A man in love is incomplete until he is married. Then he’s finished.
~Zsa Zsa Gabor
Not long ago, my betrothed and I married. The word betrothed is a synonym for “promised,” and the first thing she made me promise was not to write about the wedding. I wouldn’t dream of writing about the wedding, anyway, and here’s why: You don’t reach my age without having sat through quite a number of these ceremonies. And the truth is, they’re pretty predictable—I mean, how often does a bride or groom say, “I don’t?”
But when it comes to words, like “wedding,” I am something of a strict constructionist; I construe the meaning narrowly to include only the ceremony itself. The rest of the experience, as far as I’m concerned, is fair game.
For example, there is the matter of the bagpiper. A dear friend of my beloved is married to one of the best pipers in this region. This is terrific, because there is nothing more splendid than to be led into a momentous event (historically, a battle in which you almost certainly will die) by the soaring skirl of the pipes. This is especially true if your name is “North.”
The ancestral home of Clan North was a small island some distance north, naturally, of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. The Norths were a clan of warrior scribes who believed passionately that the pen is mightier than the sword. This belief was proven utterly and tragically incorrect one night, centuries ago, when they were virtually wiped out by a coalition of other Scottish clans because they’d had made such a nuisance of themselves by writing scurrilous screeds about their neighbors. The only survivors were my distant relatives, who’d got wind of the impending attack and hid all night in a cave. It took some effort on my part to get our piper to substitute the sprightly “March of the Kings” as my processional instead of his first choice, the mournful “Cowards of Clan North.”
But I digress. The point is that the lady of my life had made it abundantly clear that while it was fine for the groom to be piped in, she absolutely, positively did NOT want bagpipes for her own processional. She is English after all and, given the historic antipathy of her countrymen for the Scots, and vice versa, I made no attempt to dissuade her. Thus it was that I took it as an ominous portent when, after the March of Kings concluded and I took my place beside the minister, my bride arrived and hissed, “How come the piper stopped?!”
I should have anticipated this, I suppose, because the truth is she had been behaving strangely for some weeks prior to the actual event. You may have read that scientists have discovered a rogue gene in the DNA of every woman on earth that lies dormant until some imbecile, like me, asks her to marry him and she, despite the frantic warnings of her closest friends and all the people who know him well, consents. Suddenly, this bit of DNA—known to genetic researchers by its code: CB-1, for “one crazy bride”—kicks in and a complete stranger explodes from the woman with whom you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life.
This gene manifests itself in myriad ways, but we’ll explore just one: wedding cake madness. My betrothed calls me from the mainland one day to say she’s found the perfect wedding cake. It will be constructed in tiers by an award-winning French bakery there. Do I argue? Of course not. This is because I have come to understand that my role in the wedding can be summarized in six words: Shut Up, Show Up, Pay Up. This last point is made abundantly clear when, almost as an afterthought, she mentions what the cake will cost. I hang up and envision it slathered not in icing but in hundred dollar bills.
But honestly, the wedding was great. The food was amazing, too. We’d told our friends—both of mine and ninety-eight of hers—to make a favorite pot luck dish as a wedding gift that could be enjoyed by everyone who attended, and they outdid themselves. Or so we’re told, because by the time we’d finished greeting everyone, the food was gone. Worse, most of the wine was, too.
The only real blemish on the day was my alleged pal, Bad Michael. In a moment of madness of my own, I’d asked him to be my “Worst Man,” and he took the task to heart. After a lyrical paean to the bride—who, it must be said, is stunningly beautiful, gracious, and talented—he seemed to go off the rails, launching into a vicious roast of the groom. This went on for some time, to the very great amusement of (almost) everyone.
Afterward, my sainted mother approached me and plucked at my elbow. I leaned down and she whispered, “Who WAS that guy?!”
I thought, thank goodness for mothers: they never stop thinking you’re terrific.
Then she said, “Boy, he sure has your number.”
Will North is an American novelist. His latest book, “Harm None,” is set in Cornwall, England and is the first in the new Davies & West Mystery Series.