Every Wedding Needs an Aunt

Wedding cookies obviously made by an overachieving Pittsburgh wedding aunt.

I’m going to Baltimore soon for my niece’s wedding. Emily is my sister Reenie’s first baby. And even though she will be wearing a stunning J. Crew wedding gown when I see her next, I’ll still picture her as a big-cheeked, whispy-haired baby whenever I think of her.

I’ll be One of the Aunts at the wedding, lost in a sea of aunts, since her dad’s side of the family has millions of people in it, many of them of the auntish variety.

I’m at peace with being One of the Aunts at weddings, but it took me some years and a couple of bridal showers where I cried in the bathroom until I embraced that milestone. Now that I’m fine with it, I’m trying to take my auntly duties somewhat seriously.

An aunt doesn’t have to worry about what she wears to the wedding. She’s not supposed to look good. That task is best left to the bridesmaids and the sisters of the bride and groom, and, if necessary, the newly divorced mother. An aunt can wear a skirt that’s too long for her or that dress that keeps coming unbuttoned in front (an ill-conceived Chadwick’s of Boston catalog purchase, fer shur), along with comfortable shoes.  And she won’t regret it, even when the wedding pictures come out. A perm and a string of pearls wouldn’t hurt either.

An aunt, however, should provide cookies for the cookie table. Until Emily pointed out that the cookie table is a Pittsburgh tradition, I thought every wedding had one, put together by aunts of all nations and cultures, even outside of Pennsylvania. When my mom was One of the Aunts at my cousins’ weddings, she would get busy weeks ahead, making cookies for the cookie table. So on my wedding-aunt maiden voyage, at the New Year’s Eve marriage of my nephew Chuck in 1993, I dominated that cookie table. I made five different kinds of cookies, enough to feed an army, made them ahead of time and carefully wrapped and froze them. I made so many cookies, I permanently scarred the countertop of my brand new kitchen.

At the wedding reception, an aunt can dance if she wants to, but she is not obligated. She can refuse to hit the dance floor and instead spend her time cutting up food into small pieces for whatever toddlers are nearby, or fussing over the cookie table, or pestering the photographer (“I think the couple would like more photos of extended family”) or occupying the older, quirkier family members with conversation.

Emily and Brian’s wedding will be my sixth as One of the Aunts. I have eight more weddings to go before I get into the Great-Aunt level. Every wedding needs a bunch of aunts and one of them might as well be me.

I won’t ever again be a bridesmaid. I’ve already maxed out on helping the bride open gifts at the shower, doing my best to look good in the bridesmaid’s gown, and dancing the night away at the reception. Now it’s time to put on a pair of Easy Spirits and make some apricot kolaches.

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