Wedding at Regions

The wedding was held at an abandoned bank building in small-town Florida. It was a rundown building with old security cameras still mounted on the walls and ballpoint pens on chains. The bride got the venue for a bargain.

I was working as a Sheetrocker at the time. I got off work early and showed up with John Tyler to erect the folding chairs.

There were 40 chairs, the brown kind that every church and civic league used back in the day. We also unfolded old-fashioned card tables with steel legs. The sorts of tables that were responsible for 99 percent of all finger amputations within the U.S. at one time.

Next, the caterer arrived. Although, she wasn’t an actual caterer, she was the groom’s grandma. Her name was Marge. She was gray-haired, wiry, from Queens, New York. And I fell in love with her.

Marge barked orders like a jayvee football coach. She had a northern accent that sounded like submachine gun fire, and everything she said sounded like she was supremely ticked off.

Marge and her daughters prepared so much food they had to rent a U-Haul van just to carry all the casseroles and chafing dishes.

The designated gift area was located at the old walk-up teller windows. When guests arrived they were to bring presents to the windows that were manned by Laney Daniels and her mom. Laney accepted all gifts and jokingly asked guests for valid IDs and account numbers.

Gifts were then stored in the walk-in vault.

The altar was a couple music stands I stole from a local school, both covered in text which read: “Property of Okaloosa Walton Community College.” Which I thought was a nice touch.

And the flowers. You should have seen the magnolias and lilies, Marge did the place up nicely, you would have never recognized the old bank.

Soon, cars began arriving in the parking lot. Before the ceremony, I stood in the safety-deposit-box vault with the bridegroom. I was sick with nerves, holding a book of common prayer in my trembling hands.

“Thanks for doing this,” said the groom, my longtime friend and committed partner in PBR. “You almost look like a real preacher, except for your beer.”

I was not the kind of guy who should be officiating a wedding, but my friend asked me to marry him, and Sheetrockers do strange things for their friends.

So I became ordained within the State of Florida by sending off $52.95 for mail-order ordination papers. A few weeks later, I received a wallet-sized card in the mail which read: “clergy.”

Easy as that.

The groom pointed to my new book. “Is that a Bible?”

I shook my head. “Book of Common Prayer. It has your vows.”

“Where’s you get that thing?”

“Barnes & Noble.”

“They sell those?”

“It’s genuine pleather.”

“You went all out.”

I brushed imaginary lint from his shoulders. “I’ve never seen you in a straightjacket before.”

He thumped his bow tie. “Jim’s Formal Wear. Gotta have it back to Fort Walton tomorrow by seven or I incur late fees.”

The wedding accompanist was Michael Waters, who showed up late for the gig. We could all hear his busted CV axle squealing as he skidded into the parking lot on fumes.

Michael’s sacred instrument was a Fender Stratocaster, hussy red, with a Peavey amplifier. I don’t believe Michael owned a clothes iron.

Finally, it was time for the ceremony. I was so nervous I almost ralphed. I approached the altar with the groom. The accompanist played Sam Cooke’s “Stand By Me.” The bride dramatically emerged from the women’s restroom, slowly walking down the aisle.

People rose.

And something happened to me. I became immediately swept away in the visual pageantry of love.

We were no longer in a derelict building that smelled funny. We were somewhere else. Somewhere high above Florida, existing in a perfect place where God lives.

The groom whispered: “Feel like I’m gonna pass out, man.”

“Don’t lock your knees,” I said.

“Too late.”

The bride wore a dress that belied her humble surroundings, and her elegance caused my breathing to pause. Her bouquet was made from the finest roses Kmart manufactured.

The rest of the ceremony was a blur. I recited from my book and instructed the matrimonial partners to repeat their vows. I botched a few crucial parts, but nobody lost a limb.

Then the groom planted a cinematic kiss on his bride and people cheered. The guitarist played Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is” as the couple paraded down the aisle.

For the remainder of the evening I was caught in a heady glow while everyone ate cheese fondue and meatballs. During the reception, while the band played “Brown Eyed Girl,” and people danced the Mashed Potato, Marge approached me.

The woman placed an arm around my shoulder while we listened to Van Morrison’s anthem to dark irises, and I noticed Marge was weepy. Tears spilled into her plastic stemware glass of Boone’s Farm, and her eyes positively sparkled.

She shouted over the music into my ear. “You did so good, darlin’! I’m so proud of you.”

I wiped my own eyes. I cannot watch a woman cry without throwing my hat into the ring. “Thanks, Miss Marge!”

We hugged tightly and I felt her slender frame in my arms. Mid-hug, I watched the bride and groom holding each other, swaying.

And Marge, with her exotic Long Island accent, spoke over the din of electric guitars and drum kits with sincerity. “Gawd, sweetie, is there anything better than love in this entire world?”

“No, ma’am,” I replied. “There sure isn’t.”

And I still hold to that belief.


  1. Leigh Amiot - May 14, 2021 9:48 am

    I agree, there sure isn’t.
    (hussy red is hilarious)

  2. oldlibrariansshelf - May 14, 2021 10:12 am

    I agree. “Hussy red” is poetic genius!

  3. stephenpe - May 14, 2021 10:23 am

    The Beatles had it right. All You Need is Love.

    • Karen Holderman - May 14, 2021 11:04 am

      It truly is all about love. My wedding was simple with the food prepared by my mom and a dear family friend. Almost 50 years later, my husband and I are still in love.

