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Steve Eaton: Wedding reception shocks family, possibly Rick Santorum, too

Published: Monday, April 23 2012 3:53 p.m. MDT

Up until now weddings have been the kind of thing that happened to other people, but not to me.

I was married many, many years ago but I never expected one of my kids to get married. Both of them have acted like children most of their lives and two of them spent years being outright teenagers. They were not the marrying kind. They played too many video games, drank too much milk and kept their rooms far too messy to ever be the type to go out in public and get married.

In retrospect, I think there were some clues that my daughter, Sara, was thinking of marriage that I overlooked. Right after she got engaged, for example, she got that ring and started going through wedding magazines, started talking about matching colors. Then she bought this ridiculously expensive wedding dress and my wife was happy for her.

(At first I thought this might be a sign that my wife was loosening up on the financial reigns and that I could finally buy French bread pizza whenever I wanted. Instead, she tells me we are poorer than we have ever been before and that it's so bad that we may have to go to other people's wedding receptions just to eat.)

I found this wedding bliss stuff all more stressful than joyous. If you've ever watched any television or movies, you know that weddings attract disasters. Nothing ever goes right. Even Julia Roberts has trouble getting married and she seems reasonably attractive to me. And while I know that some of the disastrous TV and movie weddings I've seen are pretend, they can't all be pretend.

I wasn't so much concerned with the actual wedding part because I'm LDS and temple weddings are all done very quietly in a temple. The part that concerned me was the wedding reception.

As it turns out, wedding receptions cost way more than you think. You might expect it's like springing for Little Caesars pizzas for a room full of people, but it's not like that at all. I know that normal people, the kind of people who go out to dinner all the time and get to vacation in Hawaii, are unfazed by the wedding costs. But because I actually make less money than anyone I know, throwing a giant reception party for everyone was no small thing.

And it wasn't just our lack of money that had me worried. We don't have people over for barbecues or dinner because we only know how to make chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and how to make change at Pizza Hut. Actually, my wife, Barbara, has learned to make all manner of things chocolate and that's what people got who came to my daughter's wedding reception.

Barbara, who is a good person who can work for days and days for other people, stayed up all night several times before the reception making chocolate food for it. The Klingon in me wanted to just show my manhood and throw a first-class wedding by using our credit cards. She would have none of that and our guests didn't seem to mind.

I did invite this nice but crazy guy from the gym who has several times made up rules for me to follow so that I could be skinny, young and strong.

He would have not understood this wedding.

I was worried he'd come in and see all the chocolate decadence and smash everything, but he didn't come. That left us all free to have fun playing in the chocolate fountains and eating truffles, cookies and cake bites. There was chocolate on everything and everyone. I liked that part.

One thing I had forgotten about wedding receptions is that everyone who comes brings gifts. What a nice thing. Lots of people came and they all brought gifts.

The other thing I forgot is that none of the gifts go to the poor father and mother of the bride, the people who need them the most.

(There may be some of our friends who read this who will think that they were slighted because they didn't get wedding reception invitations. We followed the process we have developed over years and years at the end of the year when it comes to Christmas cards. We either sent out the invitations at the very last minute or plan to send them out soon. If you didn't get an invitation, your invitation will probably be in the mail by July.)

We didn't mean to offend anyone but we keep discovering key people we overlooked. We forgot, for example, to invite any of the Republican presidential candidates, which is kind of mean when you consider some of them are going through very difficult times and could use all the friends they could get. I hope it wasn't my fault that Rick Santorum just up and quit the race after my daughter's celebration. He looked like his feelings had been hurt.

I would have liked to invite the president himself because I like him, but there are lots Utah people who are sore at him for making changes he believed in and, of course, you can't just have the Secret Service running around a family event like that.

People still came and it was kind of strange to see my various worlds colliding. I saw people from my church talking with people from work who were talking with my actual family members. There were people from olden times and people from modern times. I don't think I would have been surprised to discover the cast from the TV show "The Office" mingling about the reception and loading up on truffles. It was surreal.

And we were surprised to discover that my daughter's husband, Brad, who my daughter brought with her to the reception, had invited a bunch of his friends and family to come, too. It was sort of supposed to be just a family deal but they acted like family — and they were very likable people. Immediately after the wedding and before the reception that evening, they threw an entire lunch for a houseful of people that featured real, thick cheeseburgers, salads and ice cream for everyone. They either have more money than we do or more credit cards. I suspect they are normal people who probably vacation in Hawaii.

Overall, I found it to be quite the traumatic experience and it took us days to recover. The next morning we stumbled around through enough chocolate-covered, color-coordinated garbage to transform a Dumpster into a work of art.

It turns out, after you have a wedding reception everyone cheers and goes home and then you have to clean up for days and days and take everything home. The good news was that because Sara and Brad skipped the cleanup part we ended up with all the presents, which I think is very cool.

However, we did come across one unsettling and disturbing discovery in the reception aftermath that still has us confused, frightened and bewildered.

It appears my daughter has moved out of the house.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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