Outside of the obvious, what is the purpose of a wedding? Who is it for? At face value, you would think that it was supposed to be about the bride and the groom. Everyone should have been celebrating the couple’s happiness, their love, and their commitment toward one another. It was supposed to be about them, however, something has gotten sorely twisted. Somehow, the process became about everyone else; the friends, the family and relatives. As it ultimately turned out, the purpose of the event was to appease their wants, their needs and their desires because make no mistake, they were all expecting something for themselves. The perceived success or failure of the wedding itself, seemed as if it had very little to do with the my daughter and her fiancé. Somehow it’s all bass ackwards!
I had soon discovered that preparing for a wedding is much like juggling ice cubes. The longer you’re involved the sloppier it gets. Just when you think you have all of the bases covered, somebody uncovers a whole lot more bases. To make things worse, it seemed as if every one of those bases had an untold number of moving parts. The details, particulars, and niceties were endless, and what exacerbated the entire process even more was the fact that everyone involved seemed to have a differing opinion about every last part of it. After having barely survived the ordeal, I’ve often wondered how many divorces have been caused by weddings?
The entire process works within the framework of a very unusual dynamic. It was an emotionally charged situation, in that everyone involved felt as if they had some skin in the game. Even though there existed a clear-cut hierarchy, it was uncomfortable that no one seemed to respect it. I never realized how, so many people could have such strong opinions on things so seemingly absolutely irrelevant. Understandably, an opinion on a core belief in life should be deeply entrenched. However, how does the color of a floral bouquet, or the style of a tuxedo, or who gets to sit next to crazy Aunt Martha become the subject of heated debate in which there is no room for compromise or further discussion?
How can people make a conscious decision that there exists an immovable line in the sand that shall not be violated, and shall not be crossed, when the issue at stake is the style of a wedding dress?
“Oh, my… Here comes the migraine.”
The very mention of that infernal wedding dress takes me back to a place that I would much prefer to have never visited … but I digress.
Over the years my job has certainly kept me busy as well as intellectually stimulated. As a result, I’m certainly no stranger to the procedures and intricacies involved in project management. I understand how to implement a strategy. I’ve organized campaigns, and prepared for events. I understand the principles of teamwork. I know how to pool resources and get people to work together with a single focus on a common goal.
However, overseeing the preparation for a wedding… Well let’s say…
“I’m still having nightmares.”
First of all, sitting down at a table with two families, who have just recently met and then attempting to arrive at a consensus was not as easy as I had hoped. Although, I have to admit that at first, things were at least civil. Everyone was polite, courteous and at times even gracious. For a brief moment, I actually thought that maybe these two families would have a chance together. Then their Mercedes got towed away!
Do you know how some people always insist that someone else is to blame when things go wrong? Nothing is ever their fault. Well, mother-in-law-to-be made very clear by implication that somehow it was our fault that her car was towed away. She conveniently seemed to have forgotten that we warned them over and over again that they should not park in our neighbors spot. So when scene #2 opened, my wife and I already had two strikes against us. The marriage alliance between our two families was getting off to a rocky start.
For millennia marriages had been used as instruments for peace. They were used to form coalitions. They had been utilized to bring together warring tribes and even nations. Could I be expecting too much? After all, before sitting down at the table together, at least our two families had not been shooting at each other. Although now, I think it’s a real possibility.
I must confess that from the outset, my wife and I knew in our heart of hearts that our daughter’s in-laws-to-be were not from the same planet as us. After the first fiasco, we could tell that they seemed to make sense of the universe in a fashion that was completely foreign to us. Mother-in-law-to-be seemed to have a clear-cut agenda, from which there seemed little room for compromise. Father-in-law-to-be needed to check with mother-in-law-to-be in order to determine his opinion. They were indeed a strange couple. What they considered to be crucial, we hardly thought needed to be mentioned.
Clearly our initial meet-and-greet was from hell. At least from their perspective it was, because my wife and I found it to be just this side of hilarious. If “pride is before the fall,” we certainly warned them that it was a long way down. We were in hopes that perhaps things would go a bit smoother this time around. At least this time, they parked in the visitors’ parking lot. So going in, we counted that as a positive.
In an effort to make sure that history did not repeat itself, we decided to step outside to greet them. We walked through the atrium and then as soon as we entered our home, the weirdness kicked in again with a vengeance. I guided them through the foyer, and then led them into the dining room. As I was reaching out to show them where to sit, mother-in-law-to-be decided to take control over the proceedings.
Surprisingly, she insisted upon sitting at the head of the table. So in an attempt to be sociable, I complied and I sat her down where I had originally intended on sitting. After all, it was our house, and that last I remembered, I did pay for it. I guess I was naive to think that this would have been the end of it. Little did I realize, this ordeal was just beginning. The strangeness was about to intensify.
