I was alone in the apartment with my mother. It seemed like the right thing to do, leave us alone for a little mother-daughter bonding on this special day. Everyone else was off at the reception site, Dario's aunt's place, taking care of last-minute details. As the supposed star of the show, I had a hundred things to do to get ready for the big moment, most of which involved elaborate plans for spa-like body and facial treatments, not to mention having to do my own hair and make-up (no one available on Sunday to handle these matters). I felt a lot of pressure: I was supposed to look better than I ever had before, or presumably ever would again.
What we had failed to take into consideration was
how many people would be phoning or stopping by, for one reason or another.
As soon as I would step into the bathroom and undress, and start to smear
myself with this or that, the doorbell would ring. Under the circumstances,
my mother could do nothing more than open the door and smile. She didn't know
anyone, and couldn't even explain to them where everyone was, or that the
bride wasn't available; she certainly couldn't answer the telephone.
I spent a great deal of time greeting folks in my bathrobe, dripping all over the kitchen floor.
Eventually, of course, I managed to finish my preparations. I was excited and happy and cheerful, not the least bit nervous. Standing in the living room, talking to my mother, I heard a strange buzzing noise outside the window, like a swarm of bees. Mom went to investigate.
"Oh my God, Dawn! You've got to look at this!"
I walked over and peered out, then suddenly went
cold as my stomach plunged down three floors to street level. Said street
was absolutely packed. The whole town of Trebbo had turned out, including
manymanymany people who wouldn't be attending the actual wedding, even total
They were all down there, waiting to catch a glimpse of me. The bride. On my wedding day.
All the attention was totally unexpected, and made me feel suddenly very shy. When Dario's cousin Lella rang the doorbell to accompany me down to the waiting car (Fabio with his fancy Lancia), I had the urge to run and hide. As it was, I kept my head down as we cut a swathe through the crowd, unable to bring myself to look around at all the applauding folks who'd come to see me off.
I've written before that we had a civil ceremony, although that might lead one to imagine something quite different from what our wedding was like. It was like, well, a wedding. Basically the only differences were the mayor of Bentivoglio in place of a priest, and a large aula in the Bentivoglio City Hall rather than a church nave. The lay bureaucracy was difficult enough to deal with, we couldn't face the thought of adding church bureaucracy on top.
We laughed a lot through the ceremony, especially when the mayor mispronounced my name in spite of having practiced beforehand. The room was packed with friends and relatives, including my host father from Australia, who made a video.
After the ceremony, and the obligatory greeting and cheek-kissing of what felt like hundreds of guests, we were whisked off for a series of photos on the grounds of a nearby castle, then to the reception.
Being young and broke meant that we had to cut every possible corner (does that mean we had a round wedding?). Our reception was outdoors, in the yard of Dario's aunt's house, with a buffet meal prepared by yet more aunts. Since it was a bit past the blooming season, Dario's grandmother's house became a workshop for a month beforehand, with many people helping to make paper flowers to create an imitation garden and prepare the table decorations. I gasped when I saw it: it was absolutely stunning.
There were also a couple of "surprises", practical jokes on the bride and groom which are a local tradition. In our case, as soon as we pulled into the gravel drive of the reception site, we were greeted with a decorated wheelbarrow, and instructed that Dario was to "drive" me to the yard.
My mother took a ride in it herself, later, pushed by Alfredo (of Australia, via Rome). This picture is so quintessentially Mom that it quickly became everyone's favorite.
The other "surprise" was a song that friends had prepared and rehearsed, changing the words to a popular tune. We were serenaded in grand style before cutting the wedding cake (which was the best I've ever eaten, but it disappeared before I could get more than a tiny bite).
People still talk about our wedding, saying it was the most fun they'd ever had at what is generally something to be suffered through. We had lots of music (of course), and dancing. My mother held long conversations with people who didn't speak a word of English. The food was wonderful and plentiful, and the buffet system meant no one was forced to remain seated for an interminable meal.
As for me... well, the memory of my wedding day is kind of bittersweet. Dario
was surrounded by his friends and family, while I had only my mother and Alfredo
(who brought with him his own relatives from Rome, so I could at least pretend
to have some people from "my side of the family"). None of my friends
were able to come, though, and I didn't know any of our guests all that well
yet. My mother was playing social butterfly, Alfredo was... I'm not sure where,
and Dario was in demand everywhere, everyone wanted to congratulate him.
I spent a fair amount of time sitting in Ada's living room, watching out the window as people celebrated my marriage.
If I could do it all again, there are things I would do differently. But if there's anything I learned from my own wedding--which was about as different as could be from what I had always dreamed of and expected since I was a little girl--it's this: once the mosquitoes start biting, everyone drifts off. The cake has been eaten, the buffet tables cleared away. The music is silenced, and you take off the dress and tuxedo and carefully store them away. The ceremony and reception fade to memories.
What's really important, is what you're left with. And that, I'd do again in a heartbeat.
Here's to another dozen wonderful years..