Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Defense of Marriage Act

The bane of bloggers: to start out prolificly, then to have the efforts wane as the novelty wears off. Two weeks ago was the marriage of Josh and Patricia, officiated by The Sensible One. After warning my faithful readers about reporting on the festivities, my efforts have lagged. But here goes, as best as I can remember it.

Patricia has literally travelled around the world, having taught for several years in Japan, and had guests coming from Japan, New Zealand, Austria and Brazil. Josh's family is from California. So, it would not do to have all these guests come from the four corners of the earth for a 15-minute-slam-bam-thank-you-ma'm ceremony and a reception with a few peanuts and a sliver of pan cake.

Josh and Patricia did it right, starting the festivities with a party on Friday night at Tutto Bene, a wine and tapas cafe in Bloomington. This was not a rehearsal dinner; this was a party for everybody. The tapas were great (sorry about the pedestrian description, but it has been two weeks and my memory isn't as good as it used to be.) I remember some kind of beef on bread, and some kind of hummus-like dish with bread, and vegetables and lots of cheese and lots of fruit and miniature pastries, but the rest I can't remember although there was much more. Maybe it was the wine, although I did not have more than a glass or two, a limit not respected by all of my siblings, who, however, shall remain nameless. It was not The Sensible One. Actually, it was one of my bachelor brothers, who shall remain nameless. It was the one without the hair. He went back to Josh and Patricia's house after the cafe closed up, incessantly repeating some line about little Joshettes and Patriciaettes.

The festivities resumed Saturday morning with brunch at a park in Bloomington. My harried sister, the mother of the bride, rushed out Friday afternoon to buy deli meats for the brunch, thought ham would be great, forgetting that her new in-laws are Jewish, some of them observant. She did not mean to offend, and I doubt that anyone was offended, although one person was heard to exclaim, "What's this?" pointing at the ham. It's an ill wind that doesn't blow some good for someone and my sister's faux pas was a great blessing for the six sibling brothers as we were running out of things about which to tease our sister. This should be good for at least 10 years, maybe more, depending on the availability of fresher material.

After brunch, I went back to the motel to work on my emceeing duties for the reception, that being the consolation prize I was offered after I was by-passed for the task of officiating at the marriage. I came prepared, having obtained my own ministerial credentials over the internet from the Universal Life Church a few days before the nuptials, just in case The Sensible One came up hoarse. I spent all afternoon working on my schtick, and in the last 15 minutes before we had to leave for the site of the wedding, came up with a little song for the newlyweds, but more about that later.

The wedding and the reception were held in the country at a place called "Pick-A-Chic Farm." (I am not making this up.) Apparently, it used to be a poultry farm, but the chicken houses are all gone and there are beautiful grounds with a natural amphitheater and a very nice building with open sides for the reception.

We got out to the Pick-A-Chic Farm a little before 4:30 for photographs. Unfortunately, my camera quit working soon after we got there, so I have very few pictures. I do have a picture of the amphitheater where the ceremony was held, which I will post here.

When we got there, it looked to me, probably like it looks to you. A table at the bottom of the amphitheater, covered with a white cloth with two circles of chairs around it and then a larger circle of chairs at the top of the hill. It looked like it was going to be the setting for some kind of pagan rite. It turned out to be nothing kinky at all. The table was not a table, but a platform, as I discovered when I saw The Sensible One leading the wedding procession, go down the hill and walk up and stand on top of (what I then thought was a table) the platform.

The Sensible One started out by welcoming "Family, friends and all other beings." After some remarks by The Sensible One about the ancestors on both sides of the couple, there was a poem by Alice Walker read by a New Zealander. Then The Sensible One read a poem by Margaret Atwood which ends with the lines, "I would like to be the air that enters you for only a moment. That unnoticed and that necessary."

The Sensible One then referred to the Amish tradition of preaching at weddings from the Book of Tobit, part of the Apocrypha, which tells the story of Sarah, a "strong woman, most desired" whose husbands kept dying on their wedding night. As The Sensible One preached it, "seven men tried and seven men died," until finally Tobit discovered the secret for driving out the daemon that was killing Sarah's husbands. From there, the sermon veered to Babette's Feast, the hook being that the wedding couple met at a restaurant. This retelling does not do justice to The Sensible One's homily, which did make a lot of sense, or so it seemed at the time, but my notes are sketchy and my memory even sketchier. (I have asked The Sensible One to provide me with a copy of his wedding sermon, which, if he gives to me, I will post.)

