The Wedding Breakfast - Provincial NZ Style

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A wedding in rural New Zealand is traditionally less formal that many city weddings and more often than not the hilarity rises as consumption of liquor increases. Careful planning with the seating mix at tables and reliance on volunteers nipping in to calm hot-heads usually keeps chaos at bay.

Submitted: October 19, 2007

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Submitted: October 19, 2007

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It was an imperfect wedding, but the wedding the family would talk about for years.
The day began promising, the kind of weather every bride-to-be and mother along with photographers and caterers traditionally pray for. This day dawned brightly, with fluffy white clouds scuttling across the otherwise blue sky, their bellies deliciously tinged apricot pink.
Late that morning, sunglasses perched on the majority of noses, guests filed into the church that was two sizes too small for this event. To make room, many men gallantly left the side of their partners and stood outside where they chatted quietly, sucking stubbies of beer thoughtfully provided by the bride’s older brother, the district rep for Oasis Breweries.
As the sanctimonious words from the clergyman drifted out through the opened doors, the men and a few women who’d heard beer was available expanded the group standing under an increasing ominous sky. Clouds were being pushed from the west – off-white at first, then turning into darkening shades of gray that appeared to be maneuvering in military-like precision prior to dumping.
The final ‘amen’ sounded inside the church as outside the first raindrops landed.
“Bloody weather office – predicts a fine day and it rains,” grumbled the second cousin of the bride’s father, Archie Banks, a tractor mechanic and former professional jockey.
“That’s funny – none of us is baling hay today,” grinned farm worker Sam Manaia.
As the rain intensified those outside the church regrouped under the macrocarpas which, being old and heavily limbed, acted like a massive and effective umbrella.
The church service ended. Overdressed matrons, under-dressed young women, children and a handful of men who had steadfastly held their ground in church emerged, and dashed for their vehicles. Women tottering trying to run on flimsy heeled shoes shrieked, with rain slithering on to powdered cheeks and freeing mascara while lower down plunging into gaping necklines. One or two hats ended up on the wet ground.
The bridal party cars had been directed along the grass to beside the church where it was expected the wedding party could embark through a side door, sheltered from the westerly unleashing from the misbehaving heavens.
Two aunts, Minnie and Pat, walked along queenly, their hoisted sun-umbrellas keeping them dry. They noticed their husbands, Merv and Alec, standing with the remaining loitering men and women under the trees, watching the main body of men dutifully holding their suit jackets over coiffure heads as people headed for their vehicles.
“Trust those two lay-abouts to be last out of the blocks. What’s that? They’re drinking alcohol in the churchyard!” Pat gasped.
“Don’t worry, you know very well those two are nonconformists,” Minnie comforted. “Anyway, what do you think about our lovely Mia when Stu was asked to kiss the bride?”
She was referring to their niece’s reaction when Stewart (Stu) Irons, invited by the clergyman to kiss the bride, did so rather passionately. Mia had pulled away and padding her lips admonished him loudly, “You fool, you have ruined my lipstick!” The Minister had looked at her, mouth open and a murmur swept through the congregation.
Sid Francis had called out to his daughter, “There will be more of that coming your way tonight, my darling.” Mia had turned and glared at him, before breaking into a beautiful smile that restored the tranquility of the occasion.
“I guess that indicated who will be wearing the pants in that family,” Pat sniffed.
With the wedding party heading for the photographer’s studio, guests went to the Francis’s farmhouse, temporarily dominated by a huge marquee on the front lawn, surrounded by tubbed flowering azaleas, rhododendrons and lilies.
Lines formed at the bedrooms, bathrooms and anywhere else in the house where there were mirrors as women engaged in restoring themselves. Some were in tears over the state of their flattened hair and ‘ruined’ shoes. Three guests skilled at hairdressing were in great demand.
The men wisely sought sanctuary in the marquee to escape the possibility of being sent home for replacement shoes or clothing. They dried out over drinks, doing rather well for males in thinking on two levels: conversing while ogling the waitresses who were mostly teenies in black mini skirts, fishnet stockings and tight-fitting white sleeveless polo neck tops.
When the minister’s wife entered the marquee and spotted some of the young waitresses, she clutched her husband’s arm and whispered indignantly, “Good gracious, Adams Caterers have employed prostitutes.”
Her husband didn’t answer, his attention being exclusively focused. His occasional thoughts about pretty young maidens in frilly white gowns dancing in fields seemingly had converted into a modernized version of food and wine bearers before his very eyes.
The foremost teenie asked sweetly, “A drink, Reverend MacPherson?” The minister stuck a finger down his clerical collar, which suddenly seemed to be a little tight.
“I presume it’s non-alcoholic?” Mary MacPherson queried haughtily. Before the girl could reply the minister took one of the rum-based cocktails off the tray and stuttered a thank you.
