Caroline Friday

Caroline Friday is a novelist and award winning screenwriter with several film projects in development for both television and theatrical distribution. Her first novel, The River Flows, will be published by Thomas Nelson in the spring of 2011. She is also a 2008 Kairos Screenwriting Winner for spiritually uplifting screenplays, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. Caroline currently serves as EVP of Sixth Day Media, LLC, a film finance and production company headquartered in the Atlanta area. She lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and three children and can be found at

The Wedding Machine

by Beth Webb Hart

The Wedding MachineThe Wedding Machine tells the story of four Southern matriarchs in the low-country town of Jasper, South Carolina, who take great pride in ensuring that every local bride is married in the highest of Southern style. Ray, the practical organizer, Kitty B, the food specialist, Hilda, the wealthy blue blood, and Sis, the meticulous adherent to detail, are known as the Wedding Guild, or “the gals.” Pooling their abundant resources of fine china, linens, antique knickknacks, Southern Living recipes, and knowledge of old-fashioned Southern etiquette, they can turn the wedding of any unlikely couple into a grand festivity of Southern pomp and flair, complete with gardenia and magnolia blooms and a decorated statue of a little girl who adorns every ceremony—fondly referred to as “Miss C.”

However, despite their love of weddings, the gals have been less than successful in pulling off happy marriages. Each one harbors a dark secret that has spilled a nasty stain on their image as the perfect Southern lady married to the man of her dreams. As the summer approaches and Kitty B, Hilda, and Ray’s daughters seek to tie the knot with their intendeds, the secrets unravel and the Wedding Guild comes to a shaky stop. Little Hilda marries an influential Italian, Katie Rae battles pre-wedding jitters, and Priscilla rejects the proposal from an upstanding doctor and elopes to Las Vegas with a reality show wannabe.

But it is when Hilda’s ex-husband announces his marriage to the local manicurist that everything comes to a major standstill. The most tormented of them all, Hilda secludes herself in her grand house, communicating with the outside world only through notes passed from the gals through her mail slot. And yet, as she remains locked away, the other ladies gain the courage to face their pasts and come to terms with their lives. Ray acknowledges

her illegitimate heritage, Kitty B casts off the blame for her baby’s death and her husband’s mental illness, and Sis lets go of her love for the fiancé who died long ago in Vietnam—the wedding dress that has hung in her closet all these years is finally donated to Goodwill. Only Hilda keeps her secret tucked away in the deep recesses of her heart.

Much Southern humor abounds to assuage the darkness of the story, particularly when it comes to Hilda and Sis. The heart of the novel lies with these two ladies, even though Ray is the clear leader of the pack. Sis, the only one unmarried, is youthful, perky, and happy, despite holding on to a love that was never meant to be, while Hilda, the former beauty, sinks into a pit of loneliness, depression, and despair as she waits for her husband to return to her. But like Sis’s dead lover, he will never return and everyone knows it. Her secret has created a barrier of guilt and shame that no one can cross, not even her own children.

Holding to many of the classic elements of a Southern tragedy, this story could be played out well in a film: beyond the beauty of live oaks and Spanish moss and the silly, fun-loving foibles of the local Wedding Guild, dark sins and secrets eat away at the soul. Being a Southerner myself (I hail from eastern North Carolina), I love seeing this mixture of humor and horror because it rings so true. Behind every hilarious euphemism or twangy expression is a hidden closet in an old Southern home or a musty, wooden hope chest where mysteries of blackness will never be fully known or discovered—which is why Southern stories are so intriguing to Hollywood. Like Steel Magnolias (a favorite of mine), I could see a group of mature A-list actresses clamoring over these roles—actresses such as Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, and of course, the great Meryl Streep.

And like that movie, the story leaves the reader with a small glimmer of hope: Ray, in all of her wisdom and practically, buys Sis’s wedding dress from Goodwill and helps put on the ultimate Jasper wedding. Hilda is coaxed out of her cocoon, and for a brief moment, the gals are together again, content and happy. It is the classic “perfect ending” to a good, Southern tale.