Meegan Kissinger Wore White

Baker’s Pick
Amanda Viviani

In my opinion, weddings are just a pissing match for girls. You get 100 of them in one over-priced, floating-candle and gardenia-bedecked banquet hall, and the hidden agenda becomes whose five-inch heels and $90 celebrity knock-off commands the most attention. The rest of the evening is spent taking bets on which member of the Sex and the Single Girl set, sloshed with champagne and teetering around on her gold spikes, is going to fall into the decorative fountain or drip rivers of cocktail sauce down her purple silk frock.

When we aren’t going to weddings, we work at them. The Old Man makes food for apple-cheeked, hand-holding young couples, wanna-be hipster brides, white-trash family barbecue nuptials and politically correct lesbian faux-ceremonies.

“I would prefer the coffee to be served table-side, and please try to find ivory linens.” Meegan reminds The Old Man for about the twentieth time. She raises her voice a few decibels, as if to make certain that we have heard her requests. We don’t really care one way or the other, since we’re just there having beers. Meegan, who wants to be shown the spelling of her name on the contract, to be assured of the presence of the extra “e,” is petite and appears to live in a tanning bed, as evident by the crispy-crinkly skin on her fried sternum. It’s humid outside, and her sprayed and gelled yellow hair sort of resembles an old fruit roll-up.

The Old Man takes his glasses off and grips one end in his teeth, mentally calculating. He’s got a bad back and a mean knife collection. He bids for replica daggers on eBay, and stockpiles them in his basement along with weird World War I bayonets and other sharp, pointy objects of fascination. God knows what he’s going to do with them—though we figure that’s why he makes such a great antipasto skewer.

The following weekend we toted tacos and peppery pico de gallo to a park shelter, where the groomsmen were throwing Busch Light cans into a wishing well and stubbing their cigarette butts out in the little metal grills.

Jaid and Derek, it turned out, were really into Mexico and all things Latin—if plastic red chili pepper lights can be considered an appropriate cultural symbol. She had tight, wiry-curly black hair and a bright white dress with red trim and a skirt with so many flounces, it looked like a Louis XVI window treatment. Her husband’s drunken buddies hoisted her high in the air, yelling and whooping a sort of Neanderthal celebratory chant.

I stood over the steaming tub of taco meat, feeling the humid sweat accumulate on my neck and watching the guests plod through the line. They always spent more time talking than serving themselves, and filling their plastic plates—you know, the kind with those little school-lunch dividers—to way past brimming. There was always someone who was vegetarian, or couldn’t eat dairy, or was allergic to anything remotely resembling, or touching, peanuts. Then they would stand at the end of the line, waiting for their specially ordered bland-o dinner to be handed over, watching me like a big-eyed puppy in the chow line.

At this particular reception, the special-food recipient was a diminutive, frizz-haired guy in a navy blue suit, the legs of which had obviously been tailored incorrectly, as the hems rose way above his black wingtips.

My serving companion nudged me lightly as Short Pants approached. What a dork. I mean, you don’t have to look like the guy at the wedding who needs a special meal.

Turns out that Short Pants was allergic to gluten—of course—and had to swap the taco feast for a spectrally bland-looking chicken breast with rice. He took his tin foil bowl with a nod, and stared down at the white protein and tasteless grains as if he had genuinely been looking forward to eating them. Which, I guess, was probably fairly realistic.

Not that he was really missing out on the spectacle of 150 wedding guests eating sloppy-spicy tacos in their suits and pastel dresses. Men held stuffed softshells up to their sideways mouths, dripping the tomato and jalapeƱo juices down over their gold watches and into white sleeves; women stood in circles and dug tortilla chips into piles of cilantro-flecked guacamole, whispering with hooded secrets or howling with high-pitched laughter.

Later, Short Pants found me standing with the dishwashers and their lit cigarettes, and tried to bum a smoke from someone, which we found pretty amusing.

Making enough hummus for 200 people is a real bitch. The Old Man is up to his arms in canned chickpeas, with legume-juice seeping out onto the counter, swearing about the recipe calling for tahini, and what the hell was that. Luckily, my job is counting out and sorting silverware, on a stool far from the whirring blender. I’m perched far away because I was the one who originally suggested making the hummus, and how gourmet that was, and wouldn’t it be easy and so much better than the kind the food truck dropped off every other Tuesday. Only now, it’s just not going so well. Choice words are flying out of The Old Man’s mouth like errant bees, and I could use some toasted pita chips for the amount of hummus on the stainless steel table. He doesn’t appreciate that remark—glares over his glasses with tired black eyes and lowered brows—but all I need to worry about is wrapping silverware in neat little folded linens, so what the hell do I care. I should make myself another vodka tonic.

On the hummus-day, six people come in to taste short ribs and bitch about prices. The bride and groom, trailing like meek and overwhelmed children, are escorted in by both sets of parents, who sweep in with the whoosh of air that accompanies the heavy glass door closing behind them. Both prim mothers are front and center, purses slung over their forearms, thickly-lipsticked mouths drawn sourly down, ready and aiming for judgment. All they’re missing are white gloves and some sort of hat that looks like a cotton-candy bird’s nest.

The fathers, in crisp khakis and sports-team polos, extend hands for shaking and clap The Old Man on the back, their loud-mouths running rife with money jokes, daughter jokes, you’d-better-give-us-a-damn-good-deal jokes. The young man, whose horsey height goes with his long horsey face, looks down at his little bride, and you can tell right about now that they’re wishing they’d gone to Mexico.

