I have a thing with weddings.
No matter what I do, I always seem to be late to ‘em.
There was the time in Chicago where I got stuck in traffic and then subsequently lost in traffic. When I finally frantically rushed into the ceremony, nearly an hour late, I realized that I didn’t actually recognize anyone in the sanctuary. Turns out I was at the wrong wedding in the wrong church.
The next summer, there was a wedding up in Milwaukee. Heavy traffic out of Illinois caused a bit of a lead foot crossing into Wisconsin, so it was no surprise when I got pulled over for speeding. With a $250 ticket crumpled into the glove box, I pulled up late to the wedding anyway.
There’s nothing like opening the doors in a church, interrupting a wedding ceremony that’s already in progress. The sound of creaking door hinges and the glare of the beam of sunlight you invite inside simultaneously turn the heads of the dozens of already-seated, smugly-on-time guests. They all want to check the identity of this offending Late Person. Does she belong to the groom’s side or the bride’s? Their eyes follow you -- the clack-clack of the high heels you painstakingly picked out to match your dress embarrassingly echoing through the sanctuary -- to see which side of the aisle you sit on. You sink into the pew in shame, catching the glare of at least one of the members of the Bridal Party, if not the Bride and Groom themselves.
About a month ago, I was invited to attend a wedding here in Huajuapan. I thought Mexican Time would be on my side for this event, that there would be a possibility of actually arriving on time, since “on time” here in Mexico essentially means “60 to 90 minutes late.”
Unfortuantely, my date/ride, in true Mexican fashion, was more than three hours late to pick me up. (FYI, three hours late is very, very late, even by the generous standards of Mexican Time.) Together, we faced the embarrassment of arriving at the reception just after the meal had been served. The entire party of 200-plus guests looked up from their nearly-clean plates to gawk at the strange, tall gringa clack-clacking her way to be seated at the unadorned, fold-out table in the corner. We were served cold macaroni-and-hot-dog salad for dinner because they’d run out of the real stuff.
It felt like sitting the kid’s table at Thanksgiving. Until you learn to act like a grown-up -- chew with your mouth shut, get along with your little sister, arrive on time to things for once -- you’re relegated to PB&J sandwiches at the card table in the kitchen while everyone else is eating drumsticks in the dining room.
So, this Saturday, when a friend invited me to his Big Day here in Huajuapan, I saw it as an opportunity to redeem myself with the Wedding Gods, particularly those of the Mexican variety: I wouldn’t rely on the graces of Mexican Time for this wedding. I’d just try to arrive, well, on time for once.
On Saturday morning, I studied the ceremony start time listed on the invitation: 12 o’clock noon. Time doesn’t get lost in translation.
I nagged my date -- the same guy who’d inflicted the three-hours-late incident on me -- to be ready early. We were leaving at twenty-to-twelve at the very latest. I wasn’t going to suffer that kind of embarrassment again. ¿Comprende?
I nagged him when we left late, at 12:15, because he'd forgotten to sign the card and couldn't figure out what to write. I kept nagging him when we inevitably got lost on the way to the ceremony. (How do you not know where to go? Aren’t there, like, three streets in this whole town?) And the nagging continued as we pulled up to the event, a full forty minutes late.
At 12:40 pm, the familiar feeling of dread churned in my stomach as I played the inevitable scenario in my head: the opening of church doors, the interrupting of sermons, the clack-clacking of high heels, the eating of cold macaroni and hot dogs…
Hand-in-hand, we crept up to the wedding site (it was an outdoor wedding, so there were no doors to be open, gracias a Dios) to find…
…a handful of inpatient-looking people scattered in the audience, a maintenance crew still setting up the priest’s podium, and the band doing their ever-essential check-check on the stage.
The impatient-looking people in the audience looked up, gawked at the strange, tall gringa, and followed the clack-clack of her high heels to see where she sat: Bride’s side or groom’s side? Who arrives this early?
The groom himself showed up at 1:30 pm.
Additional guests began filing in around 2 pm, and the ceremony began at about 2:30.
Right on time, y’all. We, obviously, were just 2.5 hours early this time around.
The bride’s sister arrived at about 3 pm.
Her late arrival turned a few heads, but her high heels didn’t make a sound.
I hated her for that.