I was married at high noon in Montgomery Alabama, at First United Methodist Church, to Anne Elizabeth Upchurch (thank goodness in our culture the bride takes the groom’s name; can you imagine the Reverend Dr. Chuck Upchurch?!)  on August 27, 1983. We have just celebrated our 30th anniversary; I think we’ll make it.

It was explained to me at the time that a noon wedding is as “high” a wedding as an eight o’clock PM wedding, so the men all wore white dinner jackets, and thank you very much, we looked pretty darn good.

The wedding was the third one in Lib’s family in three years, so they pretty well had the wedding thing down. While I’d been “schooled” in weddings, this was the first one I’d been in, so I just did what I was told. I was told what time to arrive at the church, dressed, and where to go, so I cooled my heels as best I could.

On your wedding day, you wake up earlier than you want to. This was the case with me, as I recall, so once I was up and moving, my brother and I went for about a four-mile run so I could deal with some of my jitters. I arrived back at the motel, and Hunter went on for another mile or so. I chatted with a friend by the pool, but was starting to get excited/nervous, so I asked my Dad to bring me a biscuit from the restaurant, and went to my room. I did not have much of an appetite, but knew I needed to eat something.

After showering and dressing, the next thing I knew I was at the Church, and after a flurry of pictures, it was “time.” I have vague recollections of the ceremony, I know I was there, because I’ve seen the pictures, but it was a blur. We walked down the center aisle, out of the church into a limo, and straight to the Country Club. The rest of the wedding party and our families did the same, we shot a few pictures, and the party began.

It, too, was a blur. I have some faint memories of seeing a few particular people, but for the most part, it was a lot of smiling and nodding. Then someone told us it was time to leave, so we headed upstairs to change clothes.

Why can men change in three minutes, but it takes women a good half hour?

Anyway, Lib came out, all the bridesmaids massed downstairs, Lib threw the bouquet, we ran through a shower of rose petals to a car, and my brother-in-law Sam Campbell drove us to where we’d stashed a car.

We got into Lib’s Honda, and headed for Atlanta, where we were to spend the night before flying out Sunday morning for our honeymoon in Jamaica.

About halfway to Atlanta, I told Lib I was hungry; she reached into the back seat and got one of the box lunches that the Club had given us, and opened it. There was a scoop of chicken salad in there. Not a sandwich, a scoop. No fork, no spoon, I don’t think there was a cracker in there. Inedible while driving a stick shift on the Interstate.

We arrived at the Ramada Renaissance (I think it’s Westin now), and we were taken to the Honeymoon Suite on the Concierge Level. We walked into our spacious room, with flowers, candles, champagne, and the Concierge left.

Lib opened her suitcase, and there was a note there from her brother (who’s been married a year) telling her how wonderful marriage is, and how happy he was for her. She got a little misty, but then turned and looked at me with a “come hither” look and said, “Well; what do you want to do?”

I said, “Let’s go get something to eat.”

Lib said, “WHAT?!” And this other head grew out of her neck. It sprouted horns, and had long fangs, and breathed fire. “WHAT?!” It said.

“Look, Lib,” I said, “I’m hungry. I really did not get breakfast to speak of. I did not get anything to eat at our reception. And I’m smart enough to know that if I don’t eat something now, I’m not going to get anything else to eat tonight.”

She begrudgingly agreed that I may have a point there. If I’d had half a brain, I would have called room service; but no, we went downstairs and ate in the restaurant.

Do you know what is on the top of the list of things that brides do not want their groom to eat on their wedding night? A Reuben Sandwich. I mean, who wants sauerkraut breath in their face on their wedding night? But guess what I had that night? Yep, you guessed it. It’s a great sandwich, but not the wisest choice I’ve ever made.

So we ate dinner, then went upstairs, and the rest is now 30 years of history.

If you’re reading this and planning a wedding, make sure you think through eating after the ceremony. And leave Reubens off the menu.

That was just plain stupid.

The very first wedding over which I officiated took place at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA. I was the Associate Minister of the church, and I’d been there about six months, coming right out of Seminary, fresh, naive, wet behind the ears, innocent, and simply dumb as dirt. For gosh sakes, I grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, graduated from Arkansas State University, that great academic powerhouse (NOT!), and managed to get INTO Seminary on academic probation (from which I was released after one semester, for the record.)

I’d arrived in Augusta single but engaged, was ordained on a Sunday in August (when it was 108 degrees–that’s another story) and then married the following Saturday in Montgomery. Yeah, a pretty low-key week.

So the Senior Pastor, Dan McCall, bounced this wedding to me, and I’d managed to meet with the couple about four times, doing my best to offer premarital counseling, wanting to die when I spoke with them about sex, but we’d gotten through it all, planned the ceremony, and the big evening was upon us.

I recall that it was about a week before Christmas; 12/17/83 to be precise, having just checked my record book. The church was resplendently decorated with poinsettias, making flowers for the family easy. And nonexistent.

The time came for us all to enter, and I came in with the groom and Best Man, we took our places and I watched as the doors in the back opened, and I saw the first Bridesmaid.

She was wearing solid, basic black. Now, today, that’s “chic,” or so I am told, but in 1983, it was more than cutting edge. I recall thinking, “Wait a minute; is this a wedding or a funeral!” To top it off, that first Bridesmaid was about 8 months pregnant. The ladies, instead of carrying flowers, were carrying Christmas wreaths (cute), but with this lady, the wreath was resting horizontally on her belly, rather than hanging vertically like all the others.

Anyway, I recovered, I hope that my face did not give away the shock, and everyone else came in, took their places, and we proceeded through the service.

We reached the point in the ceremony when the couple have repeated their vows, rings have been exchanged, and I had pronounced them “husband and wife.” It was time to pray for the couple, and it was their desire to kneel for the prayer. I said, “Let us pray,” and nodded to the groom to hold the bride’s arm as she knelt. He did so, she proceeded to kneel, and I thought, “Oh, sweet Jesus. She’s wearing a hooped skirt!”

Now, think about that. What a lady will do in a case such as that is to pull the front of the hooped skirt forward, and kneel under it. This bride did not do that, she simply knelt, ending up on the front of the hoops, which had the result of popping the bottom of her dress back, so that there was a clear view of . . . well, whatever there was to view.

I have no idea what I prayed or how I prayed it, because all I was thinking was that Hollywood had just lit up, and everyone had a free view. Before I said “Amen,” I whispered to the groom to stand the bride up, NOW, hoping that all the while “every head had been bowed and every eye had been closed.”

We finished the ceremony, took pictures, and I wandered to our Fellowship Hall where the reception was. One pass let me know that I would not be lingering, and I went home soon thereafter, grateful to have survived my first wedding.

I have well over 300 weddings under my belt now, with plenty more stories to share. Stay tuned, my friends.