Mrs MacPherson, assuming no reply to her questions was an affirmative, uplifted a glass. After the first trickle of the mixture had passed between her thin lips and on to an appreciative tongue she said, “Well done, Adams Caterers. This is a fine combination of juices, I do declare.”
“I think perhaps it may contain rum,” ventured Rev MacPherson, eyes fixed on the pert backside of the retreating maiden, young enough to be his granddaughter.
“Nonsense dear, the girl would have told us if that were so,” said his wife, wondering why her husband’s collar seemed to be bothering him.
Di York returned to the group of other waitresses momentarily gathered at the bar and said: “Rev and Mrs MacPherson seem to like the Jamaican Sun-Rises. I never picked them to be drinkers. We must keep them well supplied.”
The wedding party was late arriving. Mia and her chief bridesmaid Bette Banks had gone to the toilet at the studio. Five seconds after Mia sat down a camera flash fired. Mia rushed through the door, still pulling up her panties, shouting, “The bastards – just as I was going to pee.”
Her momentum was such that she could not stop and collided heavily with Bette who was standing in the hallway carrying Mia’s bouquet. The flowers hit the low ceiling and bursting loose dropped on to the two prone young women, both of who were now hysterical.
The bridegroom yanked the door from the studio open. Looking at his 30-minute old wife sprawled over her best friend he said dryly, “I know that you two love each other, but do you have to be quite so demonstrative in public?”
“Oh God, I’m sorry, ever so sorry,” said the photographer Mick Farrow, pushing past Stu. He and Mia were not strangers carnally.
“I installed that dummy flash set-up for a stunt involving Brenda Hardcastle last night but forget to disarm it afterwards. It doesn’t take photographs…it was just to get Brenda going.”
“You twisted pervert!” Stu shouted, swinging an enormous haymaker at the left ear of the embarrassed photographer.
Fortunately Mia’s father arrived and deflected the punch, which resulted in Stu’s fist hitting the doorframe, splitting his index finger.
Apologies were made and accepted reluctantly. Some fifteen minutes later the photographic session proceeded. Those involved later would find to their satisfaction that no signs of imperfections on Mia’s tear-stained face appeared in the photographs, nor was there any sign of the hastily repaired rip to the bodice of Bette’s dress. That was because Mick Farrow was an expert on digital editing.
Ninety minutes after the first guests assembled in the marquee, the thickset balding man of fifty-plus years holding a microphone at the rostrum beside the raised bridal party table cleared his throat People looked up and the discordant buzz of multiple conversations died.
Lifting extended arms slowly upwards, the sun-tanned master of ceremonies, Mia’s Uncle Ronnie, called, “Ladies and gentlemen, the bride and bridegroom Please be upstanding.”
He pushed a button on the sound control panel and the glorious sound of Verdi’s triumphal march from Aida thundered out.
Everyone turned to the main entrance of the marquee, and Stu and Mia, both beaming, led in the entourage.
The guests had waited with increasing impatience for this moment, aware of an on-going liquor intake sloshing around in their near-empty stomachs. So their welcoming cheer was deafening, startling stock in nearby paddocks. The beams of Stu and Mia widening even further and Mia’s father looked pleased at this reception. At last Sid began to think the huge cost of sending off his daughter in grand style was really going to be worth it and family and friends would recognize his generosity. He’d been quenching his thirst with rum-based juice.
The banquet began with Uncle Ronnie asking everyone to stand for grace.
“Grace, where are you Grace!” Sam Manaia shouted from a table where Mia’s other friends from the tennis club were seated.
The Rev MacPherson rose, swaying slightly, not that it was noticeable. “Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today. . .”
Mary lightly jabbed an elbow into his thigh. “Oh sweetie,” she sighed with unaccustomed tolerance. “Grace, not the wedding service.”
“Whoops,” apologized the white-headed minister, rolling his eyes and enjoying the laughter. “Wrong timing.” He then completed grace, delivered in a partly falsetto voice, such was the extent of his accelerating relaxation.
The wedding breakfast continued in great merriment, the jokes from Uncle Ronnie becoming increasingly risqu contrary to his sister’s instructions when some weeks earlier she pressured him to chair proceedings.
“No filth – promise,” she’d said, and Ronnie had looked Beth straight in the eye, saying neutrally, “Whatever you say, Sis.” Ronnie, of course, being a solicitor, knew that his reply could not be construed by any right-thinking person as being an actual promise. Ronnie, being Ronnie, liked to keep his options open.
While waiting for starters to be cleared, Ronnie told a very tame joke that attracted only a titter. He recited two more jokes, the appreciation level rising, and then delivered a coup de gre. This one, delivered at a Law Society dinner about a new-age encounter between the bishop and an actress, was later judged to be the society’s joke-of-the-year. It was absolutely risqu and unleashed an appreciative gale of laughter when repeated at this function.
