February 2, 2021 – Potluck Wedding

I’m going to take a stroll down memory lane today and share a bit about my wedding. It took place on a warm summer’s day in June (34 years ago) and came together on a shoestring budget. Many brides-to-be spare no expense for the big day but I’m a practical gal, so whenever there was an opportunity to save a few bucks, I took it (along with my mother who was coordinating the whole thing). From the flowers to the photographer to the wedding dress, if it could be done ‘cheaper’ or ‘for free’, it was. My mom is the ‘queen of bargains’ and she has taught me well. I don’t even consider purchasing an item until I take a look at the price tag first and if it’s not reasonably priced or marked down to next-to-nothing, I don’t even waste my time. There is so much involved in a wedding that if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a world of debt. But it doesn’t have to be that way, there are ways around spending thousands of dollars on an event that lasts a single day.

Before I jump right in and begin to share all of the ‘minutia’ about the wedding and how I was able to do it ‘on the cheap’, I’d like you to know that it’s a miracle that it took place at all. My husband/aka boyfriend-at-the-time (BATT) and I got engaged in September of 1986, while stationed in North Germany. My parents and most of my siblings were living in the Pacific Northwest and his were in the West/Southwest (in the United States). Anyway, we had just started dating a month or two prior. I had moved out of the dorms and was renting an apartment in a small town near the base and my husband/BATT had joined me shortly thereafter. We cohabitated for a little while until Jose Cuervo made things much too challenging between us so I canceled our engagement and promptly threw him out, at which time he returned to the dorms. He is as stubborn as the night is long; therefore, it wasn’t but a few weeks later that he returned. Of course, Jose wasn’t finished with him yet so when March rolled around, I once again showed him the door.

Have you noticed the timeline? Yep. I canceled the engagement yet again in March and we still managed to get married by June (the same year). How was it even possible? Let me tell you, have you heard of the phrase, “It takes a village”? Ordinarily, that phrase applies to raising children, but in this case, it refers to putting a wedding together in under three months. It was decided that the ceremony was to take place near my family, in part because his family wasn’t really behind our ‘union’. My mom recruited all of my siblings for one task or another, and sometimes they were assigned several. And she didn’t just put her own children to work, anyone that was willing and able got involved, too. Between lengthy phone calls and letters (snail mail), she and I managed to nail down some of the important stuff, the bridesmaids and maid of honor, the best man, the venue, the wording and design on the invitations and so forth. But there was still a lot of stuff that remained undecided. And if you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know what I’m talking about.

We had a venue (at a nearby auditorium) but no one to officiate. My mom talked to her next-door neighbor, who then talked to her pastor, who just-so-happened to be available on the day of our nuptials. Voila, problem solved! Regarding my wedding dress, I still hadn’t selected one. I wasn’t sure whether to buy one in Germany (which were ‘sehr teuer’) and bring it when I flew out for the ceremony or to wait until I arrived and try to find one in a jiffy. Fortunately, I had cut out some pictures of dresses that I liked from a bridal magazine and sent them to my mother. Since she had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for, she took my sister along one day and they were actually able to find something suitable for a mere $200 (on clearance) and it was the perfect fit! The next matter to be determined, the bouquet and floral arrangements, was a no-brainer. My sister-in-law’s mother owned a floral shop. My mother asked and she agreed and even threw in a generous discount.

The photography and videography fell to my brothers. Nearly all of them (but one) had a decent camera and/or camcorder. When the ceremony took place, at least two were snapping pictures while the other two were videotaping. I do wish, in this particular case, that we’d hired a professional because neither the photos or video turned out so great. My brothers tried, but the equipment they were using wasn’t able to adequately address the issues involving lighting and sound so there were a lot of photos that turned out grainy and/or blurry and on the video, besides the fact that almost all of the footage was of our backs, you can barely hear my husband and I as we’re saying our vows. My brothers were able to capture the entirety of the harpist playing ‘Ave Maria’ prior to launching into ‘Here Comes the Bride’ when I walked myself down the aisle; however, that was my least favorite part of the ceremony because I just don’t dig ‘harp music’, but it was my mom’s idea and I couldn’t think of a better alternative at the time so I went along with it.

