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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Wedding- The Full Story

I was going to wait until I had a bunch of pictures to go with this post, but none seem forthcoming anytime soon, so I guess I'll just start with what I have.

The days leading up to the wedding itself were fraught with all kinds of last minute concerns and changes; the caterer was a particular concern because he cut two major menu items, a whole spitted pig and a venison dish, (as well as a bunch of minor ones) from the wedding feast over the course of the two weeks leading up to the wedding simply because he discovered they would be to expensive for him to cover within his budget. Curiously these were the menu items he was most interested in doing when he got hired, he suggested them and he was the one that set the price. He also kept canceling meetings with the bride and groom in the weeks leading up to the wedding, he even blew off conference calls. My wife Mona and I were about 75% certain he wouldn't show up at all and we'd end up having to throw an impromptu medieval feast for fifty guests ourselves, fortunately we have experience with putting on medieval feasts.

Also, a week before the wedding, my lovely wife got stuck making a bridesmaid dress for the bride's sister, which ate into her sewing time. Two days of her sewing time, which had been allotted for sewing MY kilt and ghillie shirt and altering my son John's Kilt to fit. Let's not forget that everyone in my house is in various stages of sick through this week too AND that Ashli just got back from the US army with a medical discharge and we are taking care of her. I also am STILL building my father's new garage, although we are nearing completion on that project it has taken a LOT of my time, and John's and Ember's. Mona got sick enough that she had to take a whole day off. My son John got his outfit completed. My ghillie shirt got started and my kilt is still a complete bolt of Black Watch tartan fabric, the official tartan chosen for the wedding. Fortunately, the rest of my household already had medieval clothing to wear, me included, just not quite fitting the Scottish medieval (renaissance/Victorian) theme of the wedding. Aside from me and the couple of other (former) SCAdians there, my old man-at-arms Matt S. and Kevin M. both of whom are also old school D&D buddies, no one really seemed to notice that I didn't fit the theme. My pants were plaid anyway.

I got a little ahead of myself there. Mona, in her role as Matron of honor, had to leave early to help decorate the hall. I sent her on ahead with the printed copy of the ceremony. As an aside, usually when I do a wedding I ask the bride and groom what they are looking for in a ceremony and then write one up, custom made for each couple, the bride made this one herself; I was not entirely comfortable with being scripted, much in the same way I don't really like to DM modules that have lots of boxed text to read to the players, I like wiggle room for my own creativity and I am more comfortable reading my own words; this will come up again during the ceremony. I stayed back and got ready here and made sure the kids got ready and we had one house guest Michael P. come up from New Jersey for the wedding. At the appointed hour we all left and drove to Camp Hollis, where the wedding and reception were to take place.

My job, as guy who has worn a kilt a lot since he was 16 years old, was to help the men in the wedding party get dressed properly. I found that kind of amusing since I was the only guy involved in the wedding, and one of only a few males AT the wedding, not wearing a kilt, having given mine to my younger brother years ago when I started to get too fat for it and never replaced it. He needed one anyway, although now I am pretty sure he's too fat for it too. It's a vicious cycle. Apparently, the men in my family need to always work jobs of back-breakingly difficult physical labor or we'll get fat; if we retire, move into management, become disabled, or get an "easy" job, we all get fat. Working out is NOT enough. Getting older doesn't help either, slowing of the metabolism and all. Maybe a topic for a different day? Of interest also, most of them had these new fangled bargain kilts with velcro stuff all over the belts and other stuff and their kilts were polyester blends. Part of me says this is sacrilege, the other part says excellent work making kilts more affordable to everyone.

At some point here, Ashli decided she was too sick to be there, so Michael brought her home. They missed the rest of the long and interesting day and watched movies on DVD and ate the kosher food Michael's mom sent up for him to eat while he was here. She always sends enough for everyone, so it's an interesting culinary experience whenever Michael comes to visit.

Anyway, after getting everyone properly kitted up, I went out and talked to the piper. He was a nice young guy, but I don't think he'd ever done a wedding before. So I gave him a brief bit of coaching on what the bride was looking for, a processional to the ceremony- which was to be held out at the woods stage, followed by a recessional out of the woods after the ceremony. I asked him what he was going to play and he said "Probably just a bunch of marches.", good plan. I figured most of the guests wouldn't know the songs anyway, and it's just be "Bagpipe Music". I then grabbed the copy of the ceremony from my lady wife and headed out into the woods to wait for the wedding.

