Please do not wed at the Chart House in Weehawken
I have a few hang-ups when it comes to weddings. Often they’re treated as a once-in-a-lifetime adult Christmas, harnessing tradition to justify an orgy of consumer culture. I find that repellent. And then there’s that whole woman-as-property business we’re not supposed to acknowledge.
But let’s be honest: I’m jealous. By the time he’s twenty-eight, a gay man has been to enough weddings of his peers, and seen enough hordes of elderly relatives tearfully celebrating glorious heterosexual union, that it’s impossible not to feel left out. Sure, I can have a lawless ceremony, but I can never enjoy the moment of universal support and unbridled love from all corners of the family tree that a wedding is, usually, for straight couples. And I don’t mean to exclude unmarried straight people. They too feel the spite of tradition as they approach thirty, a perpetual aunt-bessie-tongue-clucking that gets louder with each passing wedding.
I do try to put those tons of societal baggage into storage when it is time to celebrate good people exchanging vows. For this wedding on MrLittlePants’s side of our family, held entirely at the Weehawken Chart House, I was looking forward to spending some time with people I don’t see often, taking in Weehawken’s famed Manhattan views, and also the free booze thing.
Though the restaurant sits on a pier, its nearest weekend ferry service is two miles up the Hudson at Port Imperial. Fortunately, New Jersey “taxis” were waiting outside and we were charged a reasonable $7 for the trip. At the Chart House entrance were strange men in polos standing around not opening our car doors; apparently they were parking valets for those arriving in personal cars. We shrugged our shoulders and entered.
The ceremony itself was pleasant, marred only by the shouting of restaurant employees setting up in some adjoining room (which the officiant convincingly appeared not to hear). After it had ended, more men in polos appeared and immediately dismantled the decorative arch that had framed the ceremony. And—while we were waiting in line to exit the room—banquet staff appeared and told us to exit the room. At this point I started to get nervous.
The other room was overcrowded by the wedding party. Most guests had glasses of champagne, but staff to serve us were nowhere to be found. MrLittlePants went to the room’s only bar where he had to wait fifteen minutes to get drinks. We ate a few of the hors d’Ĺ“uvres being pushed. There was a fake ice sculpture. I absentmindedly studied the drop ceiling’s various disguises. After a while, some unseen person repeatedly cycled the room’s overhead lights to tell us to leave and go to the banquet room.
Our assigned banquet table, inauspiciously numbered thirteen, is where everything went to hell. It was directly in front of the already-playing band’s speakers, and we were seated with other under-thirty kids we hadn’t met before. Champagne for the toasts had been poured, and eventually a server came around with bottles of wine.
The (heterosexual) couples across from us were served their choice of wine without question. A single twenty-one year old girl to my left was questioned and presented her driver’s license, at which point I respectfully turned away. Thirty seconds later I realized that the server had left the room and our glasses were empty. Perhaps he was coming back? He did not come back. My boyfriend and I (and his eighteen year-old brother) had apparently been mistaken for a pack of youthful miscreants.
This doesn’t sound like a big deal unless you’ve worked backstage at a banquet of any size. The wine goes through once at the beginning, and doesn’t come back for a good forty-five minutes. There are toasts to be given, salads to be served, and main courses to be plated. Wine, at that stage, is precious. We called out to the staff for help; a pudgy girl told us “they’ll be coming around” and backed away. We waved our arms, summoning another table’s server who took our request with obvious suspicion, spoke to a blonde who appeared to be the head server, and never returned.
That’s the curse of an empty wine glass at a wedding banquet. If you ask for wine between rounds you’re assumed to be either a drunk demanding to get drunker faster, or a child trying to skirt our nation’s sacred drinking laws. Being twenty-eight years old and bitterly sober, I was neither.
It was half an hour after the rest of our table had been served drinks before our proper servers returned. I had my driver’s license on the table, I waived it in their faces, and after thirty seconds of high-intensity math they concluded that I was, in fact, older than twenty-one. They talked among themselves about what to do next.
Obviously, the thing to do next was to apologize for their mistake in skipping us, and to fill our glasses post-haste. Instead, the male server asked me how old I thought he was, as if to make some important counterpoint. Incredulous, I replied sincerely, “I do not care how old you are.” He walked away.
So ended any semblance of a party and began the prison sentence. A few minutes later one of our servers appeared and emptied a bottle of wine into the glass of a guest who’d already been served, and left again. Being unable to stand a second more of their shenanigans, I stormed out of the ballroom and sat in the lobby.
When MrLittlePants later came to get me, our glasses had finally been filled, though only after further presentation of government identification and MrLittlePants’s spunky brother saying, “What’s your fucking problem? My brother’s twenty-six years old!” I didn’t touch my wine, knowing that if I did I would again be at the mercy of Satan’s employees of the century to refill it. When my steak came (our table was served last, naturally) I cut it in half and left it for the dogs. Basically, I went into full ice princess mode and still haven’t really come out of it.
Like Michelle Malkin hating immigrants, I’m sure that my anger towards the banquet staff has something to do with having had a similar job for several years in high school. I know that at large banquets you’re never able to give the kind of service you’d like, and that people expecting you bend time and space for them are selfish assholes. Am I hating my banquet-serving self for exposing the asshole that I’ve become?
No. Here is what I would have done, had I been working this party: I would have served the whole damn table and left it at that. Teenagers are supposed to drink at weddings; if parents have a problem with it then they should sit with their kids.
But, what if the bridal family had specifically requested that drinking laws be observed, or maybe some New Jersey wedding reception undercover alcohol operation was underway? In that case I would have just asked. I would have asked the three young men if any of them were old enough to consume the evil firewater, and if they had their official firewater consumption paperwork on them.
And, even if I had somehow made the wrong assumption, I would have been sorry about it. And even if I weren’t sorry about it I would have said I was, instead of going on about how I was “just doing my job” by assuming guests to be underage, when my job was in fact to serve them lawfully. This staff was so far out of line I could hardly believe my unfortunately sober eyes and ears.
At the Chart House I experienced the worst service of my life. Some blame goes to our country’s provincial, tortured relationship with alcohol, but most of it goes to the servers who use that culture as pathetic trappings of false authority. I might pass for twenty-three on a good day, but this nearly thirty, life-partnered, websnob homo will not suffer being treated as a child at any time.
In Weehawken you have a great view of Manhattan, but it’s painfully clear which side of the Lincoln Tunnel you’re on.