By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
There really has never been a perfect wedding. Even the most traditional, carefully- planned marriage ceremony is likely to have a hiccup. Indeed, the more little details the bride and groom care about, the more likely one is to go awry. Fifty-three years ago, as the first notes of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik announced that we were about to walk down the aisle, our six-year old ring bearer disappeared with the cushion holding our rings. Our friends and family were treated to a longer concert than expected as he was tracked down. “Well,” he explained “When you gotta go, you gotta go.” Yes, every wedding can have a hiccup, but some have a loud, explosive belch.Weddings in Mexico are not exempt from problems. The presence of children at ceremonies is not unusual here, and the children are expected to be and commonly are very well- behaved. But we were told of a couple who had accumulated ten children between them and decided to include all their progeny in their wedding service. The affair turned into chaos. You really can’t blame the youngsters. The ceremonies went on and on and the kids became fidgety. The boys started to give each other little shoves, and the shoves turned into fist fights. The girls were upset that the boys were fighting and started to cry. The priest tried to continue but, needless to say, children rolling around in the aisle kicking and screaming and wailing at the top of their lungs was somewhat distracting.
Some wedding disasters are unforeseeable clerical errors. In a village here in Oaxaca, the whole community had gathered in the church waiting for the ceremony to begin. The young bride was beautiful; the young groom was proud. The priest – well, the priest was nowhere to be seen. Thirty minutes went by and the congregation chattered quietly. An hour went by and some mean-hearted villager started the rumor that the priest had decided not to perform the marriage sacraments because of past behavior of the bride. The bride started to weep as her incensed father and brothers went to confront the priest. They found him in the local jail.
Far from refusing to perform the marriage rites, the padre had been so concerned that he might be late that he drove too fast in his car on the windy road to the church. Coming around a curve, he hit someone on a bike. The police chief, who was no lover of the Church, had gleefully arrested the priest. When the bride’s father and brothers pleaded with the police chief to let the priest go, he agreed to allow him to perform the ceremony, but under armed guard.
Other clerical obstacles might have been anticipated. Friends of ours had a boda in the same cathedral in Guanajuato where the bride had taken first communion. Although she knew how very conservative the priest was, she decided to ask two American friends to stand as padrinos during the ceremony. Not only were these attendants not Mexican, but they are gay and Jewish. The priest’s disapproval was evident from the expression on his face. He didn’t have to say a word about them, but in a way he did.
He delivered a homily that was filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric worthy of the Inquisition and long rejected by the Vatican. Fortunately, although they could have understood every word, our friends who were the padrinos were so nervous about every action they were assigned to take in the ceremony that they didn’t pay attention. But the bride and groom turned bright red and looked very uncomfortable during the homily.
Many explosive wedding situations in Mexico involve beach-destination affairs hosted by foreigners who have spent little or no time in the area they choose for their nuptials. They imagine romantic settings and are totally clueless about implications of tides, weather, and other natural phenomena. Brides have an image of their wedding that they formed when they were six-year-olds playing with their Barbie dolls and are not to be deterred even by local knowledgeable consultants. Of course, their mothers also have dreams of the perfect wedding for their daughters.
One slightly obsessive mother of the bride set out chairs covered with white cloth hours before the wedding on a Huatulco beach known by the locals for very high tides. In the interim before the ceremony, the tide rose and fell. The white covers turned mud brown up to the water mark.
Brides’ demands to decorate themselves, the wedding party, and their beach venue with flowers that are not native to the area have led to floral disasters. One bride was at a restaurant the week before her wedding and one of the vendors walked in selling roses to patrons. The rose her groom selected for her looked perfect – so she paid the vendor to bring 10 dozen roses on the day of the wedding. That evening was the last time she ever saw the vendor. Another bride from out of the country also asked a friend to buy dozens of flowers brought down from the mountains from a market she had visited at a nearby village. Although the friend who had lived at the beach for many years explained that the flowers would have to purchased at that market the day before the wedding since the market was not a daily event, the bride insisted that that was what she wanted. The beautiful flowers were purchased, carefully placed in tubs of water – and the next morning over half of them were dead. One bride’s flowers actually made an appearance at the wedding and the bouquets looked lovely as the maids of honor and the bride carried them down the aisle. But before the wedding party reached the altar, ants and bugs of various species crawled out of the flowers and up their arms. The bride tossed her bouquet somewhat early, as did the attendants – but in this case no one wanted to catch the bouquet.
Themed weddings replete with costumes simply don’t add to a beach wedding. One medieval theme clothed the members of the wedding in yards and yards of velvet. Those of us who live at the beach can tell you that we don’t even want to look at photos of velvet, much less wear drapes of the heavy material. By the time the service started, the costumes appropriate for a Hollywood set were wringing wet. Our southern aunt always lectured that “horses sweat, men perspire and women glow.” But even she would have agreed that the bride was sweating like a horse.
Another theoretically dramatic entry of the wedding party envisioned by more than one bride is arrival by boat to the beach where friends and family are sitting in anticipation of the event. The one wedding we attended that involved boats also involved a retching bridesmaid whose face remained green throughout the evening. In other similar events at least one member of the wedding went overboard – in one case the bride.
The most common cause of problems at Mexican beach wedding is the familiar failure to take into account the vagaries of weather and to have a backup plan. High winds have caused havoc with dresses, veils and even the wrap-around skirt of one officiant who was praying more for her skirt to stay down than for the couple she was marrying since she decided that the high temperatures called for no underwear. High humidity has turned elegant coiffures into masses of curls worthy of the 60’s “fros”. And sudden downpours have not only literally dampened whole events but provided the first real challenge of marriages. Our guess is that brides and grooms who stand puddle deep at the altar and manage to laugh are likely to be laughing together 50 years later.
Perhaps the worst obstacle to a happy Mexican beach wedding and in fact the basis for a truly tragic event is the tendency for members of the wedding and guests to turn destination events into an excuse for over- indulgence – hours in the sun, lack of sleep, and drinking far more than usual. Lobster red, reeling people really don’t add to the ambiance. In the worst Mexican wedding event that has hit the news recently, the parents of the bride decided to express their love for each other in their ensuite jacuzzi. The father of the bride had a heart-attack and died, pinning the mother of the bride under the water where she also drowned. The perfect wedding turned into the perfect nightmare.
Some wedding dreams, no matter how bizarre, do come true. Very recently, a couple demanded to have a “traditional tequila burro” at their wedding reception in an elegant venue. We waited with great expectations to hear that the donkey had misbehaved and to receive a photo of the consequences. However, the four-legged guest of honor was very polite even when some guests who were feeling no pain, climbed on his back. But our bottom-line advice is, when planning your wedding, don’t press your luck.