(When we last left our fearless hero, he’d just gotten back from giving a tour of the cathedral for his wedding guests…)
I shaved, very deliberately. I normally shift into an almost automatic mode shaving, thinking about other stuff. What’s to be done that day, etc. This time I paid careful attention to every stroke. I had been shaving only in one direction for the last week so as not to irritate my skin. I remembered my brother’s wedding when I’d forgotten my razor, been forced to borrow a one blade disposable from the front desk, and looked like I’d shaved with a piece of rusty glass. I used a new Mach 3 and shaved very deliberately. ‘This has to be the best shave of your life,’ I was thinking.
I nicked myself only once, and with a bit of TP it cleared up.
I struggled into my Action Undershirt. I tried on the disco ball light up boxers that Adam and Amy had given me the night before at the Rehearsal Dinner. I figured they wouldn’t fit under the suit pants, but it actually worked fine. On went the sock garters. On went the custom shirt, the amazing bespoke suit, the fantastic tie. In went the contacts. I was aware of every move as I got dressed. I was slightly surreal. I was aware that at 206 the bridal snacks had arrived and everyone was having fun getting ready. I almost regretted not having had my groomsmen assemble somewhere to go over together. But many of them have kids. We don’t have a vehicle large enough to transport everyone. It would have been too much trouble.
I actually don’t remember rolling through the lobby of the JW in my wedding suit, but I remember looking at the fall foliage driving up to the Cathedral. It was gorgeous, even under the slate gray sky. I remember thinking that everything seemed more vivid, that little details seemed clearer and sharper.
I parked on South Road, not as close as I’d been before, and walked into the Cathedral. The first person I saw was Bill Holland, the photographer. He said, “Anne’s with your bride and she’s not here yet, so you’re good.” I rolled into the slype. Julie’s Nana and mom were there. Other people were milling around. I saw Stanley Utterback the verger, and asked him if he’d gotten the marriage license I’d left, since it wasn’t there now. “Oh yeah,” he said, “I found that first thing and was wondering who their guardian angel was.” I’m my OWN guardian angel. I also asked him if he’d seen the camera and he said, “Oh, that’s YOURS!” Relief flooded through me and I instantly called my dad to let him know it’d been found.
More and more people were milling around the slype. There was a sense of anticipation and energy. I was almost giddy with anticipation. One of the bridesmaids had brought the snacks from 206 to the slype and I fell on the brownies and other goodies. Sara informed me that there were at least twice as many trays back at 206.
Bill Holland came up and told me that Julie was en route, and that I needed to make myself scarce from the slype so she could come in and get dressed without seeing me. He asked where I’d be. I hummed and hemmed and said, “Uh, Children’s Chapel. I guess.” Of course I was texted for something or called away to handle something else, and walked towards the Narthex when I saw an extraordinarily pregnant Fay coming down the aisle. I greeted her and tore onward. I was trying to get the details of how Annie would get up to the Triforium. I recruited one of my fellow docents (Carol Dwyer) to take her up and down afterwards.
Guests were beginning to arrive and were milling around. Bill grabbed me, and told me to head out to the north porch to wait for Julie.
He and I were out there, handing out. I felt good, relaxed, eager. This feels faster writing it down than it did at the time. I felt like I was milking everything out of every moment.
I asked Brad how he handled his ‘first sight.’ He told me that he of course used humor as a defense mechanism, to the point that Bill Holland told him to “stop mugging for the camera.”
I remember asking if I was going to get my buttonaire before the First Sight pictures. I’d heard someone say they had arrived. Bill said not to worry about it, they’d take care of it.
Then it was time for Julie to come out. I stood on the lower steps with my back to her. She came around, and we could hear each other talking before we saw each other. We chuckled and cracked jokes and said, “Now? Is it time yet?” I said, “I feel oddly like Orpheus.” Julie said, “Better that than Lot’s Wife.” I remember thinking that we were so witty and literary. Then Bill and Anne told us to turn around.
It was stunning. A revelation. She was magnificent. I don’t know what I’d expected, but not this. Julie is always amazingly, gobsmackingly beautiful. I’ll catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye as she sleeps, or makes dinner, or something else, and be amazed at how incredible she looks. But this was something else. She was transcendently radiant, amazing and perfect. Her hair was up and her makeup emphasized her luminously gorgeous eyes. The diamond necklace around her neck sparkled.
We were both stunned and overwhelmed. We were choked up, tearing up, not quite sobbing, but completely and totally into each other. I heard the clicking of cameras as if from a great distance.
At some point, we finally fled the rain and went back inside, but this is a complete blur to me. All I remember is how into Julie I was, and how I felt like we were both wrapped in a cloak of invincibility and awesomeness. Everything was right and nothing could go wrong.
Inside, we were handling the last few details. I was bustling around trying to make sure that all the mothers got their correct abanico. Julie told me that she’d given them to Amy Rothman to hand out. Rothman, who didn’t know a Helen from a Judy, had given them to the appropriate groomsmen. I retrieved them and handed them to the correct people. Or rather people who would hand them to the correct people. I gave Elizabeth a hurried, impromptu lesson on the camera. Someone assured me that the fans were in the hands of the correct people.
