The Best Man Wore Blue Tights
“O Care, thou wilt despatch me, if music do not match thee. So deadly thou dost sting me, mirth only help can bring me.”
– “O Care, Thou Wilt Despatch Me,” Thomas Weelkes (1576 – 1623)
After being married for twenty years or so, my best friend, Dan, and his wife, Dawn, decided to renew their vows. They were married – for the most part – happily, but we all know that renewing, recommitting, and recreating can be a good thing. And it can be a time to be highly creative.
Dan and Dawn got married in 1990. It was not the first wedding for either one. In fact, both had been down the wedding road previously on a couple occasions. Their vow renewal though would be different. The anticipated reverence, solemnity, and decorum for this wedding ceremony would be a little less stringent and traditional. In fact, reverence, solemnity and decorum would not only be deemphasized, it would be thrown right out the window.
Dawn had an interest, and was doing research at that time, in Wicca, the religion of Paganism. One of the oldest traditions in the Wiccan religion was the Hand Fasting ceremony, which is attributed to the ancient Celts. In this ceremony, the bride and groom have their hands tied together with a ribbon to demonstrate their devotion to one another. This is purported to be where the saying “tying the knot” originated. Traditionally, the ribbon would be made of the tartan or color pattern of the groom’s family. In Dan’s case, it should have been a black bandana with a white outline of Jack Daniels on it.
In addition to spiritually binding the wedding couple’s lives together with a cloth or ribbon, another tradition of the hand fasting ceremony is for the bride and groom to jump over a broom. Though the tradition originated in Wales, jumping the broom is most associated with weddings between slaves in pre-Civil War America. What it actually represents is a new beginning. By jumping the broom, a newly married couple is symbolically crossing the threshold of a new home – and a new life – together. If a couple is already married and are renewing their vows, this indicates a new stage in their relationship, leaving behind old thoughts, behaviors, and patterns. Restarting with a clean slate. At least in theory, anyway.
Already, it was starting to sound a little odd and then it really took a huge left turn.
To offer a more authentic feel during the ceremony, Dawn decided she would like the guests to be dressed up. However, Donna Karan pant suits and Jerry Garcia ties were not quite what she had in mind.
“She wants us to dress up in medieval costumes for the ceremony, Dude,” Dan said to me as we were discussing it over beers one night.
As I wiped the beer that I just guffawed, through my nose, off the front of my shirt, I said to him, “You’re joking. Right?”
“You know I don’t joke when it comes down to something that Dawn really wants. And this is what she wants.”
“Well, ok. What are you going to dress up as?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’m thinking a pirate. I can just wear all black – like I normally do anyway – and wear boots and a pirate hat. And carry a sword,” was his answer.
Sounded like another Friday boy’s night out. Without the sword, of course. After all, we were in New Jersey, not Arizona.
And then he asked the fateful question, “What about you, Dude? What are you going to wear?”
“Me? I don’t know. Just regular clothes,” was my retort. “I don’t know about the getting dressed up in a costume thing.”
“Everyone in the wedding party has to be dressed in costume,” he said.
“Yeah, I want you to be my best man. You think I’m going to go all through this and just have you sitting there laughing at me? You’re going to be the best man and the emcee at the ceremony,” was his pronouncement.
“Well, being that you put it that way….”
As time went by, Dan would occasionally ask me what I was wearing. I would always tell him the same thing, “You’re the one that’s making me wear something really off the wall so you’re going to have to wait until then to find out what it is.”
Truth be told, I had no idea what I was going to wear. I thought about dressing as a musketeer or a knight or Robin Hood, but nothing was clicking. I wasn’t sure how I could even put something like that together. The time for the ceremony was looming, about a month away, and I still hadn’t made any progress. Eventually, I remembered there was a costume shop located next to theater a few towns away from where I lived. So, off I went to see if I could find an outfit that would impress William Shakespeare.
The shop was a costume paradise. The store not only supported the theater next door, but also worked closely with many of the major theaters in Philadelphia, giving it a much broader array of costumes than you could find in ten Halloween costume stores. There were costumes for astronauts and for vampires. For Indians – American and Asian. There were sheiks, witch doctors, colonial Minutemen, and World War I pilots. There were bears, rabbits, horses, and many other one and two person animal costumes. Not to forget Santa Claus and Satan eyeing each other up from opposing walls.
The best spot was the Renaissance room with hundreds of selections for everything from king to peasant girl. Potentates to friars. Blacksmiths, beefeaters, dancing girls, and soldiers lined the walls.
And that was where it grabbed my attention. It being a light blue tunic with a two-tone blue jacket and a blue velvet hat sporting a two foot long blue plume.
“Eureka,” I would have said had I been in one of Shakespeare’s plays.
It was perfect. The tunic came down to mid-calf. The jacket fit well without requiring any temporary alterations. The hat would be great as long I didn’t turn around too quickly and end up with the blue feather in my mouth. It was a cross between being a Capulet and a member of the Blue Man Group. There was only one thing missing.
“Where can I get blue tights my size to go with this?” was my innocent question to the store clerk.
“Well, right here, of course,” was his condescending reply.
Sorry, I thought to myself. He may handle requests from middle age men asking for blue tights every day, but this was a first for me.
