Here Come the Brides: Three Books About Weddings

Caroline Langston

Caroline Langston is a writer in Cheverly, Md. With just one son, she'll only have to pay for the rehearsal dinner. Brian Jarboe hide caption

itoggle caption Brian Jarboe

"Three Books ..." is a new series in which we invite writers to recommend three great reads on a single theme.

When I was growing up in Yazoo City, Miss., my mother wasn't much into housekeeping or cooking. But she did teach me one thing: How to tell a real engraved wedding invitation. Thus at an early age began my lifelong obsession with weddings.

On this one, I am not alone; Southerners love weddings. Even those rebels who run off to Telluride to get married in hiking boots are the exceptions that prove the basic point: There's a whole body of lore about weddings and how our people do them. Such as: You don't send cards telling people where you're registered. And you never, ever, have a cash bar at the reception.

But enough with etiquette; let's get to the "I do's." Here are my three books about weddings:

'Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet'

'Somebody is Going to Die'
Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, hardcover, 272 pages

For those raised elsewhere, Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet is a handy guide to hosting the perfect wedding — Southern style.

Written by Gayden Metcalfe and her fellow Mississippi Deltan, Charlotte Hays, this book is both a hilarious read and a real, practical resource, with recipes like sausage cheese balls and shrimp remoulade. While it's heavy on the social conventions of what some folks call "Whisky-palians," it also makes a point I've not seen cited lately anywhere else, which is that a Southern Baptist wedding where no alcohol is served can be as high-society and tasteful as anything else.

'Goodbye, Columbus'

'Goodbye, Columbus'
Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth, paperback, 320 pages

Southerners also love weddings that are absolutely nothing like the ones they grew up with. One of the best portraits of a wedding that perfectly exemplifies its time and place is found in Philip Roth's wondrous 1959 novella, Goodbye, Columbus.

Tag along with working-class librarian and ex-philosophy major Neil Klugman as he woos the careless Brenda Patimkin against the golf courses of Short Hills, N.J. Poor Neil still lives back in Newark — from which Brenda's family had fled after their bathroom sink business took off — and the whole novel is a study in the class rifts that money creates. When Brenda's brother announces that he will be getting married very, very suddenly — and this being the 1950s, you know why — Neil gets to participate in a lavish, all-night hotel wedding that underscores the rewards and costs of "making it" out of the old neighborhood.

'Otherwise Engaged'

'Otherwise Engaged'
Otherwise Engaged, by Suzanne Finnamore, paperback, 224 pages

For a more contemporary satire, go check out Suzanne Finnamore's 1999 novel, Otherwise Engaged. In it, 36-year-old protagonist Eve orchestrates getting her divorced, live-in lover Michael to propose, then spends the rest of the volume running around San Francisco freaking out about the wedding. This book's been labeled "chick lit," but it's a lot more thoughtful than that, with lots of digression about Michael's ex-wife and daughter, Eve's psychotherapy, and the amount of Valium in the bathroom cabinet. Well before Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, Eve is a successful advertising executive who drives a sports car and wears $20 Donna Karan hose but is as earnest — and as amusingly unhinged — in her desire for marriage as anybody else.

These days, there is no guarantee that our children will grow up to follow our wedding traditions or even will marry in the religion we raised them with, although I am trying hard on that one. I tell you one thing, though: My son will never have a cash bar at the reception.

Three Books ... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Bridget Bentz.

Recipes from Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet, by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

Sausage Cheese Balls

"Since the groom's mother, Marsue Dean Lancaster, presides over her family's third-generation sausage business in Gadsden, Alabama, sausage was an appropriate item on the menu. But these are delicious even if you are in another line of endeavor. They were small (you know we're obsessed with little everythings!) and served at the bar ... lots better than peanuts! A good rule: There should always be something to munch on at the bar."

Ingredients
1 pound Dean* sausage, hot, not mild
3 ? cups Bisquick
10 ounces extra-sharp cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Crumble sausage with Bisquick. Melt cheese in double boiler. Add to sausage and Bisquick mix. Work with hands until thoroughly mixed. Shape into small balls. Place on a baking sheet about ? inch apart. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 15 or 20 minutes.

Makes about 75 balls.

*Note: Marsue's factory is not Jimmy Dean — she calls herself "the other Dean."

Shrimp Remoulade

"One of the best cookbooks ever is The Plantation Cookbook from The Junior League of New Orleans. Their recipe for shrimp remoulade sauce is simply the best. Use a parfait glass to create an original presentation for this tried and true dish. Make the sauce in a Cuisinart. A note of caution: Do not use absurdly large shrimp. They are hard to eat and often tough. For this recipe, you'll need three pounds of boiled, peeled, de-veined shrimp. This is an excellent first course for a seated dinner."

Ingredients
1 head pretty lettuce (anything other than iceberg)
? cup minced onions
? vup oil
? cup tarragon vinegar
? cup Dijon mustard or brown Creole mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic, pressed
? cup chopped green onions

Process all ingredients, except lettuce, just long enough to blend. I would suggest the pulse mode. You do not want a puree. Chill the sauce overnight. Put a layer of lettuce, a few shrimp, and some chilled sauce in the parfait glass. Continue the layering process until you reach the top of the glass. You should end with the remoulade sauce on top.

Serves eight.

Copyright: Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, all rights reserved.

Books Featured In This Story

Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet

The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding

by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

Hardcover, 258 pages | purchase

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Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch That Bouquet
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The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Wedding
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Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

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Goodbye, Columbus

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