"I'm sorry Mrs. Franks. I'd love to have an elegant sit down reception dinner, but since Dad lost his job last year I know we can't afford it. I hope we can come up with something a little more realistic, but just as nice."
"Cee-Jay, you are a thoughtful daughter, and your parents must be immensely proud of you. Lately, I've been hearing more and more comments like yours. I've been thinking about adding a new idea from my own childhood to my list of options.
When I was a little girl my Mother would take my sisters, and I shopping every year to buy new clothes for Easter and Decoration Day. We'd be decked out in white gloves, new patent leather shoes, crinolines and dresses, and always new hats and ribbons. We could wear the new clothes on Easter Sunday but not again until Decoration Day, which was the third Sunday of every May.
Planning for Decoration Day was in some ways like planning for your wedding day. I was an adult before I ever learned that not everybody in the country even knew what it was. Decoration Day is a day peculiar to the South. It began during the time of the Civil War as families paid respect to fallen soldiers, most of whom were buried in the South. While the South began to rebuild after the War, families would gather to clean and decorate the graves of soldiers and other family members.
Eventually, many Churches built around the graveyards and took responsibility for their upkeep. To allow the families to help with this task, each Church set aside one Sunday in May for Decoration Day. Families would travel and gather to help decorate the Church cemeteries where family members were buried, especially in the rural communities. Decoration Day in the South was the inspiration for our nations National Memorial Day.
It was also the only day of the year that we children might get to see, and run and play with many cousins we rarely saw, and meet new ones. It was a time of exciting fun and friendship, with more food than anyone's family could afford to provide alone.
On the grounds surrounding the church, wooden tables would be set up, though not for anyone to sit at and eat. They were simply to hold all the food prepared and brought to share with everyone who came. It was a smorgasbord, the likes of which few have probably ever seen outside of the South.
Because everything was outdoors, and tables and chairs were few, everybody sat to eat on blankets and tablecloths laid on the ground. For this reason, it was called "dinner on the ground." There was also no planned menu. Families brought what they had and could. This lack of menu meant it was "potluck". Of course, since it was a memorable day and they would be sharing with many others, everyone did their best to make sure that whatever they prepared and brought was delicious and plentiful.
Cee-Jay, how would you feel about inviting your wedding guests to take part in a "Potluck Wedding Day Feast""?
"Oh my goodness, I think I love it, Mrs. Franks. It sounds like great fun and something we could afford, but since the wedding is in January, it might be better if we set the tables up in the fellowship hall at the Church, and not have the guests sitting on the floor. What do you think?"
"Absolutely, I agree". Smiling, she thought, this is going to be the perfect wedding day reception for the times in which we live.
Though relieved and delighted to have found such an understanding wedding planner as Mrs. Franks, she was curious to know how the beautiful clothes Mrs. Franks Mother had bought for her, and her sisters had survived such an active day outdoors as Decoration Day.
"Oh, not all lived on", Mrs. Franks laughed. Dresses and crinolines got dirty, and sometimes torn. Hats became Frisbees, and ribbons and gloves were forever lost while patent leather shoes got scuffed and beaten. Mother would call us urchins instead of girls, and threatened not to buy us anything nice or new again. Daddy would just laugh, as every year Mother would say, 'Come on girls, we're going shopping for Easter and Decoration Day. Maybe this year ya'll act like proper young southern ladies'.
We certainly did have a grand time getting there", she smiled.
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