Part the Third: In which the sun comes bursting through, ninjas hide among cupcakes, and I miss my own theme music.
Julie and I were very gratified at how many people came up for communion. We’d been uncertain when we planned this out, and even though the program and the Vicar stressed that anyone was welcome and you could come up and get a blessing if you preferred, we were a little worried that there wouldn’t be many takers and it would seem a bit odd. The week before we’d been to a wedding in this very space where it felt like only about four of the guests came up for the bread and wine, two of whom were me and Julie. We watched the procession with an increasing sense of joy that was heightened by the strains of the variations on La Folia that Erik Suter was playing. It was a FABULOUS choice, quiet and contemplative but still filling the space and taking full advantage of the awesome pipe organ.
As the guests walked up, we made small observations.
“DAMN, look how good Nora looks in that dress.”
“Oh, there’s Kevin. Is Liz not with him?”
“No, there she is.”
We were past the emotional threshold of the locked jaw and quivering lip and were now just exhultant and giddy.
It seemed a mere moment after the communion that Steve gave the final blessing. Julie and I turned and strode down the aisle to THUNDEROUS applause. We felt like we’d been fired out of a cannon. The Dupres Prelude and Fugue was blasting out of the organ making the pipes rattle. Truly all the stops were pulled out. I walked down the aisle clutching the hand of my new wife, my best friend, the most important person in my universe. The Dupres kicked into the part that to me was reminiscent of the Superman theme. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I felt so tall that I wondered if I would hit my head on the top of the rood screen as I passed under it. The audience in the nave, the random tourists visiting the cathedral who’d gotten an extra show, all stood and applauded as well.
As rehearsed, we took a sharp right rather than processing down the whole aisle, and swept into St. Mary’s Chapel. Our attendants and family followed us.
Knowing that we had given misleading directions in the program, I stepped out and said in my most booming Docent’s voice, “Folks, we know that we said there would be a receiving line, but I’m afraid it just proved too complicated. We’re going to take some pictures and then we’ll see you at the Reception at DAR.”
The guests had followed us down the choir, and then been confused. The program said SOUTH transept for the receiving line, but we’d headed north, and here I was confusing them further. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for my usual inclination for hand holding, and had to trust them to figure it out. Sadly, many of our relatives that we should have thought to have stay took our direction and headed off to the reception.
I looked back and saw Julie twirling and twirling with her veil draped over one upreaching arm.
We were surrounded by a blur of people and family. I remember kissing my mother, hugging Barbara, and shaking hands with my father. I believe I did the Salute of the Jugger with my groomsmen.
Quickly we began snapping pictures up at the high altar. And here we hit one of my only big regrets about the wedding. When listing the established shots we wanted with the photographers, we’d been rather sparse. Julie wasn’t sure what to do about her compound family, and so we just left it as no posed pictures with them. We did a couple with the groomsmen, a couple with the families, and then Bill said, “that’s it.”
Suddenly I looked up the nave and saw the rose window light up like a searchlight. I’ve seen the cathedral in all sorts of light and weather, and it only gets that blast of color when it’s getting hit with the direct light from the sun as it dips near the horizon late in the afternoon. The sudden appearance of this light could only mean one thing. Not only had the rain stopped, but the sun was OUT!
Any thought of further family groupings fled from our minds as we grabbed the Hollands and hurriedly dashed out to the Woman’s Porch where we’d taken the First Sight pictures.
My mind still bends trying to fit it in. At the exact right moment, the clouds had parted and the sun had come out. It was what we’ve refered to as OUR crepuscular light, since we both love how things look in the late afternoon glow. And here it was, innundating everything and flowing over us and the cathedral like a tide. Looking at these pictures now I see in my face not only delirious happiness but utter disbelief.
We jumped happily from pose to pose, with Anne and Bill flitting around us. Now that the ceremony was over, we could be a little more cavalier with the dress, and Julie lept up on the stone bench. The sun was BLAZINGLY bright now, and the air was cool and crisp like the perfect fall day it had suddenly become. I was following Julie around, holding her veil out of the puddles on the ground. I draped it over one shoulder and in a lot of the shots it looks like I’m wearing some kind of tallis.
As Julie stood up on the bench I held the veil out to one side. I saw the twisting patters of light and dark in the veil leading to her head, and thought about calling the photogs over to see if they could get that angle, but they were happily snapping away from a low angle to get the towers in the background. I figured they were the pros and knew where to go. This impression was born out when we got the final pictures. But that image of the veil twisting in my hands to my new wife’s head, with the striations of alternating black and white still stick with me.