Was there any other music aside from a harp? Why, yes! There was! The DJ (disc jockey) was a boombox. It was the 80s, after all! My brother, The Kraken, put a couple of mixtapes together to play on it after the ceremony. The music selections weren’t to my liking either, it was a lot of rock ‘n’ roll and I was into hip-hop and R&B, but he spent his valuable time putting them together, not me, so I don’t really have any room to complain. What else is there? Oh, yes, the decorations! Those were a family affair as well. My stepdad built an arbor and it was adorned with silk flowers. And if I remember correctly, my sister-in-law and some of my siblings jazzed up the place with some blue and white balloons and streamers. Baby blue was the agreed upon ‘color’ for the wedding, which was also why the groom’s cummerbund (that accessorized his gray dovetail tuxedo), my garter belt, and numerous accoutrements were also the color of a cloudless sky.

If you don’t mind, give me a moment. I need to think. I’ve talked about my dress, the tuxedo, the décor, the music, the photography and videography, the venue, and the invitations. Oh my goodness! I’d be remiss not to mention that my mother actually made the maid of honor’s as well as the two bridesmaids’ dresses from scratch. I cannot even get my head around that! They actually turned out really lovely. A professional seamstress couldn’t have done a better job. And as I sit here, wracking my brain, I can really only think of two other things I haven’t mentioned, aside from the rings. The rings were actually taken care of before anything else. We purchased all three (the engagement and two wedding rings) at the base exchange in Germany for under $1,000 and brought them along for the ceremony. What are the two other things I haven’t mentioned? The cake and the caterer, of course! Who has a wedding without a cake and a caterer??!!

I did (sort of). A 3-tiered cake was ordered for the big day and it was delicious as well as beautiful; however, there was no caterer. Who needs a caterer when the guests can chip in? Yep, if you wanted to come to my wedding, you’d better show up with a ‘dish’. We weren’t picky, any ol’ thing would do. You don’t mind whipping together a batch of deviled eggs, potato salad, or pasta salad? Be my guest! I love all three! How about a Jell-O mold in the shape of a Bundt pan? Fantastic! Any flavor will do, and if you really want to ‘dress it up’ for the occasion and make it extra special, I sure wouldn’t mind if you added a can of drained fruit cocktail to the Jell-O before it set. If you’ve got some tortilla chips and salsa, potato chips and dip, some mixed nuts, a vegetable tray, a fruit tray, baked beans or meatballs in a crockpot, lasagna, coleslaw, chicken wings, or ‘pigs in a blanket’, please feel free to set them on the table to your left before you take a seat.

Yes, I had a potluck wedding. I still feel a bit conflicted about that. It doesn’t seem right to expect guests to bring a gift and a ‘side’. Oh, well. Nobody seemed to mind. Most of the guests were either my mom’s friends, clients or co-workers and nearly all of them were senior citizens so I don’t think the concept seemed too unusual to them. I think their generation actually came up with the idea of ‘the potluck’. Looking back, I find the whole thing rather humorous. It wasn’t glamorous but it worked. It landed somewhere between going to a justice of the peace (along with two witnesses) and throwing a blowout bash that cost thousands upon thousands of dollars (which I think is a huge waste of money). At the end of the day, what does it matter how much much I spent on my wedding or whether most of the photos turned out grainy or blurry? What matters is the fact that we’re still here and still going strong. It’s not all wine and roses, but you know what? It works.

Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ my blog, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. A special ‘shout out’ to a few more folks I missed yesterday, sanebishop, yazzeus, fourtytwoweb, beautybeyondbones, health&nutrition, sociallivehappyfamilycom, poetcafe, chensongping, mariz and 9to5breakout. Your continued support and encouragement means so much! I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. I love to write and I try to infuse humor into everything I do and I hope I was able to make you smile, especially if you had a really crappy day. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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