“What would a bishop be doing in the bedroom of an actress?” Mary whispered to her husband as Di York topped up their glasses. The minister replied, absent-mindedly reaching out and stroking the bare thigh of the young waitress, “I’d rather not speculate.”
“The dirty old bishop was after a bit,” snapped Di, stepping out of range of the wandering hand of the man who’d married her parents and had christened her.
“What bit?” asked the confused minister’s wife.
“Something to do with the overture to involuntary fornication,” was her husband’s scholarly reply.
“Oh darling, do you remember…”
Uncle Ronnie booming into the microphone drowned her comment: “While we are waiting for our plates to be cleared we bring for your enjoyment an item from the Maxwell Sisters.”
An excited outburst came from the wedding guests. The two local Maxwell sisters had become hugely successful on the nightclub circuit in Sydney and occasionally appeared on New Zealand television with star billing.
Uncle Ronnie hit a button on his console but instead of one of the heavy-beat Maxwell sisters’ hits came the languid ‘One Enchanted Evening’, and into the marquee jogged Sam Manaia, resplendent in a white dinner suit with a brilliant red cummerbund and with him was the doe-eyed and blond Michael Fleming, beautifully made up and wearing a blue satin sheath dress. They mimed through the song beautifully, ending in a passionate embrace that had most of the men and a few of the women in the audience whooping and hollering.
“I always thought that Fleming boy was flaky,” Pat frowned and her sister, giggling, said, “Well then, I volunteer to rehabilitate him.”
“Minnie – behave yourself,” Pat said, shocked, as the sisters never referred to matters of a sexual nature in public.
“Sounds like a sisterly spat is in progress,” Alec said to his brother Merv, the brothers having married the sisters. As usual, Merv sighed knowing that he’d be listening to a she-said-and-I-said replay later that night.
The departing entertainment duo was called back for an encore. As the beautiful singing of One Fine Day from Madam Butterfly drifted out of the speakers. Sam Manaia, stood at attention saluting, while behind him Michael acted out the final minutes of the tragedy. He went through the motions of plunging a sword into his abdomen and then dropped like ballerina portraying a dying swan. For a moment it appeared to be an inappropriate choice. Women everywhere were crying, and some men looked to be unsettled.
Then everyone rose to give the unexpectedly talented duo a standing ovation. Delighted, Sam slapped Michael hard on the back and Michael didn’t flinch as if confirming his manliness. A waitress stepped forward and presented a bouquet to a surprised Sam. She led Michael away by the hand.
“That was so beautiful,” sobbed Mia, turning to her husband, but the seat beside her was empty. Stu was down at the end of the table, censoring the messages about to be read by his best mate and business partner.
“Albert and Costello,” cracked the tractor mechanic Archie Banks, who had fallen unconscious in the bar the previous evening, unable to keep up with the consumption of beer and vodka chasers with the two Aucklanders. It was easy to spot what he meant; Stu was dwarfed by Tim Bathurst in both height and width. Tim, an ex-Olympian weight lifter, carried the nickname of ‘The Brick Outhouse’.
Uncle Ronnie was at the microphone again. “Okay, everyone. It’s time for the formalities. I would like to wish the bridal couple every happiness, and to remind them they hold the key to their marital bliss. Which reminds me…not all couples are always happy. I know this couple who have been married for 67 years. The husband was recently asked if in all those years they had ever thought of divorce. ‘Heavens no, he replied. ‘Murder yes, but never divorce’.”
Polite laughter followed, and Beth whispered to her husband, “Oh dear, I should have made him promise to stick to his blue jokes.”She then dug her poker-faced husband in the ribs and hissed, “On your feet Sid. You have been called to speak.”
Sid was fulsome in his welcome and got a laugh saying he’d spent heavily over twenty-three years preparing Mia for this wonderful day – “and I will spend twenty-three years working to pay for this day.”
Tim delivered the speech prepared by his personal assistant, struggling a little with some of the more difficult words she’d chosen. But the genial giant read the words sincerely and the bridesmaids blushed when he departed from his script and said – again sincerely – “Any of you can put your shoes under my bed, any time.”
“Oh, no,” Beth said, clutching the arm of her husband, who was struggling to stay awake, the mix of rum cocktails and droning speakers overcoming his desire to see his huge outlay being consumed under his supervision.
“Now what?” he asked, suddenly alert.
“It’s a red flag waving in front of a bull.”
Sid shook his head, wondering what on earth his wife was going on about. He didn’t have to wait long to find out.
The team of waitresses, minus the one who’d led Michael away by the hand and not returned, had completed delivering the deserts as ordered. Strawberries and sliced dried figs soaked in late-picked South Australian Muscat, topped with lightly baked meringue covered in icing sugar was the popular pick.