I had to be careful with the veil since it was pinned to Julie’s head with about 20 pins. If I pulled hard or didn’t keep up with her movements it would yank her by the scalp.
But all of these details are lost in a wash of giddy exhultation. Julie kept saying how this unexpected burst of glorious sunlight was her dad’s wedding gift to her, just as her Uncle Terry had promised us the night before at the rehearsal dinner.
There were enough family members hanging around that we took a couple group pictures with everyone. Again, we wish we’d asked everyone to stick around longer and taken more pictures, but that’s the ONLY regret I have about any of the planning we did.
We strayed out into the circle below the woman’s porch in order to get some pictures with the amazing fall colors behind us. And waiting for us there was a gleaming Rolls Royce with just a couple stray raindrops clinging to its glittering grill.
After a couple of pictures by the car, we consulted with Anne and Bill, Barbara, my folks, and decided we were done here. We’d head on down to the reception.
The others trickled away to find their rides, and it was just me and Julie and her uncle Paul, who had arranged for the Rolls and was serving as chauffer. I had to help Julie in. The seat was so far back and her dress so tight that she almost had to slither in. We were laughing uproariously.
There we were, married less than an hour, riding down Embassy Row in our imperial city in a Rolls. It was amazingly comfortable, and of course we immediatly went to work discovering all the bells and whistles like the hidden video screens. Paul pointed out that there was a hidden beverage chiller under our seat, as well as a couple glasses. I confirmed that they were non-alcoholic beverages, and popped them open. They were a delicious wine kinda thing called 12, which I speculated might be for the 12 steps.
The sun was shining gloriously, drenching everything as the rain had so recently. All too quickly we found ourselves pulling up in front of DAR. I saw that the Valet Parking guys were out front with a sign. I’d been a little worried about these guys, and it was good to get the confirmation.
We were having so much fun that we asked Paul if we could do a victory lap around the mall. He said sure. Bill Holland was waiting out in front of DAR waiting for us to arrive, poised to capture the moment. I’m sure he was calculating the precious few moments of remaining daylight and wondering if we could get back up to the roof in time for the sunset which we’d all assumed was lost in the clouds. As we flew by without stopping, his face paled into a mask of disbelief that was so forlorn that I couldn’t help but laugh outloud.
We drove around the Mall, down to the Capital, giving Paul directions. We were positive that at this exact moment, no one in the city and probably no one in the world was as happy, lucky, and glamorous as we were. A beautiful crimson sunset now streaked across the sky, and I slightly regretted that we we’d taken the victory lap. I wasn’t sure if we’d get back in time to get any pictures with the sunset.
We finally rolled up in front of DAR, and the valet guys opened the doors for us. We stepped inside the Pennsylvania Foyer to find a bustling party in full swing. I caught just a glimpse of something horrifying over on the gifts table. The photographers, Anne Bill and Bill O’Leary from the Post, were waiting with Peggy Martz from DAR, and they pounced on us. They bustled us hurriedly into the tiny elevator with the plaque to Josiah Bartlett, signer of the Declaration and inspiration for the Martin Sheen character on The West Wing. All of us laughed happily as we clambered out onto the copper clad roof of the portico. In the last moments of daylight we got some spectacular shots. The crimson sunset, alas, had gone, or perhaps the angle wasn’t quite right.
The light was fading, so Anne broke out the powerful hand held light. At the photog’s suggestion, we began practicing our first dance, which we’d choreographed. We rhumbad away on the roof of the Daughters of the American Revolution, with the Washington Monument glowing in the back ground. I felt like we were flying.
By now we’d simply become accustomed to people pointing cameras at us and clicking away. I began to get a feel for how celebrities feel. We felt like celebrities. For this day, we WERE celebrities.
We decided to walk down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, and on the gorgeous marble staircase we had photographers above us, below us and at our level, all snapping away. Bill O’Leary from the Post said, “Now THIS is what I call a TARGET RICH ENVIRONMENT!” We laughed.
One of the best things about weddings is it allows ordinary people to feel, for one day, that they’re the most important, most beautiful, most celebrated people in the world. And we did. We felt like we were standing right at the center of the universe as the world revolved around us. Partially this was because we were so hands on with the wedding planning, and it had encompassed our lives for the last year. We’d done so many of the details, from the place cards to the table arrangements to the order of events. We were at the center of an enormous watchworks of our own devising and it was a pleasure to watch it ticking and humming away perfectly as it revolved around us.