I was in the slype when someone said, “Your photographer needs to talk to you.” I headed out and found Annie with Carol Dwyer, the docent who was going to take her up to the triforium. We figured out that she’d thought the triforium meant the orchestra walk over the choir stalls, and quickly Bill and I decided to scrap the idea of Anne taking processional pictures from the Triforium, so she didn’t have to scurry down and scurry back up the stairs to the top of the stalls.
Things were accelerating. I looked over and saw Mel and Greg looking unsure as to whether they were allowed to cross the platform to the choir. I caught their eye and gestured wildly that they should just walk on up.
I looked up and saw a groomsman escorting a grandmother up the platform and into the choir. Someone said, “Shouldn’t you be up at the mid nave?” Oh crap, I said, you’re right! I realized that the Mussorgsky had started playing. I ran up and took my place. The groomsmen had already processed. Steve and the verger with the incense were waiting as was Brad. I exchanged a few chuckles, shook Steve’s hand, and looked around. Stanly Utterback was sending people down the aisle evenly spaced. I looked at Brad and said, “OK, time to get married!” I jumped up and down a couple times, and did the neck stretches left and right. Stanley watched amused as he sent the incense verger and Steve down the aisle.”Go” Then Brad. “Go” I said to Stanley, “Maybe I should just sashay down the aisle,” and did my best Ministry of Silly Walks slide. Stanley lost it. He started laughing and said, “Just go,” shaking his head with laughter and gestured with his verge.
And I went.
I looked around, trying to take in every detail through my pores. I was determined not to let this moment fly by in a blur as so many had warned us it would. I was peripherally aware of the tourists in sweatshirts lounging in the chairs of the nave around us, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest. This was MY cathedral. We filled this space and made it our own. It was our home.
I was walking down the nave and realized that I was so eager that I was hurrying, and had gained on Brad. I thought to myself, slow down, don’t rush this, this might be the greatest moment of your life. I slowed a bit. The Mussorgsky was PERFECT! It was so awesome on the organ. It was echoing through the space and filling it with an awesome sound. The smoke from the incense was in my nose. My skin was almost tingling I was so electrically excited.
I stepped up onto the platform and Erik Suter hit the stirring crescendo of the Mussorgsky promenade. GODDAMN, I thought, this was perfect. I was concentrating so much on keeping my good posture that I realized halfway down the choir that I didn’t need to keep a grave expression. I allowed myself to break out in the huge beaming smile that I felt. The faces of everyone who had come there for us, for me and Julie, were just a blur. I couldn’t pick anyone out. My groomsmen were there at the communion rail, lined up, and Steve was waiting for us. I stepped forward, did the half turn. Brad reached over and shook my hand.
I was now looking back down the whole length of the Cathedral, watching the haze from the incense rise in front of the Rose Window.
Just as I turned, the first of the bridesmaids stepped into the choir. Erik Suter shifted from the Mussorgsky to the Aaron Copeland. Now, I’d been a bit…not nervous, quite, but we’d HEARD the Mussorgsky on the organ. We knew it was going to work if not how awesome it would be on the huge organ in the cathedral. But we hadn’t heard the Copeland. No one had. It’d never been PLAYED on the organ before. Suter had to arrange it himself. So there was a possibility it wouldn’t quite work, at least in my paranoid mind.
But BOY did it ever work. Oh. MY. GODDD!!!!
The first strains started and I had that swelling in my heart I get when Roy Hobbs hits a home run at the end of The Natural. And it just grew. And grew. The bridesmaids came down the aisle. All were gorgeous. All carried themselves with confidence, striding through the space resolutely, knowing that they OWNED it. The abanicos looked AWESOME in front of the dresses. I found myself wondering why everyone doesn’t use abanicos instead of bouquets.
The music was swelling, and it was so awesome I had to clench my jaw to keep from losing it. I watched as the bridesmaids came up to the front. I remember watching Trish come right up in front of Steve, whom she of course knew, and walk the little circle curve to her spot that we’d been shown in the rehearsal.
And then Julie appeared. And the music swelled. It rose and grew to a crescendo. She stepped up into the choir and everyone rose to their feet.
And I gave up trying to maintain my composure. The waterworks started in earnest. The Copeland was AMAZING. It was delicate, yet powerful. This was the first time it had been played on the organ and it was spectacular.
When she got halfway down the aisle of the choir, she too abandoned the efforts to maintain a serene and aloof visage and threw her head back and grinned from ear to ear, almost guffawing she was so happy.
She came up to the top of the communion rail, and I took her hand, and we turned to face the vicar. My heart was so full I felt like bursting. I was overwhelmed with pride, with amazement, and most of all with love for this woman. I felt like I was flying. I was giddy.
Vicar Steve began the service. When he said, “If anyone knows any reason, speak now or forever hold your peace,” Julie comically craned her neck around to see if anyone was going to say anything.
We got up to the midpoint. Elianna unobtrusively straightened Julie’s veil.