I was sure that in half a century at Madewood I’d seen everything there is to see in weddings. The Dalmatian of Honor and the Best Can-ine. Barefoot brides and bridesmaids in organically-pure caftans. Arrival by helicopter. By horse and buggy. By recycled French Quarter mini “streetcar.” By jalopy; and, of course, by white Rolls-Royce.
I’ve seen a separate vegan buffet (special request) stormed by carnivorous guests, leaving the 10 or so vegetarians nothing more than raw carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets and an herbal dip. Vegans get just as cranky as beef people when navigating a reception on an empty stomach.
There have been family and friends toting styrofoam coolers of food away at the end of the buffet. At the other extreme, Madewood has hosted orchids flown in from California and Parisian patissiers commissioned to craft tiny cakes in the shape of European landmarks.
But a recent wedding, chronicled by The New York Times, convinced me I really hadn’t seen anything at all, thank you very much.
It all began in 1993 at the European School in Luxembourg, with an “Ophelia-like,” black-booted, Atlanta-born, European-educated young woman who spoke four languages and professed a love for “unicorns, flying saucers and all things related to outer space.”
The young man who noticed all this was British, with long hair and a taste for grunge music — a heartthrob with a really good heart.
She decided she didn’t like that exclusive school and bolted for another in the Netherlands, leaving him behind.
True to her penchant for hopping a plane — to Bahrain or anywhere else, according to her sister, a certain Elisabeth van Lawick van Pabst-Koch, just to see a friend — she decided, after receiving an out-of-the-blue e-mail from Mr. Big Heart in 2010, that they should meet up in Sarajevo and then head to a birthday party for a friend in Puglia, Italy.
Big Heart, by then doing “difficult work in Liberia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,” thought it a smashing idea and leapt at the chance to cohabitate “a stone hut called a trullo amid olive groves and foxes,” drinking wine while contemplating the stars and all things outer space
You might fear that the wedding would be an anticlimax; but no. The supplicant had “shaved his stubbled chin and cut his hair” to formally request his beloved’s hand at the family manse in Atlanta, a place more foreign to him, no doubt, than Herzegovina.
“I had no sense of Atlanta,” he told the Times. “I would watch CNN and see these women with big hair, and think wistfully, ‘That’s where Anne is, and she seems nothing like those big-haired women’.”
But despite her sophistication, the bride at least had a big head on her big day, thanks to another sister, a milliner in Beijing (seriously?), who topped her coif with a pair of interlocked starlings, a touch that would have horrified Tippi Hedren on her wedding day. But it worked for this pair of etymological contortionists, who “believe they are creatures from the stars.”
And remember that trullo? You wouldn’t want to do the same old thing at your wedding, so they opted, in order to be as close to nature as one could, to spend their wedding night “in a tent lined with Indian saris in a bamboo grove on the property.” It is possible to have too much money and too little good sense. Besides, there are no foxes in Atlanta’s pristine Buckhead landscape.
But all could be forgiven, were it not for the groom’s mother’s reaction to my favorite morning repast.
Trading Hindu for Deep South, the couple treated the assemblage to breakfast the following morning at a local Waffle House.
“It was not my kind of food,” commented the bride’s new mother-in-law, setting the stage for later Hatfield-McCoy scenarios. “But the service was friendly.”
Yes it is, mother-in-law, yes it is.
I’ve dined with Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Anne in London’s Regent’s Park, supped at Harewood House with the Earl and Countess, and been lectured to by Margaret Thatcher in the parlor of No. 10 Downing Street.
But for pure delight, nothing beats the Waffle House at the Auburn University exit from I-65, especially if you’re staying at the adjacent Econo-Lodge with two canines. Vouchers for breakfast next door are included.
I pledged my troth to Waffle House many years ago. I’ve been there richer, and now poorer. In sickness (bad cough one time) and in health (back when I led a step-aerobics class in my forties). Even though the calories in the cheese omelette, hash browns and wheat toast may lead to death parting us sooner rather than later, thee I wed — for better, for worse.