Gary, like many of you unfortunates, has only two parents, and only four grandparents. We never hear about his dad's side of the family because they are overshadowed by Wilma's family. Wilma's side is named the Cooks, and they are a society unto themselves. My anthropological studies of the Cooks has analyzed their social habits and found there is a particular type of Cook wedding.
Everyone plans a dream wedding, and my high-school dream wedding was to be on a bluff overlooking the river at at Pere Marquette Park. My three bridesmaids would be my friends Sonja, Diane, and Carol, and they were to be dressed each in a re-usable street-length dress, inspired by colors from William Blake's paintings (such as this one). Red-orange for Carol, gold for Diane, and blue-green for Sonja. No flowers, just gorgeous bluff views. Like a good Baptist wedding, it would be low-key (cake and punch) and God-centric (no dancing, no drinking).
When time came for my actual wedding, I realized this plan was 1) completely impractical and 2) not a Cook wedding, which must be a) in a Catholic church Gary had never attended, b) supplied with liquor and dancing. I think they must have been concerned that as a Baptist I would not have any liquor, which is why they passed around bottles of hard liquor in brown paper bags at the reception.
It was evident I wasn't going to be having a wedding at the park, or even at my church, or anywhere else the Cooks would not approve since Wilma had such strong wedding opinions. ("Cake and punch! You can't ask people to fly in for cake and punch!" "Who invited people from other states?" "Well, all my second cousins, and third cousins. I went to all their weddings, so they have to come to my son's!")
MY Mom, in all this, as in all things, was a saint. She had strong opinions on how my wedding should be, but kept them to herself. We told her we were paying for it ourselves, so my parents took the wedding money they'd saved and gave us a honeymoon trip to Maui. "But I wanted to spend my honeymoon at the Smithsonian. Let me think about it." I just want to go back in time and slap me. Maui was fabulous.
So, with my family supplying the lovely and elegant honeymoon and the Cooks dictating how a wedding was Done, I had a very odd wedding. Odd, but yet like every other Cook wedding I've been to since. First, you must have Mass in your church and the reception downstairs in the basement. People the bride and groom had never met from Yellville, Arkansas would make their introductions at the wedding. Mostaccioli must be served at the buffet because you are not legally married in Saint Louis without mostaccioli. There must be dancing (sin!) and beer (sin!) and exchange of money in the Father's house (the Dollar Dance, in which the bride is paid money for dancing! Dance WHORE! Sin! Sin!).
The tacky Cook wedding was topped off by my wedding night, when we went back to Gary's apartment and a drunk on the parking lot was screaming "Rhonda! You bitch! Get down here. RHOOOONNNDAAAA!" (The officer who responded to our phone call saw me still in my wedding dress and said "You really ARE having your wedding night?" as if we had thrown in that detail to get them out there.)
So we have tried to avoid the abusive Cook wedding cycle by not attending the weddings of strangers and just sending gifts. But a few months ago an invitation arrived that did not have glitter on it, or tissue, or Precious Moments. It was not a Pop-Up Wedding Invitation. In fact, it was just the classic elegant sheet,and when I saw the card that said "Adults Only Reception" I said to Gary "Who is Julia Cook? Please tell me we've met her before. We have to go to this wedding."
"Oh, that's the one I call Nicole Kidman." Gary said, describing a Cook we had indeed met and remembered for her stunning curly red hair and ethereal beauty. Julia (aka Nicole) is his first cousin once removed.
So you know I've been quite excited about this wedding. Ken an Wilma drove there with us. (I drove and they think I am an excellent driver, hee). It was at the Grand Hall at Union Station. There were lobster canapes. There was an open bar. There was champagne that was sublime. There was raspberry sorbet to cleanse ones palate. There was no food march, a humiliating experience in which the bride and groom march about the hall to lead an ever-growing conga line of fourth cousins up to the mostaccioli buffet.
Last night when the news spread among the Cooks that the wedding they were at had cost ninety dollars a plate, they were all intimidated and Wilma was aghast. However, she had admitted out that the food was good. (Her very words were "This sure is better than the mostaccioli you had at your wedding, Ellen" as I struggled to not stab her with one of the many forks only I knew how to identify.)
On the drive home (I am an excellent driver, you know) Wilma was grousing. "Why would anyone want to have a wedding at that place? It was dark and cold, and that sorbet just tasted like a Slushie." Um, because it was gorgeous? And historic? And illuminated by light filtered by Tiffany stained glass windows? She continued: "You know Jimmy" (her cousin) "always gave that girl anything she wanted. He raised her just like she was his own."
"Uh, what was that?" I asked.
"I'm not related to Nicole Kidman?" Gary asked (a bit eagerly).
Wilma said "No, honey, we're talking about the bride, Julia."
"Okay," I said, "That explains everything."
Gary, using his psychic powers, understood exactly what I meant and instead said "Yeah, it explains why she's so much better-looking than the rest of the Cooks."
So, evidently the tacky-wedding gene is nature, not nurture. I don't know if I can wait twenty years for her children to grow up and I can attend the next fancy wedding.