November 29, 1969… 11:00 PM
Back in the early 1800’s, something called a “shivaree” became popular with wedding guests (especially drinking ones). After the newlyweds had left the reception, enthusiastic friends followed, equipped with pots, pans, and kettles, intending to harass the couple with a loud racket during their first night together.
In extreme cases, rabble-rousers kidnapped the bride overnight, forcing a delayed consummation of the marriage.
Although most of my married friends hadn’t experienced any shenanigans after their weddings, I had a hunch we were in for it – not a kidnapping or a shivaree, but something. Bervin’s family in particular had a reputation for revelry after weddings and had, indeed, stolen Mary’s honeymoon suitcase before they’d left the church after their wedding.
Our luggage had been hiding in Chicago’s massive underground parking garage since Thanksgiving (inside Nate’s VW), so we weren’t worried about that. The morning of our wedding Nate had retrieved our suitcases and taken them to The Drake’s front desk.
As Nate and I complied with the photographer for a last set of photos in front of the church, we watched one car after another pull up behind ours, opening doors for bridesmaids and groomsmen to clamber in. When we finally pulled away, they did, too.
Plan A was to head downtown and lose them in the crowded city, but they were tooting horns and flashing lights as we moved in and out of traffic, causing people to join the celebration by tooting back and making way for them. We flew past The Drake, looking longingly but not daring to stop.
Plan B was to head to the airport, leading our chasers to think we had plane tickets. But an expressway is the easiest place to tail a car, and after our 45 minute drive to O’Hare, they were still with us.
John suggested Plan C, that Nate and I run inside the airport, then try to hide. He would drive the airport circle once and return, when hopefully we could exit through a different door… without our pursuers.
It was the 1960’s, and airport security was non-existent. You could leave your car at the curb without a problem, and TSA hadn’t been invented. The general public could walk to any gate and even board planes with their loved ones to settle them in before saying goodbye. We knew if we could get our followers heading for the gates, we could shed them.
The first thing Nate and I encountered inside the airport was a small, open-air gift shop. Since I was quite conspicuous in my wedding gown, veil, and tipsy crown, we darted inside and crouched behind a glass display case. Peering through it, we were delighted to see Mary, Bervin, and assorted wedding party members run past, headed for the gates.
They’d missed us!
The shop clerks were giggling, but we couldn’t linger to explain. As soon as the wedding party was out of sight, we left the store, grabbed hands, and ran the length of the departure terminal, veil and train flying. Holding onto my crown I said, “I feel like we’re in a movie!”
Although several of the pursuing vehicles were still roaming the airport, when John pulled up and threw open his car door, we made a run for it and dove in, lying low. He sped off, and by the time we were on the expressway again, the coast was clear.
Our next step was to get out of our wedding clothes. Nate had instructed me to bring a change, but I’d forgotten. I did have my Jackie Kennedy coat, though. He had jeans and a shirt, so John turned off and found a gas station.
of the ladies room.
I wiggled out of my gown in the back seat and slipped into my blue coat, buttoning it to the chin. How appropriate, I thought. I’m wearing the same “outfit” on our wedding night that I wore on the night we met….
“I am very happy now…” (2 Corinthians 7:16)