A Simple, Lucky Rainy Day Wedding
By Don R. Greenwood
I ask my wife of forty-four years, what comes to mind when she recalls our Knoxville, Tennessee wedding ceremony. She thinks for only a moment, and replies, “Simple.”
I can’t argue with that, it was very simple. Our ceremony took place without a rehearsal dinner, wedding consultant, catering service, or florist at the church. The December 1962 wedding didn’t cost more than $50, not counting the suits we both wore or the license. The Methodist Church Women hosted the reception, downstairs in the fellowship hall and donated the two arrangements of flowers. The church organist volunteered to provide the music, there were no instrumental or voice solos.
Our wedding couldn’t have been scheduled at a worst time or day, the Friday before Christmas, at two in the afternoon! We were young, 23 and 21, naive, and quite skinny, forty pounds lighter. Because of the day and time, and because we were married in a city neither of us called home, only twenty-five were present. Ann’s Kentucky mother and sisters, along with their husbands, my parents and brother from Southern California, three of Ann’s fellow nursing students, and several officers and enlisted persons from the Army recruiting main station made up the congregation.
As time for the beginning of the ceremony drew close, Ann and I worried what had happened to her family, driving south two hours from southeastern Kentucky. I kept looking at my watch, wondering if her Mom would be a no show. I certainly was not the number one favorite husband candidate to Ann’s family. I had at least two strikes against me, coming from California, and in the Army. To this day Ann’s mother likes to say, “Ann had so many boys wanting to marry her.” Finally, twenty minutes before two, Ann’s family arrived. It wasn’t until recently we found out what happened. Louis, young husband of Ivalene, Ann’s older sister, got lost in Knoxville. He didn’t want to stop and ask for directions.
The pastor who preformed the ceremony was a shy and pious middle-aged southerner, Mitchell O. Pettus. He wore a black preaching robe, with a white stole draped over its front. We had one premarital counseling session, during which we spent most of the hour planning the ceremony. The Rev. Pettus did stop once and advise me, “You know, Don, there’ll be a time each month when Ann doesn’t feel good.” That was the extent of our counseling and sex education. Apparently, he held the good opinion of me that Ann’s family did not. When he’d visit church members at the Presbyterian Hospital where Ann worked as a staff nurse, he’d say, “Ann, where did you find him. He’s such a good one.” He wanted Ann and me to join his church, but we chose nearby St. James Episcopal Church instead.
Sheets of rain fell all day before, during, and after our ceremony at the Knoxville Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church. I rushed in and out of the florist on the way to the church, soaked from the downpour and even more nervous, cussing in a way my brother and father still enjoy recalling. Earlier, I almost dropped the wedding cake, as I carried it from the car to the church fellowship hall. A picture of the bride and groom waving from our 1959 Chevrolet Impala has the front passenger window down. If it had been up, we would not have been seen.
The inside of the church was like our ceremony, plain and simple, no traditional stained-glass windows, instead multi-colored and opaque. The walls were bare, with no paintings, Stations of the Cross, or memorial plaques. Instead of one middle aisle and two sections of pews, the pews were in three sections, with two aisles. This meant we processed down the aisle to the left, and then recessed back up the right aisle. There was a large and dark wooden cross on the back wall behind the communion table, around which there curved a wooden kneeling rail. Two candles were on the table, with a few others in the same area unlit.
Ann wore a three-piece chocolate brown suit, a white pillbox hat, white gloves, with an orchid corsage pinned above her left breast. A recent graduate of St. Mary’s School of Nursing, she looked precious and innocent. My hair cut too short, I looked like a nerd. We purchased both our suits at Miller’s Department Store, across the street from the Army Recruiting Main station, where I was stationed as a green Second Lieutenant. I chose an inexpensive black suit and tie, because I didn’t want to purchase an Army Officer’s dress blues uniform. I didn’t enjoy my military service. Meeting and marrying Ann and the birth of our first son, Chuck, helped the two plus years go more quickly.
The ceremony itself didn’t last more than fifteen minutes. I was so nervous I don’t recall much except placing the ring on Ann’s finger, as she placed mine, kissing her. I breathed a sigh of relief as we quickly walked down the aisle behind my brother Carl and Ann’s sister, Unis.
After the reception, we drove forty-five minutes into the Smoky Mountains to the resort town of Gatlinburg. Sunday we entered the red doors of Trinity Episcopal Church, our first time in the church of my calling. After three nights at the Chalet Motel, we headed back to Knoxville, and into a snowstorm.
Don’t let anyone tell you that a rainy day wedding means bad luck. Ann and I both swear otherwise. After all, we had met on the first and last good blind date we ever had, seven months prior to our wedding.
I am a retired Episcopal Priest, living in SW Washington State, with my wife of 45 years. We moved here eight years ago, to be near our now eight grandchildren and their parents. I am presently Board President of NAMI-Clark County (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Contact Don.