After pictures, we found ourselves in the Pennsylvania Foyer, mingling with our guests. We had time for a quick drink and a glance at the appetizers before we split up.
As Julie was whisked away and I stood at the center of this party I had stepped into in media res, I felt something I hadn’t expected. Just for a moment, I felt loneliness. Everyone was partying away and having a great time, and the fact that I’d joined the party late for a moment gave me that old feeling of being at a party thrown by the cool people and not belonging. But of course this time I was The Cool People. Or rather, collectively Julie and I were The Cool People.
The moment only lasted a second, and then I started working the room and schmoozing. Corey came up, asked if he could get me a drink, and so I dispatched him for my usual tipple of diet coke. He was a real trooper all evening. He kept saying that if there was anything I needed just to ask him. And he kept checking back in to see if we needed anything. It was like having a valet. Of course in retrospect I think he was trying to ingratiate himself so that I didn’t kill him when I found out what he had up his sleeve (or down his pants) for No Pants Drinking.
As the party whirled around us, we performed the very few remaining introductions we needed to make. I grabbed Jeff and Alice and introduced them to Julie. Likewise, I snagged Andrew Fried and introduced him. She said, “YOU’RE FRIED! YOU’RE AWESOME!!!!” It’s not everyone who quits his biglaw job to open a wine bar.
Now that we had a few spare moments, I was able to examine the object on the gift table that had so horrified me earlier. And I should explain that I was pleasantly suprised to be so horrified.
This requires some explanation:
Over a decade ago when my friend Brody (who had just served as one of my groomsmen) got married down in Williamsburg, we’d decided that his guy friends would chip in and buy him a kick ass grill. Back then we were still rather pecuniarily challenged, and our notions of what constituted a “kick ass grill” were slightly provincial, to say the least. We decided that an appropriate place to shop for such an item would be the sub K-mart discounter “Big Lots.”
Anyone who has experienced the joys of Big Lots knows that it’s a fool’s errand to go there looking for a particular item and expect to find it. But you often find something else you WEREN’T looking for. Some wayward treasure tossed to you by the capricious gods of fate. Something you had no idea existed before you saw it and instantly knew you must own it or you could never be happy. Such was the case this time.
There were no grills to be had at Big Lots. But we did see a framed poster of the recently deceased rapper Biggie Smalls AKA Big Pun AKA the Notorious B.I.G. It featured him reclining in all his corpulent glory, sneering insouciantly at the camera behind fedora and shades. Scrawled across this in gold laminate script was the legend. “WE WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU BIG POPPA!”
Gold. Laminate. Script.
Trepeditiously I asked how much this singular item of beauty cost. I assumed such a work of art would be far beyond our means, but it was a mere $7. Barely over an hour’s labor at the then prevailing minimum wage. Instantly I purchased it.
We detoured to K-mart where we procured a nice, entry level gas grill. I had not yet formed my later prejudices in favor of charcoal grills or I would never have countenanced such a purchase, but I digress. When Brody and Kristin swept into their reception, they were greeted by Big Pun propped up on the grill, leering at them.
This went over so well that every subsequent wedding of one of our college friends necessitated the gift of a rapper. As I was the last one of our circle to tie the knot, I knew that my friends would go all out to find the most horrible, tasteless item they could. I had explained this very carefully to Julie and prepared her for the presense of such a monstrosity at our reception. Privately I suspected that the rapper in question would be The Fat Boys, because of an amusing story I will not here recount. Instead, they had scoured the interewebs and found a Tupac Shakur touch lamp. It’s tulip-like frosted glass shade was emblazoned with the image of Biggie’s arch rival. It stood accusingly on the table of tastefully wrapped presents like a turd in a punch bowl. I could not have been more delighted.
I took in the Tupac lamp in a moment, and then Julie introduced me to Kuba and Giosha, friends of hers I had not met. And then Miles the DJ came up and said that he was about to start moving people out to the portico for our big entrance. We were ushered over to a small hallway off the Pennsylvania foyer where it led to the O’Bryne Gallery.
A river of guests flowed past us out through the Gallery and onto the Portico. I felt a touch of anxiety over our dance, which we’d practiced over and over and choreographed and taken lessons. But we were riding so high that at this point I felt that if we totally wiped out and looked like asses it would still be fine. I felt invincible and invulnerable.
We filed out, groomsmen and bridesmaids ahead of us, and me and Julie bringing up the rear. Of course, the guests could all see us through the glass doors from out on the portico, but it didn’t matter.