Shortly after I got out there the groom, Scott W. occasional D&D buddy and KAG buddy, as well as just my friend, showed up and his grown daughter, Angela, showed up to film everything; which made me curiously nervous. Other guests started to fill the seats. I reread the ceremony and joked with Scott about burning a wickerman after the vows (we had been tormenting Debbie, the bride, with traditional Celtic things like wickermen and morris dancing for months and claiming that they were traditional Celtic wedding fare, although I think both Scott and I would have liked to have had a real Wickerman to burn before the end of the night). Eventually we heard the pipes start to play and got serious and waited for the bridal party to emerge from the woods.

Now, the Woods Stage is nice, it's a small stage in a small, pretty clearing in the forest that's just big enough for the stage and the seating. The forest is all around you green and the canopy covers the area, so even if it rained we were confident we'd be able to do this in anything other than a downpour. It had, in fact, rained that morning but there was only one mildly muddy spot on the forest trail leading to the stage. Additionally, it's close enough to the lake and was windy enough that day that we had a background sound of the waves crashing onto the beach a few hundred feet away through the woods, which I thought only added to the ambiance of the setting.

The ceremony itself went pretty well- I paraphrased the two pages of history lesson about hand-fasting into about two paragraphs on the fly; if you are interested I am pretty sure she just copy/pasted that part from wikipedia. I read through the obviously Wiccan hand-fasting and the Christian bride didn't seem to notice that she had as better than half of her wedding ceremony lifted a Wiccan ceremony, OK. We did the binding of hands with his "Clan" tartan, clan is in quotes there because his Scottish last name comes from a Lowland house, not a Highland clan. Yes, we Highlanders occasionally get particular about that.

We move on to the (allegedly) medieval Christian portion of the ceremony, fairly standard vows, although we all have to suppress a chuckle when she vows to be "Bonny and buxom at bed and at board". Rumor has it that this was the one part Debbie was willing to cut out, but Scott said "No, leave that part in. I like it.", since he's a pretty quite guy and doesn't ask for much, I guess he got that one. Scott pins his "clan" tartan to Debbie with his "clan" crest badge. I recite a lengthy blessing in Gaelic, during which I stumble on a word in the middle. This embarrasses me somewhat, but no one seems to have noticed. I practiced it at home a bunch of times with no problems. I don't speak Gaelic well, but I can read Gaelic phonetically written out pretty well from my efforts to learn Scots Gaelic in the past.

The ceremony being over, I tell Scott to kiss the bride and then, just loud enough for the wedding party to hear, make a joke about now leaving to the traditional burning of the wickerman and heavy weapons tournament. We are then piped out of the woods and I am pleased to see the caterer is actually there and breathe a sigh of relief . After a couple of pictures most of us guys decide it's time to get rid of the swords, they take a lot of getting used to and being in close quarters is only going to make not whacking people with the scabbards as you walk around harder.

But first the DJ, Gary D., who I used to work with when I did radio in Syracuse in the early 1990's and I worked for his DJ service with Scott on and off over the years since too, catches us and wants to announce us in. Sadly I know this means dancing while wearing my sword. He announces everyone in as Lord and Lady so and so or Sir whoever for the bachelors, for which I jokingly told Kevin that he'd been promoted to a peerage apparently (SCAdian reference). I guess being best man has it's perks. We all got announced in Scott and Debbie had their first dance as husband and wife, then the rest of the wedding party was forced to dance. After the first dance, the menfolk escape to de-sword.

Then things went spectacularly awry. Unbeknownst to all of us problems with the caterer were already started. First, the servers he hired for the wedding blew him off, so it was just him and his wife. Next, as I was talking to Matt S., who now lives downstate and I rarely see, Kevin's new girlfriend comes up to me and tells me that the caterer is having a seizure and that she has been instructed to come inside and tell someone. Kevin is outside on the phone with a 911 operator. I go in and ask Debbie if anyone on the guest list is perhaps a doctor or any other type of medical professional; she tells me that yes Scott's daughter Angela is a nurse and her brother Scott was/is a professional Fireman, he may be retired now I don't know for sure. They both say that his seizure was unusual in nature, the prevailing theory, given how the rest of the evening plays out, is cocaine overdose.

