“You absolutely ruined the most important day of my life,” the bride’s letter — received two weeks after her wedding at Madewood — screamed. “And you owe the best man a new white linen suit since because it was so hot his black watchband bled onto the cuff of his jacket.”
Why does it always come as a surprise to the bride and her mother that it’s going to be blisteringly hot at an outdoor wedding in August in South Louisiana? As prospective brides thumb through nuptial magazines while sipping a cup of hot chocolate in October, they see themselves in the images of young ladies skipping across fields of breeze-kissed grass. They forget things like satanic heat and debilitating humidity.
So with an outdoor wedding and reception looming next weekend, you can understand my trepidation when I noticed that the nola.com weather frog predicted a sizzing high in the low 90s that would feel like 100 degrees for this weekend, just seven days before the upcoming event.
Some brides simply want to trip barefoot through the soft grass up to the altar, where caged doves wait to be released. Others plan every detail, down to the hand soaps. One clever bride, whose grandmother had been a seamstress, found tiny colored soaps that looked like buttons – and others that approximated mini doughnuts with colored sprinkles, as the groom’s family owned the most famous old-fashioned doughnut shop on the bayou.
It was a truly lovely event, right down to the carafes of milk, and cookies in the shape of the bride’s puppy.
As the bayou’s resident “Frawhnk,” Martin Short’s iconic wedding planner in Father of the Bride, I’ve learned that all things are possible, and certain things are inevitable. An immense groom’s cake can be created in the shape of LSU’s Tiger Stadium — complete with miniature scoreboards — if you’ve got an extra grand in your budget; but rose petals strewn across the nuptial bed in the honeymoon suite will not wash out of the sheets the next day.
Yes, you can have a whole roasted pig on a sideboard staring out at a pirogue full of shrimp and beer; but you can be sure that a bride who’s just had a spat with the groom will at some point during the evening turn into bridezilla.
Who do you call when disaster is imminent? BLF (Bayou Lafourche’s Frawhnk), of course. I think you get the idea.
I had the pleasure of missing one wedding, which my manager at the time, a lovely French woman, described to me in horrific detail:
It was an evening event, and as the bride descended onto the floodlit lawn from the pumpkin coach, drawn by four white horses, she thought she heard the sound of someone watering the lawn. A quick glance to her left revealed a steady stream of water emanating from the hind quarters of the lead horse nearest the aisle runner. It seemed to go on forever, as the guests stared expectantly at the frozen, bewildered bride.
Believe it or not, things got worse.
By the time of the cake cutting, the near-delirious bride smashed the first piece of cake into the groom’s face and exclaimed, “This is the worst wedding I’ve ever been to!”
Would you be surprised to learn that the happy couple is no longer together? I blame it all on the pumpkin coach.
The color scheme for one memorable wedding was black. And more black. Black tablecloths. Black favors. Black tulle obscuring the walnut handrail of Madewood’s magnificent staircase, one of architect Henry Howard’s finest, with garlands of black silk flowers every few inches. You would have sworn one of two things: Batman and Robin were getting married at Madewood that night. Or it was a rehash of Hamlet’s “Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats/ Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables,” and someone was going to roll Aunt Hattie’s casket into the hallway and place votive candles everywhere.
But when the glowing bride descended the staircase, all you could think of was her radiance, which shone even more brightly against the somber decorations. The bride was lovely, the groom a real charmer; and it seems they’re going to live happily ever after.
In truth, most weddings at Madewood proceed flawlessly, with radiant brides who live happily everafter with their Prince Charmings. But the very first wedding we held at Madewood — indoors on a cold January weekend decades ago — proffered a message. From afar, I heard the DJ announce the first dance for the new Mr. and Mrs. X. As he fired up “Please Release Me, Let Me Go,” I thought, “This is not a good sign.”
I should have realized there could be trouble ahead.