I could hear the muffled announcements of Miles the DJ and the applause that indicated the others were being introduced.
Now, one of my big awesome ideas of this wedding was having us introduced to the theme music from the old Battlestar Galactica. This came as a flash of inspiration ten months ago when we were down in Tampa over New Years visiting Adam and Amy Shoemaker. We’d been discussing wedding stuff, and how awesome it was that Kevin Wallace had been introduced to the A-Team theme. Adam said, “Aren’t there any other good 80’s shows you could use, like Knight Rider?” And BANG, I thought of Battlestar Galactica. I loved the show as a kid, and the music is a stirring orchestral work of John Williams’ proportions. It’s awesome, majestic, and very ME. And everyone I’d played it for, starting with Julie, agreed. If you recognized it, you’d get the joke. If you didn’t, it just sounded like the triumphal march from Aida or something. It was perfect.
The entrance was also important to me semiotically. Unless you’re a professional athlete, you will probably never enter a room accompanied by your own fanfare and theme music. Yet every guy dreams of exactly that. Your wedding is your only chance. We thought the artificial grouping of our bridesmaids and groomsmen into “couples” was a little odd, and we were only doing the introductions because I wanted this moment and insisted on it.
And now the Battlestar Galactica theme was presumably playing, since the escorts were being introduced, but I COULDN’T HEAR IT! The speakers were outside on the Portico, and we were inside, and all I could hear was Miles sounding like the teacher from the Peanuts, and the sound of applause. I was desperate to hear the BSG theme. As the last couple went in front of us, I craned my head around the door trying to hear. My sister who had already processed out shouted, “DREW! We can SEE YOU!”
And then Miles said, “Now presenting for the first time as Husband and Wife, Andrew and Julie!” We’d decided against the usual, “For the first time as man and wife, Mr. and Mrs….blah” Julie said she’d be fine with that, but I didn’t think we needed to since she wasn’t changing her name.
I stepped out and he shifted instantly into the Chucho Valdez of our first dance.
I never did hear the theme to Battlestar Galactica.
The guests were crowded around us. When we’d practiced, we’d made sure we took long enough steps and pushed our dance around the room to take up the full space of the portico. We’d assumed that everyone would be standing down the three little steps on the part of the portico that wasn’t under the pillars, but they were crushing in around us. Also, there were a bunch of heating towers that fortunately hadn’t been needed because it was so warm. But now, with everyone applauding, the opening bars of Chucho Valdez playing My Funny Valentine blasted out, and we realized we were going to have to work with what we had. We did a triumphant circuit of the portico, as rehearsed, and then kicked into the rhumba that Jen Vestal at Arlington Dance Factory had taught us.
At first I was a little too preoccupied with doing everything exactly as we’d practiced it, and in the early pictures you can see that I’m not smiling, just concentrating intently and counting ONEtwothree…ONEtwothree…
But it was so much fun that I quickly relaxed and started smiling. Julie was mugging like crazy. Someone said audibly, “They’ve obviously taken lessons,” and Julie stuck out her tongue at them. Of course the Hollands snapped that moment. She was vamping it up, and we were rocking and rolling. It was far more FUN that I’d thought it would be, once I relaxed. We weren’t being scored by professional judges, and I could feel the anxiety associated with this aspect of the event slip away.
We whirled around the space, the crowd ebbing and flowing to give us more space or move closer, like sandpipers retreating from the waves. I felt hemmed in, but comfortably. These were our friends and family, who were there to share our delight, and we didn’t have to show off for them. But they were willing to let us.
While practicing, the three and a half minutes of the song seemed an eternity, and I wasn’t sure how a dance that long was going to go over. But now that we were here it was flying by. Before I knew it we were into the crescendo, and Julie twirled away from me and started vamping. I let the focus go to her and then, as we’d rehearsed walked over to her, bending my knee to go down low. She grasped me by the chin and lifted me up as the long build up to the finale.
We brought our faces in very close as if we were about to kiss and then, as the music suddenly shifted to the fast paced final measure, we veered away, and I spun Julie out. The plan was to spin her back in as the song came to a close, but here we hit the only hiccup of the dance as we got our spins mixed up. I was pulling in one direction, she was spinning in the other, and our grasp broke. We covered easily, though, and she came into a clinch as we finished up with the flourish we’d planned, then kissed joyfully.
The applause rocked up through the air where the Washington Monument glimmered in the distance.
