Horseback Rides With Weddings

By Dan Conaway

BRIDAL PATHS. As I did last year, I begin this year revisiting markers on the journey.

When I was little, I was sure you went to cool weddings by horseback.

After all, Roy and Dale were married, and they sang “Happy Trails To You” from the back of a horse every week. Mom and Dad were married, and they spent the first year of their marriage in Arizona riding horses and doing cool-sounding things like punching cattle, shooting rattlesnakes and smoking Old Golds.

And there was that trail down the middle of the East Parkway median connecting two of the coolest places in my world – the Mid-South Fairgrounds and Overton Park – that Mom told me was called a bridle path.

I’d been to weddings, but they were dress-up churchy type things. I was pretty sure that sometime soon Dad would put on that great big, sweat-stained hat I saw up on the shelf of their closet, and Mom would pull on those tooled cowboy boots with the white star on the front I saw down on the floor, and we’d all mount up and ride the bridle path to somebody’s cool wedding.

Nora and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary two weeks ago. Our daughter and son-in-law celebrated their second anniversary last week.

On the way to their wedding, to be held up a mountain above Gatlinburg, the horses under our hood were barely moving in an 18-mile parking lot called Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. Ahead, we could see the faux bow of the Titanic plowing through a fake sea imperiled by a phony iceberg. Across, a fiberglass Kong scaled a scale Empire State Building high above stages where Hatfields and McCoys kill each other all over again every night and all kinds of folks pick and grin.

All along the crawl, there are lots and lots of places to get pancakes and to get married. In front of one was a bright neon sign that read, “Horseback Rides with Weddings.”

I knew it all along.

The next day – in front of just a few of us, their dog, and Pastor Buddy – backed by a gas log fireplace, a flat screen above the mantel and a bad bear tapestry on the wall – Hallie and Kyle took their vows. I saw in their faces what I saw in our son’s and daughter-in-law’s at Grace-St. Luke’s a few years ago and what people must have seen in ours at Second Presbyterian all those decades ago. I saw that all they could see was each other, and the view was fine.

What makes weddings cool has nothing to with Tiffany windows or mountaintops, with hundreds of people in church or a few in a cabin, with sterling silver or plastic kitsch.

It has to do with two people agreeing to share the trail, with all its ups and downs, and to get wherever they’re going together. And when you can see that they just might make it.

I’m a Memphian, and it’s been one helluva ride.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at