“I’m getting married!”
Those are three words that every single female of marrying age abhors hearing. You have to pretend to be happy for your friend while internally thinking “Why her and not me?” It’s petty I know, but I swear it happens among all single women. Engagements are like a virus; once it happens for one couple, then all the other couples that are friends seem to fall into the same trap like dominos. It’s a vicious cycle; the same thing happens with babies. When one couple becomes pregnant, it seems that all couples become pregnant around the same time. You might ask why this happens, and the answer is very simple.
When one man gives in and proposes to his girlfriend, then it puts all of his guy friends under pressure because their girlfriends want to know when they will be proposing. After all, if one of them is willing to settle down and give up his bachelor days, then it stands to reason that all of them are ready to settle down and give up their bachelor days. Makes sense right?
But when weddings and babies are involved, women get tunnel vision. They can only see their wedding and babies at the end of the tunnel and anyone that stands in their way is going to be run over. From a young age, girls think up their dream wedding: the perfect dress with the perfect man. Girls are taught to think that their wedding day is the one day in their life when they get to be treated like a fairy princess with Prince Charming there to sweep them off their feet.
Sadly, not many women get their dream wedding and most men certainly are not Prince Charming. In this day and age, the average wedding costs between $15,000 and $25,000. Thousands of dollars on a wedding . . . one single day in your life . . . that’s more than what my car cost and I’ve had my baby for three years. Hell, my relationship with my car has lasted longer than a lot of marriages I’ve seen.
I know I sound jaded, like a jealous bitch that can’t be happy for her friend. That’s not it at all. Well, that’s not entirely the reason. You see, I work in the wedding business. I’ve been a wedding Dj for the last four years. Yes, I, Sookie Stackhouse, have gone out at least once a weekend every weekend for the last two hundred eight weeks to play music at other people’s weddings. Now, before you knock it, let’s examine the facts of the case. I followed my older brother’s footsteps and went to college at LSU; Jason went on a full football scholarship where I was a brainiac and had to pay my way through school. How is that fair?!?!?! Anyway, I wasn’t one of those kids that went to college and wasted their parents’ money by partying all the time and never going to class. I worked hard in school, graduated Cum Laude with a degree in teaching and was ready to make my place in the world. There was just one problem with my theory.
Do you realize how little money the average college graduate makes when first leaving the hallowed halls of their higher education? Hell, do you know how difficult it is for a college graduate to find a job today? It used to be that if you had a bachelor’s degree from any university, it would be a piece of cake to find a job. Not today. I couldn’t get my foot in the door with most of the parishes in Louisiana because I didn’t have any experience. How the hell was I supposed to get experience in my chosen profession when I couldn’t get anyone to give me a damn interview, much less a job? It was demoralizing to realize that I’d spent four years in college to end up working back at Merlotte’s Bar and Grille as a waitress. That’s what I’d been doing before college, so why had I gone to school? It’s not like college taught me how to be a better waitress. Can you imagine if waitressing was a college major? Would the introductory course be called ‘Do you want fries with that?’ or ‘How do you want that cooked?’? Better yet, the courses could be taught by Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. I was always partial to the Hamburglar myself; I think it was the hat and maybe the cape.
Here’s the other shitty part of being a college graduate: student loans. If you are lucky, your parents have planned for your college education and you won’t be saddled with the burden of paying the ridiculous amount of money that adds up from attending college. But if you’re like me, your parents didn’t have the opportunity to save money for college. Hell, it was a struggle for my parents to pay all their bills on time and put food on the table. We couldn’t move because no one was willing to buy our house; I think the ‘For Sale’ sign sat in front of our house from the time I was seven until I was fourteen. Even if someone had been willing to buy our house, it’s not like there were a plethora of jobs available. We grew up in an economically depressed region of Louisiana. Jason and I both had started working at a really young age so we could earn our own money; he’d done yard work while I babysat. As we got older, we worked any job we could to make money. While I used my money to pay for my clothes or tried to save it for college, Jason spent all his money on a used pickup truck, beer, and women.