Then Miles invited family members and the bridal party to join for the second dance, which was “Our Song.” Miles had laughed his ass off at this song when we gave it to him but asked if we really, SERIOUSLY wanted it played. It’s “Talkin’ out your Ass” by Paul and Storm. We joyously danced away. When we got to the line about Abe Vigoda still being alive, I gave Rick a heads up and told him to listen. He cocked his head, and then said, “NICE!”
Talking to people later it turned out that very few had been able to hear the lyric enough to appreciate the comedy value of the song, but it worked well as a fun swing tune anyway.
After this second song, Miles bid everyone go in for dinner. As planned, he put on the Gipsey Kings. Volare, I believe. This is one of Julie’s favorite songs, and she immediatly began dancing like crazy and rocking out. Her friend Patrick joined her, singlehandedly dispelling the notion that gay men have some sort of inate dancing ability related to their sexual orientation.
Bill Holland snapped a picture of the two of them rocking out. It’s probably the best picture of her dancing at the entire reception, and it’s with another man. Oh well.
We traipsed in and started sitting down for dinner.
Of course we immediatly began doing the checklist. “Everything set up ok? Flowers, check. Sweetheart table, check. The cupcakes look GREAT!”
The only slight flaws were on the cupcake pyramid. There were two cupcakes at the top tier as we’d planned, but there were two decorated strawberries, a bride and a groom, on each. And it looked like they were falling off. Cause they were. This was totally reasonable, as we’d provided them with four bride and groom strawberries, but we’d envisioned just one on each, and keeping the others as spares.
A quick word to the caterer, and that was corrected. But then we spotted a more serious error. There were no ninjas amid the cupcakes. Julie whirled and stalked off in search of Maggie, our Design Cuisine rep to see about it. I went into the Library, where we’d put the William & Mary and Hagler Bailly people, and began to work the room.
The first person I saw was Rick G. I shook his hand, and he said, “Admit it, this is just the world’s biggest kid’s table, isn’t it?”
“Are you kidding?” I said. “LOOK at this place! Ideally we’d have everyone in here! We wish WE were in here!”
“Come on,” he said.
“Ok, yeah, it’s kinda the world’s biggest kid’s table.”
I moved on down the table. Kristin Bedell snagged my attention. “Martin,” she said, “You are NOT allowed to regift the Tupac lamp at the Tacky Gift Exchange. I spent six months cruising eBay looking for that thing.”
“Also,” interjected her husband, “you’re not allowed to let Julie pull a “Christmas Story” on it. My Biggie Smalls is still in my home office and if I can keep that around you can keep the Tupac Lamp.”
Julie came up, looking radiant. Everything was fine, she reported. The caterers had taken our instructions a little TOO literally, and hidden the ninjas UNDER the cupcake stand. Julie had explained that these were incompetent ninjas, and would be hiding in plain sight.
ASIDE: Looking back on this three months later, as I finish up this diary, I find it surprising how many people at the wedding DIDN’T notice the ninjas. We thought that very daring and clever, and such a big deal had been made about Julie baking the cupcakes that we figured everyone would give them close scrutiny. In fact, the majority of the details over which we’d sweated were probably imperceptible to the majority of our guests. I almost feel the need to record them here for posterity, lest some detail like the box for the cards or the cake toppers be lost to the mists of time. But will our children or some other mythical audience really pore over this with and care about the agita that getting the right groomsmens’ ties caused?
But back to the party.
The W&M and Hagler Bailly people were seating themselves at the long 40 person table in the Library. We’d shelled out a considerable extra sum for the Library because it was a spectacular space, and at the last walk through it the DAR people had been reluctant to remove the huge lamps that studded the center of the tables. The caterer suggested a compromise: push the extant tables aside and bring in their own huge long 40 person table and run it down the middle. We’d jumped on this eagerly, assuaging Peggy Martz of DAR when she got nervous about moving the existing tables even an inch.
When we got to the Library we saw that they’d ended up putting in the table perpendicular to the arrangement we’d discussed. It was a trifle difficult to table surf around it, but the arrangement was aesthetically more pleasing.
Julie and I table surfed as the W&M/HBIX people seated themselves. I pressed the flesh and shouted greetings to people I hadn’t been able to see yet, such as Kevin & Liz Wallace, the Schroeders, the Bachmans, etc. It was hard to believe I’d seen some of them that morning when I gave the tour. That seemed like at least several years earlier now.
Someone pounced on me and Julie, and told us in no uncertain terms that we were to go and sit down to eat, because otherwise we’d have no chance whatsoever.
Gratefully, we made our way to the sweetheart table set up in the other room.