Things got memorable when it came time for the wedding vows. The Sensible One instructed each to repeat the vows after him. It went like clockwork for Josh, but when it came time for the bride to repeat her vows, The Sensible One asked her to say, "I, Patricia, take Patrick. . . ." Patricia was not tripped up, saying that she would take Josh as her lawfully wedding husband. Then it was time for the exchange of rings. There was no best man or woman, so the groom was in charge of providing the rings. When The Sensible One asked Josh to produce the token, etc., Josh got a stricken look on his face, which The Sensible One interpreted to mean that he had messed up the order of the service and said gallantly, "But, first, you may kiss the bride." After the kissing was accomplished, The Sensible One got back to the rings, and Josh quickly replaced his blissful look with a stricken one. It became apparent that he didn't have the rings. He said he thought they were in the car, but as several young men prepared to make a dash for the cars, Josh's 80-year-old grandfather saved the day by presenting his own wedding ring for the couple to use and which he later gave to them.

After the ceremony, which lasted about half an hour, everyone headed up the hill for the reception. It was my job, as emcee, to inform the crowd that they were to help themselves to drinks and hors d'ouvres, while the bridal couple went with the photographer to get some pictures at sunset. I decided to start right out with a joke, so I said, "Welcome to Pick-A-Chic Farm. But if you're married, engaged, or otherwise taken, please wait until after dark." The joke fell flat. One guy from Los Angeles thought it was really funny, and came up and told me so later. I still think it was a pretty good joke; the problem was my timing. People were not prepared to laugh. I tried to fix it later when I had another announcement by saying that I realize my first joke was inappropriate and sexist. We do not refer to women as chicks anymore and I should not be suggesting infidelity after dark; that the owners of the farm were so offended at my joke that they have changed the name of the place to "Pick A Turkey Farm." That got a few more laughs. I have to be open to the possibility that neither joke was funny, but that's hard to admit.

We had some toasts. I quoted Ogden Nash thusly:

"To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the marriage cup
Whenever you're wrong admit it
Whenever you're right, shut up."

After the toasts, I talked a little about the problem of names. It is not a given any more that the wife will take her husband's last name, as we Otto's discovered 25 years ago when my sister-in-law Barb decided to keep her maiden name and be known as Barbara Shenk. I speculated that the reason was that she did not want to have the initials, B.O. She preferred the initials B.S. That got a decent laugh, as it has at every wedding I've cracked that joke at for the last 25 years. I then confided that I had asked Patricia whether she was going to keep her maiden name, Borntrager, or take her new husband's last name, Tennen. After some more foolishness, I had my brothers come up and help me introduce the new name for the couple by helping me sing the following song:

Oh, Tennen Born
Oh, Tennen Born
How lovely are Josh and Patricia

Oh, Tennen Born
Oh, Tennen Born
Your wedding cake was delicious

We wish you the best of everything
May you be wise and have lots of bling

Oh, Tennen Born
Oh, Tennen Born
We love you, Josh and Patricia.

So ends my report of the wedding. Ninety-nine percent of it is true.


Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for this for almost 2 weeks. I'm not quite sure if 99% of it is true, but you're close, so I won't quibble about the math. One question I do have, When did Wilmer replace me as "the sensible one"? I thought that description was given about me many years ago when our family was described to one of Mark's old girlfriends. Jo Ann

Amishlaw said...

It happened around the same time that I lost the title of "Titular Head" of the Family, because my sisters said they were more qualified for that position. Anyway, your new name is Jo Ham.

trucking fiddler said...

Wow, what fun to have a window into this wild & crazy Amish family. This could turn into a sitcom. Mainly want to let you know who your loyal readers are. Keep the humor coming. Peggy laughed at your first joke right away - about pick-a-chick after dark...
blessings, fiddler & ladybug

Anonymous said...

So glad you're back on the blog. That was a rather extended gap in time. After checking in twice a day during your prolific early days I thought you were gone.
At first glance the scene of the wedding looked like a UFO site.
Thanks for the entertainment.

Amishlaw said...

Thanks for the support, Fiddler, Ladybug and Anonymous Becky. I will try to do a better job of posting. Last weekend we were in Atlanta, and I've been kind of busy. But I have an Atlanta report gestating and should have something new up by the weekend.