So to recap, my idiotic brother went to college for free because he was one hell of a running back, barely stayed academically eligible throughout his entire college career, and he didn’t even graduate college; he entered the NFL draft where he ended up being selected in the third round by New England. Jason isn’t the flashiest player in the NFL, but he’s managed to have a decent career under Bill Belichick. Daddy was happy he hadn’t been drafted by the Cowboys or the Falcons; Mommy was happy that Jason played for a strong coach that would keep him out of trouble. I shudder to think of what kinds of trouble my brother would have gotten in had he been drafted to play somewhere like Oakland. Whereas I worked my ass off in school, graduated, and spent a year waitressing because I couldn’t find a job. My student loans required that I start paying them when I had been out of school for six months. I made so little money and had so much fucking debt that I had to live at home with my parents. How demoralizing is that? You think you’re going to graduate college, make your way in the world on your own two feet, or at the very least, with a snarky roommate as your sidekick. I got news for you campers; it’s all a fucking lie. Fuck you Hollywood!
I finally found a job working as a middle school teacher for a school about an hour away from my parents’ house. Yes, it was more money than I made as a waitress, but I still couldn’t afford to live on my own. Hell, I think I made less money my first year of teaching then I did as a waitress because I spent so much money on gas and car maintenance. It was during my lunch break that my mom sent me an ad she saw on CareerBuilder.com. A company was looking for disc jockeys, and they were willing to train the right person.
And that’s how I came to be a mobile wedding disc jockey. It’s not the most glamorous job out there, and more often than not, people treat you like you’re an idiot because they think a trained monkey can play music. I have two things to say to that: first, it’s absolutely hard work to get out there week after week and make sure that the most important day in a couple’s life goes off without a hitch, and second, I made over $20,000 last year working as a mobile wedding disc jockey alone. That combined with my teacher’s salary allowed me to move out of my parents’ house to a nice apartment about five miles away from my teaching job, buy a brand new car that was more fuel-efficient and had room for all my Dj equipment, and I finally got to eat something other than Ramen noodles for a change.
How do you like me now bitch?
But I digress . . . a lot! Today, I’m having lunch with some of my closest girlfriends: Claudine, Tara, and Hadley. I feel like I’ve been out of the loop when it comes to my friends. It’s hard to stay in touch with them when I’m always working on the weekends. This is the first time I’m seeing some of the girls in almost six months. Claudine had called asking me to join them for lunch. She really wanted to see all of us, and she was willing to plan something on any day where I was free. Since I’m usually free Sundays, we agreed to meet for brunch at a restaurant in Bossier City along the river. When we all saw each other for the first time, we’d had the typical girl reaction of high-pitched squealing and hugging. The four of us had been friends since freshman year at LSU; starting our sophomore year, the four of us lived together in a suite on campus. Tara and I were from northern rural Louisiana, Claudine was from Baton Rouge, and Hadley was from New Orleans. The four of us were drastically different in terms of background, looks, and attitude, but somehow we clicked. Tara is a beautiful mocha-colored African-American woman with long, straight black hair and big, soulful chocolate-brown eyes. She is very athletic, which is a given since she went to LSU on a basketball scholarship. Tara could have gone on to play in the WNBA if it hadn’t been for her attitude. Tara is a highly intelligent woman, but she has rage issues . . . she had issues on and off the court controlling her temper. The only one that has ever been able to keep Tara’s temper under control is Hadley. We all call Hadley ‘Mom’ because she always tries to take care of us. She is a nurturer; when we were having a bad day, she would be there with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies or an ice cream sundae. Hadley is a wholesome, girl-next-door type: blonde, blue-eyed, exuberant, and a generally sweet person. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say a bad thing about anyone; not her professors, not other girls, hell, not even that good-for-nothing ex-boyfriend of hers that ran out on her when he learned she was pregnant. Hadley is the best of all of us, and the three of us have always worked together to shelter her from the injustices of the world. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t. And then there is Claudine, Daddy’s little princess in every sense of the word. Claudine is the daughter of a former Governor of Louisiana and a former Miss Louisiana beauty queen. Claudine followed in her mother’s footsteps: cheerleader, beauty pageants, and attending LSU in the hopes of landing a rich husband to take care of her.
