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The Story of the Rick and Marla's Wedding 2004
Chapter Three: The Wedding Reception

Sunday, September 26, 2004
Written by Rick Archer

Marla and I had missed out on a large part of our first Reception that day, but were thrilled to be given a second chance that evening.

Since we were already dressed, it was easier to simply keep on the tux and wedding gown to await our 7:30 pm reception for the 120 passengers on the SSQQ Cruise Trip.

After we said goodbye to our daughters and our friends, Marla and I collapsed into the soft chairs of the Centrum.  We were joined by Roz, Marla's sister in law, her brother Larry, and by Aunt Lynn and Mary, my mother.

We were met by many of the SSQQ Cruisers who were just now boarding the ship later in the afternoon. This was the fun part of the day.  The many well-wishers kept me in a perpetual smile. I enjoyed shaking all the hands and giving hugs. I felt very special and grateful.

Then everyone mysteriously vanished. I wondered where they went and got my answer quickly. The foghorn bellowed which signaled the start of the mandatory evacuation drill. This is where everyone learns how to put on their orange life vests and finds out where the emergency lifeboats are kept.

Marla and I stared at each other and by mutual tacit agreement refused to move from those chairs until some made us do it. Selfish?  Yes.  But we were so tired we could barely move.  We expected someone to come around and bust us. That's when we would summon the reserves and go do our duty.

Guess what?  No one busted us.  Several crew members came by and looked at us suspiciously, but said nothing. What a delightful break!  This hiding-in-plain-sight was kind of fun.  With our tux and gown, we looked like maybe we were important.  (Psst - don't tell anyone that normally we are normal!) 

Marla and I thoroughly basked in our star treatment.  We just sat there for half an hour as if we owned the place. 

Don Schmidt and Center of Attention

I have never before so openly flaunted a rule as serious as the lifeboat drill before, but you know something, it was fun!

Marla recovered before I did. She actually got out of her chair and managed to go sit with Roz where they began some serious girl talk. Meanwhile I continued to sit with Lynn and Mary.  

After the "Fire Drill" as I called it ended, the most amazing thing happened. Two couples about Lynn's age walked past us and came to a sudden halt. One of the ladies stared at Lynn in open-mouthed shock.

The lady exclaimed, "You look just like my sister Lynn. Lynn, is that you?  That's you, isn't it?  Lynn, ohmigod, what are you doing here!?!"  The lady stopped to get her breath. Then she stared for a moment at my mother. "Mary? Is that you, Mary? I don't believe this!"

Judy Jo Baiamonte and Gina Garza

I had no idea what was going on or who this woman was, but she got the names right so I kept paying attention. I thought maybe she was a friend of the family.

It turned out this was my Aunt Ginnie, my long-lost aunt from Chicago and Arkansas.  My mother Mary had two brothers and a sister. At this point, Mary is the only one of the four siblings still alive (and doing fine, thank you!)

Lynn is Mary's sister-in-law by her marriage to Richard, my favorite uncle.  Ginnie is also Mary's sister-in-law by her marriage to Bill, an uncle I had only met perhaps twice in my adult life. Since Mom and I were lost way down in Texas, we never saw Bill and Ginnie.  But here she was out of nowhere.

Small world, isn't it?

C.A. Riser and Cathy Bryant

My Uncle Bill died perhaps 8 years ago. Ginnie had recently remarried to Jack. Jack and Ginnie had their two best friends along, Tom and Lynn, from Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Ginnie was overcome by the surprise and started crying. I was really touched!  What a sweetheart my missing aunt was! 

After the introductions, the three sisters chatted up a storm.  After we all promised to have lunch together soon, they took their leave and away they went. What a day!

A couple hours later, it was time for the 7:30 pm Wedding Reception in the Shall We Dance Lounge.  This beautiful dance facility is the room that Marla had to fight like a banshee to obtain. If you remember, as close as just ten days from the trip this room was still assigned to a children's orientation meeting!

Tonight the gorgeous facility operated just as it was meant to.  Gary Richardson had been reunited with his missing speaker so he hooked up his computer and had the dance music playing as everyone arrived.

Mara, Nancy Schweinle, Nancy Edelman,

There so many people!  We had close to 100 guests at the reception. Some of them dressed up, some of them barely dressed, but everyone wore a smile. 

