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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Summer Weddings

July 17, 2019

We are smack dab in the middle of wedding season. The American South is a brutal place to host a wedding in the months of June and July. When I scan the periodical section of bookstores and pass by the wedding magazines, all of the brides and grooms look cool, fresh, and happy. Those people are obviously holding summer weddings in New Hampshire.

Weddings in Mississippi during the summer are almost always held indoors. My brother was married in August at high noon. I was his best man. My brother, the groomsmen, and I all wore traditional formal morning coats. It was hot. It was really hot. It was scalding, high humidity, Brookhaven-Mississippi-just-one-level-above-eternal-damnation hot. We were all wearing several layers— undershirt, tux shirt, vest, and coat.

Even though the wedding was held inside of a church, massive amounts of sweat accumulated under the groom and groomsmen’s armpits and soaked through all layers. Each male member of the wedding party had a substantial sweat-stained half-moon on the outside of his morning coat. Industrial strength antiperspirant couldn’t have stopped the sweat from soaking through all of those layers that day. My brother was sweating so profusely, I handed him a handkerchief midway through the ceremony, and after one swipe of his brow he handed it back to me, dripping. Welcome to August in Mississippi.

I can understand the desire to host a wedding in southern summers, because fall weddings south of the Mason-Dixon Line are problematic. It takes extremely thorough planning to work around several schools’ football schedules. The weekends where all of the teams in state have away games are always going to be stacked up with weddings. All other weekends in the fall are going to have conflicts with football.

We take football seriously down here. I was once an usher in a wedding and discreetly kept an earphone in my ear through the entire ceremony listening to my team (who happened to be playing a home game on that day). On second thought, fall weddings should be outlawed.

The seasons in the south are always tricky, no matter what type of event one is trying to schedule. The window for mild, pleasant weather is very small— basically April and October. We have four seasons down here— almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas.

Winter weddings are where it’s at for anyone who lives south of I-20. I was married in my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi on a cold day in February, and was re-married the next day at the Graceland Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip by an Elvis impersonator named Norm. The only thing that was hot on both on those days was my smoking hot wife. Continuing my commitment to beat the wedding heat, we travelled to Aspen after the Elvis ceremony for our honeymoon where it was bitter cold. Mission accomplished. Bliss ensued.

When we began dating, I joked with my future wife that if I ever got married again, it would be by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas. I was a little down on the institution after a very short, but failed attempt, on the first go ‘round. That was ok with her because— when I met her— she said she never wanted to get married. Ever. Period.

In Vegas, I purchased the deluxe package at the Graceland Wedding Chapel which included bridal bouquet (a hand-held bunch of tacky hard-plastic, red outdoor cemetery flowers), a boutonniere (a single red flower, just as hard), a VHS video recording of the ceremony, and three Elvis songs sung by Norm.

It was a lark for my wife and me, nothing serious, just something to do because we had joked about it with each other during the five-year courtship. Though when Norm/Elvis walked my already-wed-bride-to-be down the aisle at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, I did my best not to laugh. It was fun, but I didn’t want Norm to mistake the laughter for any manner of disrespect towards him or the way he chose to make a living. This was a lighthearted escapade for us, but it’s how he fed his family. My already-wed-bride-to-be was also fighting back a laugh.

There is a face that one makes when trying not to laugh out loud. It is perfected by youth church-choir children at an early age. To effectively fight off an oncoming uncontrolled bout of laughter, one must garner an almost freakishly large smile. Attempting a somber face or a frown will only induce greater laughter. In the Graceland Wedding Chapel that day, February 7th, 1993, my wife and I were smiling bigger than we might have ever smiled before. It was OK. We weren’t laughing.

Unfortunately, Norm the Elvis Impersonator read our smiles as sheer delight in his singing abilities and performance (which actually weren’t too bad). He was about six songs into his supposed three-song set when we realized that we were smiling too convincingly, and he must have thought that he was performing to the most adoring fans he had ever married. The problem is that at that point, you can’t start showing anything other than sheer delight, because then you definitely hurt the feelings of the Elvis impersonator. We grinned and bared it and ended up standing up through his entire nightclub act.

Whereas “Suspicious Minds” and “Poke Salad Annie” might be good songs, they aren’t typical tunes one would hear at a wedding, we thought it best to just let him finish. At least it wasn’t hot.

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