It’s June, the month of brides, and that makes me think about my own wedding. Okay, I got married in March, but that’s a technicality. This post is a slightly off-key salute to June brides.
I was hardly a conventional bride. I’d never been the kind of girl who cuts out pictures of gowns and cakes and pastes them into a scrapbook. (Today I suppose they use Pinterest.) Frankly, I was a nerdy little kid who couldn’t imagine a man would want me. I certainly didn’t expect to be married right after my graduation from Northwestern University.
Scott and I were married in 1969. It was the time of the Vietnam War, and Women’s Lib was beginning to stir. Most of our male friends were being drafted. Or entering the reserves, or packing for Canada. Scott enlisted because it allowed him to choose a specialty within the Army instead of being posted to the front lines. I wasn’t so much interested in getting married as I was in being married, and able to live with Scott wherever the Army sent him. The top priority was getting it done before they sent him someplace I couldn’t go, and from which he might not come back.
I wasn’t the frilly, wedding-gown type. Most of my life at Northwestern was spent at the campus radio station, down in the basement of Annie May Swift Hall in a sweatshirt and corduroy pants, running a control board. Doing men’s work.
So if it had been up to us, our ceremony would have been small and private. My dream wedding was a quick visit to City Hall in Chicago, with our immediate families and a few of our closest friends, followed by brunch at the Little Corporal. The Corporal was a 24-hour restaurant on Wacker Drive. We loved it for dates that started or ended at odd hours. (Unfortunately, it has been gone for many years.) We’d cuddle there on cushy banquettes and devour wonderful, thick slices of French toast dusted with powdered sugar. I also adored the Corporal’s version of a cheese-burger, which I remember as The Josephine. A juicy beef patty overflowed a buttery, grilled slice of what was probably the same bread used for the French toast. It was topped with a ball of cheddar spread that melted decadently from the heat of the burger. Fine wedding fare, for me.
I was an only child and an only grandchild, and my uncle sent a check to help with the nuptial expenses. I was not getting away without a “real” wedding. “Fine,” I told my mother. “You plan whatever you want. I’ll show up.”
My mother had to work around the upcoming Jewish holidays and Scott’s projected leave from the Army. Undeterred, she organized a lavish affair at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago. “I was married at the Ambassador, and I wore a blue suit,” she told me. “Would you like to wear blue?”
“Mom!” I shrieked. “We’re putting a wedding together in six weeks! If I wear blue, do you know what everybody’s going to think!”
“Oooh, I hadn’t thought of that,” my mother replied. “You’ll wear white.” Though my parents’ store in Green Bay had a bridal department, Mom insisted on outfitting me in Chicago. We found a dress at Marshall Field’s, but it wasn’t a long, lacy gown. My off-white, satin mini-dress was a concession to the times. I was gloriously relieved that I would not be tripping over my train.
I advise prospective brides not to schedule a wedding for 4:00 p.m. I woke at dawn and spent the day in terror that Scott would show up either thoroughly hung over from the previous night’s bachelor party, or even worse, that he would be stinkin’ drunk. I became almost paralyzed with fear as the day wore on and relatives I barely knew dropped in and out of our hotel suite. For perhaps the only time in my life, ever, I didn’t want anything to eat. Were we really meant to do this?
To his credit, Scott was presentable when the appointed hour finally arrived. The next obstacle came when he and our attendants were waiting under the canopy and the door through which my father, the rabbi, and I were supposed to enter refused to open. A sign from above? Dad and the rabbi threw their weight against the door, it gave way, and I went out to meet my fate.
Once the deed was done, we relaxed and enjoyed the reception. In fact, someone had to ask us to leave so that other guests could depart without being rude.
But before we could go, I had to throw my bouquet. This presented yet another quandary. I knew how to throw a bowling ball, and I knew how to throw a football. How come no one had shown me how to throw a bouquet? All I could do was call on the best role model I knew. I stood there in my mini-dress and raised my arm.
From the waist down I resembled Betty Grable; from the waist up, I was Bart Starr!
I wonder, as this month’s brides put on their gowns and prepare to walk down the aisle, how many of them believe that marriage is for life, and how many think it’s for “right now.” In 1969, we were taught it was forever. But the statistics for my generation have not borne that out. So many of my friends have been divorced, a few more than once. Scott and I, irreverent and driven by his Army service, might have been the ones to think that marriage was a right-now thing, and yet, here we are, still together after 43 years. I guess we communicated well enough about what was important. Our good fortune still amazes us.
Good luck, June bride! Enjoy your special day, and take a minute to think about what it really means. I hope that for you, it’s forever.