The news from Lake Wobegon: Matt and Michelle’s wedding
It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. The weather has cooled off after the heat wave of the week before and killed off a lot of the mosquitos. It’s a good thing, too, what with the wedding and all. Matt and Michele have been an item for the past ten years and finally decided to tie the knot.
The occasion prompted friends and relatives to come in from all over. Matt’s grandparents came in from Hawaii and San Francisco. His aunt and uncle came from Portland, Oregon — which rhymes with Wobegon by the way — just to be there.
His Aunt Mary had only been out to visit twice before, so the entire experience of a Lutheran wedding was a strange thing to her. On the surface you might not think it was that much different from the weddings where she was from, but the preponderance of Norwegian bachelor farmers gave the occasion a stolidity to which she was unaccustomed. It’s hard to tell what people are thinking, if you’re not from here. Norwegian stock isn’t given to overt displays of emotion — at least not in church. There are times and places for all things.
Which is not to say that emotions don’t run deep. They do. It is hard to imagine a happier couple than Matt and Michelle. Cliched words, perhaps, but true nonetheless as it is true at every wedding between people who love each other. The ceremony is an expression of that love and it is shared by everyone in the church, reflected back at the couple tenfold. Even the folks from out of town could see the joy radiating out of the bridal party.
It’s a fine thing to see, that joy.
Matt’s sister, Laura, stood up with one of her friends and sang. Lots of folks didn’t know either girl sang, but they have beautiful voices. Beautiful voices. Laura, in particular, had an expression about her that made her aunt think of religious icons and wonder if her niece had ever posed for a saint’s statue.
The ceremony was brief and personal. It made Aunt Mary cry and wonder why she’d forgotten to pack a handkerchief when they were getting ready to come out here. Weddings always made her cry, after all. She’s not weak, you understand, but doesn’t have the winters to toughen her up the way we do here.
After the wedding, the bridal party went across the lake on a pontoon over to Pelican Landing for the reception. Oh, they looked grand in their finery on the lake, with the blue water reflecting back at them. The weather was just cool enough that the men in their tuxedos weren’t compelled to pull their jackets off and yet not so cool that the young ladies, in their long black gowns needed a wrap to put around their shoulders. The gowns were strapless, a fact which shocked some of the older members of the community who still remembered when being in church meant you had covered arms and wore a hat. Bare shoulders? That was something daring.
The gentlemen wore black tuxedos with black shirts and camouflage vests and bow-ties. Lest you get the same idea in your head that Aunt Mary had gotten into hers before coming out, you should know that camouflage comes in many different varieties. Aunt Mary had pictured the fluorescent orange leaf patterns that her cousins wore when hunting in the hills of Tennessee. These vests were a dark print of natural leaves and bark. More like a designer texture than anyone only associated with the Hollywood idea of camouflage might think. They were, in fact, the perfect blending of the elegance of the bride and the outdoorsman of the groom. The theme of the wedding might have been Elegant Hunter, in fact, which made the pontoon trip all the more appropriate.
Some, like the groom’s Uncle Rob, had predicted that the pontoon would capsize, the way it did when Pastor Ingqvist had hosted the delegation of renegade Lutheran pastors from Denmark. It didn’t though and they arrived safely at the Pelican Lake landing. Everything went smoothly, in fact, until they got off the pontoon onto the dock.
The dock was designed for a couple of people to clamber into a boat with their tackle and maybe their dog. It wasn’t built to accommodate twelve young people in formal dress.
The first few out were okay, but then– There comes a moment when you hear a sound and know what is going to happen next. You know that the popping noise is not good.
The end of the dock unlocked. It sank into the water, throwing up a spray on the water on the people still in the boat and dousing the hems of those on the dock itself. Fortunately, the lake is shallow there, so it couldn’t sink more than a foot. By some miracle, the bride’s dress escaped untouched as though the lake were blessing the union by not baptizing them anew.
They all proceeded inside for the reception. The Pelican Ballroom had been done up in white gauze and fairy lights. It was filled to capacity with friends and family of the happy couple. Here, Aunt Mary saw the Norwegian reserve fall away.
Perhaps Matt and Michelle had relied upon that reserve as a way to avoid one of the old traditions of wedding receptions. They announced that they would not kiss when people clinked their glasses, they would only kiss if someone sang a song with the word love in it.
Perhaps they thought they were being clever. Perhaps they thought that no one would sing. Perhaps they thought that there weren’t many songs with the word love in them and even if there were, no one could remember them.
They were mistaken in all of this and spent much of the afternoon being serenaded and kissing while their friends and family watched.
I can think of no better way to start a life together.
And that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average.