As soon as I got the wedding invitation, I was worried about what to wear. Could I go with my all-purpose black dress — can you wear black to a wedding in Mexico? My only dress shoes with heels are brown; should I go get new black ones?
A friend accompanied me to a shoe store and artisans’ market to contemplate black shoes and a colorful shawl, but the $500 peso shoe price (exorbitant at about $50 U.S. here) put me off. I also have several shawls already. I ended up not buying anything new but painted my toe- and fingernails for the occasion.
Then José told me he didn’t even want to go to the wedding because he couldn’t afford a nice gift (the bride was one of his sister Lety’s kids). I said I’d help with the gift, but I thought it would be nice for us to attend even though the invitation had come only six days in advance of the wedding, la boda.
We went by José’s mom’s house to pick her up — she doesn’t have a phone, so we just went by an hour early. She was in gardening clothes and insisted she hadn’t received an invitation, though at 83 her mind is slipping just a little. She refused to clean up and come with us. With too much time to spare, we arrived at the Salon de Fiestas — a public venue where most Mexican families hold big events, since noone’s house is big enough for a party. The gate was locked, but then we were 45 minutes early.
We walked around the block; it started to rain. I was glad I wasn’t wearing new shoes since there were no sidewalks. José was tricked out in a double-breasted suit with pink tie, muy mafioso. I had a pink shawl to match, and the brown shoes didn’t look all that bad with the black dress in the fading light.
The family arrived at 7 with the bride in a white bustier dress laced within an inch of her life. The Salon de Fiestas had a nice outdoor garden room, but the open gate allowed in a pack of street dogs who fought and copulated for a while before someone kicked them out. A woman judge performed a civil ceremony in about 10 minutes. The couple had wanted to wait a little longer to get married but didn’t want to be upstaged by the bride’s very pregnant and unmarried sister, due to deliver in a few weeks.
Emilio the groom is 26 and an orthodontist, Dafne the bride 27 and a teacher, old enough to at least suspect what they’re getting into. Besides babies, weddings are the most blatant expression of raw hope that we humans celebrate. I’m sure all of us, carrying our own old tattered baggage of past lives, hoped this couple would beat the odds.
Drinks progressed from 2-liter bottles of Coke and Squirt to beer, champagne, red wine, brandy and aged rum. The dancing got heated, with those Latin salsa genes in full swing. Black was fine: in fact, the banquet theme was black and white. No one said a thing about my shoes.
It was messy (many spilled drinks) and noisy, a good start to married life — which will never, ever be perfect: might as well start off honestly. Everyone danced with everyone, kids to grandparents, and there wasn’t another gringa in sight.
In the end, I was glad I hadn’t spent the 500 pesos on new shoes. That’s what we gave as the wedding present.