What could possibly go wrong?

Monday 10 October 2016 –— Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — Columbus Day

We’ve reached the end of another wedding season here at St. Patrick Church. It’s 40 weddings down and only one to go. I’m silently breathing a sigh of relief. Somehow I’m feeling a tad bit older.

Few couples on Cape Cod request wedding dates after Columbus Day but I’ve noticed more and more couples prefer their weddings in autumn. I suppose this is due to the fact that traffic mostly dissipates once school begins. You can get from one place to another (except during Road Race Weekend). I would also speculate that the rates are lower at the inns and reception halls. 

I read in the town newspaper that the board of selectmen is considering the purchase of a local wedding hall and converting it into a senior citizen center. Many find this jaw-dropping, but I’m not surprised. Changing the focus from weddings of young adults to services for the elderly is a sign of the times. We’re all getting older — some of us more rapidly than others.

I also read in another Cape newspaper about one particular wedding. Fortunately, it did not take place at St. Patrick Church. I am not, by the way, making this up.

Here comes the bride, all dressed in white, on her way to her dream wedding on the beach. A berserk man suddenly blocks her vehicle with his truck, opens her car door, and jumps in. Seems the man has some beef with the groom. He demands to know the groom’s whereabouts. The bride has no idea (Dude, the groom can’t even set eyes on the bride before the wedding. It’s bad luck). The alleged assailant punches the bride in the mouth, strikes her in the head with the butt of a knife, cuts her face, and rips her wedding gown. 

The poor bride was understandably late, but the wedding did take place. I hear the attacker was disinvited. “What can possibly go wrong at a wedding?” you ask.

I would much rather have a funeral than a wedding. The folks at weddings can become irrational, working themselves into a tizzy by worrying about the most minute details. They try to foresee everything that might possibly go wrong. They come up with “Plan B” and “Plan C.” At funerals there’s only “Plan A.” 

I remember serving my first wedding as a rookie altar boy. I was nervous. The perceptive pastor, Father Bernard Unsworth, attempted to calm me down beforehand with encouraging words. “Not to worry, Timmy. What can possibly go wrong?” he said. 

Well, during the Mass the bride had some sort of seizure. Reflexively, she reached out and firmly grabbed my arm. I was attached to the bride as they carried her into the sacristy. The wedding eventually resumed without further incident. “What could possibly go wrong?” you ask. I learned the answer early in life. 

As a priest, I remember one bride who dreamily sauntered down the aisle, smiling serenely at her family and friends. But when I asked, “Do you take John Smith to be your husband?” she answered with one word, and it wasn’t “Yes.” She said, “Who?” I later learned that, before the wedding, she had been behaving like a spoiled brat. The concerned bridesmaids fed her sedatives. 

I remember one bride who decided to arrive fashionably late for her big day, although I had previously advised her to be on time due to “another event.” She was more than 30 minutes late. What could possibly go wrong? Well, when the organist finally played the closing hymn and the wedding party reached the church door ready to leave, they were blocked by a casket. The next “event” was a funeral. 

Or the bridal party who planned a butterfly release. When they opened their boxes to let the butterflies flutter free, the unfortunate bugs were all deceased. The guests threw them at the couple anyway. It was not a pretty sight. 

But wait, there’s more. While I would rather have a funeral than a wedding, I would rather have a wedding than a wedding rehearsal. There are many horror stories about wedding rehearsals. Every priest has lots of them.

Seldom does everyone arrive on time, and when they do arrive, some may very well be intoxicated. 

They will probably be disrespectfully noisy in church.

God forbid the couple has hired a hoity-toity event-planner from New York City. 

On the other hand, if there’s no event-planner, the bride may take half-an-hour finally making up her mind about who goes where in the bridal procession.

The family’s entrance can be even worse. There are so many variations (mother, stepmother, grandparents, step-grandparents — and the significant others of all of the above). It can, dear readers, give one apoplexy. 

I’m not complaining, you understand. “It is what it is,” as they always say on the Judge Judy Show. I’m just thankful there are parish volunteer rehearsal coordinators. They deserve the Purple Heart.

What could possibly go wrong at a wedding? You have no idea. No, really, you don’t. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.


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