It’s easy to look like the world’s your oyster if you can ease the assorted tangles of one of life’s most emotional events while still wearing your best Merry-Wives-of-Windsor smile.
Milton Rogers, who celebrates her tenth year as wedding coordinator at Church of the Holy Communion this month, has presided over some doozies of dilemmas, including the time a bridesmaid broke out in spots or the time she sweetly (but firmly) dispatched a Memphis police officer to The Peabody to get the wedding rings a much-flustered best man forgot in his room.
“I looked out the window, and there was a police officer sitting in his car, just finishing up a report out here on Perkins. I ran out to his car and said, ‘Sir, I am going to ask you to do me a favor, and you cannot turn me down.’
“’The wedding is in a little over an hour,’” she explained to the eager, young patrolman.
“'Oh, Yes, ma’am,’” he said. “Then he got on the radio, and in a heartbeat, he and the best man disappeared, blue lights on.
“I looked over my other shoulder and said, ‘Thank you, Lord. Thank you so much.’ I’m quite sure I heard ‘You’re welcome,’” Rogers says with a chuckle.
The rings and the patrolman made it with time to spare. If they hadn’t, Rogers had quietly struck a deal with the groom’s father to substitute his ring if the plan didn’t pan out.
“I very carefully made sure no one else knew what was going, most of all, the bride,” Rogers said. "“I tell brides, we are going to make sure this is the best day you ever have because I am only going to marry you once.”
She’s sat with squirming children in the back pew to keep the ceremony serene, and more than once, has whipped out a needle and thread to repair problems with gowns, including faulty zippers. Her wedding emergency kit has all the usual things, plus smelling salts, ribbon and the over-the-counter allergy medicine she saw an enterprising bride give an allergic bridesmaid when her hands broke out in hives.
“As soon as the wedding was over, I went right out and bought some of the same stuff,” Rogers says with the efficiency of a drillmaster. “It’s very unhappy to have red spotty gloves on your hands that don’t belong there.”
Weddings are a sacrament in the Episcopal Church and are conducted in a worship service with all the reverence and tradition of Rite II. Rogers is the general in charge of decorum. She has two lieutenants, one for the bridesmaids and one for the groomsmen.
The three are responsible for upholding the rules and getting members of the wedding party where they need to be. When Rogers flicks the light switch (signal to the organist), the bride and her father are ready to go down the aisle, end of story.
“Sometimes, it’s like herding fleas, and sometimes the party is extremely organized,” Rogers says.
But even organization can be extreme. Rogers has received detailed spreadsheets from fathers of the bride outlining “to the Nth degree” how the day is to unfold.
“Some were so obnoxiously detailed that I left them someplace else,” she said with a twinkle.
“I have had mothers that needed to be separated from their daughters. Sometimes they are so keyed up, reliving their own wedding or they want this one to be one they never had. And sometimes, you don’t know what it is except they need to be locked in a closet.”
Rogerse puts in 10-15 hours behind the scenes on each wedding, starting with consultation to go over the church rules and all the contracts that must be signed by wedding vendors.
If the reception will be on campus, there’s the matter of reserving Cheney Parish Hall and working out the logistics, which often includes the issue of alcohol.
“You need a one-day alcohol license. If it’s to midnight, you have to be out by midnight and just not thinking about it,” Rogers says with the authority of someone who has presided over the details of 55 Holy Communion weddings in a decade, including trains, hankies and fondant.
Eight more are on the calendar this year.
None of the couples has divorced to her knowledge. And to Rogers’ great satisfaction, every ceremony started on time.
One of her jobs it to make sure that the bride is a communicant of the church or graduate of St. Mary’s and that her plans fall under the various “rubrics and canons” of the Episcopal Church, plus any added rules from the Vestry.
“As Sandy says, we are not a destination wedding site. You can’t just drive up because you like the looks of the church. There are a few exceptions, but they go strictly through Sandy and the clergy,” Rogers said.
“I don’t ask questions, and he doesn’t ask my opinion.”
In a society as complex as life in the 21st Century, it also falls to Rogers to smooth riffs between family factions and frequently, divorced parents.
“One of the first questions I ask is - it’s a new world out there - I need to know family dynamics. I don’t mean to ask down-and-dirty questions, but if there are parents or kinfolk that don’t normally get along very well, we need to work on seating arrangements,” she says with the tone of a diplomat.
“If there are people who are still are war with each other, I have a conversation with them at the rehearsal. I tell them we’d be happy to made adjustments so everyone is happy the day of the wedding. ‘And I know you know how important it is for everyone to look at ease that day,’” she says.
She considers her time a service to the church and the extended community that calls it home.
“Weddings are the makings of a new family. My philosophy is I am going to have a lot of new grandchildren,” she says. “It’s a way I can represent the church, the Episcopal Church as well as Church of the Holy Communion and do my part to open our doors to the community."
She’s thrilled when guests say they have never felt more welcomed in a church and overjoyed when people join because their first experience was a well-run wedding.
But even to this veteran of lace and promises, nothing is quite as rewarding as the look on the groom’s face when the bride begins down the aisle.
“So often, over everything else, you can hear him say, ‘Ohhhhhhhh.'”