After I sat her down, I noticed that her husband, father-in-law-to-be, was just standing there immobile, like a dog waiting to be told what to do by its master. Then, in unison like a crowd watching a tennis ball fly across the net, the rest of us all turned to see what she was going to do next. She just sat there for an embarrassingly long period of time pretending to adjust her blouse or something. It was almost cruel to watch. Then while acting as if to be annoyed, she pointed to the other end of the table and beckoned her husband to sit down there. I remember being amazed at how quickly he complied and scurried on down to do exactly as he was told. I’ll never forget the look on my wife’s face as our eyes met.
The mutual look of amazement quickly morphed. Before we realized, we instantly felt like 2 six-year-olds in class, trying not to laugh because somebody farted. Quickly, we severed our gaze to one another, for fear of laughing out loud at the nonsense that we had just witnessed. As I turned away from my wife, my eyes caught the desperate stare of our daughter. In words unspoken, her eyes were screaming at me,
“Please, Dad, don’t strangle this woman. I need to marry her son!”
In silence and amazement, the rest of us found our seats. In the meantime, I had completely forgotten what it was that I had rehearsed at least 100 times in my bathroom mirror. I had cast myself in the role of a gracious host. Since first impressions are lasting ones, I was determined, for the sake of our daughter’s future happiness, to leave a good impression. I’ve had plenty of experience managing potentially awkward situations. I was a trained professional. I was confident in my ability to handle what at that time, I thought was a minor bump in the road. Little did I realize, this encounter was already winding completely way out-of-control. Mother-in-law-to-be was bound and determined to assert her authority, and no one else’s agenda was going to stand in her way.
I don’t even remember what words were coming out of my mouth when I saw her reach down and take a cigarette out of her purse. I do remember however, the fear sweeping over me like a cold winter wind. I knew what was to follow would not to be pretty. It wasn’t so much that she took out a cigarette. It was the manner in which she did it! I thought I was watching a pretentious soap opera, when she placed her elbow on the table, her hand raised in the air with the cigarette between her two fingers. She was holding it out for all to see. Obviously, she was waiting for someone to light it for her.
I do remember thinking,
“You have got to be kidding me!”
When her son didn’t move, and it became obvious that I was not going to take the bait, she flicked her wrist and immediately her husband snapped to attention. He jumped up like someone who had just sat on a tack and while fumbling in his pocket for a lighter, he ran to the other end of the table. He was just about to light that thing, when as expected, the volcano sitting across from me (my wife) signaled clearly that she was about to erupt!
I knew that lives were at stake, and every moment would count. I also knew that this situation was not going to resolve itself. As time switched into slow motion, I could hear a mantra echoing deep in the back of my head,
“If it is to be, it’s up to me. If it is to be, it’s up to me…”
I had to be quick about it, because if she blew, (my wife) the collateral damage would’ve been devastating. In my mind’s eye, I could see images of myself trying to explain to the police how all of these people were injured. Next, I heard a voice and I was surprised when I realized that it was mine. Quietly, calmly, and affably I could hear myself saying,
“Oh, I’m sorry you’ll have to take that outside. We don’t smoke in our home.”
With relief, I could see that my wife was beginning to decompress. Naively, I thought that perhaps disaster had been averted. It was then, that I glanced over to my daughter and she looked as if someone had just set her clothes on fire. Instinctively, she knew that this wasn’t over and she also understood that what was to follow, could potentially be the end of her dreams and plans. As I looked over to mother-in-law-to-be, I saw that her mind was moving a mile a minute. She was scheming . She was calculating her next move. What was at stake? How could she possibly submit? Would this cost her the upper hand? What would everybody think?
“Was she really thinking all of these things? Or am I just losing my mind trying to imagine what she’s thinking?”
I was already exhausted, and in the sit-down just got started! The ball was now firmly fixed in her court. Clearly, the next move was hers. Perhaps the awkward pause that followed was her attempt to embarrass my wife and I into changing our mind. If that was the case, it was certainly an error in judgment. Neither of us had any intention of allowing her, or anyone else for that matter, to smoke in our home. I had no idea what etiquette demanded, but the fact that it was mid August and 97°F outside would not change our position.
It took a minute before it became obvious to her that if a cigarette was absolutely necessary, it would only be enjoyed in a very un-enjoyable environment. I can’t speak as to what a normal person would have done in a situation like this, but I can tell you what she did.
It appears that, playing the role of a martyr was something that was a regular part of her repertoire. Apparently, acting true to form, she had decided to hazard the roasting temperatures outside in order to get her fix of nicotine. What happened next convinced me that if there was such thing as a Drama Queen, I was in the presence of a master.
It’s important to realize that all of this was occurring, after having been in our home for less than five minutes! She had decided to make a statement right at the outset of this newly formed relationship between our two families, and that statement rang loud and clear. However, in reality I’m not sure what it said or what it actually meant. In a huff, she stood up, and walked to the door and let herself out.
So, there the five of us sat. Father-in-law-to-be was busy pretending that nothing strange had just occurred. Whereas my wife, myself, my daughter and her fiancé were looking at each other and trying to decide if we had not witnessed one of the craziest displays of abnormal behavior since Moe smacked Larry for something that Curly had said. All that I remember thinking was,
“This has the potential to be one of the longest days of my life!”