Suddenly we were in a small cone of just the two of us. We felt like the hub of an enormous wheel. We were the axis about which all of this revolved, but for a brief moment it felt as if we we weren’t moving, and everything was spinning around us while leaving us still. We giggled as we enjoyed the unexpected solitude. Mere feet away we could see the many tables of our guests laughing and enjoying themselves, but we were on our own little island.
As I tore into the appetizer dish, I was surprised when it turned out to be pears stuffed with mascarpone. Julie laughed at me. Somehow I’d managed to block out the exact details of what dishes we’d selected. And although I’d laid out, printed, and sliced 150 menu cards, the details had escaped me.
Corey kept coming up and asking if there were anything we needed. A couple times we dispatched him for drinks. Other times we just assured him that we were fine. Every time I was grateful for his attention. I fully intend to reciprocate at his wedding in September.
But we would have all the time in the world to enjoy each others’ quiet company. This event was as much about our guests as it was us. We left our entrees half uneaten and began table surfing. We began at the table nearest us, the one occupied by Julie’s mom and her side of the family. I sat with Julie’s Nana, and spoke to her at length about how happy we were with the new TV and power lift that she had gotten for us as a wedding gift. I didn’t explain that the power lift wasn’t yet installed, and that the TV was just standing on our mantelpiece, but I did gush enthusiastically. I also showed her that I was wearing the tie tack that belonged to her late husband Tom, whom I had met just before he passed away right after Julie and I started dating. Nana said, “Oh, Tom had such a wonderful collection of cuff-links and tie tacks…I don’t know what happened to them!” I told her, “Oh, I have them…I use them constantly and I love them!” She seemed pleased by that, I think.
As we made the rounds and table surfed, it was hard to keep moving. Each table had people who had come long distances at great expense to be here with us this day, and for the most part we only got to spend a couple minutes with them. Everyone here was someone we loved and we wanted to spend long hours talking to everyone. But already the clock was beginning to tick in my head. We only had the venue until 10:30. The overtime charges would be ruinous. And there were still events like toasts and the No Pants Drinking to get to.
Julie kept getting sucked into long conversations with people she hadn’t seen in quite some time. I tried tugging her along from table to table, but finally gave up and began meandering on my own. Splitting up actually worked well, and ensured that at least ONE of us had a nice conversation at each table.
This period where everyone was sitting down and eating was very much like the eye of the hurricane, and it was quickly passing. Miles the DJ came bustling up to us and wanted to know if we were ready to announce the toasts. I looked around and observed that most people were reaching the end of their entrees, settling back, and in many cases loosening their belts a few notches. I gave the OK. I tried to grab something at the bar that looked like champagne, but the bar was unmanned and I couldn’t see any ginger ale. I had to settle for water.
As Miles got on the PA and began directing everyone into the Library, Julie and I grabbed Elianna and Brad and found our way up the stairs to the proscenium box.
Here was a notion we had at the final walkthrough of the space that really took FULL advantage of how awesome the DAR Library is. Since it’s the old original concert hall, it still has a proscenium and gorgeous theater boxes on what was once the stage. We’d decided to do the toasts and the cake “cutting” on the balcony so that everyone could see us. Bill Holland was across from us in the other theater box, and as we’d discussed Julie and I clung to the back wall to give him the best angle.
Here we were, standing in this bell epoque balcony, looking down at a gleaming library, filled with all our best friends and family. They were staring up at us and we were grinning like fools, unable to believe the magnificence of the setting.
“Wow,” I said to everyone. “I feel like I should announce that we’ve invaded Poland or something.”
I’d arranged with Miles to set up a wireless mike that would transmit to the speakers that had been playing the music. Using the mike I thanked everyone for coming, and said how much we appreciated how far they had come to be there. We knew we had too many people to mention by name, but I did say how grateful we were for everyone’s help. I briefly described the cupcake frosting party the day before, and gave a special thanks shout out to Jean Donaldson as the person who had rendered perhaps more help than anyone else. I said, “In case you’re wondering who Jean is, ‘it’s her fridge,'” which was a call out to a running joke that had started at Julie’s bridal shower. I saw Jean throw her head back and cackle joyfully.
I handed the mike over to Elianna, who had a prepared toast. It was eloquent, heartfelt, and emotional. I’d been on the verge of tearing up with emotion for 24 hours straight now, ever since this time the night before when Julie’s uncle Terry had wrecked our composure, and now here I was again, clamping my jaw furiously to keep from losing it.
