Unveiled: Wedding tales beyond legend

Did you hear the one about the groom who stood up at his wedding reception and asked the guests to look under their chairs, where each found an 8x10 glossy of the bride and best man in flagrante dilecto? Amazing story. Too bad it isn't true.

How about the one where the guests decided to play hide and seek at the reception, and the bride accidentally suffocated after hiding in a trunk that locked? Morbid, yes, but pure fiction.

There are so many urban legends surrounding weddings, it's good to be skeptical. Nevertheless, strange but true tales from the aisle do exist. Where can you get the scoop on what really goes down when the veil is lifted? From the hired help, of course.

Just as the servants know all the details of their masters' and mistresses' peccadilloes in Gosford Park, so, too, are those on the nuptial sidelines in a position to witness every outrageous event that makes a couple's big day even bigger. We asked locals who work with weddings to tell us their most memorable moments.


Falling in love– literally!

 Photographer Will Kerner has spent 13 years shooting weddings. At one hot and humid June ceremony in the UVA gardens several years ago, the groom was sweating profusely and seemed unsteady on his feet. In the middle of the exchange of vows, he finally succumbed to the heat and swooned. Fortunately, the best man was able to catch him mid-collapse. Although Kerner's specialty is creating photo-journalistic records of nuptial proceedings, he resisted the urge to keep shooting, recognizing that this might not be a moment the newlyweds would want on film. Luckily, the groom quickly recovered, and the wedding continued.

Kerner also described an unfortunate reception where the cake table collapsed. "It slowly buckled," he said, "kind of in slow motion," and everything on it slid Titanic-like to the floor.


Where has your cake been?

 Lisa McEwan, of Hot Cakes bakery, offered another cake story. McEwan was on her way to deliver a multi-tiered confection to a wedding in Madison when she missed her exit. Forgetting how fast she was driving , she suddenly decided to pull a U-turn, "And the top tier of the cake flew through the car," she recalled. Thanks to the chilly weather, which kept things solid, and to her ever-handy emergency supply of icing, McEwan was able to repair the cake, and the couple remained oblivious to the near disaster. Reflecting on the close call, McEwan laughed, "God smote me because I had thought, 'This is the most beautiful wedding cake that's ever been.'"


Leveling with the bride

 A wedding planner can never predict what she'll be asked to do, according to Alicia Wenzel of Savor the Moment. Wenzel thought she had all the details covered for a wedding and reception scheduled to take place on a steep slope beside Lake Anna. But the day before the ceremony, the bride and her mother announced they wanted the hillside tables to be level. Wenzel says she spent five hours improvising with a drill and blocks, as the bride sat back with a Corona, watching her work.

On the big day, the cake table was sturdy– but not the icing, which began sliding off in the heat. Quick-thinking bridesmaids formed a barrier to block the bride's view while Wenzel successfully reunited icing and cake before the happy couple made the first slice.


How to take out a maitre d'

 Chef Ted Leake has been catering events for 25 years, and although he handles 10-12 weddings annually, he'll readily admit they're not his favorite jobs. Because they're "life event stuff," he explains, weddings require a lot of work and often come with unexpected problems. Leake remembers one particular wedding in Free Union where a freak storm blew in before the ceremony got under way. The bride's car got stuck in the mud on a slight incline, and four waiters, including the maitre d', had to push and shove from behind, trying to get it out. The maitre d' slipped in the muck and fell face-first on his plastic checkbook, which left a bloody gash across his cheek. Instead of waiting on wedding guests that day, the unfortunate maitre d' ended up waiting for a doctor in the ER.


Be careful what you ask for

 Videographers Dan and Janet Smith of Artistic Memories often receive unusual requests when they're arranging to shoot a wedding. A couple of Pennsylvania doctors, for example, asked the Smiths to record the couple sneaking off to go skinny-dipping after they said their vows.

But an even more memorable moment occurred while they were taping a rehearsal dinner. "They had set it up like a roast of the couple," Janet explained. Two friends of the bride stood "in front of grandma, mom, and everyone," and related a humorous account of the bride and groom's first date. The bride urged them to go into more detail and elaborate on what happened that night. The bride's friends looked at her questioningly, but the bride assured them that it was okay to continue– until their last line that left bridey blushing: "And that was the night she lost her virginity."


What not to wear

 Although Lovingston-based "marriage celebrant" Frankee Love originally intended to specialize in adventure marriage ceremonies, the weddings she's officiated have run the gamut. "There was one couple where they wanted to get married in a cemetery in Lynchburg," she recalled, "I didn't quite know why." She did know the couple had asked her to omit "Til death us do part" from their vows, so Love decided to forego her standard black attire (which she wears in order not to distract from the bride) in favor of a dark blue dress. When she arrived at the cemetery, she discovered the ceremony was located in the Civil War section and that, in fact, the bride, groom, and most of the wedding party were Confederate re-enactors, all decked out in hoop skirts and grey uniforms. "And there I was in blue!" Love recollected, "They didn't even want me in the pictures."


Admittedly, the preceding nuptial tales lack the jaw-dropping quality of urban legends, but they are all based in fact. By the way, you know the one about the reception guests who gathered to watch a video of the wedding ceremony and instead were treated to a tape of a man having sex with a dog? That one's true.

(It happened in East Sussex, England, ca. 1994 when a neighbor lent his videocam to the groom– but forgot to take out the incriminating tape.)


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