At any rate, the ambulance takes him away, and Matt, Debbie's brother Scott and myself take over in the kitchen. Matt and I used to work together as cooks AND we have done medieval dinners together for college projects at SUNY Oswego. Debbie's brother Scott obviously has a lot of restaurant experience too, but I don't really know him all that well having just met him the day before. We have the raw materials brought by the caterer, soup started on the stove, chickens ,roasters of mixed vegetables and some pork loin roasts were in the oven. Scotch eggs were done. they were working on fruit and cheese platters when he had his seizure. No menu, no recipes. The caterer's wife stuck around, which I thought was a pretty remarkable devotion to duty, but she was essentially useless; her husband ran the show, she was just kitchen help. So we let her help out and gave her some easy jobs while we figured out how to throw together a medieval banquet with the ingredients on hand. We made a red wine garlic glaze for the pork loin and a honey apricot glaze for the chicken. Since we were not sure what soup was supposed to be, all it had in it was potatoes and onions when we took over we doctored it up some with some chicken and leeks and assorted other stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time. My son John and Kevin's son Thomas volunteered to serve.

My critique of the menu items is that there was a startling dearth of commonly used medieval food items and an overabundance of new world foods. The caterer came completely unprepared without nearly enough butter and no cream or milk at all. We had to grab wine from the table to use for cooking. There was also no vinegar or almond milk. That covers the medieval complaint I think.

The menu was also not particularly traditionally Scottish. The faux- cock-a-leekie soup and scotch eggs notwithstanding, the Scots, in my experience, are not all that fond of pork dishes; a beef dish probably should have been the main course. The bride would not have stood for haggis being present at all, fine, I get that, not everybody loves haggis, but this caterer just did not research either Scottish cuisine or medieval food before putting in his bid. He also tried to jack up the price for the catering by $150.00 the day before the wedding, but we'll get back to that later.

So, we get all the food out, fifty people fed in a pretty timely manner and everyone has a good time. Just as we're finishing up in the kitchen the caterer's wife gets a call on her cell phone and needs someone to be given directions from Oswego out to Camp Hollis. Kevin has just walked back in the kitchen to bring us guys a drink, a home brewed scotch ale made by Debbie's former professor, so he grabs the phone and handles the directions. I try the ale, it's fantastic. I later jokingly challenge Debbie's son Paul to single combat for the right to the rest of them, he refuses. I still got to bring a couple home with me. Much to my surprise, as I am drinking my ale and cleaning up in the kitchen, the caterer returns with a couple of other people. He thanks us for taking care of getting the food out and helping out his wife, then he and the couple he arrived with start picking up and taking care of their job. Cool. I go back out to the reception with Matt and the other guys and we eat some food and have a couple of drinks and chat and celebrate the wedding and all. Cool. At least the wedding won't be remembered for me stumbling over a Gaelic blessing right?

I recruited another buddy of mine, John S., for my OA reskinned ToEE campaign. Talked a little more with Matt, we didn't get a lot of time for non-cooking related talk in the kitchen I got to meet his son Finn, who just turned one. I found some scotch eggs and ate them, they weren't very good. I danced with my wife. Talked to Debbie's son Paul about fighting heavy in the SCA and about D&D, he's definite for heavy, iffy for D&D, but I think it's because he was trying to impress the delightful pretty blonde girl that was his date; probably, given my experience with Paul in the past it's more likely the opposite. I can't blame him, I'd be trying to impress her too, honestly I don't know how he got a date with her; looks alone put her WAY out of his league, but she's also smart and personable. I guess he met her at his college manga/anime club before he dropped out, she's trying to talk him into going back to school. I hope she has better luck than the rest of us have.

I knew it was going to be a long day because my wife was in the wedding party and that meant we had to stay and clean up after the rest of the guests left. Scott W., the groom, helped Gary D., his boss and friend, pick up the DJ equipment. Debbie paid the caterer. The rest of us picked up the stuff from the tables so we could put the tables away. The caterer goes ballistic. He starts ranting and raving about how he was being fucked here, how he expected cash and got a personal check and how his servers weren't being paid. He threatened Scott the groom, kind of vaguely, while Scott was loading Gary's equipment, so Scott came to me and asked me to keep an eye on the caterer and not leave until he was gone. I am 6'6" and a former bouncer whose hobbies include martial arts, so this is not an unusual or unreasonable request. Debbie's brother Scott was also on top of this situation and, apparently, the guy's real problem was that he didn't have enough gas money to get home; so he gave him $20.00 cash and thought it was over.

