My fiancée and I attended many friends’ weddings while we were engaged. It was surprising how many groom’s shoe soles appeared worn and dirty when the bride and groom knelt at the altar. One shoe was so worn that it almost had a hole in it. Why would anyone choose to be married, a high point in life, in footwear so flawed? Hadn’t he thought others would see his soles when he knelt? How mortifying that everyone but his new wife would know she was forever consigned to someone who wore back-of-the-closet shoes on the most important occasion they would ever share.
Marriage is a life-changing event and I thought more care should be taken with such details, if a man has his act together. My wedding would not reflect a lack of thought, but show how much I cared for my new spouse and a commitment to doing things right. Months before the big day, I purchased a pair of expensive Florsheim Imperials with mahogany-grain leather soles, more than three times the cost of men’s fine footwear at the time, and carefully laid them away in their cotton shoe-bags. I would never be a perfect wedding-cake groom, but I would have the best damned shoes ever seen at a wedding when I knelt at the altar.
The night before, my brother and I were sitting in a hotel lounge when I remembered the new Florsheims and told him about my plans to wear them. He congratulated me on planning so far ahead, but then grew solemn. If I put them on in the morning after donning a tuxedo, how would I prevent the soles from becoming worn and scuffed by the time I knelt? How had I missed such an obvious point?
There were few alternatives. It wouldn’t look right to arrive in a tuxedo and loafers and then change footwear. Sneaking in bare-foot, or just wearing socks, was more ridiculous. We even discussed whether I could wear the cotton Florsheim shoe-bags over the shoes while entering the church. But, no, that wasn’t any good either. I simply needed to temporarily protect the shoe soles until the last moment.
It struck us both at the same time. All I had to do was tape cardboard over the shoe bottoms, enter church normally, and remove the cardboard in the church vestibule before the ceremony when I was alone. Then I would join my bride-to-be at the altar and, moments later, upon kneeling, reveal absolutely brand-new, un-touched shoe soles. I wasn’t sure whether this would reflect careful forward-thinking or weirdly obsessive compulsiveness but, if anyone noticed, they would be scratching their heads wondering how I pulled it off.
My brother went to his hotel room to find some cardboard, while I retrieved the shoes, brought them to the lounge, and borrowed scissors and tape from the front desk. Alas, my brother returned not with cardboard but a magazine. As fate would have it, his reading material that day was Playboy magazine. I didn’t like the idea of Playboy on my shoes, but we were out of time and no one would see anything anyway. It took only minutes to cut and tape the pages to the shoe soles before turning in for the night.
The following morning flew by in a rush. I carefully tied my new shoes and finished dressing. Nothing was amiss, so I soon found myself alone in a church backroom, focused on everything except shoe soles. I was dizzy with excitement and love, glancing at a clock on the wall just before the 10:00 a.m. ceremony, thinking, my God, I’m actually getting married. These were the last few moments of being single and a new life ahead. Moments later, the organ music and boys choir began and I walked out before hundreds of wedding guests rising to their feet.
Waiting behind the altar rail as the processional music continued, hundreds of people turned to gaze at the bridesmaids and groomsmen proceeding down the aisle to line up in front. My beautiful bride emerged in a radiance of light, the entire church fixed upon the vision walking down the aisle on her father’s arm. She and her father were halfway down the aisle, the congregation still following them, when I saw Dave staring at my feet. The Playboy pages were still taped to my shoe soles. Worse, I couldn’t remember whether any pages displayed scantily-clad Playboy Bunnys.
There’s a reason wedding guests focus on radiant brides and ignore thoroughly frightened grooms, especially forgetful idiots who are frantically peeling Playboy magazine pages and tape from their shoe soles. But we had done a good job of sticking the pages on. A lot of it was firmly stuck, almost impossible to remove. I was just peeling away the last, hidden behind the altar rail, when everyone turned to the front. Fortunately, no one in the church, including my bride, had noticed me behind the rail. Her smile was truly ecstatic.
Dave guessed what had happened and grinned a look that said, “It wasn’t me this time, brother. This was all your idea.”
The ceremony began and the choir was in full voice. As we knelt at the altar, perfect shoe soles were revealed for the first time. As the ceremony was concluding, I could see a puzzled sigh settle over our kindly priest. He was staring at a pile of mangled Playboy magazine pages and tape behind the altar rail, out of sight, wondering when such a mess had appeared.