Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: After a bridesmaid catches her spike heel in a floor grate, the bride tumbles into a open hole.
Example: [Reader's Digest, 1958]
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
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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