By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
The rabbi who went AWOL. The photographer who narrowly missed stepping back into the wedding cake. The dog that ate the wedding bands. These were wedding day near disasters that Minna Rae Friedman, a retired wedding planner, chronicles in her new book ‘Wedding Nightmares and Other Bedtime Stories.’
The Lake Bluff writer compiled a collection of stories she’s heard in her 20 year career as a wedding planner. Friedman, now retired, is known in the Jewish community for the social advice columns she’s penned quarterly for the Chicago Jewish News for nearly 20 years. Her next book will be a compilation of the columns, she said.
“All you have to do is mention a wedding and someone says guess what happened at this wedding and that wedding. I accumulated all the stories people were telling me about nightmarish incidents.”
The story, “The Rabbi Went AWOL” involves a rabbi who disappeared when it was time to marry a couple in Israel before sundown ushered in the Sabbath. “The couple planned their spring wedding to take place on an early Friday evening at a beautiful garden, Friedman says, skimming the chapter of her 133-page book. “Timing was crucial. There could be no wedding after sundown. Everyone was there; the chuppah and wine glasses were out, the scene set. But something is missing and it’s the rabbi.
“Luckily one of the guests was Dov Shilansky, Speaker of the Knesset from 1988 to 1992. He quickly calls his friend, the chief rabbi in a nearby community. The rabbi used his authority to empower the guests to conduct the wedding ceremony while he prompted the ceremony on his cell phone. That was a close call.”
Another near miss involved a photographer taking a portrait of a large wedding party. He kept backing up to get a wider shot and suddenly his subjects had a look of horror on their faces. He was about to crush the wedding cake. “He stopped and said, ‘you thought I didn’t see it.’ But he really didn’t see it.”
Another time a photographer, grungily dressed, showed up in every image taken by the videographer.
Another favorite story of Friedman’s involved a Labrador retriever that jumped up and ate the gold bands sitting on the dresser while the groom was putting on his tuxedo. Disaster averted with humor. When asked to present the rings to the bride, he showed an x-ray of the dog’s stomach. A friend also lent him a ring for the wedding. During the honeymoon the dog threw up the rings. The mother of the groom remarked that they didn’t come out the way she expected.
“These are all true stories. You can’t even make them up,” said Friedman, whose subjects are presented anonymously out of respect for their privacy.
A wedding prank to remember occurred when the couple was told to kneel down in front of the officiant. Someone had written help on the back of the groom’s shoe.
Though more of a memorable story than a disaster, Friedman’s parents were seated after their wedding at a restaurant next to newlyweds Anna and Charles Lindbergh. “I forgot to say what did they say? What did they learn?”
Friedman’s own wedding day misfortune couldn’t have been averted.
“It turned out to be the hottest day in the history of the Chicago weather bureau.” She includes a photo of the headline in the book.
Friedman started her writing career as a girls’ sports columnist. In college, she wrote a column of general interest for students.
Friedman went to Chicago Teacher’s College now Chicago State University. She taught three years then stayed home to raise children
Friedman was married to Stanley Friedman, a World War II vet who died just four months shy of his 95th birthday. They have three daughters and five grandchildren. She volunteers for a physician at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center, who works with vets that have post-traumatic stress disorder like her husband had. She also collects food for the food pantry run by Midwest Veterans Closet.
She wrote both her own memoir and her husband’s who read the finished copy three weeks before he died. “He loved it,” Friedman said. “If I hadn’t done that I would have never forgiven myself.”
Anyone interested in purchasing a copy of Friedman’s book ‘Wedding Nightmares and Other Bedtime Stories’ can write her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.