After Eli’s toast and the applause, I handed the microphone over to Brad. I’d given the toast at his wedding. It had been a last minute request. He’d asked me the MORNING OF the wedding to come up with something. They’d planned to have Brad’s father give the toast, but at the last minute he decided that he didn’t want to speak in front of people. So I whipped up something at the last minute. I think my toast had gone over very well, probably BECAUSE I hadn’t had much time.
Brad started by reciting some of our more comical hi-jinks from our college days. He talked about my quixotic campaign for Kind of William and Mary, for which he was my campaign manager. And he talked about how great it was for me to be with someone like Julie, who loved me for the man that I AM, instead of some other ideal. He closed to applause and we embraced.
We looked behind us and saw a waiter carrying the two cupcakes up the stairs as planned. We’d talked about what to do with the cake feeding sequence. Some people think the ‘face smash’ is distasteful and undignified. We certainly weren’t above it, but didn’t’ want to ruin Julie’s expensive, perfect makeup. We’d eventually decided that the funniest thing would be for me to dab a tiny bit of frosting on her nose, and then she would smear a whole cupcake in my face. But she was reluctant to get frosting on my fabulous bespoke suit. And here we were in front of everyone, with chocolate covered bride and groom strawberries atop the cupcakes. Julie plucked one of the strawberries off and began sinuously making kung fu motions with it, coming closer and closer to my mouth. I playfully snapped at it, while Brad narrated everything like a golf play by play color man. Finally we fed each other the strawberries, which were so juicy we had to lean way forward to keep from drooling all over our expensive clothes.
At this point I’d planned to say a few words about how much Julie meant to me. I’d worked up some remarks about how every man who thought he was the luckiest man in the world was sadly wrong. I’d wanted to say that my goal in life was always to be the man I saw when I looked at myself through her eyes. But at this apotheosis of our lives so far, the apogee of our transformation from ugly duckling and fat, mulleted drunk into the glamorous pretty people, I was too overwrought. Uncle Terry had started the damage the day before, and now it was complete. I knew that if I said anything remotely emotional or personal, I was going to blubber like I had saying the vows just hours earlier. So I contented myself with grabbing the mike and thanking our families so much for all their generosity and help. I realized that I’d forgotten to mention them earlier in my remarks. Then I told everyone if they’d return to their seat they’d find cupcakes waiting for them. “Except for Graham,” I said. “He doesn’t get any.” He’d mocked us playfully on Facebook earlier for having frozen the cupcakes. He playfully pouted.
Back at our seats everyone had not just a cupcake but a cylinder of sherbet topped with meringue which was delightfully melting down onto the cupcake, forming a deliciously gooey and wonderful mess of a dessert. It was exquisite and I polished it off greedily.
Julie barely got to touch hers, since she eschewed the hoover approach. We jumped up to talk to someone and by the time she returned the diligent staff had cleared the table.
Suddenly I noticed that it was almost 10. Since the reception ended at 10:30, we were running out of time. I practically ran back into the library where the William and Mary people were and told Brad, “It’s time.”
He knew exactly what I meant.
Our friend Rick, another of my groomsmen, had long ago introduced us to the fun of “No Pants” activities. Any banal action like grilling is FAR more fun if done sans culottes. It began with No Pants Grilling, proceeded to No Pants Cable Car, and of course reached its perfection in No Pants Drinking. It was strictly a boxers required activity. No Pants did not mean al fresco. Anyone wearing tighty whiteys was excused. Even boxer briefs are frowned upon. “Nothing that cups,” Brad had once ruled. We used to engage in this activity at every opportunity. Now that we only see our group of college friends at special occasions, No Pants Drinking has become associated irrevocably with weddings. The foreknowledge allowed everyone to wear their most amusing novelty boxers. We knew that this was probably the last NPD for a long time, and had planned accordingly.
The night before at the rehearsal dinner Adam and Amy Shoemaker had presented me with a fantastic set of disco ball mirrored boxers, which they’d customized to with hundreds of blinking fiber optic lights. It was truly spectacular. Now in an upstairs room all my male friends from college gathered. (I surreptitiously removed the sock garters I was wearing and slipped them into my pocket. I also pulled the tabs on the batteries in the boxers causing them to light up) Word quickly spread that something was afoot and many of the male guests who were NOT part of this college tradition joined us as well, not sure what to expect. Several of the wives of college friends who DID know what to expect ALSO gathered.
Corey, who was NOT part of the college crew but who had been briefed on the tradition leaned over to me as the last guests gathered. “You’v been punked,” he whispered. “By the bridesmaids.”
