It was a nice ceremony, as those things go. Though it was a little weird seeing the congregation wear masks like invaders from another galaxy. But, hey, this service wasn’t about them. This was a country wedding.
The day was about two people who stood behind a hayfield, under an outdoor arbor. They were surrounded by live oaks, creeping vines, and a beautiful grove of professional photographers.
Granny was wearing more than just a medical mask. She wore clunky protective battle gear. Huge yellow gloves, plastic face shield, and an oxygen canister. When she crawled out of the SUV’s backseat in the parking lot it reminded me of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk.
But this didn’t dampen anyone’s spirit. And the bride promised me the day would be fun when she invited me. She was hellbent on this.
I don’t usually cover weddings. For one thing, I live in a wedding capital of Florida. Anyone from the Panhandle has seen so many weddings they can lip sync with the preacher.
Personally, I have worked dozens of jobs involved with the wedding industry. I’ve been a caterer in a bowtie who takes your empty plate and asks if you want another champagne. I’ve been in the band, playing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love,” or “Mustang Sally.”
I’ve tended bar. Which is misery. Many people have no idea how hard it is tending bar for a party. If you want to know what it’s like, imagine that you are a fire hydrant at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Everyone visits you. Sometimes all at once. People scream their drink orders without waiting their turn. Some get impatient. And impatience spreads like a virus among the wicked.
“Hey, pal, how ‘bout my PBRs?!” “No, I wanted ONE olive in my martini, dummy!” “Beefeater? I don’t drink Beefeater gin, you boob!” “Hello? Where’s my beer?” “Easy on the cranberry juice!”
It is heart-endangering stress I tell you. Also, wedding guests don’t tip for squat.
This wedding wasn’t like that. People were socially distanced, very polite, and tame. The band was distanced, too. I’m surprised the musicians could even hear each other standing that far apart. I tipped the bartender well.
For the dance, the only people allowed to take the floor were those in the bridal party. To kick things off the bride danced with her father.
But the groom and his mother didn’t dance because (a) she has a compromised immune system, and (b) she wasn’t even there. At least not in person. She was on a video phone call all night.
“It’s hard,” said the groom. “I wish my parents were here, but man, you do what you have to.”
Midway through the reception someone handed me the video phone. I was introduced to the groom’s mom on the screen, a nice-looking woman with gray hair, pink formal attire, sitting in her dining room. Her husband was seated beside her. They waved at me.
I asked her what it was like attending a wedding via video phone.
“It’s actually kinda fun being at home,” she said. “My husband isn’t even wearing pants.”
The father of the groom stood from his seated position. And yes. I can attest. He was wearing what looked like ratty gym shorts beneath his blazer.
“See?” he said. “Write about THIS, Sean!”
It’s nice to see people having such a good time.
The mother of the groom said, “I do wish I could see the look on my son’s face. But I’m too happy to feel sorry for myself today.” I had the feeling she wasn’t being totally honest.
There were a few older people who flew in from Pennsylvania. It was the first time they’d traveled commercially since the pandemic started.
“Traveling was scary,” said one woman. “Flying kinda freaked me out. But the plane wasn’t overcrowded, they don’t sit you close together anymore. There were only a few of us in the seats. It’s more relaxing flying that way.”
“And weird,” said another.
“Yeah,” added one cousin, “I’m finally realizing that the coronavirus stuff has changed me. I’m scared to touch anything or anybody. I’m hyper aware, all the time, I wash my hands too much.”
After our conversation that cousin excused himself to visit the hand sinks. I know this because I visited the sink, too.
When the reception was over, it was time for the bride and the groom to leave for a honeymoon. They weren’t going anywhere special they said. Not because they didn’t want to, but because, according to the bride:
“The world is still kinda shut down, what’s the point?”
So they rented a house at the beach. They have hired a catering service to deliver a week’s worth of meals, hot, and waiting on their porch. If you ask me, this sounds like a dream vacation. But nobody’s asking me.
It was time for us in the wedding party to light our sparklers and send the couple off. The sparklers were leftover novelties from the Fourth of July—yet another celebration affected by the virus.
Everyone waved the fireworks and cheered. Sparks were flying. A few stray sparks burned a hole into some lady’s blouse. If only the fire marshal could have seen us.
People’s cheers were muffled because of the masks, but we were wishing them well. Granny had already collapsed in her wheelchair because this party had worn her slap out.
“Say goodbye to your son!” someone said, waving the video phone at the getaway car window. The groom’s video-mother wore only a smile and moist eyes. She shouted:
“We love you! We love you both so much! So very much!”
Because even the worst virus can’t change that.