The Disney princess sweeps into an ornate ballroom, her prince an elegant step behind her. She does not tumble down a flight of stairs and into the stupefied guests below. Her prince does not fall in love with a fish. I wish someone had mentioned all this before the food tasting for our wedding.
Ivan and I stepped into the lobby of the Mission Inn, both salivating for the tasting banquet that August night. The Inn is a historic landmark and boasts the stunning chapel where Ronald and Nancy Reagan said their vows so many years ago. Said chapel is also completely booked year round. We only “got in” by choosing a Wednesday morning wedding slot between Christmas and New Years! Even the wedding food tastings run on a schedule, so we were delighted when our turn for the tasting banquet finally arrived. The word “gourmet” was embossed neatly on the reminder card in the mail.
So, returning to our evening. The banquet would begin after a cocktail hour for couples to nibble hors d’oeuvres and taste various wines, marking their choices on an elegantly-scrolled index card. Ivan and I dressed appropriately – well, appropriately for 22 year-olds on limited budgets – and arrived at what I estimated to be just the right amount of late. The other bridal guests eddied around cocktail tables and a mini bar, just outside the grand ballroom and right at the foot of a magnificent staircase.
Ivan and I proceeded through the lobby (I hoped people would notice that we were headed to the coveted tasting banquet downstairs) and paused for a moment at the top of the staircase so I could absorb the scene. One glance told me that we were probably 10 years younger than the rest of the bridal couples, and that our clothing insinuated we would be the kind of couple to take that Wednesday morning slot – or some other slot of the kind. I turned around and raised my eyebrows at Ivan. He seemed completely unaffected by the discrepancy, so I grinned and decided I could at least make a graceful entrance to compensate for our other deficiencies. I was suddenly very thankful that I’d worn my dressiest set of heels.
And then I fell. Not a wobble on the top step, not a stumble through the first couple of steps, not even a brief go-down-and-then-hop-up-like-nothing-happened fall. I fell and rolled. “My Prince” reached out to rescue me, but his arm was a tenth of a second too late. Twenty heads rotated in unison to greet me at the bottom with thunderous silence. We not only looked like babies. We acted like them, too!
I grasped for some some remnant of poise as Ivan set me on my feet, but I could only stumble to a corner table. My rarely-worn, three inch heels pinched mercilessly. A waiter tactfully offered crackers swirled with goat cheese and an olive, alleviating some of our awkwardness, and then the doors to the banquet hall swung open before we had more time to cringe at our side show…
Our side show was soon swept under the table. The most gorgeous table-for-two I’d ever seen, that is. In a vintage lounge to the ballroom’s right was a buffet laden with entrees, and I’m sure all the ladies gained five pounds just glancing at the dessert table peeping from the corner. Ivan and I may never experience such a luxurious meal again during our lifetime. We knew we’d already selected a simple roast chicken with French green beans before attending the tasting, but that didn’t deter us from tasting all that might have been. 🙂 I pretended not to notice that my leg and foot were inflating under the table. The waiter pretended not to notice that we declined each of the three champagnes he offered. We weren’t underage, even if we looked it, but I did work at a Baptist school.
What I couldn’t pretend not to notice was Ivan beginning an affair. With a salmon. I’m sure my fall from grace earned me no brownie points, but I had never seen Ivan’s face glow with the same pure, undiluted joy as it did upon his first bite. I have not seen that radiance a second time. (The day I elicit that look from his eyes is the day I add “cum laude” to my Bachelor’s in Wifing.) The salmon was superb, but I confess that I was more fascinated with this new “Ivan in love” scenario than the fish. Part of me wished we could add it to our reception menu just on his account. Part of me rejoiced that we could not. No bride wants her thunder stollen by a fish.
The “old Ivan” returned promptly after our plates vanished into the kitchen. “Old Ivan” was also tasked with assisting his limping fiancee back to the car. He executed this chivalric duty with customary affection, but I was suddenly aware of how needy and un-succulent I was compared to the fish. Hobbling through the lobby, one arm around Ivan’s neck, the other positioning my purse so that guests couldn’t see how black my leg had turned – that was not the Disney-esque exit I had planned. Our fairytale parody heightened as Ivan swept me off my feet (out of necessity) to carry me the rest of the way to the car. I hoped he wasn’t remembering the seductive salmon as he bore me in his arms. I did not ask, and I do not know.
What I do know is that my leg and foot healed from the tumble (my self-esteem healed more slowly), we had a gorgeous wedding, the roast chicken was delicious, and Ivan appears to have a more balanced relationship with salmon. Although we can’t be completely sure of that unless he faces the Mission Inn salmon a second time…