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Catch up on the Weddings series.

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FICTION.

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UNHAPPY MARRIAGE
[posted 07.30.2003]

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THE MOTHER OF THE Bride and the Mother of the Groom look uncomfortably alike. The former is quick to tell us: I had my jacket custom-made. She readjusts her scarf, which, like the jacket, is an iridescent, Japanese beetle green. The Mother of the Groom’s ensemble is less complicated and more subdued. The straw hat was a last minute addition.

Push together; push together, the photographer says.

The Groom stands taller and smiles at the Bride. His hair is unfashionably long and pulled back into a messy ponytail. The Bride beams back. She looks like a princess, in her strapless gown and rhinestone tiara, surrounded by her disgruntled family and his. In the words of the Mother of the Bride: No money. No backbone.

Click, whir. Click, whir. Again and again the camera snaps until there is enough evidence on film, which the Mother of the Bride will use later as proof, It was a wonderful wedding after all, but the battle lines are clearly drawn. The Bride’s family is seated in one tent; the Groom’s in another. He smiles and looks bewildered.

This is costing a piece of chunk change, the Mother of the Bride tells us. Her husband is standing beside her nursing a bad back, the result of weeks of grueling yard work. Tonight the guests, all one hundred and fifty of us, are crowded into two white tents and the geodesic dome he erected for the Bride’s high school graduation party eight years ago. The neighbors have waited patiently for the eyesore to come down.The cost versus gifts ratio for that celebration, the Mother of the Bride bragged to us at the time, was very good, and she has a spreadsheet to prove it.

Now, clear plastic covers the dome to protect the dance floor, which is jury-rigged out of perforated panels of Kelly green athletic flooring the Father of the Bride bought wholesale and intends to return after the wedding. Grass is growing through the perforations like a flattened Chia Pet. When we cross it to reach the bar we slide.

The bugs are starting to bite, a sure sign it won’t be a late night. Someone is distributing cans of Deep Woods Off. All around the hiss and smell permeate the air. We’re already plotting our escape, no later than 9:30 if we’re lucky.

A pretty Asian girl in a tight black dress sidles up next to us and says, No way I’m pissing in a port-a-potty.

They aren’t letting anyone in the house, her boyfriend tells her.

Then I’m going out back to squat in the bushes. She hikes her dress up and marches off across the lawn.

Wait for me, he says.

A rumor has started. Someone sneaked into the house to check the baseball scores. It’s bug free in there, and there’s a bathroom.

Too late. It’s time for the toasts. We’re waiting for our glass of champagne.

Wine and beer is all I’m springing for, the Mother of the Bride was heard to say in the weeks before the wedding. We didn’t believe her.

Now as the Matron of Honor raises her plastic glass of cut-rate Chablis, few of the guests are paying attention. We’re still waiting for our champagne. By the time it’s clear there is none, the matron has finished her spiel. She hands the microphone to the Best Man; as she does she slips on the athletic flooring. We gasp, Oh dear, Oh no, but she recovers without taking a fall. We lift our glasses and bottles high when the Best Man starts his toast. He’s the groom’s older brother. His face is kind. His wife and baby, mother and grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends all stand in a tight knot next to the Bride and Groom. He talks about the importance of the bond he has with his brother, about how delighted his family is to welcome the Bride, about how whenever they think of the Groom they will now also think of her. We sip our wine and beer, smile at each other, and believe him.

The Mother and Father of the Bride stand alone in the darkening shadows cast by the angular 2×4s of the dome. The Mother of the Bride’s eyes are red-rimmed behind her glasses. The Father of the Bride rubs his lower back.

Love looks around. We all move closer to the Bride and Groom. Without hesitation Love gathers its glow into a glittering ball and rolls it, showering us with its light before it comes to rest in front of the smiling Bride. We nod our approval. She steps into Love’s glow without so much as a sidelong glance at her Mother and Father, and her new family closes ranks around her, all aglitter on their side of the lawn.

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joan wilking has had her short fiction published in the atlantic, the mississippi review, the barcelona review and many other publications. she lives in ipswich, massachusetts.