Posted on April 27, 2008 by meimei
You might think that a singleton like myself would remain cynical about weddings, after having attended more than a fair share of them. That, unfortunately, is not the case – and not because the reception gives me too many opportunities to indulge in cake and champagne while secretly bemoaning the absences of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. The local weddings I’ve attended in Honolulu have always been such happy, family-oriented affairs, and if there were any humorless Bridezilla moments – other than the ones that may have been instigated by certain bridesmaids (*ahem* yours truly *ahem*) – I should count myself glad to not have been subjected to them.
And if I should encounter such horrific nuptial conditions at some point or another – either on my own wedding, or with others’ – it should come as a great comfort for me that none of those will ever compare to the ones I’ve encountered in my own reading history.
(Note: I’ve decided not to include Honeymoon with My Brother in this list, since that one’s more of a foregone conclusion. And, c’mon, Franz Wisner got a holiday in Costa Rica and an Oprah guest appearance out of it.)
Should’ve Spent More Money on the Caterer: Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
It’s the wedding that started it all: Because Mama Elena was way too hung up on the “tradition” thing, Tita loses her true love, Pedro, to her older sister Rosaura – and not only that, but she also suffers the indignity of having to cook for their wedding reception, which also included an extravagant Chabela Wedding Cake, scaled big enough to serve hundreds of guests. Ultimately overwhelmed by emotion, Tita cries into the cake batter… and the icing… and though her tears do not change the flavors per se, the guests who end up eating the cake at the reception are overcome with such intense longing and bitterness that pretty much escalates into weeping, wailing, wide-scale vomiting… and even death. (Makes you wonder what could’ve happened if one of the guests had been litigious enough to sue for damages, right?) Luckily for the rest of us, Esquivel makes up for the disgusting spectacle with other tasty treats – including the triumphant wedding* which marks the penultimate chapter of the book. (Hee, I wrote penultimate.)
Blood on the Sheets: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A flamboyant man and his clueless bride commemorate their wedding with an extravagant celebration, and everyone who is everyone in their small town – that is, the entire population – takes part in the revelry. Hours after the last drink has been raised, however, the bride is taken back to her family by the furious groom, claiming that the girl was not a virgin on her own wedding night. What happens afterwards – up to and including the moment when the girl is forced to give up the name of her supposed “lover” – leads to a cycle of vengeance, and a murder so horrific that I felt like I was aiding and abetting the crime myself.
I guess this is the part where I tell you that Gabriel Garcia Marquez must be an artist and a genius for making me feel this way as a reader, blah blah blah, but: no, sorry. That death scene – described repeatedly in both foreshadowing and flashback form -was so grotesque that I couldn’t even look at a ham sandwich for days.
Get A Room: On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
By now you’ve probably heard that Ian McEwan came perilously close to winning the Bad Sex in Fiction Award from the UK Literary Review for his not-safe-for-work descriptions of a honeymoon between two virginal idealists. (Sample passage can be read here.) Really, it’s not like anyone reads McEwan for passion and sensuality – again, Atonement notwithstanding – and it’s pretty obvious that the author nearly dodged a bullet here just for being a perennial critic’s darling. Still and all, it’s not like I was holding out any hope for the poor couple in the first place; I knew that their marriage – and the book – was immediately doomed from the time I got to McEwan describing our couple’s honeymoon dinner as “long-ago roasted beef” with “soft boiled vegetables” and “potatoes of a bluish hue.” Oh, yummy. (See also: Like Water for Chocolate, above.)
Premature Miscalculation: Swimming with Scapulars, by Matthew LickonaOn Chesil Beach may have had the bad food and appetite-killing sex scenes, but it’s a mere trifle compared to the real-life wedding night woes of Matthew Lickona. Without giving much of the book away – and this is just but one chapter of many in this book of “confessions” – let’s just boil it down to the particulars: Let’s just say that you’re a devout Catholic, and you’ve waited longer than forever to finally say your vows before man and God. You know – or you think you know – that you don’t want kids, but you can’t use birth control outside of Natural Family Planning. So what happens, then, when your wedding night approaches… and you find out that your lovely bride… is in the middle of her ovulation cycle?
Thankfully for the rest of us, Lickona spares us the gory details (he is, after all, a Catholic writer and a married man), but he does handle what could’ve been scandalous subject matter with a healthy dose of humor – and not a hint of Joshua Harris-esque sermonizing. Not only do he and his wife stay together and consummate the marriage, but they also go on to become parents themselves. Five times over, as a matter of fact. (Thank God for tequila.)
Try To Set the Night on Fire: El Filibusterismo, by Jose Rizal
If only those annoyingly extravagant “high society” weddings in Manila could be interrupted so easily. Here’s what happens to the doomed wedding in El Fili (aka Subversion or The Reign of Greed) from the Wikipedia plot summary:
Simoun then tells Basilio his plan at the wedding of of Paulita Gomez and Juanito, Basilio’s hunch-backed classmate. His plan was to conceal an explosive inside a lamp that Simoun will give to the newlyweds as a gift during the wedding reception. The reception will take place at the former home of Captain Tiago, which was now filled with explosives planted by Simoun. According to Simoun, the lamp will stay lighted for only 20 minutes before it flickers; if someone attempts to turn the wick, it will explode and kill everyone inside the house. Basilio has a change of heart and attempts to warn the people inside, including Isagani, his friend and the former boyfriend of Paulita. Simoun leaves the reception early as planned and leaves a note behind..
[edited to remove GIGANTIC SPOILER for those of you who have not read the book at all]
As people begin to panic, the lamp flickers. Father Irene tries to turn the wick up when Isagani, due to his undying love for Paulita, bursts in the room and throws the lamp into the river. He escapes by diving into the river…
…And yet, Paulita Gomez remains married to the hunchback. Gee, “thanks.”
*EDITED 05/01/2008: For those of you who have read Like Water for Chocolate, the “triumphant wedding” that I referred to in this section is actually not between Tita and Pedro. To say anything more would be to give away the massive spoiler of the ending (and I should know, having watched this movie so many times in college that even my frat-boy housemates have started saying “te amo” to each other)… so until then, my apologies.