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Home --> Weddings --> Embarrassments --> Aisle and Girl

Aisle and Girl

Legend:   After a bridesmaid catches her spike heel in a floor grate, the bride tumbles into a open hole.

Example:   [Reader's Digest, 1958]

It started at the end of a Sunday morning service in an Ontario church. The choir began the recessional, singing as they marched in perfect unison up the center aisle to the back of the church. The last young lady in the women's section was wearing a new pair of shoes with needle heels — heels that are so slender they slip through any grating. And in the aisle was a grating that covered the hot-air register.

Without a thought for her fancy heels, the young woman sang and marched. And the heel of one shoe sank right through a hole in the register grate. Instantly she realized her predicament. She knew she couldn't hold up the whole recessional while she back-stepped to pull out her heel. She did the next best thing in the emergency. Without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued up the aisle. There wasn't a break in the recessional. Everything moved like clockwork.

The first man following that young woman noted the situation and, without losing a beat, reached down and picked up her shoe.

The entire grate came along with it. Startled but still singing, the man continued up the aisle bearing in his hand one grate attached to one shoe.

Never a break in the recessional. Everybody singing. Everything moving like clockwork. And then in tune and in time to the beat the next man stepped into the open register.

Origins:   Versions of "the heel in the grate" have been kicking around for years, with the most popular setting for them being a wedding during which the mishap sends either the bride or all of her bridesmaids into the void. The incident on which this charming image is based didn't quite happen that way . . . although Cartoon of the legend something like it did.

The Reader's Digest example quoted above came from the Kitchener-Waterloo Record and was attributed to The Lutheran, where it presumably originated as a report on a real occurrence. Ah, but even the truth behind that article is a bit more complicated than it first appears.

Despite the description in Reader's Digest version, this incident didn't occur in Canada, or in a Lutheran church, or during a wedding. The real thing had taken place in 1949, more than a decade earlier, at the Hanover Presbyterian Church in Hanover, Indiana, at the end of a regular church service, while the choir was marching down the aisle singing.

According to people who were there, one lad picked up the trapped shoe, another stepped over the hole, and a baritone following them fell in. Over time that story has mutated into one about brides or bridesmaids tumbling into an open hole during a most solemn and meaningful moment in the wedding ceremony.

Such is the story's appeal: Weddings are serious and solemn, so it pleases us to picture one where all that solemnity is shattered by a hilarious accident. Not being content with passing such a tale off as a funny story, we repeat it as a true one.

Barbara "grate's caught!" Mikkelson

Sightings:   Only Doris Day fans are likely to know this, but a non-wedding version of this legend surfaces in the 1966 film The Glass Bottom Boat. During a tour of a space flight center, Doris loses her spike heel in a floor grating, Rod Taylor picks up the shoe (with the grate with it), and Dick Martin drops through the resulting hole.

Last updated:   23 January 2008

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  Sources Sources:
    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Curses! Broiled Again!
    New York: W. W. Norton, 1989.   ISBN 0-393-30711-5   (pp. 167-172).

    Reader's Digest Treasury of Wit and Humor.
    Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1958   (pp. 409-410).

  Sources Also told in:
    Tan, Paul Lee.   Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.
    Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers, 1979.   ISBN 0-88469-100-4   (p. 879).

    The Big Book of Urban Legends.
    New York: Paradox Press, 1994.   ISBN 1-56389-165-4   (p. 105).