In 1962 there was a little house near the top of Miller Mountain whose yard was bursting with stunning gladioli. My dad and his soon to be mother-in-law appreciated them as they drove to and from Webster Springs as they took garden produce to sell in town. With the wedding only a few days away, they stopped and asked the homeowner if they could buy some of her beautiful flowers. Miraculously, she said to take all the flowers they needed for free and when dad returned home he presented mom with a colorful gladiolus serenade. It was music to her ears!
Serenades are usually expressions of love to draw one closer to making a vow but Mom recalled an old tradition of a post-wedding serenade. About a week after their wedding, neighbors and friends came down the driveway banging on pots and pans and making a loud ruckus. The newly-weds got carried around the house, Mom in a big galvanized wash tub and Dad straddling a fence rail. Then, as expected, Mom treated the women to candies and Dad gave the men cigars. Entertaining is a healthy part of marriage as long as you don’t get carried away.
In the spirit of nuptials, here are other fun lessons I’ve learned over time. When my grandpa’s sister, Lucy, got married, she and her groom, Dencil Craig, rode horses to the parsonage where the preacher came out and married them whilst still sitting atop their steeds! Spontaneity is good in a marriage.
When it was Pap’s turn to marry, he and my grandma Olga held their “ceremony” in the front yard at the Balli Farm with a makeshift altar table decorated with dahlias. There, a more recent bride and groom opted for a panoramic cow-pasture setting instead of the yard, but first had to implement Operation Manure Removal. As any seasoned spouse will tell you, a key to a happy marriage is learning how to get rid of “it” as best you can.
Years ago, in a baking frenzy prepping for my cousin’s wedding, we ran out of salt, and one of the guests (Mrs. Ramey) went to the bedroom and retrieved an entire pound container of salt from her suitcase?? Also true; two of the guests got new false teeth for the wedding! And the river was high, rendering the ford impassable, so the tent poles and boards for the dance floor had to be carted across the swinging bridge in a wheelbarrow… Marriage begins with plenty of salt, a good smile, and balance.
For my sister’s wedding cake Mom made traditional sugar bells. It’s a delicate process of taking egg whites and sugar (with a little food coloring to match wedding colors), pressing the mixture into bell molds, drying them upside down, and finally hollowing them out ever so tenderly to about ¼ inch thick. From this we might be advised marriage likewise is fragile.
Also at my sister’s wedding we stretched a large banner from tree to tree across the road proclaiming “Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Miller!” Banners of declaration are actually biblical. Songs of Solomon (one of the best serenades ever written by the way) states, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (2:4) Ancient people fully understood the purpose of banners, which they carried into battle to rally the troops. The signs lifted up high boosted their morale and reminded them who they fought for and why. In some of my friends’ homes they have framed photographs on their walls from their weddings, which to me are like banners, reminding them daily of the Who? and Why?.
Jesus says in John 12:32 “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Would you like to live forever under that banner of perfect love? Can you hear Jesus calling your name in the sweetest of all serenades? “I do”.
Janet Cowger- Fliegel