Being the oldest of a Pastor and his wife, we as their children, had so many advantages. Staying up late with the adults on Sunday nights and one day in April 1967, we were little bridesmaids in one of many weddings that Daddy married the couple. The couple not only loved us, but Mummy and Daddy had to be in the couple’s wedding album, along with my baby sister. Daddy was the youngest Pastor our church ever had in Loughborough, England, in the county of Leicestershire.
It was a very small church and the parsonage was adjacent to the church. No matter how close the church was to our house my mum was an absolute maniac when it came to being on time for Sundays, we were the family of the pastor, unheard of being late. Yet when Sundays came I could never find my red or black paten leather shoes with my Sunday outfits. We were always dressed to the nines. My mum never wore makeup, her skin was flawless. She always had a hat, gloves, handbag and her “fall” piece of hair added to her natural hair, it was the thing to do in those days. My mum would sew our clothes, if she didn’t we would visit Marks & Spencer’s and wear matching outfits, if not all three of us at least two of us did. I can’t tell you it wasn’t embarrassing most of the time, because it was! “Mummy” I would always protest, “I am the oldest! Why do I have to look like we’re twins all the time! I’m tired of looking like Kay! Shes only 5! Can I please pick my own dress? Please!?” It didn’t work, Mummy didn’t even move to another section of the store to pick something different for me. It was the usual piercing of her lips, meaning, “If you don’t be quiet I will make you sit outside and wait until we’re done” or the damaging to my head “If you don’t be quiet, Daddy will find out” I knew every “No’s” to my protests without any words being said, the decision was always based on how long I kept going on. I stopped whining yet I didn’t stop with my head hanging down, arms folded, and didn’t answer any questions Mummy had about the outfits she picked. I figured the more I was annoying, maybe she would give in. No, it never worked and I found myself sitting outside on a bench. Remember this was the late 60’s, no one was afraid to discipline their child by having them wait outside. We would never move and no one came over to try to take us, it was just the times. I might as well of not been there since i started in again, I didn’t care, I didn’t want to look like my sister all the time.
Fast forward to the wedding. In England it didn’t matter whether you were 2 or 22, there are no flower girls, only bridesmaids, and that’s what we were asked to be for that day. I remember it was April and it had rained so much before the wedding, not so much that day, but the days before. Mrs. Partridge loved us so much, the brides mum, that she wanted her daughter to have our dresses look like hers, white; first mistake.
On the morning of the wedding I can’t say it was complete chaos with three children all under the age of 9, but it was pretty close. Not only did Jill, the bride, have children as two young bridesmaids but she also had three older bridesmaids, and one of them looked like she was sick. Her face was ashen, and since the wedding was very early, no one had eaten. I kept staring at her, she looked as if her world was coming to an end, but I had other issues.
My sister and I were only 20 months apart, but completely opposite in height, personality, and Kay always looked like she was going to cry at the drop of a hat. She cooperated with everything, but she never spoke out of turn, or got in trouble. If she did I honestly felt she thought her life was over, she would cry for hours thinking Daddy would ever be disappointed in her.
The moment had come, we were about to put our dresses on, unfortunately because we were so young we had no control over our own dress, or what other things were going to be placed in our hands. The adults in charge picked them off the rack, found one of us and put the dress on. Did they look to see if it was the right dress for the right child, not really. To the adults it wasn’t that important, they knew we wore each others clothes at times, no big deal; the bride was the big deal she was getting married. Dresses were on, and then it came down to fixing our hair. The adults said, “Dresses first before hair because the dresses won’t go over their hairdo and they may ruin everything”. Everyone was in agreement, but I was in heaven anyway. I was going to walk down the aisle for a wedding, I was wearing a beautiful white bridesmaid dress, and now I was getting an adult hairdo! I was giddy at the thought of hair curlers in my hair, and what chaos that went into it. My hair was so thick, plus in the hair we had to wear a circle of flowers. No one was exactly sure what to do with all my hair? Should it be kept down, but if its kept down where will we put the flowers? It was as if I was getting married at this point because everyone had an opinion on what to do with my massive amount of hair. Finally they took the curlers out, it was if I put my fingers in an electric socket! It was a huge amount of curly hair for such a little girl, so a decision had to be made again. It wasn’t staying down, “she looks like shes wearing a wig, it’s just too much!” My mum was frantic. I had to have it brushed out and put in a bun, not just any bun, the biggest bun placed on the top of my head. It looked like I had a “bun wig”. There were giggles, sighs, my mum thought I looked too old. I loved it and wore a permanent smile on my face. I was done and it was