I wanted to be married on the 22nd of December. I love even numbers, especially the number 4, and I loved this multiple of 2. It sounded so symmetrical, the twenty-second, but no hall in the area was open on that date. All had been booked a year and a half before.
We decided on the following week, the 29th, tho I should have known the vibes were out of sync. There was nothing warm and loving , no romance to the 29th. It was merely the only Saturday available in December.
I looked for gowns in local shops and found nothing that I liked. “I can get it for you wholesale,” said a friend, and I went to his factory and found a lot of junk. I don’t remember how I found the wedding shop in downtown Brooklyn, but I see it in my mind’s eye, one gorgeous gown after another in the window. Everything Italian was in fashion then, and here was a shop of Italian designers and craftsmen.
I was caught up in the magic of net, tulle and lace. There were diamond shaped overlays of seed pearls on satin. A high collar stood above the illusion of bare shoulders, and the bodice was topped with Cinderella pleats. I went for fittings every week until the muslin mock-up was transformed. The cost was $450 in 1950s dollars, but it was a dream come true.
I found a beauty shop in Lawrence where I tried a different hairstyle every week. It was disappointing, I have never had the kind of hair that held a curl. The beautician tried to soothe me. “With such a pretty face,” he said, “no one will be looking at your hair.” We settled on a style off the face, very Romanesque with high soft curls in front, the sides and back pulled up to cascade down again in ringlets.
On the morning of the 29th, it began to snow. Towards evening, I squeezed into the backseat of my father’s Chevy for the 20-mile ride to Bensonhurst/Bath Beach. As I exited the car, large, wet snowflakes landed on my well-planned coiffe. There went the high, soft curls.
The wedding hall was called the Colonial Mansion, a fancy place with marble floors and crystal chandeliers. I was seated on a tapestried throne in a private room to receive my guests. The band was playing in the ballroom, while guests sampled delicacies from the hors d’oeuvre tables. Drinks were being served from an open bar.
It was close to 10 when they took me to the upper floor, an ornate chapel where the wedding would take place. My mother-in-law wore pink, my mother sea-foam green, and my sister pale blue. Ten tuxedoed ushers crossed canes above our heads as my parents walked me down the aisle. The groom was waiting up ahead. The cantor began to sing and from behind a woman joined in harmony. He spoke about the law of Moses and the God of Israel and the power vested in him by the State. My grandmother’s gold ring was placed on my index finger, Arthur broke the glass, and we were man and wife.
There were 20 tables of 10 for 200 guests in the main ballroom, and a dais along the wall for the bridal party. Uniformed waiters served a multi-course meal in a manner called French Service.
Along the opposite wall was a dessert table with a many-tiered wedding cake. It was surrounded by sweets in fancy shapes and pastel colors. At either end, presiding over all, were two large swans carved of ice.
And the band played on, infact my father had to pay them overtime. It was a lively crowd. There was dancing and happy doings until the wee hours of the morning. We didn’t get home til nearly daybreak. Outside, the pre-dawn air was cold and smelled of snow.
Later on, we went to Mother’s, where, as always, the coffee pot was on. As was the custom in New York, our presents were hard cash. Sitting at the kitchen table counting up the money, we found we’d done quite well. There was enough to buy some furniture, and to finance our coming move.
We left on our honeymoon late that day, which was a big mistake. It was December, and freezing cold. Both our fathers had newer cars but neither would lend his to us. We drove to the mountains in our old Ford with the hole in the floorboard. A few miles from our destination the car began to give us trouble. I believe that had it stalled, we would have frozen to death by morning. But it puttered on, and we arrived at midnight, cold and hungry. Our fingers were too frozen to sign in.
We spent a week at the Nevele, a honeymoon resort in the Catskills. There were activities of every kind, all-you-can-eat gourmet meals, and live entertainment nightly. The indoor pool was spectacular, an oasis of palms behind which a wall of glass showcased the falling snow. We skated on a frozen pond and I won a T-shirt in a race. Our room was spacious, actually a suite, left spotless daily by maid service. I cried when it was time to go.
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