On the Friday night following my visit to the costume shop came the inevitable, “So what are you wearing to the ceremony, Dude?” My reply was the same as always, “You’re going to have to wait to find out.” However, this time I added, “I’ll tell you one thing though. It’s blue.”
Finally, the wedding night arrived. As I put on my tights, I began to understand why women have complained for so many years about having to wear panty hose. Putting tights on was like trying to turn your lower body into an Italian sausage.
All set and ready to go, I grabbed my sword and made my way out the door to my sturdy steed. My trusty Acura. Walking down the driveway, one of my neighbors gave me an eyes-wide-open stare.
“I’m Sergeant-of-Arms at a wedding tonight. Thought I’d break out my dress uniform,” I shouted over to him.
He always thought Viet Nam vets were a little on the strange side, so why change his mind now?
Down the driveway and off to the wedding I went, hoping I didn’t get pulled over on the way.
The location of the wedding was the clubhouse for an in-the-woods housing and condo development. The community was beautiful with the clubhouse situated on a huge lake and surrounded by forests of pine trees. The temperature was perfect with a slight breeze coming across the lake. There were a few clouds in the sky, but the early fall evening was pleasant enough for the attendees to comfortably sit out on the deck, which ran the length of the clubhouse.
As I parked the car and walked across the parking lot, the snickering began. People I knew started laughing. People I didn’t know instantly decided they preferred it that way. I didn’t care. I was making my appearance – blue tights and all.
I walked onto the clubhouse and it was like a scene from a Twilight Zone episode – you know the one. Where all time and motion suddenly stops.
Out of the silence came Dan’s voice saying, “Dude! Oh, man. What the ….”
I interrupted him. “I don’t want to hear it, man. This was all your idea. You’re the only person that ever got me to dress up in blue tights. So I don’t want to hear a word out of you!”
He picked up a beer, brought it over and handed it to me. “Dude, you got balls.”
“Oh hell. Are the tights really that tight?” I asked.
About half the attendees were in some sort of costume while those not in costume stood around feeling superior for not dressing as foolishly as we did. All things considered though, everyone in costume seemed to be having a whole lot more fun.
The evening progressed and the mead and grog were definitely flowing. Finally, it came time for the ceremony. Since I was the emcee and best man, I was responsible for moving the evening along. I turned on the microphone and asked people to please quiet down as we were starting the ceremony. Because the party was already in full swing, I was verbally assaulted with epithets containing terms like “Poofta,” “nice legs,” and “Where’d you get the pretty panty hose?”
“They’re not panty hose, damn it. They’re tights,” I kept countering.
Finally, when the rowdy crowd settled down as much as they were going to, Dan, dressed as his version of Blackbeard the Pirate, and Dawn, whose costume reminded me of one of the eight maids a-milking, were in front of the crowd. The priest and priestess recited the rites of the hand fast, laying the cloth across and then tying it around Dan and Dawn’s hands. I didn’t hear the words of the rites too well because I was trying to determine if the mike was on while fiddling with the malfunctioning smoke machine and trying not to stab any unfortunate souls with an errant swing of the sword on my hip.
I do remember though, that as the evening wore on, the skies became increasingly cloudier. The slight breeze turned into a moderate wind. And, as if divined by the gods themselves, an incredible lightning storm hit the lake as soon as the ceremony was finished. Eerily, the timing could not have been more perfect had it been choreographed by Thor himself. The gods seemed to be expressing their displeasure at not being invited to the ceremony.
Inside, however, it was time to move the party along. Dawn threw the bouquet. It was caught by a buxom young serving wench who could have given the St. Pauli Girl a run for her beer steins. And then came the fun part. The garter.
As is the tradition, the single guys lined up, strutting and grunting like a muster of peacocks. They were alcoholically displaying their tail feathers to intimidate their competitors for the “prize.” And that prize was the chance to slide the garter up the shapely leg of the young lady sitting on the chair off to the side of the dance floor. The same young lady with a look of primordial fear that one of these half-shot, would-be suitors would end up falling on top of her while trying to encase her leg in a lacey band of elastic.
Dan stood in the middle of the floor, his back to the milling herd of testosterone. Looking over at me, he just smiled and nodded.
Into the microphone, I chanted, “One. Two,” and hesitated. As the crowd teetered on the brink of a full forward charge, Dan slowly and purposely strolled over to me and handed me the garter. The mad man mob was somewhere between stunned and outraged. How dare that we put the fix in. How dare that I, someone who was already married, would have the chance to run the garter up the leg of one of the most attractive maidens in attendance that night.
And then, through the aura of booze-fumed anger and dry ice smoke, came Dawn’s voice. “Oh. Look at their little faces,” was all she said. At that, everyone started laughing as the guys realized they’d been had. Dan and I had set this prank up months ago.
Needless to say, the rest of the evening went totally downhill from there and a good time was had by all. The beer flowed. The wine flowed. The comments flowed. The fun flowed.
The evening went well enough for me. I didn’t pass out. I didn’t fall into the lake. I didn’t stab anyone – inadvertently or on purpose, though there were a couple times….. And I stayed sober enough to remember not to mix the wine and beer. At the same time anyway.
There was one downside to the evening though. I eventually got a runner in my tights and had to fend off countless people who wanted to see just how far up the runner went.
The evening ended as all medieval celebrations should when Dan and I crossed swords and proved to all present why neither one of us could ever have qualified to be a real musketeer.