An Island Wedding

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.

Comments

  1. Lindy Kolodzie says:

    Hi Will, You might want to write a story about a woman emptying her purse who finds a note to self that reads: Will North. I’m a senior so my memory is shifting from being sharp to misty-minded. I’ve been trying to remember your name for ages so I could see if you’d written more novels. My husband & I read your first 2 & loved them. And read lots of other authors. We’re Canadian so look for those first. I’ve so needed one of your books lately due to many health miseries. And today, in cleaning out the crevices of my purse, I found my note about you. The universe does work in wonderful ways. I was so happy to see that you’ve found a new publisher & that you have written more books, including a new mystery series. And set in Cornwall of all delightful places.

    I, too, am of Scottish descent. (And Swedish. All were grandparents who immigrated to Canada. I’m very fortunate to have that mixed northern background). I was fascinated to read about the Norths as a clan, & your wedding which made me laugh out loud with memories of our daughter’s wedding. Ours was 47 years ago, (we’ve known each other for 50 years), & the mixed mingling of nationalities almost finished us off with a Catholic & a Protestant (me), Polish customs trying to predominate (they’re so pushy), & a husband who cried the whole time so that I was sure he’d changed his mind about me, rather than one who was suffering from a broken heart that his father didn’t want to come to a wedding which focused on the ecumenical movement of 1967. We had both a priest from U of Toronto & a minister. It was wonderful.

    I’m going through a tough time with savage chronic pain right now, so the news that I can now read a new novel of one of my favourite authors has cheered me up considerably. I’ve just re-injured a knee that has had 6 surgeries, so I will send my husband to the library first. Or I might try to order your third novel on my new kobo. One more piece of technology to grasp.

    I wish you all the best in your life & as an author. I’ve been a writer for 50 years, but have switched to water colour painting as my creative urges have led me to believe I can still become an artist at 72. But I would like to conclude with this observation: we truly do not get to choose whether to become an author or artist or whatever…that piece of ourselves is there waiting for us to explore.

    As an example: Our son, Nick, self-published his first novel 3 years ago after many rejection letters. Then we helped him sell the book to wide acclaim in whatever circles we shared. And Nick is now writing his second novel, while also teaching high school, daily training as an elite triathlete, & as a coach of his school’s track & cross teams. This all began when he wrote his own stories & illustrating them from age 4. Our grand-daughter is doing the same thing. It’s so wonderful to be a part of this chain of creativity.

    I wish you the best in your life & your writing. I’ve never written to an author before. The internet is great for providing that opportunity. I’ve been to many book signings, including Nick’s. And I’m a member of 4 book groups. (Crazy? Nope. Just a reader.)

    If you have a moment to read a portion of Nick’s novel for your delight, check him out at http://www.escapingthegrind.ca or .com. It’s a humourous & touching tale of a new teacher which has brought a smile to many.

    Blessings, Lindy Kolodzie,
    Oshawa, ON, Canada

    • I owe you an apology, Lindy. I’ve only just discovered that people like you have written comments on my website (I’m 68 and not very competent with technology either! I am delighted you enjoyed my books and hope the best for Nick. I’ve written or ghostwritten 20 books in all. I’ve been very lucky. It’s a tough business.

      Thanks so much for writing!

      Will

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