Island Living: Getting married Hatteras-style 

By JOY CRIST


So if were up to me, I would have eloped to Vegas months ago to get married by the closest available Elvis impersonator.

Unfortunately for me, I do believe that my close family and friends, whom I love dearly and don’t want to disappoint, either:

A) Do not recognize Elvis as a religious figurehead and / or

B) Do not believe that a Vegas Elvis impersonator should shoulder the responsibility of executing life-long contracts, specifically a marriage.
So given this, I suppose that maybe I’m just not the marrying type.

According to television, which is where I get the majority of my information, apparently most women have these fabulous and intricate plans for the perfect wedding beginning at the age of 3. These plans include, but are not limited to, a gown that takes 12 unwilling children to trail after and hold up, thousands of people to witness, and receptions that cost $1 million and last for a week.

At least that’s what I’ve gathered from all the wedding shows I’ve seen.

And it occurs to me that this makes me odd -- shocking surprise -- as I have never had an elaborate wedding fantasy.

Sure, I had all sorts of aspirations as a child. At one point or another, I wanted to be a teacher, a florist, the president, a professional saxophone player, and a fire engine. But married? That was never one of my childhood dreams.

So here I am, at the ripe old age of, um, let’s say 30-something, and I find myself engaged.

Granted, the man I’m engaged to is fantastic and very much marry-able. He likes to garden, loves our cats, agrees that “Jackie Brown” is the best Tarrentino movie ever, and will even tolerate my gross infatuation with both the Redskins and cheesy musicals.  (How come there are no musicals about football? Perhaps that’s a rant for another day. )

But seriously, with all these wonderful qualities, and a razor sharp sense of humor to boot, I consider myself quite lucky on the fiancÚ front.

Want to hear our romantic “how we got engaged” story? Too bad, you’re going to hear it anyway.

So a couple falls ago I was out of town for a work function, and my gentleman suitor made elaborate plans to propose to me on one knee the instant I got home and walked through the door.

When the big day arrived, however, my flight to Virginia Beach was delayed. I got home at 3 a.m., and he had fallen asleep.

No worries, because we were planning to go on an inshore fishing trip with the fantastic Jerry Teel of Got ‘Em Charters  two days later, and he decided to do it on the trip. He’d get down on one knee on the bow of the boat around sunset-ish, or earlier, depending on how much we caught and/or how much beer we drank.

Well, when the big day arrived, the winds were blowing 25-30 mph, so we couldn’t go out.

This brings us to plan C. We had both taken off work that day, so instead of taking a boat trip, we had a hearty take-out lunch from La Fogata and sat on the couch watching an “Animal Hoarders” marathon. (If you have multiple cats and/or dogs, this program will always make you feel better about yourself, because, hey, at least you don’t have feral raccoons rooting through your bathroom trash can.)

Then my gentleman suitor got down on one knee in front of the couch and asked me to marry him, and through a mouthful of refried bean chalupas, I happily agreed.

Romantic? Not by some people’s standards. Perfect for us? Heck, yeah, as I have no problem with tasty Mexican food being an integral part of any of my life’s milestones. As I understand it, there is a La Fogata across the street from the Outer Banks Hospital, which I will keep in mind in case we decide to have children.

But the point of this back story is that we got officially engaged.

And as we start to hem and haw over our wedding plans and whom we should invite and where we should have it, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera -- thank you to “The King and I” for introducing me to that phrase -- I am frankly overwhelmed.

When did a wedding become a giant extravaganza that involves $1,000 cakes, $100,000 receptions, and all the flair and showmanship of a Kiss concert -- but, for the most part, without the heavy makeup?

Is this the sort of thing you have to do nowadays to get hitched? Have flawless centerpieces and floral arrangements and attractive wedding party participants, coordinated by a wedding planner who takes his or her cues from the latest celebrity wedding trends as directed by Heidi and Spencer?

This daunting task alone left me a bit stranded, and perhaps misguidedly, seeking out the comfort of a Las Vegas Elvis-impersonating minister who could get us on our way without the fuss.

Not that I really have much to complain about on a large scale, mind you.

I have incredible friends with equally incredible soundfront bed and breakfasts or awesome, big-party-accommodating restaurants, who upon hearing we were engaged, told us within minutes that we should have it there and they would help us with the cost.

And here’s another part where I am truly, and undeniably lucky – my family and my fiancÚ’s family are just amazing people.

I have close friends who have had to suffer through future mothers-in-law wearing elaborate white gowns that Kate Middleton would envy or distant relatives bringing their own six-packs of Busch beer to the ceremony -- with a chorus of group pop-topping when the minister says “You may now kiss the bride” to boot. 