Marla and I went straight to the front where we could welcome everyone. I nearly went blind from all the pictures being snapped. The energy was amazingly high. Everyone started dancing immediately.

There were three highlights at the hour-long reception.  Aisha Currie kept asking me when we were going to dance.  This puzzled me since I had danced already once that day.  Aisha wasn't the only person to ask us to dance.  She was the first and most persistent.  Other people kept coming up to me or Marla to ask us to dance.

Ron Fiske, Jim Sloan

Odd as it seems in retrospect, I was thinking, "Am I allowed to dance twice?"  So I asked the wedding traditionalist for an interpretation of the rules.  Marla said that was a new one for her too.  She thought long and hard. Finally she said she couldn't think of any reason why not. So out on the floor we went for our second Waltz of the day.

Marla and I were given so much affection.  I considered it an actual honor to be asked to dance.  I haven't been much of a show-off in my dance career, preferring more to teach.  However with all this support, I was very pleased to be asked to perform.

With my lovely bride, we got out on the most magnificent dance floor and prepared to waltz to the beautiful strains of "A Time for Us" for the second time that day.

We didn't have a routine. With all the pressure we had been going through, I preferred to simply wing it. Marla is a good follower, so what was the point of taking the chance of freezing up because one of us couldn't remember the next step in the pattern? 

So once a week for a couple months, Marla took the studio's "Dancing in the Moonlight" class to work on her Waltz. Then she and I would stay after class and practice at the regular Monday Night Ballroom Practice Night. We definitely did not wait until the last minute like most people do.

As a result of our preparation, our dance was fluid and very  spontaneous. Marla was floating out there. I can honestly say I felt just like I was dancing with my very own Cinderella. She was beautiful, the music was lovely, the room was elegant, and the floor was spacious and grand. Best of all, we were dancing for our friends who really wanted to see us put on a show. Our Waltz became our very own fairy tale dance. What fun!

This moment was one of my personal highlights on the trip.

Now it was time for some serious mischief.  First came the ritual toss of the wedding bouquet. As you can see from the pictures, this event was very well attended! 


And the winner is: Ms. Abbie Barbley!!



Now it was time for even more serious mischief.  The tossing of the garter was the ritual I had been looking forward to.

I will let the pictures tell the story.


Right from the start, I could tell the men weren't quite as enthusiastic as the women had been. From a comparison of the men's pictures to the women's pictures, a simple pattern emerges.

The women were looking forward to it.  The men weren't.  Need I say more?

When it came time for me to grab the garter off of Marla's leg with my teeth... by the way I took my sweet time... the men seemed quite enthusiastic. They watched my technique very carefully and seemed to approve heartily of what I was doing. I was proud to show them how it was done. I am sure they were watching my every move!

But when it came time to throw the garter to the crowd, the men dissipated quickly to the restroom, to the hors d'oeurves, behind poles and to the darkest recesses of the rooms.

Fortunately I had a lot of help rounding them up. The single women blocked the exits, the married women scolded the ones hiding behind the poles into getting out there, and the married men carried the few remaining men who were too chicken to get out there under their own power.

The garter seemed to take on the power of a hand grenade.  Some men frankly could not take the pressure. For example, James Bowling, the bon vivant who thoroughly enjoys his reputation as a ladies man, was caught on film running from the group just moments before the toss. Two of the other men in the picture - Gary Tradd and Jeff Plaster - watched in disgust while the third man - Brad Stout -  bravely stood in there. 

James wasn't alone in his cowardice. Do you see Mr. Handsome in any of the pictures above?  Anyone who has ever read George Sargent's profile in the
Mardi Cruise Review knows full well that George is front and center at every event. But not the garter toss. Maybe he was was busy chasing a girl named Mia... you know, Missing In Action.

We will be discussing Mr. Handsome at great length in a later story, but for now we need to discuss Steve Gabino, the young man most likely to steal George's thunder on future cruises.  While all the other men cowered in fear as I prepared to throw the grenade, I mean the garter, there was Steven standing front and center prepared to accept whatever fate might bring.

In battle this man is known as the Point Man, the guy most likely to get shot first in a sneak attack. It was a risky, foolhardy gesture.  Steve had a choice. He could have moved, but he didn't.

I threw the garter right over my head. It struck Steve in the chest like a rock, then fell to the floor directly under his feet. While the other men ran as if it were about to explode, Steve just stared at horror unable to move. He stared at it for nearly a minute unsure what to do.