The comment about shoes under the bed enraged Archie Banks, father of the chief bridesmaid sitting beside best man Tim Bathurst.
“Bloody Aucklanders,” snarled Archie, rushing forward and hurling his meringue concoction at Tim. Alas, the missile widely missed its target and splattered over the not-unsubstantial chest of the bride, who screamed, and slumped against her husband, covering the side of his tuxedo in a gooey mess. The alert photographer snapped the sandwiched couple at that precise moment, gleeful that he had a photograph that one of the highly competitive women’s magazines would pay dearly to possess.
As that happened, with the surprising agility of a gazelle, “The Brick Outhouse’ vaulted the top table, landing on the floor below the rostrum in perfect balance and with incredible speed grabbed the diminutive former jockey by the suit coat, with one hand, swung him around, and commanded gently, “Please apologize to the bride.”
The photograph’s flashlight caught that moment followed by a dozen or so flashes from the cameras of guests, quick enough to respond to the amazing scenes unfolding before them.
“Sorry, Mia. Sorry Stu. I guess I just lost it,” Archie bleated.
“Oh Mr Banks, you have spoiled my wedding,” Mia sobbed.
“Dad, you’re such a dick,” Bette admonished. “You were born in Auckland, had your riding career based in Auckland and you love going back there.”
Archie’s shoulders stiffened. He was once again the minor celebrity he was on the racetrack before retirement and becoming a tractor repairman lost in the wilderness.
“I have disgraced myself before my friends and family and I have greatly offended my neighbors Sid and Mary Francis and their lovely daughter Mia,” he said. “I am sorry, extremely sorry, that I have been – er – what Bette said – a dick.” Then, head drooping, he walked off towards the main door of the marquee.
“Stop,” commanded an authoritative voice. Archie halted, turned and looked towards the top table. Standing, arms akimbo and grinning at him was Stu.
“Mary … Sid … Mia,” said Stu slowly, looking at each of them. “Surely none of us want Archie to leave. He’s guilty of merely losing it for a second – and my only regret is that he missed his target.”
That produced a nervous titter, everyone straining to try to see the faces of Sid and Mary.Mia was looking up at her husband, absolutely entranced.
“I plead for Archie, a little guy with a big heart with enough courage to try to drink bigger fellows under the table. Sid – I know that he worked through the night last week repairing your tractor to allow you to begin turning the hay next morning on schedule.”
“Mary, it was Archie who rushed you to hospital with appendicitis last winter when Sid was hosting Mia and me at Whakapapa for a weekend’s skiing.”
“Mia, my darling Mia. It was Archie who upskilled you enough a few years ago to win the district gymkhana.”
“Please, don’t let him walk way.”
Then was a moment silence, then a chant, initiated by the ebullient Sam Manaia, who had been wondering if his buddy was in the arms of someone wanting him to enjoy his long overdue induction into the joy of sex.
“Let him stay!Let him stay.”The chant woke the Reverend MacPherson, lying in the arms of his wife who was dreamily stroking his face just as she used to do some 30 years ago.
“Oh, you’re awake darling?”
He wondered if he were dreaming, hearing an old endearment fall from her lips, which looked rather full and inviting compared with the tight thin lips that had mounted her face since heavens knows when.
“My princess,” he said, emitting a run of alcohol-inspired hiccups.
“My handsome prince,” she replied, also under the influence.
As the chanting grew in volume Stu looked at Mary and Sid. Without even looking at Mary, although holding her hand, Sid nodded to Stu.
“Return to your seat, Archie. All’s forgiven. That’s official.”
The cheers rang out, and the wedding breakfast continued.
Michael and the waitress slipped in, noticed almost by everyone, and doubled-up on Michael’s chair until Archie jumped up and returned from a side room with a spare chair. He put an arm around Michael’s shoulder and whispered something affectionately into the ear of the waitress, his youngest daughter, before kissing her gently.
No other noteworthy incident occurred, and people began leaving, the milkers heading off first. Everyone was saying that it would be a wedding they would always remember.
Stu had taken off his dessert-smeared jacket and Mia her dress. Her mother had dashed over with Sid’s jacket to cover her up. But Mia was quite comfortable, and understandably so, as she was a professional model specializing in showing lingerie.
“Stu’s a lucky sod, look at what he’s got,” was the envious comment of Sam Manaia to his table mates; all committed to drink the place dry before leaving. All were eyeing the comely bride.
The two aunts walked out unsteadily, Minnie taking Pat home, leaving their husbands to follow when they were ready.
“I was w-r-ong,” hiccupped Pat, as they drove off. “Very wrong. It will be Stu who will wear the pants in that family.”
THE END


© Copyright 2020 Grigor McGregor. All rights reserved.

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