Those Wedding Bell Blues


Copyright 1993 by Kathy Biehl. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for electronic replication of this article only if you include the copyright notice.

Excerpted from "Notes From the High Seas of Androgyny and Ambiguity," Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology, Back to School '93, Vol. VI, No. 3.

Talk about a welcoming (read: inclusive) congregation. At the reception for a solstice-tide wedding at Houston's First Unitarian Universalist Church, the bride -- a Compendium subscriber, by the way -- opened the garter-flinging ritual to anyone looking for a relationship with a woman. Her announcement elicited loud responses from two members of the catering staff. The realization that he was standing directly in the line of fire triggered shrieks of disbelief from an exotically beautiful black man, whose frilly apron and floating manner of ambulation brought to mind the butler in "La Cage aux Folles" (except this server was wearing shoes). He moved, but his coworker* -- a petite woman in a bolero jacket and bun-hugging tuxedo pants who looked like Ron Romanovsky's sister -- jumped enthusiastically into the fray. These days being what they are, she was the one who caught the prize, which she proudly brandished, for the rest of the event, on an upper arm.

* How many of you read this as cow-orker? Dave and Lizzie-Ba would be curious.

When bouquet-tossing time came around, he of the apron sashayed expectantly into the throng of women. "Here's the protocol," I instructed him. "No pushing." He went home empty-handed; the bouquet flew, suspiciously directly, into the clutches of the bride's older sister. (The tosser has since explained that this outcome was unintentional; her preferred targets were at opposite sides of the mob, and her throwing arm subconsciously split the difference by lobbing the flowers down the middle.)

"It was a set-up," an on-looker said to me in consolation, which was ludicrous in light of my well-documented attitude towards this ritual. (I once backed so far out of the line of fire that I left a hotel lobby and watched from behind the safety of a glass door; the last time I took part, every woman kept her arms at her side while the bouquet splattered apart on the floor.) "It usually is," I answered. The only time I've caught one, the bride walked up to me and tossed it at my stomach. (In 1979, in case anyone's curious, and no doubt someone is.)

The preceding ceremony, by the way, surpassed the reception in inclusivity, invoking just about every imaginable benevolent deity except the usual. Processing walking-meditation-style to Wagner's "Pilgrim's Chorus" ** the groomsmen brought an array of offerings to the altar that included, yes indeedy, a bunch of bananas and a huge, long loaf of bread. Continuing the theme of not denying a vital element of what's really going on here, the matron of honor read an extensive, slightly sanitized passage from a steamy Sumerian poem about the goddess Inanna welcoming her consort Damuzi to her, uh, temple. As the speaker launched into Inanna's crescendoing queries, cryptic smiles spread among those of us who'd been party to the bride's own impassioned readings of this work. "Who will plow my body?" may have been what the congregation heard, but the grammatical object that resounded in our memories was "vulva."

**  I want to make it clear once and for all that, as much as he seems to have permeated my universe, this is not my favorite composer. I'm not the one with the Wagner fixation; Doc is, and I would caution any of you from getting to know this man too well, lest you, too, be infected with this pernicious disease.