I was cleaning up the basement the other day as part of a new year purge – more on that later – when I came across my notes from a wedding I attended many years ago. I laughed so much upon reading them again I thought I would share them. But first, some background.
I went to St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and while there I met Tracy, a strong, intelligent woman, full of fun, with love and affection to spare. When she asked me to not only be a bridesmaid but also sing at her wedding I was both honoured and flattered. Of course I would say yes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Weddings do strange things to people
I come from Toronto, Ontario. I am essentially a middle class Upper Canadian. Tracy comes from a small town in Northern New Brunswick. A town so small that you would miss it if you blinked while driving by. The people are warm, salt of the earth and professional drinkers.
The adventure began with the dress. We were supposed to make our own as most of the bridesmaids were coming from different places. Tracy sent me the pattern and fabric as well as the sheet music for the song I was to sing. The style of the dress wasn’t bad, but the fabric – shiny green acetate – was a bit of a shock. And then there was the adornment of lace around the bodice – the kind of scalloped stiff lace you might see on a cottage kitchen window – from the 80s.
I had never heard of the song so I had to it learn from scratch. But I was up for the challenge, in both the dress and the song. Anything for a friend.
I remember how dark the road was – no cities, no lights. I’m flying blind. Watch the numbers, thanks to the fire department.
Big hugs, wailings in the kitchen where all the ladies (the aunts) are sitting. “You found the place alright? How was the flight? Do you want anything to eat? Drink?” Still in a bit of culture shock, tired. It is so dark. More chatter, more laughter. Tracy knows me and asks, Beer? Yes! But I am doomed to disappointment as an Alpine is brought out.
A friend of the family is on the morning shift for meals. Early morning breakfast consists of white bread, tang, and watery coffee. Attempts to make it stronger are shut down.
There is a constant stream of aunts and uncles and friends through the house. One uncle insists on calling early every morning to see if anyone wants to go out on the water – fishing. The kids say yes and return with a catch of mackerel. Tasty, but stinks up the kitchen some bad.
Everyone is sunning themselves. An Aunt is schooling us on how much sun and how to get it. There will be pictures, she says, don’t want a red nose.
The women are in the kitchen again putting labels on wine bottles, sticking ribbons on fish bowls and making roses out of plastic ribbon. Ah the fish bowls, to be used as centre pieces, one bowl for each table, 36 bowls, 2 goldfish per, 72 fish, bought 80. I have no idea what happened to these poor fish after the wedding.
A friend of Tracy’s arrives from Ontario and we immediately become friends. We lament the beer choices. Oh, for a nice micro brewery, Pad Thai, Sushi, Korean or even a nice deli sandwich. I was starving – days of white bread, tang and fried baloney were starting to tell. I was getting giddy. I had to make him change the subject.
Amazing how one could live, eat and exchange friendly insults with this family for almost a week and only catch a third of what was actually being said. Accents are strong on the coast.
Father of the bride arrives with a guitar and an evening of classic rock and country tunes begins. He has brought a book of words so everyone can sing along. These are serious drinkers. But Tracy knows her family and this is not the actual night before the wedding. The next day one aunt is out of commission for the whole day and is only seen vertical once.
I meet the guitar player who will accompany me in my solo. So far we have rehearsed the song once.
The Wedding Day
Three hours at the salon (really a room in a neighbour’s house), 3 tons of hair spray plastered to our heads to achieve the “soft up-sweep” effect. The bridesmaids almost mutiny at this point – the synthetic dress with the kitchen curtain lace was one thing, by this?
No time to practice the song again. Thirty women in a small house all trying to put on stockings, make up and fancy dresses. My feet hurt already. The kitchen crew are nowhere to be found so I scour the fridge for food for the bridesmaids. The best weddings are the ones where the bridesmaids don’t faint.
Weddings should be short and sweet. This was a full on Mass. Another singer gets up to sing Bette Midler’s, The Rose. It’s good. Every body claps. I get up to sing my unknown song and the guitar player starts playing the wrong song. For the first two verses I am flying blind again. I finish and you could have heard a pin drop. No applause for me. I slink back to my seat.
I was looking for stiff drink at this point but there were photos to be taken. Luckily, my new best friend met me at the reception with a glass of spiked punch. Did I mention the bride’s Dad had prepared a vat of moonshine just for the wedding? Two drinks in and I was cutting the table not the meat on my plate.
The cake had Hans Solo and Princess Leia on the top. The goldfish looked miserable and the food was as expected – velveeta melted over scalloped potatoes – but the entertainment and jokes flowed from the family in such abundance that I forgot my troubles.
Back at the house I shook over 30 bobby pins out of my hair. It took 3 washings to get all the hairspray out.
- There is a Maritimer in all of us. Let loose and just be yourself.
- There was no hidden motive, no pretension, just genuine humour.
- Fend for yourself or starve.
- Be the butt of all jokes.
- Give what you get, they will respect you more.
It is always a good idea to visit the East Coast of Canada. Summer’s are spectacular, warm sun, cool breeze and scenery is stunning. Below are some links to official tourist sites in the area. To see more travel shots of Canada go to my portfolio online.