  4. Life in the 50's and beyond... - May 14, 2021 10:34 am

    This is great. Reminder of the many weddings of my generation. And many of us are still married!!!

    • Christine - May 14, 2021 1:49 pm

      Yes we are❤

  5. Karen - May 14, 2021 11:06 am

    Beautiful preacher words. Sending this right off utopia my son for inspiration. He has just been asked to preside over his nephew’s wedding! Thanks for the timely support.

  6. William Strawn - May 14, 2021 11:30 am

    You are a good man, Sean Dietrich

  7. JAMES ALLEN - May 14, 2021 11:34 am

    Absolutely love your artistic writing. Do wish to point out something, “jayvee football coach” in deep south Mississippi is “JV football” as in junior varsity. I suppose it is different in different parts of the country.
    Keep sending your work. It brightens my day.

  8. Amanda - May 14, 2021 11:49 am

    “Cinematic kiss” said it all! We have all been to a wedding where we witnessed one of them.

  9. Phil (Brown Marlin) - May 14, 2021 12:03 pm

    Another great one, Sean. Reminded me of the story our former minister told about the time he officiated a wedding in LA (Lower Alabama) and realized the couple had gotten their marriage license in Florida. After the ceremony and festivities were over, he drove them across the line into the Sunshine State and remarried them under a shade tree on the side of the highway to make it legally official.

    Boone’s Farm – for real?

  10. Tammy S. - May 14, 2021 12:07 pm

    Love this one! ❤️

  11. Kate - May 14, 2021 12:40 pm

    I love hussy red

  12. Margaret Jackson - May 14, 2021 1:49 pm

    I love this! It is so sweet when friends and family come together to help a couple have a dream wedding when they can’t afford a big splash!

    The members of the church near me helped a young couple have a lovely wedding when they didn’t have the money.
    The men erected a large cross and a podium in the pasture behind my house, under a large spreading oak, on a hill overlooking a lake. These were decorated with flowers.

    They set out rows of haybales, covered with quilts, for people to sit on.
    Then, with parking near the road, they brought golf carts to ferry people down into the pasture.

    George (groom), the pastor, and groomsmen were standing around nervously waiting.
    From over the hill we could hear clop, clop as Elaine (bride) rode in on her white horse.

    After the ceremony, they both rode off on their horses.

    From there, everyone went to the church fellowship hall. The ladies had outdone themselves! Cowboy theme, with fall flowers, decorated everything!
    They had a barbeque meal with all the proper trimmings and a beautiful cake.

    But, the funniest thing was where some of the men had gone back on Friday night after the rehersal. Near the road, there was an old, falling in house. The guys put an old bedstead, with rusty springs, an old chair, and old busted television and a mirror with “Honeymoon Suite” painted on it!!! Everyone loved it & some people even went back and had their pictures made there!
    I thought you would appreciate this story.

  13. Robert L Chiles - May 14, 2021 2:02 pm

    Such a finely crafted story! Reminds me of a little over 46 years ago when my bride and I married and had a covered-dish reception. We provided the smoked oysters. The flowers were from the yard. At the wedding, we promised to “be good and sweet and never fuss.” Good vows. I recommend them to anyone.

  14. Bobby - May 14, 2021 2:14 pm

    Plastic stemware of Boone’s Farm….a reflection of the bumper sticker on my truck—There’s no such thing as being too Southern.

  15. Christina - May 14, 2021 2:22 pm

    Amen, Rev. Dietrich.

  16. lois goland - May 14, 2021 4:31 pm

    I love this Sean. I especially like that Marge was from Queens! I am too!!
    Lois (from the cousin’s book club)

  17. Linda Moon - May 14, 2021 5:55 pm

    A young man I know was ordained for a bride and groom’s wedding. Having known this ordained “preacher” since he was a trouble-making clever kid, I wondered about his spiritual “calling” that led to ordination. But, I later found out that the wedding was all for show because the couple had already married at the Courthouse! It wasn’t a sincere wedding, but the couple is still happy together after more than a decade. LOVE and some laughs from me to all of them… including your couple, “preacher”!

  18. Lulu - May 14, 2021 6:33 pm

    My favorite song is, “Love Changes Everything”…and it truly does. I believe I was born with love bugs in my DNA. Love this wedding story! You’re outstanding and loved.

  19. MAM - May 14, 2021 9:13 pm

    Sean, your talent with words is truly God-given. I could picture this building and wedding all the way through!

  20. Barbara McKeithan - May 15, 2021 12:43 am

    Sean, I love you to pieces, but Ben E. King sang Stand By Me.

  21. elizabethroosje - May 15, 2021 3:08 am

    OH man, another great essay Sean, I could picture everything. I loved the comments too, ‘you can never be too Southern’ 🙂 Not sure what you would think of my accent (from MI, live in NJ near NYC but also lived in Canada 15 years! 🙂 )… God bless you Sean and bless your writing! I am already waiting for your next book!

  22. Nancy Swider - May 19, 2021 6:41 pm

    Thank you Sean for this column and the few others I’ve saved to read and I sure needed them today. My partner and I needed a bright spot in our lives after learning two brothers, from opposite sides of the country, were both admitted to hospitals today…an ugly coincidence. I needed something happy and once again you provided it. Thanks!!


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