Weddings: a sweet celebration of love, happiness and two wills bending to become one, or a night to be endured of cheesy dance hall classics, tasteless food* and boring speeches?
My little sister Karen’s was definitely the former.
Karen and I first met at church two years ago, back when I could barely string a sentence together in Spanish. I met her family at church and long story short, I ended up moving in with them and sharing a room with her.
I can safely say that without Karen, there is no way I would be back in Mexico. As my translator and somewhat of a guide, she took me out, introduced me to all her friends, showed me how to catch the bus everywhere (604 baby!) and really made my time in Mexico more than just an exchange. And then, of course, as a sister she listened to me worry about the boy I had a crush on (he’s now my husband), comforted me when all I wanted was to hear some English, dammit, and threw a surprise birthday party for my 21st - complete with piñata.
And so of course there was no way I was going to miss her wedding.
I nearly did though.
On the day of the wedding, we’d all gone to get our hair and make-up done. After, I’d gone out for lunch and to run some errands. But Mexican punctuality combined with my punctuality** meant I arrived home at pretty much the time my family was planning to leave. I had my outfit planned out - one of the benefits of traveling is the pre-planning, and anyone who’s been to Mexico would know there was no guarantee I’d be able to find anything that wasn’t tight, made of Lycra and covered in diamantés - so I threw it on, grabbed my essentials and ran out the door.
Unfortunately, my essentials in Mexico covered only a small coin purse with enough money to get me through the day, but not my wallet. I was in the car on the way to a temple wedding, and I didn’t have my temple recommend.
Since we were already running late***, I asked my family to drop me off by the side of the road so they could keep going and hopefully make it on time. I would take a taxi back to the house, grab my recommend and meet them there.
I hailed the first taxi and told the driver I would pay the meter fare**** if he drove as fast as possible - a pretty good preposition, considering the fact that it was peak hour. We drove back to my place, I threw all dignity out the window to hike up my dress and jump over the fence and ran in to get my recommend. In my mind I thought, ‘Temple ho!’
Then came the ‘Oh, expletive’ moment. My mind had been so concentrated on getting my recommend that I’d forgotten to grab enough money to pay for the taxi. I wanted to die, but instead I started crying.
“¡No llores!” said the taxi driver (he was a really kind hearted bloke). I didn’t know what to do. If I went back, I wouldn’t make it to the wedding on time - not a good idea when I’d flown all the way from Sydney for this moment. If I kept going, I wouldn’t have enough money - I only had a 50 peso note and maybe some loose change, in my estimate probably 60 pesos at most. Not enough for a ride I was expecting to cost at least 200 pesos. And I didn’t want to have to borrow money on arrival because I had already caused enough trouble, but it seemed like that was the only option.
I decided to keep going. Thanks to the driver’s knowledge of the city roads, we made it in pretty good time. When we got to the temple, we were on the other side of the road but he said he would do a U-turn and drop me off inside, so I wouldn’t have to run as far in my heels to ask for money. I took out the 50 peso note and tipped out my coins to see how much I would need to beg or borrow (not steal).
Ten peso coin. Another ten peso coin. Two five peso coins.
The meter read 101 pesos. Perhaps I wouldn’t need to borrow as much I’d thought.
Two plus two plus one. I grouped the two and one peso coins into groups of five. Five, ten… Fifteen, twenty. I had a hundred pesos. No manches. The meter read 102.50. Including my 50 and 10 centavo coins, I had enough.
I said to the taxi driver “Tengo 102.50; ¡aquí esta bien!” I didn’t want him to keep driving lest the metre go up. He looked at me, with my hands holding all my coins, and shook his head in a way that said, ‘You are either crazy lucky, or crazy.’ He dropped me off on the temple grounds anyway. By the time we got there, the meter read 105. But 102.50 was fine.
The wedding itself - all three parts - was the epitome of Mormonism with a Mexican twist. The civil ceremony, held in a tiny Sunday school room (the hall had been double booked and was filled with balloons and disco music when we arrived), was beautiful as Karen and Gus completed their paperwork with that cheerful and almost oblivious bliss that only comes on your wedding day, and the religious ceremony in the temple was even more so.
The reception was more Mormon than Mexican, i.e. it finished at 11 and there were definitely no borrachos; but there was still dancing, 50 more people than were invited, and a gorgeous candy buffet put on by our tía Karla that involved copious amounts of candy hearts (besos!), Hershey’s kisses, marshmallow twists and a tower of cupcakes topped with two paper figures that were meant to carry pictures of Karen and Gus, but due to fact that they’d forgotten to give Karla pictures of themselves, carried images of two totally random telenovela actor-looking people.
But did that matter? Not really. At the end of the day, I asked Karen if the wedding was what she had wanted. Her teal-colored shoes were on the floor. One of her sisters couldn’t make it from Canada for the wedding, but her oldest sister and beloved brother-in-law was there, her family was there, her best friends from school were there and all the people from church who had seen her grow up were there. She had a massive grin on her face, and her eyes lit up as she responded, “Sí”. And that was what mattered most.
* and the ubiquitous and, quite frankly, offensive steamed vegetables.
** well, lack thereof on both of our parts.
*** and feeling like absolute dirt because this was also my fault.
**** you normally bargain a set fare with taxis In Mexico, which is really convenient if there is a lot of traffic