Years ago I was a studio photographer and as all people in that profession weddings were my bread and butter. I have attended over 200 weddings either as a photographer or as just a member of the congregation. Yes I have many tales that stem from my observations at weddings and while most of them are quite boring some are horrific, funny, and/or just plain strange.
With Andrew's upcoming nuptials I started to think about the receptions I've witnessed. Most receptions are the same. People stand in line for food. They sit. They eat. They watch the couple dance. They laugh politely at the unfunny toasts. They cry at the couples' first dance. They drink heavily and go home.
One reception will always stand out for me. I was hired by a friend to photograph the reception of his cousins wedding. My partner and I showed up early and took light readings of the reception site. This is where I noticed things were off.
The reception area was in an auditorium next to the church. There was only one table and it was for the wedding party. The rest of the chairs were lined up in perfect order facing the stage. It looked like the congregation was going to be viewing a concert or something.
After the ceremony was over the couple decided it would be a great idea to have a procession line. Now this was a huge wedding so it took what seemed like forever for the people just to exit the church. This is why I've always been against these.
The people then lined up for the food which again took an eternity. After they got their meals they were escorted to the auditorium to sit. This took almost an hour and a half in total.
The reception finally got under way. The wedding party sat at their table while the congregation snacked on their finger sandwiches in what looked to be uncomfortable school chairs. The mother of the bride got up on the stage and told the audience that they were about to view a play and there was a program of the performance under their chairs.
The play was a dramatization of the couple's history together. Apparently they knew each other since childhood, which even a cynic like myself can say is cute. The actors got on stage and performed short humorous skits chronicling each stage of the couples' life. The couple are second generation corn farmers and being ever so clever as the playwrite(s) thought they were they modeled the bride and grooms' characters after Forrest Gump and his love interest Jenny.
Now I'm not a big fan of Forrest Gump. Far from it actually, but I would never model a bride after a fictional character who's startling achievements were injecting heroin, posing for Playboy, and being a blank panther sympathizing dirty hippy.
The first skit followed two children playing in the sandbox. Jenny threw sand on the boy in a display of affection and the boy ran away crying. The audience gave their polite laughter. Great, the groom is a wus.
The mother of the bride got up on stage and noted to everyone that there was a song listed in the program. They were all invited to sing the song as the next actors were setting up the scene. The audience then sang this silly song while I pondered fleeing for the nearest bar.
The second skit came about with the couple being characterized as middle schoolers. The boy did his best Tom Hanks impression as he rattled off all the different types of corn there was. Get it? In the film Bubba explained all the different kinds of shrimp. Now this kid did the same thing only with corn. Laughing yet? Yeah I thought so.
This followed with another audience participation song. Another skit was performed, another song was sang. As the singing progressed I stood there with my camera taking shots of the event. The friend who hired me kept giving me that look that said "I know if you weren't being paid to do this you'd be drinking from a flask right now."
I kept trying to get a shot of the bride and groom at the table, but the groom refused to smile. Throughout the entire reception he sat there looking bored. Sometimes he would get a pissed look on his face. I guess if I were being characterized as a mildly retarded movie character I'd be a little ticked as well. The bride laughed along with the skits, but I could tell she was faking it as she kept looking at her mother after each giggle for approval. She really must love her mom.
The play ended and the bridal party got up and did their toasts. Now it's customary to have a maid-of-honor and best man do a toast, but everyone in the party, including the five bridesmaids and their respective groomsmen, fathers, mothers, and even grandparents, raised a glass of sparkling cider to the happy couple. By this time the audience was getting restless. If there was another song I believe we would have a riot on our hands.
Let me point out now that there was no alcohol served at this event. None. The congregation had to sit through this and not even get a drink of champagne.
I got a few shots of the bride and groom before they made their exit. I commented to the couple on the uniqueness of the reception to which the groom replied "I do not wish that upon anybody. I'm so sorry my friends and family had to endure that shit." That resulted in a swift elbow from the bride.
If Andrew and Jessica have a reception like that I'm going to punch them both in the mouth.
"Music played at weddings always reminds me of the music played for soldiers before they go into battle." - Heinrich Heine