I think she’s found it if the rock on the ring finger of her left hand is any indication. Her screamed exclamation of “I’m getting married” was accompanied by her shoving her left hand into the air that hovered over our table. She wiggles her fingers, causing the diamond to sparkle in the sunlight. We’re girls; we react as girls do; more squeals and grab at her hand to look at the ring. It’s everything I would have expected Claudine to have: big, flashy, and obviously cost a lot of money. I know I sound petty, but you have to understand something about Claudine. She wanted the four of us to split the cost of a maid when we lived together at LSU because she didn’t know how to cook, clean, or do laundry. Everything she wore had a designer label; instead of carrying a backpack to class, she carried a vintage Chanel briefcase. We had nicked Claudine ‘Cher’ after Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless because she is Cher. But Claudine was the first one to kick off her designer pumps and wade into a catfight if it meant protecting one of her girls. We are a tight group, but Claudine is by far and away the most loyal of all of us. For some reason, Claudine is closest to me, which doesn’t make any sense since we are opposites in every way. She is statuesque; I’m petite. Primped and polished are the only way she will leave the house; I run out in whatever is handy, hopefully it’s clean. She’s never worked hard a day in her life, whereas I’ve had to fight for everything I have.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Claudine turned to me and asked, “Sookie will you be my maid of honor?”
If ‘I’m getting married’ are three of the most hated words to a single woman, than “Will you be my bridesmaid?” are the five most hated words. And then to add insult to injury, you get asked to be their maid of honor . . . that position is the greatest “fuck you” from your friend. It’s costly enough to be a bridesmaid – dress, shoes, hair, bridal shower, bachelorette party, etc. all are a financial burden. Most bridesmaids spend on average $500 to $1,000 on a wedding that isn’t even their own! But by being the maid of honor, it’s a fate worse than death to me! Not only is it a financial drain, but it will need countless hours of my time too! Dress shopping, cake tastings, dress fittings, caterer meetings, discussions of the bachelorette party and countless phone calls to discuss the most mundane and ridiculous of details. Do I prefer the lilac or lavender dress? Who gives a shit; it’s all purple to me! Which flavor of cake should I pick: chocolate or red velvet? They are both chocolate!
Could lightning strike me down now and save me from having to answer Claudine? She is looking so anxiously at me and her lips are beginning to tremble the longer it takes me to make a decision. I hate that look; she’s used it on me often over the years. You’d think I’d be immune to it by now. But I’m still a sucker for it and I hear myself saying, “I’d love to be your maid of honor.”
Shit! I didn’t mean to fucking agree to this! Claudine squeals excitedly as she leans over to hug me tightly. I have to get out of this mess and fast! There is no way in hell I want to be maid of honor for some hoity-toity high society wedding.
“Claudine, you know I’d love to be your maid of honor, but I don’t have the time to devote to you and all the planning that will go into your special day. Besides, you live in New Orleans; I’m up here in Shreveport. There’s no way I’m gonna be able to help you. And what about Claudette? Shouldn’t she be your maid of honor? Y’all are triplets after all. Blood is thicker than water,” I finish hurriedly.
Rule number one when dealing with brides: they think everything revolves around them. There is no reasoning with a bride, so if you have something unpleasant to tell them, I have found that it is best to spin the situation to make it all about them! For example, I only call my clients the Monday before their wedding. In my experience, a bride is going to change her mind a thousand times before she makes a decision. I remember I had a bride change her first dance song thirty-two times before deciding to go back to her original choice. So by waiting until the Monday before their event, I’ve pretty much guaranteed that the information I have is the most current and is somewhat set in stone. I have clients always asking if I can call them weeks or months before their event to discuss the details. My internal answer to that is always the same: hell no! However, the diplomatic answer is that I will call them the week of their wedding so that my attention is solely focused on them. As I point out, I do one event a week; they wouldn’t want my attention focused on someone else the week of their wedding, so I cannot in good conscience do that to another client. It works nearly every time. Little do these clients realize that I am sometimes doing two events a day if not over the entire weekend. But as I said, brides tend to get tunnel vision and think it’s all about them!