Once they’re seated, I get the careful task of delivering the complimentary wine—red, in tiny glasses—for the ladies and beer—skinny-necked bottles of thick dark micro brews or yellow cylinders of Miller—for the men. The mothers make a show of staring into their scarlet drinks, settling their napkins, sighing and rubbing their temples, weary with the weight of wedding planning.

The Old Man is in rare form tonight—he really wants this job. Five hundred guests means backbreaking work, means sucking up to gauche rich assholes, but mostly it means money to pay the bills, and maybe even a little something extra for himself. He’s wearing his white chef’s jacket, and we think he actually emptied the ashtray that usually sits on his desk, filled to the brim with crushed-out cancer. He likes to stand under the hood vents and suck down Winstons, stretching his back and muttering over the bubbly-hot fryer oil.

Now, though, he darts around like a nervous sparrow, refilling this and answering questions about that. The mothers frown at barbecue sauce on their fingers, they ask about silverware and china and the presence of wait staff.

“Will there be someone clearing the tables at all times?” This is the woman with the aversion to the barbecue sauce. I’ve pretty much dismissed her as a waste of time, and try to stay out of her Calvin Klein-scented way. I think she called me ‘girl’ the last time she wanted more wine.

Gotta hand it to The Old Man, though—he can be charming when he wants to be. He directs most of his attention to the bride and groom, even though they are practically silent. The mothers are so ensconced with executive decision-making, they fail to notice their husbands’ increasing beer tally. The first time the bride smiles, she looks up at The Old Man, grateful. Calvin Klein-Mommy doesn’t look thrilled as she propels her resplendent young daughter out to the Cadillac.

“Well,” I say resignedly, “there goes that one.”

The Old Man cracks his thick knuckles and twists open a beer, his self-satisfied grin showing even ivory teeth. “Bullshit!”

Meegan Kissinger’s name is spelled properly in silver script on all of the purple napkins, matchbooks and other gaudy wedding mementos that cost more than they’re worth. In fact, Meegan Kissinger’s wedding reception looks as if a 200-foot tall lilac bush threw up. She looks pretty good as a bride, with that canary-colored hair swept up and the filmy veil floating around her pink cheeks.

There are no sloppy-saucy short ribs after all, and no one is allergic to anything, so it’s actually not that horrible to be there, except for the fact that I have to wear black and white, with a ridiculous bow tie and chunky shoes that I loathe—they’re comfortable, so naturally I hate them. I hold aloft trays of appetizers, and when dinner comes I have to stand in the kitchen and help make a veritable field of salads: greens and tomatoes and croutons on little glass plates that are spread for miles on the counters and tables. One red wedge, two cucumbers, a few purplish onions—I pick a renegade fruit fly from one of the silver bowls of ranch dressing, scoop the black speck out of the creamy slop with my pinky finger. Think about how funny it is that a fruit fly is in Meegan Kissinger’s wedding salad dressing.

Her bridesmaids—all eight of them—are like the attendants in a movie wedding, traveling in a pack, flushed and giggling. They have traded their silver heels for white rubber flip-flops, which some bored family matron obviously embellished with rhinestones, in an attempt to make us forget that they are indeed flip-flops. In their lilac-colored silk, they lean elbows on the bar while waiting for their free beer, flirt with male guests, and speak too loudly, swollen with the status and duty of being one of Meegan Kissinger’s bridesmaids.

Meegan hangs on the tuxedoed arm of her new husband. “We met in college—I don’t know, maybe six, seven years ago? Tom?” Tom isn’t answering, and she scrunches her little nose briefly, frowning. “Well, I guess it was six. Who knows, right?” She laughs and sets her cheek on his shoulder, one hand constantly playing with the voluminous folds of her dress.

When they are eating later, at their long head table, raised up on its dais, I pass with a plastic tub full of dirty dishes. Meegan reaches over and pokes me on the arm with one French-manicured acrylic nail. When I turn, she tosses a salad plate on top of the stack.

“Thanks. You guys are doing a great job.” She tugs on her husband’s arm, “Aren’t they, Tom?” Her cheeks are bright red from the zinfandel she’s been drinking all night.

“Huh? Ya.” Tom’s mouth is full of chicken. Next to him, one of the fathers is pulling an envelope out of his breast pocket and handing it to The Old Man, who is sweaty and red-faced with work, but grinning like a Cheshire cat. I really hope there is a decent tip in there.

Later, I steal a piece of wedding cake and watch them dance. Newly married people always look as though they are living in a storybook, like they are imagining themselves far away from the big stupid party that they paid $20,000 for. Meegan and her husband look like any other wedding couple: elated, tired, half-drunk and with no real idea of what they are going to do when they wake up tomorrow. They’re actually kind of cute, the two of them, with their sleepy eyes and deliberately slow dancing. It’s OK that I have to pick up dirty napkins and dump chicken bones into the garbage, and scrub lipstick off wine glasses. It’s OK, I think, because they really are cute. And Meegan Kissinger’s wedding cake is really good.

Amanda Viviani is a 2003 graduate of Edgewood College in Madison, WI, where she received her B.S. in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is currently doing freelance copywriting and looking to pursue an MFA in fiction. E-mail: viviani.amanda5[at]