I leaned over to the lady-stranger to my right and muttered “A rubber chicken?”
Up front, under the spreading oak tree, my pal Marty took something from his Best Man John and responded, “A ring.”
“‘A ring!'” I complained to the lady-stranger, who ignored me. “It’s always a ring! Why ask if you know the answer? Why not a rubber chicken, if only for variety?”
I don’t bother my wife with this tirade any more. She’s heard it from me at every wedding we have attended ever since — and including — our own, seventeen years ago. Marty stood in my wedding, along with Nathan and Davey, and I wanted to present my bride with a rubber chicken — with a wedding ring in its nose, naturally. I knew my bride was not into it, so I arranged for Davey to smuggle it in from out of town, which he did. I was looking forward to a spectacle.
It was a Jewish-flavored Christian wedding. Every element had been meticulously selected for its symbolic significance: the chuppa, the tallit, the smashed wine glass, etc. We even printed up an interpretive guide to the service. Sure, I was expecting a deeply meaningful and spiritual wedding ceremony. I was also expecting my bride would scream at the sight of the chicken; the preacher would stumble into the chuppa frame; the canopy would come crashing down; there would be pandemonium and a sure-fire winner for America’s Funniest Home Videos.
The morning of my wedding, Nathan said to me “I woke up with second thoughts about the chicken.” Okay, I’ll take that under advisement. Then I saw Davey. “I’m not sure you should do this after all.” That settles it, the rubber chicken is off the program. I was disappointed, but I also trusted those guys. I mentioned the decision to Marty in passing. The ceremony was terrific, everything was beautiful, there were no scandals, and decades later people still tell me it was one of the most meaningful wedding ceremonies they have ever attended.
After the reception, we headed out to our rental car to commence our honeymoon, and there was the rubber chicken, duct-taped to the car as a hood ornament. We left it there for the entire trip, and kept it for years. But still, I had hoped… oh well…
Meanwhile, under the spreading oak, the preacher turned to Marty’s bride. “What, then, do you give as a token of your love?” The Matron of Honor reached behind her and pulled something out of the lilies, and discreetly passed it to the bride, who turned to the preacher and announced, “A rubber chicken!”
It was true! I was stunned, and elated! I cheered, I screamed, hollered “Bravo!” I had to hold onto the seat of my chair to stop myself from springing up and dancing. For a few moments, the place was up for grabs. On my left, my dear wife placed a hand gently on my shoulder, and I settled down.
After the ceremony, John told me that Marty had often related the story of the rubber chicken that never made it to my wedding. Apparently Marty’s bride Deanna took it to heart, and unbeknownst to anyone on the groom’s side, smuggled the chicken into the lilies.
I hadn’t even met her prior to the reception, where I introduced myself as the progenitor of the rubber chicken quest. I congratulated her on her marriage to an excellent man, and thanked her too, for fulfilling a seventeen-year deferred desire.
It was a glorious wedding for many reasons, but for me personally, the chicken stole the show.