Kayes turn. She had short, wavy hair. Mum had placed pin curls in her hair before getting dressed, so we all thought she was done. No such luck, when her hair was brushed out Kay looked like she was wearing a “hair nest”, baby birds could of hatched from her head, it was so high! So the ladies got together and put their minds at work, “Where are we going to put the flowers in her hair?” Again the same thing happened, but this time with shorter hair. They took whatever was a little longer at the top and made it look like she was wearing a crown of flowers with hair around it. I laughed so hard, but as usual she cried. I got in trouble for making her cry, as usual. We put our shoes on and were ready to walk into the church, except for one minor problem. Our dresses were on, shoes in place, little handbags and hair done with all the trimmings, but did anyone look at who was wearing what dress? No. I was at least 6 inches taller, and Kay was wearing my dress and I was wearing hers, more tears and this time not from us. My mum and the dressers were so upset. They didn’t even look at the name on the dress and who was wearing it. Mine was completely at my ankle and Kay looked like she was swimming in hers. It wasnt like you didn’t see it, it was visible to the naked eye. “Well” one of the ladies slowly started to say, “ah, there’s nothing we can do now except hope that Kay doesnt trip, I’m sorry I thought they wore the same sizes?” And this statement came from a responsible adult? Clearly we were not the same height and that’s why we were fitted for the dresses weeks before the wedding. My mum felt like she had to say something, “We have to go now and everything will be fine”. That was easy for her she got herself dressed and looked great.
We all started to walk out of our parsonage into the church, and not one time but several times my mum yelled, “D. please don’t run! There are puddles everywhere from the rain!”. I don’t think I heard her or maybe I didn’t want to because running I did, and then it happened. I tripped right into a mud puddle between one of the concrete steps walking into the church. My mum gasped, I thought she was going to cry and kill me all at the same time. First we looked ridiculous with the wrong dresses and bouffant hairdo, and now because my dress was so short one of my little white shoes near the toe was black. I was dead, all I imagined was my daddy spanking me in front of the wedding march, but he couldn’t he was already at the altar with the groom, saved by Gods mercy. Not really, my mum grabbed my hand, took me aside while the others were piling into the church and spanked my behind once so hard, that I knew I wouldn’t get spanked by daddy, double jeopardy, already taken care of. I held back my tears, got in line and tried to smile my big toothy smile walking down the aisle, hoping no one could see the black toe on my white, lace shoe.
In those days the bridemaids would always walk behind the bride in England. The church would always stand along with the bridal party and sing hymns right out of the hymnal. Its long and when you’re young, you can be very antsy. I can honestly say I wasn’t antsy but I was trying to hide my shoe most of the time, plus connecting with my daddy’s eyes, making sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong. When your dad is a pastor you better make sure that if he’s performing a wedding or a church service your body better not be moving, swaying, or looking in any direction except the front, and at the cross.
We stood next to the bride and her groom without a hitch. The hymns continued, the congregation was still standing and daddy started preaching, like he always did before weddings. Just before the end of the last hymn, English people, love to sing, a thud happened two bridesmaids down the line. Joys girlfriend, the one in the room looking sick decided that not eating before the wedding was not the best thing to do, so in the middle of hymn singing, she fainted on the churches pew. Now many people look at Brits and think they’re rude. We’re not rude, we just don’t get alarmed and things get swept under the rug a lot. So when this beautiful girl fell face down, half the church didn’t know it, the organist kept playing since obviously she didn’t know. What else was there to do? She was left face down on the pew, left to sleep it off until she came around. At the time i didn’t think anything of it, but when i think back I wish video cameras were around. She wasnt out long and as usual my mum came to the rescue, after we finished singing, she rescued the poor girl, and brought her to the back. A wedding with two little girls whose dresses were completely the wrong sizes, one shoe that was black with mud, and now a bridesmaid who hit the floor from lack of food, oh and it was now raining, I’d say the day was perfect. You can’t go through life without crazy things happening in your family, but this was happening to another family, the brides. Thank God I didn’t do anything wrong this time.
The rest of the wedding went off without a hitch, I can’t think of what else could have gone wrong. We still had the love of the people, my mum and dad stood in the back with the newly married couple, and both my sister and I were greeted with smiles and “you’re both so pretty and so well-behaved” as they were pinching our cheeks. As far as the poor bridesmaid who took a nose dive, she ate something and sat down the rest of the day. These are things, and events that are forever etched in my mind, never forgotten with age, only to be looked back with fondness.