"I consider myself very lucky to have found her, and I kind of like making a public
statement about that from time to time," says Gerald McRaney. "The way I feel about her is that if I had to do it all over again, I would do it all over again."
They are both tired from long hours of work on "Love and Curses," a romantic murder
mystery along the lines of the old "Thin Man" movies, which they are making for CBS in New Orleans. But Burke seems lighter of heart, happier than she has has in some time as if she has shed emotional weight. And she has good reason to feel happy. On June 23, after production on the movie is completed she and Mac will renew their wedding vows in a small ceremony attended only by family and close friends.
"I like the idea of doing ft from time to time, just to reaffirm the ritual if nothing else," says McRaney. "It causes you to think about the reasons
you did it to begin with - hey, I'm starting to sound like a marriage counselor. I
should - I've [been married] three times already." He regrets that they couldn't be wholeheartedly traditional and renew their vows on May 28, their second anniversary. "Unfortunately, that was the start date for the movie so we put it off till the end of the schedule." says McRaney, the practical-businessman side of him speaking.
But this Sunday the businessman will step into an all-white tuxedo to say "I do" all over
again. It will be a genuine, wedding-like event. The bride will have two honor attendants and two flower girls, and she will wear a new, long white lace dress with a hoop, encrusted with pearls and iridescents, a three-quarter-length veil, and a snood and crown of flowers on her head. "It's very Southern," Burke admits. "But there's no train, which is very conservative for me. It surprised Mac." Also uncharacteristically conservative is their decision not to buy new rings, since Burke adores jewelry. "We looked at new jewelry but decided to use our own rings." she says. The location of the late-afternoon event in New Orleans is a closely guarded secret.
"It's nice to get to do it in the South," says Burke. In fact, the couple's strong identification with the region is one reason why they decided to renew
their vows so soon after their first wedding. The first ceremony in May 1989, was held in Los Angeles. She and McRaney had hoped to be married in their native South and were disappointed when production schedules on their two series conspired against them. "New Orleans Is our city," says McRaney. "It's where we come when we have time off."
A Mississippian, he went there often as a child, and he lived there for five years as a young repertory actor. Before she met McRaney, Burke - a
Floridian, whose mother and grandmother are from Mississippi - made frequent trips to the city with her mother to rubberneck at the plantation houses up the river and to shop in the antique stores. The couple spent their first New Year's Eve together there at Antoine's, where Burke was introduced to McRaney's family, and then danced till morning on Jackson Square. "This place was special to us even before we knew each other," says Burke. "It brought us together - we were interested in the same places and had taken the same trips. No one else knew what we were talking about."
their characters in "Love and Curses," which McRaney is producing and directing, also repeat their wedding vows, partly because their first vows were taken "500 miles [north] of the Mason-Dixon line" and the bride felt a powerful need for a real Southern wedding. "Since we met - even before we met - we've both been trying to get back to the South," says McRaney.
Like most Southerners, Burke and McRaney are sentimental and love rituals. And as
actors, they are innocently, unselfconsciously theatrical. "A lot of people thought that a first wedding as big as ours was a little out of line for people our age," McRaney muses. "But I think it's important if you're going to go to the trouble of getting married, why not do it big and memorably, so it means something to both of you."
For her first wedding, she was the consummate professional bride, mulling over color schemes and filling her house and dressing room with bride magazines and
samples. ("I couldn't sleep without hearing the soft sound of Delta ripping pages out of bridal magazines," recalls McRaney.) She bought
enough furniture for several houses. "We increased the coffers of the people on Royal Street," says McRaney, referring to New Orleans' district of antique dealers.
more relaxed now than before, Burke looks at this walk down the aisle differently. "At the first wedding. every last detail had to be perfect. With this wedding, perfection isn't important. What is important is that I'm with my husband, that we have a nice get-together for people that we care about, and that we all have a good time. That's a first for me. I've always been a perfectionist. Now, I'm able to let go of things. I learned that if I couldn't change a situation, I had to change how I reacted to it. I started to put that practice on the show, in my work, and in other things."
More than just
a renewal of vows, this ceremony marks a rebirth of sorts for Delta Burke. She has emerged from a depression after a difficult year marked by public flare-ups between herself and her producers, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason who she alleged treated her badly - and by constant tabloid stories about the state of her marriage and her spats with her co-stars. "For a while, the pressures were so bad that just surviving was a challenge," recalls Burke. "I was very depressed. I feel like I've survived a holocaust." The unhappiness started, she says, in 1987, during the show's second season. "The third and fourth seasons were the worst for me. I was trying to cope with it and shutting down and trying not to feel the pain." The key to her recovery, she says, was learning to confront people and "being true to myself."
This week's wedding ceremony may be their second, but it won't be their last. Burke and McRaney plan to renew their vows every five years. "I'm going to hold
back till five years after this," Burke promises. "I'm really a little embarrassed about doing it after just two years, but Mac asked me. It was very romantic, and we have a lot to celebrate."