As you shop for holiday gifts this week, just know spending a lot of money on something doesn’t mean it’s a better gift than something special from the heart, bought with Kohl’s cash.
And I should know, our entire wedding cost less than 300 bucks.
We did cut some corners, my brothers-in-law picked up the reception tab, which was a lot because I come from a family of drinkers. My father paid the bill at Gates Barbecue in Kansas City for our rehearsal dinner where the most expensive item was six dollars. And my mother insisted on bringing the cake (she had to bring something—it’s what we do!), so she had the best bakery in Abilene, Kansas, prepare their top-of-the-line three-tiered lemon number filled with vanilla buttercream and decorated with festive wedding bells.
My parents loaded the cake into the trunk of the Doocy family K-car and drove 155 miles across Kansas, directly to the park, on what was observed by more than a few attendees as the “hottest damn day” of the year. They proceeded to park the car in the direct sun and watched us get married for about an hour. My dad knew something was up when we returned to his car for the short drive to the reception and he noticed yellow frosting dripping out by the muffler.
Our perfect wedding cake had melted in the trunk.
“Mom promised wedding cake, but she brought wedding soup!” I joked in the voice of someone who’d just had two glasses of lukewarm Champagne while standing in a fountain to cool off. I was doing my best to minimize my mom’s, broken heart.
After a short trip to the reception restaurant, my father took the now-leaning tower of buttercream that had pancaked from three layers to one, to our waiter and asked what they could do.
“How about I give everybody a straw?” he joked. Nobody laughed.
The melted cake then disappeared into a back room, and after the toasts and speeches, the cake reappeared as a single-layer lemon cake with vanilla buttercream. I thought it was perfect, absolutely delicious, but my brother- in-law said it had an “all-season-radial aftertaste.”
So yes, we got married for less than $300, we didn’t have to spend a boatload of money to make for a wonderful memory. Today my wife Kathy will look at one of our wedding photos on the mantel and say “If I’d have known we’d be married this long, I would have had a bigger wedding” she jokes. At least I think she’s joking.
Our whole whirlwind relationship started when she invited me to her house for dinner. It was ultimately the best Italian meal I’d ever had. OK, it might have been great, or it could have been the wine or then again maybe I just wanted to kiss the cook. We wound up talking all night and as she walked me to her front door, I said, “I know we just met, but someday we are going to be married.”
That’s when she gave me the look David Kaczynski surely gave his brother Ted when he realized he was the Unabomber.
“That’s nice. You should really leave now” she said as the door closed in my face.
Forty-one days later I proposed at table 52 at the Palm in Washington, D.C. She said yes.
Six months and 28 days after that we were married all for the price of an average visit to Costco.
If you’re curious what Kathy cooked that first night, you’re not alone, we get that question a lot, that’s why we included the recipe on page 111 of "The Happy Cookbook. Today we call it "Engagement Lasagna," that she continues to make after 33 years of marriage…which as you know is a lot of red sauce under the bridge.
Adapted from “The Happy Cookbook” by Steve Doocy and Kathy Doocy. Used with permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.