Home > Uncategorized > How $20 Saved My Wedding Day 20 Years Ago

How $20 Saved My Wedding Day 20 Years Ago

Most of my wedding day remains a blur to me.  Every time I turned around I was being introduced to this person or that person or being asked where this went and how I wanted that to go (not that I even knew since Angela had done most of the wedding planning).  If it weren’t for pictures, I’d have trouble remembering much beyond the fact that I got married.  But I do remember one guy and one gift.

Angela’s boss, Jon, had driven three hours from Abilene to DeSoto for our wedding.  During her senior year internship she’d worked for him and after she graduated, he’d offered her a job.

When we’d finished taking pictures in the sanctuary, we walked into the church fellowship hall for the reception.  People were crammed inside the room shoulder to shoulder.  Jon made his way past a few people and shook my hand.  As he did so, I felt him pass me a folded piece of paper.  He smiled at me as he did so.  “Just in case,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said, not knowing what he’d given me.  Maybe a note with a piece of advice.  Maybe it was a check.  We’d gotten a few of those in the mail.  When he walked away, I opened my hand and saw that he’d passed me a twenty dollar bill.

No one had ever let me in on the fact that people did this at weddings.  Maybe there would be an upside to sticking around and shaking as many hands as I could at my own wedding reception.

Well, after lots of hugs and handshakes, I learned that the twenty dollar handshake wasn’t a common practice, but an act of generosity on Jon’s part.  He was the only one who’d given me twenty bucks.


We walked the gauntlet out of the church and were pelted by rice before driving away in my blue Dodge Colt.  Having been occupied with shaking hands and meeting people at the reception, I’d barely eaten any food.  I’d so wanted one of the seven chocolate chip cookie cakes baked in the shape of heart, but they proved to be a big hit with everyone else as well.  We dropped off our luggage at the Red Roof Inn (the nicest place two very broke college graduates could afford) and we drove back to an Olive Garden that we’d seen on our way.

We feasted on complimentary breadsticks and salad before devouring our main courses of Chicken Parmigiana and Ravioli.  With all the anxiety and stress of the wedding over the previous few weeks, this was the first time we could finally relax.  The waiter cleared our plates and asked, “Would you like some dessert?”

“Of course,” I answered.  We’d been married for a couple of hours.  We were on our honeymoon.  We ought to splurge.  Besides, Angela’s grandfather, taking pity on our impoverished selves, was funding our honeymoon.  “One cheesecake, please.”

Even splurging has its limits.

While we finished eating our cheesecake, the waiter put the bill on our table.  I checked my pockets, but couldn’t find my wallet or the checkbook.  I always had them.  I’d used my wallet when I checked in at the hotel.  Where was it now?  “I don’t have my wallet.  Do you have your purse?” I asked.

She looked around.  “No,” she answered, “Maybe I left it at the hotel.”

How were we going to pay the bill?  I reached into my front pocket, hoping that maybe my wallet was there, that I’d missed it when I checked the first time, but it still wasn’t there.  However, I did find that folded twenty dollar bill.  I pulled it out and showed it to Angela.

“Jon,” I said with a smile and then told her the story of how he’d passed me the money.

That smile disappeared when I looked at the bill.  We were still short three dollars and twenty cents.  This was pre-cellphone so we couldn’t call anyone to bring us some money and even if we could, we’d have to count on them being at home to answer the phone.

“Let me go check the car,” I said.  I left Angela sitting at the table and walked out of the restaurant to my Dodge Colt.  I couldn’t believe this is how our married life was starting, struggling to pay for our first dinner as a married couple.  I hoped our future wasn’t going to be like this moment.  I opened the car and crawled around, emptying anything I could find, sticking my hands under seats and below seats, looking for every penny- literally- that I could find.  I returned to the restaurant as my pockets bulged with dimes, nickels, and pennies.  Lots of pennies.  Not a single quarter.

I counted the money on the table and found that we had three dollars and twenty-five cents in change, just enough to pay the bill, but with nothing to leave for a tip.  We piled the change on top of the twenty dollar bill.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said.  As we were getting up, our waiter returned.  He looked at the mound of change and then at us.

“Sorry,” I said and then we rushed out of the restaurant, relieved that we’d been able to pay the bill.


As embarrassing as that moment was, we were only able to pay the bill because Jon slipped me a twenty dollar bill.  I don’t know what he thought when he handed it to me, that maybe we’d buy an ice cream cone  and a Coke with the money, never being able to remember him or his gift in twenty years.  But neither Jon nor his twenty dollar gift will never be forgotten.

You never know what twenty dollars will mean to someone else.

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