You know I thought I would never have the opportunity to conduct another real redneck wedding, but God has given me a sense of humor and lightening struck twice. The couple booked my services over the phone and I did not have the opportunity to meet them in advance of their ceremony. When they spoke they told me that it was to be a simple wedding in their neighborhood; filled with family, friends, and neighbors. The couple gave me the address and put it into my GPS to make sure I got there in plenty of time.
As I pulled off the last paved road in the county I followed what would be less described as roads and more often mentioned as trails. Deep ruts of red clay were bordered on either side by grass as tall as my chest and the road snaked its way through the countryside like an anaconda. One final turn and my GPS informed me that my destination was ahead on the right. Pulling my car to the shoulder in the only mowed area for what seemed like miles, I saw a faded brown trailer under a large oak tree. Reaching to the back seat of my car to grab my tie I was surprised by a knock on the glass of my driver’s side window. Once the dust from the road settled I rolled down the window to meet, the groom. Alex stood there about five foot ten, weighing probably one hundred and fifty (dripping wet). Dressed in jeans, a clean white t-shirt, boots, and a black satin vest – he was prepared for a party.
Alex led me to the back side of the trailer to the ceremony site and there in the back yard, past rusted out cars, a travel trailer with rotten tires and a tarp over the roof, stood a temporary carport. Recently purchased from a big box store the canopy still had the tags hanging off one end. Under the canopy were about two dozen white molded plastic chairs, with silk flowers tied with bread ties to the arms. Alex led me through the yard to the canopy, telling me to watch where I stepped; the pit bull that was chained up now, usually has run of the place (so you get the picture.) Just past the chairs the couple had placed a tall cocktail table and on it held the pictures of every family member who had died since 1955…they didn’t want anyone to be left out.
Just about that time a chubby ten year old boy came running through the yard without a shirt and then proceeded to find out who I was. After being told that I was “the preacher-man”, he then started pulling the stickers off the molded plastic chairs. Yellow and red stickers that said $5 had adorned the back of each chair and the mother of the bride just about came unglued when she saw what he was doing. “Stop that. You put those back!” she barked. “You know we’re takin’ them back to the dollar store this evenin’,” she said. I guess the canopy and silk flowers were going back too, they were still wearing their price tags as well.
Just beyond the canopied ceremony area friends and neighbors had set up two enormous grills. They proceeded to tell me that the “boys” had been out hog hunting earlier in the week and that one big pig was on the grill to my right. When I asked about the grill on the left they said they were still plucking the chickens the next door neighbor gave them for BBQ. They asked if I’d like to stay for dinner, but the thought of spending the holiday weekend with stomach poisoning was too much for me to overcome.
I asked if I might have a word with the bride before the ceremony; just to go over vows. The mother of the groom led me to the faded brown trailer and told me what I could go on in. I’ve learned over the years to not be the first through the door of a place you are uncertain, so I had mom go first. She quickly motioned that the bride was not there, but was in a second travel trailer in the front of the lot. As I stepped inside brown trailer and made my way through to the travel trailer there was a rather large gentleman named “Pops” who was standing in the living room in nothing but his “whitie-tighties.” I made a quick escape to see the bride.
Dressed in a beautiful wedding dress she was beautiful to all her family and gathered guests. It didn’t matter that she still had feathers and chicken “parts” still on her hands, from the earlier plucking party or that she was missing about six teeth from the front of her mouth. (At least every other one was there.)
I lined the bridal party up, got the groomsmen in place with me, and signaled to the guy with the speaker running out of the truck window when it was time to start the bridal march. The march from the side of the brown trailer to the ceremony site was so far that they had to play the same song 3 times. Everyone rose as the bride walked in with her father and once he gave her away her groom proceeded to start kissing her. I quietly whispered “save it for the end,” but it was of no avail. All through the ceremony and especially during the vows Alex would try to sneak a little kiss or grope her a little.
As I pronounced them husband and wife I was actually afraid they might just consummate the marriage there in front of their guests. The kiss proceeded and was lauded by hoots and cheers and except for the canopy overhead there would have been ball caps tossed too.
After they walked down the aisle the bride and groom disappeared into the faded brown trailer for a few moments and came out with their marriage license for me to sign. Alex had removed his t-shirt to reveal the prison tattoos that covered his rib cage. After the license was signed they wanted to take pictures with “the preacher-man” (Alex still didn’t have on his shirt) and they asked me to bless the beer…they were going to have one heck of a party.
And it all happened down the aisles.