James makes his getaway while Brad bravely awaits his fate

Steve Accepts His Fate

Finally Steve bravely picked it up and accepted his tough luck.  But the instant Steve showed some guts and did THE RIGHT THING, the most unusual thing happened. George miraculously reappeared!! 

Sure enough, George had been there all along. A perpetual bachelor, he had found a way to become invisible while the heat was on!  He hid behind a pole!  Now that is a cowardly act.

But now that the coast was clear, like an X-Man Mutant, George used his amazing powers to re-materialize from Ghost Form and suddenly be right back at the center of the picture. 

People, you can't 'develop' the ability to be the Center of Attention. It is a gift, something you are born with. 

Meanwhile, does this make George the biggest Sissy ever?? 

Send in your vote.

After the intense drama of the the bouquet and garter toss, it was time to complete the evening with some light-hearted dancing.

Marla and I were starting to operate on fumes. We were pretty tired, so we found two comfy seats and sat down to watch the dancing.

And boy, did we dance!  Our group was incredible.  Whip, Waltz, Western Swing, Cha-Cha, Swing, you name it!   Within our group of 120, there were many awesome dancers aboard the cruise.

You and I may be used to seeing dancing like this on a regular basis back at Wild West and at SSQQ, but there were people on this trip who watched our group in absolute awe. 

Lost in our little world at the studio, we always know a dozen people who are easily better than we are, but here on the ship practically everyone in our group was an Olympic-caliber Dancer.

Doesn't Steve look nice?? 
It seems to fit him perfectly.

Did our group enjoy its status as Dance Gods and Goddesses?  You betcha.

It was a wonderful guilty pleasure to show off each and every single day and night of the trip.

We showed off in the Shall We Dance Lounge. We showed off to the Ballroom music in the Centrum.  We showed off on the dance floor beside the pool.  Wherever there was music, you were bound to see SSQQ dancers strutting their stuff while amazed passengers watched in admiration.

This first night was simply a warm-up for a week of dancing that absolutely thrilled the Rhapsody staff members as well as members of the bands we danced to and the other 2,000 passengers.

We may have only been 1/20th of the population, but our dancers were treated like Rock Stars all week long by our fellow passengers.

CA Riser and Stephani Callihan

A very interesting event occurred later in week after this party. The Crown and Anchor Reception was being held in this same room.  We danced to the Ballroom music of a live band.  It was a Formal Night, so all of us looked terrific in dresses and coats and tie.  We were there in force and we danced to anything.  At any given moment we might put as many as 20 couples on the floor. 

Once in a while I would take a back seat and just watch the dancers go to town. That evening
during the Crown and Anchor Party, I overheard a curious conversation from a couple sitting nearby.

They were a couple in their 40s dressed attractively in a tux and gown. I had the feeling they were new to their relationship.

Tom Berwick and Mara Rivas

The lady said, "Frank, let's get out there and dance like everyone else!"

The man said, "I don't know how to dance like that! There's no way I'm getting out there."

The lady replied, "Well, there have to be at least twenty men out there dancing. Why are you practically the only man in this room who isn't dancing?"

The man looked very uncomfortable. He said, "I wish I knew the answer to that. This is my third cruise and I've never seen dancing like that before."

Penney Goodwin and Gary Tradd

"Well, how did those guys learn? It can't be that hard if everyone in the room knows how!  Just get up there and copy them!"

"There is no way I am going to figure out what they are doing. If you want to dance, go ask one of them!"

"Thanks. I think I will do just that."

At that point she got up and asked one of the men in our group to dance the next song. As they danced, her Left-Behind friend just shook his head in consternation the entire time.

Who are these guys?

Watching the perplexed expression on his face, I had to laugh at his plight. But you know me, I can't just see something on a superficial level. So I started to think about his situation.

Leroy Ginzel and Nancy Edelman

It is true that Social Dancing as a part of American life is in serious decline. The Art of Formal Dance has indeed become 'a Lost Art' for the majority of our population.

It dawned on me that there isn't a dance studio like my own in every Texas town. That made me sad. 

Then as I stared at the beautiful dance murals in the Lounge which depicted Ballroom Dancing from the Fred and Ginger era, I felt even more sad that the days of fancy night clubs and dancing to live Big Band music was a thing of the past and not the present. 