Meanwhile, my wife is talking to the caterer's wife in the kitchen about how they should just probably leave before this situation escalates, and she gives them our home phone number as a contact to work out any problems (I am less than thrilled about this). The caterer wanders back into the kitchen and starts working himself back into a frenzy. All the same stuff comes back up about how he is the one being fucked over here, only now he's screaming at my wife. I enter the kitchen, my wife tries to make me leave, the caterer retreats, I assure my wife that I got this. She's just worried I am going to kick this guy's ass and end up in jail, but I altered my personal philosophy months ago to take violence off the table*, so I figure going into this with my bouncer persona it'll be OK, but she's got to go. She's a liability to me if he does get violent. She leaves.

I walk toward the caterer with my nothing in my hands palms open peaceful posture, he seems confused. He asks me if I am there to kick his ass and kick him out or if I am just the bodyguard. I say I am just here to keep things calm. He starts to tentatively tell me about his deal with Debbie and how much he was supposed to get paid, I know it's all BS because my wife was Matron of Honor and Debbie was at my house every day the caterer changed anything in an email or blew off a meeting, but this guy just doesn't seem right. He goes on about how Debbie was supposed to provide the servers and then he had to at the last minute. I tell him I don't know what the deal was, but this isn't the time or the place to sort it out, everyone is tired and he's been to the emergency room (which he left against medical advice, without being seen by a doctor). He starts working up to a frenzy again, only now he's screaming at me. All the same stuff, he wants the other $150.00 he was promised, he wants $60.00 for his servers (the couple that brought him back from the hospital, who, as it turns out, are his neighbors) and he wants it in cash right now. I tell him I don't have that kind of cash on me and it's not my job to pay him anyway. He whips off his chef's jacket and throws it on the floor in front of me an tells me that I have fucked with the wrong person, that I have fucked with the Aryan Brotherhood and I could tell her that too, referring I am assuming to Debbie. Then I see the swastika tattooed on his bicep. My first impulse here is to just snap his Nazi neck, but I suppressed it and told him to hold that thought. Then I sought out Kevin, who is a manager at a Walmart and has to deal with assholes everyday.

When I told Kevin he had to walk outside for air for a minute to figure out what to do. Then Kevin and I went back to the kitchen, I was ready to back whatever play he made. To my surprise, he tried to bribe the guy to just leave, but the guy refused to budge from his $210.00 cash now demand., which, given that he'd already been bribed $20.00 should have only been $190.00; but I guess psycho-nazi cokehead caterers aren't really renowned for their math skills.

Now, I am not really afraid of the Aryan Brotherhood, since A. I doubt this caterer really can speak for the organization as a whole and B. they're a prison gang, and I am not in prison. I do find it irritating though that his wife keeps calling here and trying to be nice and work things out like her husband isn't a psycho-nazi coke fiend. I am also a little pissed off that I felt any sympathy for either of them at all.

The lesson to be learned from this is when you are planning a major event don't go bargain hunting, if the caterer's deal sounds too good to be true it probably is. Also, get references and check them. It couldn't hurt to make sure that you aren't hiring an ex-con neo-nazi as your caterer too. It also couldn't hurt to have a wickerman ready on standby.

It could have ended like this by the lakeshore...

*Except in self-defense or to defend others, I call it the Superhero/Jedi clause. Handing out ass-beatings just because somebody deserves them only seems like a good idea and who am I to judge? That guy might be having a bad day, or there might be something I am not privy to. Plus, this way I am more likely to avoid jail, I've been successful so far, but men can't just settle their differences through violence the way they used to be able to these days. I know guys that are just 10 years younger than me that have NEVER been in a fight. Me, I've been in way too many to count.


  1. Wow. Worse than I imagined from your previous post. I figured burnt food, or not showing up even. But this makes both of those look like rather pleasing alternatives.

  2. Yep, and I forgot to mention the cake at all. Total disaster, not at all what was discussed and fell apart in the kitchen and had to be rebuilt and refrosted before we sent it out. The bride spent the entire reception bouncing back and forth between being elated and having a wonderful time and furious at the caterers and the absolute mess they had made of things.