My wedding night stank.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a joyous, magical occasion. Up until the end, everything was far better than my wife and I had ever hoped for.
We’d planned and paid for the event ourselves, keeping things small and intimate at the Women’s City Club in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—a handsome colonial not far from downtown. The wedding party stayed in a bed & breakfast that adjoined through the backyard, and our most esteemed guests stayed at inns and hotels in downtown, a short walk away.
For a couple days, it felt like we owned the seaside town, traveling from restaurants to pubs like royalty with our entourage of best friends.
We planned our wedding at the end of February, reasoning that it would be nice to have something festive during those dark days of winter. We half expected a handful of no-shows because of what was certain to be inclement weather, but those few days were unnaturally sunny and warm. Just about everyone showed, and the packed dining room and unseasonable temperatures made the roaring fireplace we’d hoped to use superfluous.
A good friend married us. Before being a web designer, clown and juggler, he’d been a Unitarian minister. Our friends read passages from some of our favorite books, and my mother officiated a wine ceremony with a favorite Australian shiraz. Once the brief ceremony was over, the Irish fiddlers started playing and the caterers took over the room, setting up for dinner.
Again, we were lucky enough to employ a friend to cater our wedding. In addition to serving up fine cuisine at clients’ parties all along the New Hampshire seacoast, she ran a restaurant on a tug boat moored in the city harbor. She worked closely with us to create a dream feast tailored precisely to our tastes. We had succulent lamb with roasted portabella mushrooms. A moist ginger bread with carrot-infused icing served as our cake.
Along with all the dishes we had planned, our caterer surprised us with many flourishes we hadn’t anticipated. We’d met her a few times to discuss the menu over dinner a few times, and she’d picked up on details about our preferences we hadn’t thought to mention.
After dinner, we had a cheese course. Amidst the Camembert and Brie cheeses, there was a bounty of pickled vegetables. Cukes, red peppers, green tomatoes, and, best of all, garlic.
Like little, glowing crescent moons, I remember the thrill I had when I spotted the mound of peeled, pickled garlic in a pool of sweetly scented vinegar. I adore all kinds of pickles, and at the time of my nuptials I’d recently discovered pickled garlic. A college friend had shared some his father had made from a secret recipe, and I was instantly hooked. Somehow, our caterer had found a competitive alternate.
Not hot or spicy, but sweet with a vinegar sharpness. They went well with the pints of Guinness I was drinking.
My family danced, drank and celebrated with my wife’s family, and many fine memories were made (and some lost). Around 11, with knowing winks, it was suggested my bride and I retire for the evening to our bed and breakfast.
Anticipating this moment, I’d tried to limit my beer intake that evening. As my wife showered, I crawled into bed, relieved I wasn’t too tired for the seminal moment.
But as I lay there, listening to the roar of hot water in our deluxe bathroom, I came to realize it was not a lack of alcohol that was keeping me awake and alert. Something far more insidious and repellant than booze had taken a hold of me.
I was covered in a thin, oily glaze of garlic seasoned perspiration. Every pore of my being was wide open emitting a thick haze of garlic stench. A cloud had formed beneath the canopy of our four poster bed. Not only did I smell vile, the potent infusion of the pickled cloves had given me the jitters. My intestines were vocal in their discontent.
Stepping from the shower, my wife stepped into my vapor trail. All bets for romance that night were instantly off. She snoozed while I sweat.
Luckily, our good planning also included a two week honeymoon in Amsterdam. With an ocean between us and the stench of our wedding night, our olfactory nerves quickly recovered with the smells of coffee shops and tulips.