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December 7, 2011

Tribulations of a Montana Wedding

Tom McLaughlin

Malta, MT – My daughter’s wedding! This was my Borneo wife’s first participation in a life passage of my family and she longed to make a good impression. She wanted to look good. I mean real good!


I hate shopping for women. When my daughters were pre-teens, I took them to the girls section of a department store and unwittingly and embarrassingly ended up in the under garment section with a training bra draped around my nose from a hanging display. After they hit 13, I gave them money and told them to buy what they wanted as I perused televisions and computers.


My wife and I discussed the attire and she said she would feel very uncomfortable in western dress. She was adamant about wearing the Malay traditional and formal attire of a sarong and a fancy top that has no English translation. She wanted to show the incredibly beautiful styles and customs of her country.


She selected a silk maroon cloth with gold thread woven throughout. Her sisters’ friend tailored the piece into an art work of incredible craftsmanship, worthy of a museum.


The shoes were a major problem. We knew there would be snow and -10 C temperatures in northeastern Montana. Stores in Borneo, the tropical island where we live, understandably sold only the open-toed variety. We contacted my daughter and asked if we could find them in Glasgow, MT,* where she lived; but this small town had only one very small K-Mart like store.


Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital is about two hours by air from Borneo. It was our last hope because we would depart and arrive at my daughter’s house in many small hops.


The flight was to depart in a couple of days but they were packed with visits to old friends and red-tape-embassy appointments. We taxied to many exclusive boutiques in the thriving bustling upscale city. After wearing out my faux Nikes, we found a pair of Bonia with closed toes and a matching handbag. All I did was scan the rows and rows of shoes and picked up the very few that had a closed toe. And she said yes or no, ya or tidak in Malay.


During the wedding rehearsal, at the part where the preacher says “who gives this girl” and I am supposed to say “I do,” I said “No way, not on your life, not a chance.” Startled, not having encountered this response before, the minister said: “No, you’re supposed to say ‘I do.’ Let’s try it again.”


 When it again came time to respond I again said “No, shaking my head and almost said “not a snowballs chance in hell,” but I remembered I was in a church. I steely-eyed the preacher and he got the message not to try it again.


An eastern Montana wedding is a bit different from those in the Atlantic coastal states. The men in the congregation wore western shirts and neatly pressed jeans. Notices are placed in local newspapers inviting the whole region. The garter is auctioned off in $5 increments. The bride is kidnapped by a group of girls and taken to the three bars in town while the groom receives the same treatment from a group of guys.


They drink shots except the bartender gives the couple water. Uniquely, my daughter and now son-in-law had the five-year-old ring bearers ride hobby horses up the aisle. They arranged for a horse drawn hay ride from the church to the reception through the small town.


Yes, I did say “I do” at the proper time, and I have the feeling that many fathers want to say “No, I won’t” at that particular point in the ceremony. What got me through was the old saying “a son is a son ’til he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life.”


During the father-daughter dance we held each other close, dancing to the song “It’s a Wonderful World,” both of us in tears whispering softly. Then I knew she would be my daughter for the rest of her life.


…Life is good.


*Towns in Montana grew up around points along the railroad where the engines stopped for water. The towers had numbers at first but were given names from the spin of a globe stopped by a finger. The closest point to the finger became the name, hence, Malta and Glasgow.



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