The difference between a northern American wedding and a southern American wedding is the reception. In the south, there are (and don’t yell at me southern ladies) no invitations sent, just an announcement in the local paper that says Open Church Wedding. There would be the Protestant vows, which are wonderfully concise, followed by punch and mints at the reception in the church Fellowship hall, where the bride and groom were toasted with non-alcoholic punch. As a young girl, I loved these receptions- because it was basically an excuse to mainline sugar- in colors of the rainbow. The punch was hot pink, the mints were made in the shape of wedding bells to match the bridesmaids gowns. In the south, the wedding party was seriously theatrical. There were picture hats, bouquets, you get the picture. The bride wore a veil, a gown, often ordered from out of state- which could mean Kentucky or West Virginia or Tennessee if you were marrying in Big Stone Gap.
In the north, there’s an invitation, a sit down meal, dancing, a table displaying the wedding gifts and God’s gift to the single people in attendance: the open bar. As the ethnic groups fan out- there are all ways of putting on the party- the Italians sing the old songs in Italian, the middle Europeans have the same, including polkas and cake tables- there are cookie trays, and if you’re Jewish, more dancing.
Becca took her wedding seriously. There were printed programs, an organist and soloist, and a flock of bridesmaids. They were in the pastel palette, the colors of salt water taffy: soft yellow, mint green, pink, and of course Becca was in sunspot white.
As the girls processed into the church, one by one as hot house flowers, the organist played the opening chord of the song, which sounded classical- was it Mozart? I was too young to know, but the sound was lush, and foreboding. It was a hot summer day, but the music was practically wintry. Serious. I scanned the program, and it said: Processional……...The Reprise from A Little Night Music. Now, I may have the title wrong- years later, it had seared so deeply into my memory, when Becca came to see me on a book tour, I made her go back to that day and her choice of Stephen Sondheim in lieu of the traditional wedding march. Becca said, “I loved the Sondheim song and had to have it.” And I said, “You didn’t list Send in the Clowns in the program.” Becca replied, “I couldn’t do that to my wedding party.”
I was and remain sad that Becca passed on after getting cancer way too young. The world is less fun without her in it- and I can’t tell you what it meant to me when she would drive all over New Jersey to find me in a mall somewhere. She is the first person I thought of when Mr. Sondheim died.
Here’s the recipe for the mints as shared in the Big Stone Gap novel. And I’m throwing in our Italian wedding cookies here, because it’s always good luck to eat cookies on your wedding day. I don’t know if that’s true, but let’s go with it.
1-8 oz package Cream Cheese
1/4 tsp peppermint oil or other flavoring
2-1 lb packages of powdered sugar (fine)
Cream the cheese. Add the flavoring. Mix well. Add the sugar mixing until creamy. (Can use food processor using 1⁄2 of recipe at a time.) If more than one color is desired, separate the dough at this time. Mix in the coloring as desired using hands to mix. Wrap in plastic to prevent drying. Pinch off enough to place in molds. Before placing in mold, dip in granulated sugar, then place in rubber mold. After molded, pop out onto wax paper. Dry thoroughly. Will freeze or keep in refrigerator in airtight container for several weeks.