sunday Mass. So they stopped by with Steven’s nine brothers and sisters to have a visit. Everyone was smiling big time, assuming great things had happened the night before.
Finally, we climbed in the car to head up to good old Peshtigo, Wis., for a little rest and relaxation. It was a beautiful but humid day on the ride up. We were enjoying the open road when suddenly our senses were overcome by a horrific odor that seemed to be coming from the engine compartment. We stopped to investigate and found that some wisenheimer had pasted limburger cheese on the manifold. It had melted and sealed itself permanently onto our lovely Galaxie 500!
The good news is that we enjoyed 29 years of love and laughter together before God called Steven home to heaven in 2006. I buried him with his wedding ring because he truly had been a very happily married man. As for my engagement and wedding rings, I keep them in a tiny jewel box in my dresser. Every now and then, I polish them, try them on and then tuck them away again.
I look forward to the day that I can show those rings to my granddaughters Maddie and Gracie and impart on them the message from the front cover of our wedding invitation crafted so many years ago. It read, “That love is all there is, is all we know of love.”
CatholicMatch publishes Barb’s essays on love and loss on the first Sunday of every month. Read her archived posts here and check back Sunday, July 1, for her next reflection.