“Don’t worry about that,” Claudine hurries to reassure me. “You and Claudette will be my co-maids of honor. And my cousin Marella is going to be my matron of honor,” Claudine continues blithely.
“How many bridesmaids are you having?” Tara and I exchange a worried look because this is quickly getting out of hand. Three maids/matrons of honor?!?!?!?!
“Including you and Hadley, seven bridesmaids, four junior bridesmaids, three flower girls, and the three maids of honor,” Claudine rattles off as if she is discussing the weather. I drain my mimosa and signal the waiter for another. It’s nearly eleven; is it too early for me to ask for a gin and tonic?
Claudine continues on, blissfully ignorant that she has stunned the rest of us stupid. “And there really isn’t that much planning to do. I’m hiring a wedding coordinator and I have this,” she says as she sets a giant book down on the table. It’s so heavy it rattles the flatware against the table and causes the water in our goblets to slosh over.
Dear lord in heaven, please save me! She has a wedding binder!
After brunch that turned into lunch, and then nearly turned into happy hour, I escaped back to the solitude of my apartment. Had I pissed someone off in another life that I was being made to suffer now? Honestly, she’s having seventeen bridal attendants. Who the hell does that?!?!??!
As if knowing I am sinking in the depths of despair, my cell phone rings. I groan loudly before answering: it’s Claudine. I literally left her half an hour ago! What could we possible have to discuss now?”
“Hello,” I say softly.
“Hey sweetie, I hope I’m not bothering you” Claudine says carelessly. Before I can tell her if she is or isn’t, she continues on. “I just got off the phone with Alcide. He and I think it would be a great idea for everyone in the bridal party to meet. Give everyone a chance to get to know one another before the big day. I’ll email you all the details when we get something scheduled. Okay sweetie, talk to you soon!” The call ends and I’m left staring at my phone in utter bafflement. What the hell have I gotten myself in to? Can I back out now? Maybe I can fake my death? Better yet, maybe I can go teach English in a foreign country for a year. Anything has to be better than the hell I’m about to go through.
The buzzer for my apartment rings and I wearily get to my feet. If it’s another person asking me to accept Jesus Christ as my savior I may lose my shit. I still remember my neighbor telling the church member that interrupted his dinner that his god was going to kick their god’s ass. The religious person had asked who my neighbor’s god was and he promptly answered Ozzy Osbourne. I’m a little envious that no solicitors bother my neighbor anymore, but I’m too nice to do something like that to another human being. My Gran would come back from the grave with a switch in her hand if I was intentionally rude to someone like that.
When I look through the peephole, I’m so happy to see who is on the other side. “You read my mind,” I say as I lovingly grab the bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin that Tara had dangled in front of my peephole. She carries a bottle of Patron Tequila and a shopping bag of tonic water and limes.
“I knew your head was swimming just like mine was,” Tara says as she closes the front door of my apartment. We carry our beloved friends to the kitchen. Tara takes a shot of tequila as I slice down the limes.
“How crazy do you think this shit is going to get?” Tara asks me her question as she pours herself a second shot. I’ve mixed my drink, adding a twist of lime and take a long swig to soothe my frazzled nerves, contemplating the best way to answer her question. Tara’s come with me a few times when I’ve done a wedding. She too had initially scoffed at my part-time job, but by the end of the night she had a newfound respect for wedding professionals. For five hours, she had watched as I tried to keep 150 guests happy. Tara had watched as I dealt with everything, coordinating with the caterer, photographer, and videographer to make sure everything happened on time and no one missed any special events. I even had to deflect the interest from the groomsman that was trying to hit on me, and kept the ring bearer from sticking his grubby hand in the wedding cake. All of that was done in between keeping the guests dancing for two hours straight. At the end of the night, I had been rewarded with a hug from the bride and $50 bill from the groom. That had been one of my better experiences.
“On a scale of one to ten, I think we’re looking at a seventeen,” I say gravely and Tara snorts in response. Without saying a word, we each drain our drinks, praying for all of this to be over before it’s even started.