Maureen and Steve

This room represented a lot of magic. I wasn't the only one who felt this way.  Lorraine Cull from our group wrote this lovely letter:

"Dancing aboard the ship made the pictures along the wall become a reality for those that danced.

What a tremendous opportunity to be able to dance in an environment that was so luxurious as the Shall We Dance lounge.

Dancing invites people to mingle unlike any other activity. Dancing offers an expression for the young and the old that were aboard the ship. Your dance lessons were fun and offered the participants the opportunity to dance later in the trip that they may have never tried to dance before.

The lounge was perfect for lessons and dancing in the evening. "Shall we dance?" Yes a most enjoyable evening. When you dance you can only be happy.

Rick's Note:  Here are two pictures of the murals Lorraine is talking about. 

Take note of the mural  hiding behind Gary Richardson and Marla in the picture on the right

The picture on the left is a photograph I took of Fred and Ginger in one of the other murals.

The artwork is remarkable.  I just wish it wasn't so tricky photographing artwork... the flash ruins everything, but without the flash the pictures are too dark.

Gary and Marla

Not only is there not an SSQQ in every Texas town, an even more serious barrier to widespread dance participation in America is the fact that many people have very little free time.

Most people work so hard that they barely have time for a recreational activity like social dancing. Many people tell me they would love to learn to dance, but they just don't have the time!

However once these same people are on board the Rhapsody, they are on vacation. I would imagine aboard the ship would be a terrific time to learn to dance!

Although it is true there is never a dull moment on a cruise ship if you look hard enough, I think social dance lessons would be a huge hit if approached properly.

For example, during the day before the Captain's Reception that evening, I held a Foxtrot lesson.  Many people had never danced the Foxtrot in their lives, but thanks to our class they were out there that same night dancing to their heart's content. 

There were Box Steps everywhere you looked!!  Such a tableau I have wrought!  I felt very flattered by the excellence of our entire group.  They were beautiful to watch in action. 

Don Schmidt and Gina Lollobridgida

There were several evenings where our dancers simply flooded the floor.  Scenes like this picture were seen every night of the cruise. 

The members of our group were definitely treated as celebrities wherever we went by the other passengers and the Rhapsody Staff as well.

Whenever you had an event like the Captain's Reception or the Crown and Anchor Party, I would see our handsome men and beautifully dressed women filling the Shall We Dance floor with Waltzes, Foxtrots, Swing, and Cha Chas.

Many times the panorama was so lovely it seemed to be taken from a scene in a movie.

The gorgeous Shall We Dance Lounge had all the trappings of splendor - wonderful music played by the ship's orchestra, a beautifully decorated room with murals depicting a Big Band Dance Scene, a lavish buffet, and a beautiful dance floor.

It is my impression that many of the people who watched us dominate the dance floors strongly wanted to join us, but stopped because they didn't have a clue what to do.

I hope someday the Rhapsody will invite our instructors aboard on a weekly basis to prepare any and all passengers for each of their dance events. 

I think they might discover that it isn't just people from SSQQ who like to dance, but lots of people would take them up on the offer to learn.

Sherry Andrus and Iqbal Nagji

Further pictures from the Wedding Reception

Brad Studt, Sherry Andrus

Chellie Pruden, Adolph Granato

Martin Hogan, Lorraine Cull, Michael Cull

Ken Proctor, Zhike Wang (aka Jane)

Maureen Johnston and her sister Linda Palmer

Joann McLain, Joe Condon, Marianne Pearce

Stefani Callihan, Jean Munnerlynn, Henry Pine

Frank Kruntorad, Sherrie Greenville, Cleta Brookstein

Patty Davino and Nancy Hendrix

Stephanie Barrow, Steve Gabino

Eva Lue and Judy Walsh

Aisha Currie and Gregory May

Gareld and Virginia McEathron, Faye Vamvakias

Jess and Pat Carnes, Leslie Goldsmith

Sherry Thornton, Theresa Smith, James Bowling

Robert and Helen Ong

Larry and Debra Hill

Jeff Plaster and Abbie Barbley

Jim and Stella Moore

Amy Hawkins

Corky Ament and John Safos

Jennifer Rogers and Jim Sloan

Betty Richardson, Linda Fleischer, Joni Grossman

Lila Waring, Sheila Cegielski
Next: Chapter Four

Beatlemania: The Legend of Phyllis the Troublemaker Begins


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