Sara and Matt’s Traditional Wiccan Wedding on Cocoa Beach

One thing about being Catholic is that we’re not allowed to rag on anyone else’s religion; gone are the days when dire consequences would accompany any religious act not taking place within the hallowed precincts of a Catholic Church. Eating meat on a Friday was bad enough, but attending a Protestant service– and participating!!– was like riding a leaky rubber raft down the river to Perdition City.

Not that most people paid attention to all that, really. Divorce? We divorced. Birth control? Over 90% of the faithful continued using birth control even after Paul VI’s famous veto of the decisions of the majority of the bishops during Vatican II. So there ya go. Wiccans? There weren’t any Wiccan families on my Brooklyn block that I know of, so this was a nice opportunity to partake of yet another religious tradition.

Our friend Sara married her beloved Matthew at a touching Wiccan ceremony out on Cocoa Beach yesterday, and a good time was had by all. Yes, there were some raised eyebrows as well as a tiny bit of amazed tittering during the pronouncements, but eventually everyone got it: it wasn’t about black magic or the devil, and nobody ever mentioned Rosemary’s baby, not even once. The shaman shared words of encouragement and love, had them plight their troths to one another, swept away evil by using a broom while circling the groom and then the bride, and then had them stand on a raised platform where they drank and ate symbolic food. He bound their hands together with a rope and that’s how they exited: linked together with love.

The color theme was black and violet and green, though the bride was in traditional white and the groom was kilted. The colors were carried over into the reception hall at the Tides Club, where bunting draped the utilitarian banisters and floated down from the ceiling in airy arcs. And in that space you had all the wedding traditions as practiced during the late twentieth / early twenty-first centuries.

My Manhattans came in a proper vessel  rather than in the current martini glass that seems to be wrapped around every cocktail of choice these days. I paid, and we got ready to leave, but intrepid Yesun chased me down because she had made a mistake on my tab; I thought I’d been getting a hefty discount (which I’d mentioned when paying) because I’m so charming, but that wasn’t the case.

The whole experience was a wonderful mix of traditions and people, and I even ran into a family of former upstaters (New York) now living in Central Florida. It’s great hearing their reactions to their New Land; even after many years here we still get the occasional urge to smack heads, but by now– at least in my case– it’s a sweeter sort of smacking… fageddaboutit!

The Wedding Planners Go to Mount Dora

Lois and Mike.

My sister and her husband are helping to plan a wedding for his daughter, and everyone is involved. Stephanie and Matthew, the happy couple, live presently in Hawaii, and while both sides of the family have valuable wedding input, my sister and her husband Mike have been impressed into visiting possible wedding venues across the state of Florida. (He is the father of the bride.)

Lois and Mike have visited halls in Port St. Lucie, Melbourne, Cocoa, St. Augustine, Jacksonville (Matt’s family is from up there) and Palm Coast. This past weekend they drove up here and threw me in the car so that we could visit the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora, another possible site for the grand event. It’s a sprawling white frame building in the “Old Florida” style, hugging Lake Dora,  and the former home of a fabulous Sunday brunch (now sadly discontinued). Years ago we were there to overindulge ourselves in that endless repast, and had arrived at the same time as a bus load of very senior citizens; I uncharitably called out that “I’d love some of that macaroni and cheese TODAY, not next TUESDAY” as I stood in line at the barely moving brunch buffet.  See how mean I was in the olden days?

The lobby is made for dreams– you could fall asleep easily on one of the overstuffed couches or armchairs, and I think some people might actually have been  (hopefully) asleep.

We’d raced up there– it takes longer to travel 441 from Winter Park to Mount Dora than it did in the past– and were a little bit late for our 2:30 appointment, but the Wedding Planner was happy to see us anyway. And what was I doing hanging on, besides? Nothing much; I volunteered no input, and hadn’t a single opinion about epergnes (silver or plate?), la busta bags (silk or cotton?), or runners (necessary?).   I was only along for the ride.

The Lakeside grounds are beautiful and the afternoon sun turned the surface of the lake into a dish filled with diamonds.

The gazebo area under the trees is where couples marry who want to tie the knot outdoors. Remember in the sixties when couples opted to marry along the seashore, barefoot, and wearing flowers in their hair? Or in the country, in a field scented by cows, the bridal party outfitted in muslin and straw hats? Traditionalists thought they were nuts, but now it seems that everybody wants to get married outside.

We were then marched into a little room– being the last one in, I was firmly entreated by the Wedding Planner to close the door– and shown a series of mounted wedding photos of couples who had been married at the Inn. The Wedding Planner’s own wedding was featured, the entire party dressed in leather biker vests (except for the bride). “Wow,” I said, “would you look at that,” which is pretty non-committal, at least to my ears. A Wedding Planner AND a Biker Chick– what are the odds that one person would be composed of both guises? In Mount Dora, pretty good!

When they started discussing rates, numbers, runners (the outdoor aisle runner, prone to flapping in the breeze, can be held down with rocks at no extra charge) and the like, I pleaded ADHD and exited the room in search of the hotel’s Beauclaire Lounge.

The lady-bartender-of-a-certain-age made me a fabulous Manhattan, and I sat there for longer than I’d anticipated, enjoying my Maker’s Mark cocktail, as presumably there is much to discuss about weddings that I am not privy to. How many people, chairs, favors? Match books– stamped, or raised lettering? Guest book bound or paperback? Buffet or plated service? Band, Muzak, karaoke? The bar stools at the Beauclaire are designated atop the bar with little engraved plates declaring WHO sits WHERE on busy nights, assuming that the engravee shows up. I forget the name of the lady whose stool I was occupying, but I pictured someone very aged, wearing a hat topped with egret feathers and loudly demanding a cocktail which no bartender has concocted since 1883. “Give me a Lusty Daughter” she would crow. “Heavy on the absinthe!”

After that we had a late, late lunch at Goblins, a highly recommended restaurant on Dora Drawdy Lane. (Say that ten times fast after downing a large Manhattan… I dare you.) We got to laughing over whatever it is my sister and I can find to laugh at, and my sunglasses slipped from my shirt pocket and plopped into my crab bisque soup. Class.

Here’s the most famous place in Mount Dora, the Donnelley House, now a Masonic Temple. I wonder if these Donnelleys are the ones who keep delivering telephone directories to my house?

Near the end of the day, Lois’ picture should be captioned “I’m done.”

All in all, a fun trip. We had headaches from laughing, but that did not prevent us from stopping at Publix in Winter Park for fried chicken, brie, crackers, chips, and milk, even after vowing at Goblins that we would not be hungry enough for dinner.

And a parting shot from one of the gas stations in town; apparently, the natives are restless. This lends itself to some publicity slogans which the Chamber of Commerce should employ to keep people like us coming back.

“Mount Dora– you’ll be itching to return!”