“A lot of people get married here in Savannah,” our trolley tour driver explained. “This square here,” he said, gesturing to a lush lawn dotted with live oak trees and benches, “is a popular place for weddings. But it used to be a cemetery. I imagine the ministers don’t tell that to the bride and groom.” All of us on the trolley laughed, but I was laughing for another reason: it reminded me of something my dad said to me on my wedding day, just a few days earlier.
As Dad and I stood awaiting our cue to walk down the aisle, he asked me, “Did you hear about the body?”
“The body? Uh . . . no.”
My maid-of-honor was given her signal and dutifully proceeded. Dad and I moved forward. “I’ll have to tell you later,” he whispered.
My niece Bella, the flower girl, was given her cue and pranced away in her white ruffled dress, basket of rose petals in hand.
I wondered what on earth Dad was talking about, but then we were summoned forward. “Walk really slowly,” my father reminded me, speaking from experience. This was not his first time escorting a daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I turned the corner to see a crowd of my closest family and friends standing at their seats, bodies turned to watch us, big smiles on their faces. I smiled back — a look that wouldn’t leave my face the rest of the night.
As intrigued as I was about “the body,” I forgot all about it as Dad and I walked towards Michael. I didn’t think of it at all as the ceremony proceeded, as we said our vows, as we exchanged rings. When it was all over, Michael and I walked out together, followed by our bridal party, and then my parents.
“Congratulations,” Dad said, shaking Michael’s hand. “She’s all yours now.” We mingled with the rest of the bridal party as we waited at the big double doors for our grand entrance. Then, Dad found us again and said, “So Jessica and I found a body on our way here.” Apparently, he hadn’t forgotten where we’d left off.
“What?” I asked.
“Yeah. We were driving here, and Jessica’s looking out the window and says, ‘Dad — did you see that? There was a body on the side of the road!’ So we pulled over, and I thought the guy was dead. Really. He was just lying there, not moving. A young kid. Twenties. He had a pulse, but wasn’t breathing too well.”
Jessica called 911, but was having trouble explaining where they were as neither she nor my father live in North Carolina (where my wedding was being held). Dad started flagging down other cars. He directed one guy that stopped to call 911 back and give a more precise location. Then another car stopped. “This woman got out and said she was a nurse, and her husband was a doctor. So I said, ‘Good. My daughter’s getting married in an hour. I gotta go.’ And we took off.”
And he arrived in time to walk me down the aisle.
A few days later, while on our “mini-moon” in Savannah, I had to laugh at the differences between traditional southern decorum and what happened on my wedding day: In Savannah, they might not tell couples they’re about to marry on a former cemetery. But in my family? We don’t have that kind of restraint.