And I even have one friend in particular -- true story -- whose best man deemed the official toast the perfect time to relay the best and most graphic fart joke in his repertoire.  (And it was a big repertoire.)

I will never have to go through any of that internal worry that some brides do of “Oh, God, I hope Uncle Eddie keeps his pants on!” or “Someone needs to keep the Smith cousins away from the limited number of crabcakes before a fight breaks out” or whatever little, um, “etiquette” emergencies arise when all of your relatives are crammed into one location, and booze is available. My biggest fear is that my dad will insist on karaoke at the reception, so we will all be treated to a round of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheel’s “Devil in a Blue Dress,” which is something I can easily live with. Shoot, I will probably sing backup.

So, yes, I am terribly lucky.

The devil, my friends, is in the details.

Sure, I can plan the broad strokes of a fabulous soundfront location with a background soundtrack of nothing but Mitch Ryder -- with a little Curtis Mayfield or Temptations thrown in as time allows.)

But do I know what centerpieces I want? What the “Save the Date” cards should look like? What the engagement shower should entail, or what color linens I want?  (And do I even know what qualifies as “linens” anyways? Those are napkins, right?)

Why can’t I just invite my friends, colleagues, and family to show up at such-and-such location, watch us get hitched, and then help us drink a keg of Sam Adams while we do the mashed potato and cabbage patch to Mitch Ryder’s greatest hits?

According to every wedding show I’ve watched -- and it’s been a long winter so I’ve seen quite a few -- you can only enjoy this kind of matrimonial freedom if you jet off to some exotic locale, like Cabo, or Elvis-infested Vegas, or some fancy resort in the Caribbean. And, honestly, as a couch-loving, La Fogata aficionado, this is not my scene.

Ah, but therein lies the solution, my friends.

How many Hatteras Island brides have you seen walking down the beach to their ceremony in fancy shoes? How many island receptions have you gone to where the immediate wedding party was not donning flip-flops and/or sunglasses?

My guess is none of  them.

My fiancÚ’s brother and now sister-in-law got married on the sound in April in front of a rental home. And while the ceremony was elegant, it was quintessential Hatteras.

The bride was radiant and barefoot in a gorgeous dress that worked well with the island wind, and the groom and groomsmen glowed in white linen pants and casual button-down shirts.

When we headed down to the Hatteras Civic Center for the reception, the vibe was casual, with some folks eating, some folks dancing, some folks drinking, and everyone having a good time.

So the message seems to be that for folks like me, who don’t necessarily want 18 showers before an elaborate wedding or who won’t cry for hours if those mysterious “linens” aren’t just so, Hatteras Island is the place to get hitched.

Do I want to spend the majority of “My Big Day” wandering around in $1,000 shoes that will pinch my feet at every turn? Not if I want to dance to Mitch Ryder.

 Do I want to plan intricate showers, engagement parties, and an expensive, yet flawlessly executed, reception? Not if I want to actually enjoy the wedding and have a life in the process.

Nah. When I wed my sweet gentleman suitor, I want to shimmy down a sand isle in flip flops or less. I want some good food, some good music, and a genuine celebration of friends who like hanging out with each other.

I want everyone to leave without a thought to how the roast was cooked or how the seating was arranged or what flowers could have surpassed my blue hydrangea bouquet, plucked from our garden hours before the ceremony.

After all, in my very limited fantasies at least, weddings aren’t grandiose showpieces of how much money you have to blow and how efficiently and precisely you can do it. They are a celebration of people who love each other and who are making a life-long commitment, who are asking their friends and family to show up and be happy for them ‘cause they’re just plain happy about getting hitched too.

I’ve gotten soft at my old 30-something age, I’m sure. But something about recognizing and appreciating the folks who come down to Hatteras Island and share this ideal resonates with me.

They get it.

And, hey, at least I’m not still trying to accomplish my childhood goal of being a fire engine. After all, I doubt I have the voice for it.

And I commend all the brides, visitors or locals, who choose Hatteras Island for their wedding and who share the revolutionary idea of not setting up an affair worthy of a Kiss concert but one that actually focuses on the whole “getting-married” thing in the perfect location for come-as-you-are celebrations.

Does that make me a Bridezilla, as my wedding shows would suggest? Well, fine. So long as I can be a barefoot one.

Let’s face it -- getting married island-style is the perfect way to celebrate one of life’s milestones, without all the frills and other silly rituals that seem to come with it.

Speaking of life milestones, I wonder if La Fogata caters weddings?

(Joy Crist and her fiancÚ are spending the winter at their newly purchased property in the mountains of North Carolina, though she insists she will be back on Hatteras one of these days – maybe for her wedding. Meanwhile, she may occasionally write about island life from her new perspective.)


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