Berger’s Burg: Whitestone columnist recalls tumultuous wedding

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A single woman comes home from work, will look in the refrigerator and run into bed. When she marries, she will look...

By Alex Berger

A Queens woman sued for divorce, claiming her husband spoke to her only nine times in nine years. She won custody of the nine children.

A single woman comes home from work, will look in the refrigerator and run into bed. When she marries, she will look in the bed and run to the refrigerator.

Marriage is an institution that teaches a man regularity, frugality, temperance, forbearance and many other splendid virtues he wouldn’t need if he stayed single.

Ah, June is here, the month for weddings. Be they simple or elaborate, a wedding ceremony makes marriages worthwhile. Most of them are extremely entertaining and more fun than a three-ring circus. Should a marriage flounder, the wedding pictures will remain forever.

Last year I received a letter from a young woman from Bayside who thought I was a matrimonial matchmaker. She wrote, “Mr. Berger’s Burg, can you find me a man to marry? He must be bright, colorful and entertaining, yet when I am in the mood for peace and quiet, I want him to remain silent. I want him to be up to the minute in politics, world events and sports. Above all, I insist that he stay home nights with me.”

I studied her request, furrowed my brow and answered her letter. “Young lady, you do not want a husband, you want a TV set.”

Be what it may, June always reminds me of the unique and extraordinary marriages of my siblings. My parents had eight (count them) eight children, which certainly was not their wedding’s fault. As the second youngest child, I always imagined that the eight of us and my parents would forever remain intact. However, my sister Florence, the nurse and the fourth oldest, decided to break the ice and marry an aspiring but poor medical student recently discharged from the Air Corps.

The couple knew that my father could not pay for a large wedding to accommodate our large extended family. So brain power came into play. Why not hold the wedding in the Bellevue Hospital chapel (Flo’s workplace)? This was arranged and, with her immediate family, patients, medical staff, relatives and friends looking on, Florence and Merwin exchanged vows. This human interest story appeared in every major newspaper in town.

This blissful move prompted Jack, the oldest, to follow suit, and his marriage was scheduled for New Year’s Day. Much to my surprise, Jack refused to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us and went to bed very early. He remarked, “Tomorrow, after the wedding, will be my New Year’s Eve (the bride’s first name), and you will not be invited to my private party.

Anna, the actress, got the cue and married Bob in a secret civil ceremony. A religious one was held a few weeks later to permit the family to attend. Sister Shirley’s wedding took the form of a near Civil War when the seating arrangements were not to the satisfaction of all in attendance, especially the groom’s family. But calmer heads prevailed and the wedding went on.

At brother Larry’s ceremony, I was designated the best man. I was in the military and wore my spiffy Air Force dress blues uniform with the multipocketed jacket for the occasion. When it was time for me to present the ring to Larry, I could not remember which pocket I had put the ring in. Panic time.

After much fumbling and sweating amid guffaws and giggling from people who shall remain nameless, I finally found the little bugger snuggled deeply in an inside pocket. To compound the embarrassment, the ring rolled off my fingers and obligingly fell at Larry’s feet. To this day, I still hold that all wedding rings should be outlawed.

Sister Miriam’s and brother Milt’s (the youngest) weddings contained a few minor blips, but a wedding would not be a wedding without them. What a show all those weddings were. Now, what about my wedding, you ask? Don’t ask!

I met Gloria on a blind date on George Washington’s birthday and, following a whirlwind romance, I proposed two months later. The wedding was scheduled for Labor Day weekend. To avoid being conspicuous, I chose white dinner jackets for the ushers, best man and me to blend in with my anticipated pale and bloodless face.

On the day of the wedding, the wedding party, the catering hall employees, the band, the guests, the rabbi and the bride and groom were all at the ready — that is, except for Gloria’s Aunt Hannah. As the minutes ticked by, well beyond the scheduled time for the ceremony, impatience swept across the multitude of twitching, restless faces.

The rabbi finally pulled me aside and advised that he could wait no longer. If the wedding did not start within the next 10 minutes, he would leave.

I immediately rushed to inform my intended that the ceremony must start without Aunt Hannah, because the rabbi would leave if there were any further delay. My intended stated it was her intention to continue waiting, however long, until Aunt Hannah’s arrival.

I was caught in a very precarious position. Thoughts of the wedding’s cancellation, with the loss of the money I borrowed to pay for it, raced through my brain.

Pandemonium broke out between the two families. The “Berger” faction wanted the ceremony to proceed. The “Cream” side (Gloria’s maiden name) insisted upon waiting for Aunt Hannah. Tempers flared and brother Milt (the best man) nearly came to blows with Gloria’s brother, Barry. It became a Jewish “Hatfield and McCoy” feud.

As a superstitious person, I had been fearful that the wedding would not flow smoothly since I, a “Berger” (meat) boy, was marrying Gloria, a “Cream” (dairy) girl, a mix not considered kosher in the Jewish religion.

However, icy smiles were soon evident when Aunt Hannah made her grand entrance two minutes before the rabbi’s deadline. No one present at the brouhaha gave our wedding much chance of succeeding except for Gloria and me. And, at last count, we will be celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary on Sept. 1. The sage, who philosophically stated that love conquers all, must have been at my wedding.

Now, let me tell you about the weddings of my two sons. ... (My grand nephew, Bayside’s own Scott Berger, is getting married this month. Scott, elope!)

Reach columnist Alex Berger at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 140.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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