I barely had time to say, “Uh oh,” to myself before Brad counted to three and everyone dropped trou.
I expected everyone to be riveted by the light up mirrored disco boxers, but instantly attention was drawn to Corey. Who was wearing a pair of VERY snug pink women’s panties. I recognized them from the pictures of the bachelorette party. These were the boxers his fiance Bethany had ended up with during the panty exchange.
So much for “nothing that cups.” Here was Corey flaunting pink panties with “HANDS OFF!” printed across his cheeks which were straining and struggling for freedom from their spandex prison. Everyone laughed uproariously, or looked away uncomfortably, or both.
Bill Holland snapped away, ensuring that images of Corey attempting to smuggle a cashew would be immortalized for generations.
Rick Giglio was legitimately pissed. As Corey was talking about something or other, Rick leaned over to him and said, “Corey, shut up or I’ll fucking drop you, and I’m not even kidding.” The tension between Rick and Corey that had started at the Bachelor party was making me a bit uncomfortable and I stepped forward a pace to make sure I stayed between the two of them.
I joked with Bill Holland. “I remember that when we were talking you asked for ONE thing for the No Pants Drinking…that it not take place around a conference table. Well I have to apologize, because here we are, clustered around a long conference table.” But there was plenty of room and he didn’t seem to be having any trouble getting the shots he needed. I knew that the flashing LEDs on the boxers wouldn’t come out, but didn’t care.
After a decent interval of horsing around and drinking, with Peggy Martz the DAR coordinator looking on VERY disapprovingly, we hoisted our trousers and proceeded back downstairs.
The reception was beginning to wind down at this point. I remember dancing to Frank Sinatra’s “Fly me to the moon” at one point, and being very happy that it had made it off my list of fun songs.
I remember looking out on the portico and seeing Brody and Kristen, who have done ballroom dance for years, whirling through a beautiful sequence of moves and astounding everyone.
I remember Julie grabbing me and showing off my bespoke suit to Furman and Christina.
And I remember talking to the Hagler Bailly coterie of the Prices, Symondses, and Andrew Fried who were anxious to get to the after party. I slipped them my hotel key and told them to go on ahead and not to hurt themselves when their jaws hit the ground upon seeing our magnificent suite.
We swirled together and apart carried by the glittering waves of the party. I was speaking to the Bartolettis when I heard someone shouting, “ANDREW, your WIFE wants you!!!!”
I disengaged without even a goodbye and hurried off to find her yelling, “WHERE’S MY HUSBAND!!?” in the Gallery. The last dance was starting.
It wasn’t Dance me to the End of Love as we’d planned. It was Peer Gabriel’s in Your Eyes. We’d planned with Miles the DJ a medly of the first dance songs of as many of our guests as we could determine in advance. A number of them, including Brody & Kristin, had used In Your eyes as their first dance, and it’s a good enough song that it served quite well, and I didn’t mind. We’d planned a LOT and ended up packing almost all of it into the reception.
Everyone streamed out onto the dance floor for the final dance. Our reception didn’t involve a ton of dancing, which was fine with us, but it was great to see everyone here for this.
Julie and I danced the final dance joyfully. When the last strains rang through the air, we were exhausted and immeasurably happy.
Some couples leave the reception in a car decorated with tin cans and lipstick. Julie’s Maid of Honor Elianna had gone so far as to schedule the car decoration in her meticulously coordinated wedding program. But we’d arrived in a loaned Rolls Royce Phantom that 1) had departed already and 2) wouldn’t be decorated except over the dead body of Julie’s Uncle Paul who had procured it and driven it for us.
Instead of walking out to bubbles or rice or anything else, we’d planned to leave in a candlelit processional across the ellipse. I’d even mapped out the route in the materials sent to the guests. We gathered up a number of the copper lanterns from the centerpieces, and set out with about 20 people following us.
The weather was obligingly warm and unrainy. We joyfully proceeded across the ellipse singing some song I can’t remember. It may have been “You’re a grand old flag,” it may have been “I’m ‘Enery the Eighth I am I am.” When we reached our hotel we proceeded through the lobby, being careful not to be too boisterous.
It was Julie’s first view of the suite, and her jaw dropped.
Everyone was giddy with happiness, exhaustion and just the perfect amount of inebriation. The HBIX crew was already there in the suite waiting for us. We’d arranged for my brother to collect the opened booze from the reception and bring it over, but he hadn’t arrived yet and they’d ordered a bunch of beer, snacks, and inexplicably, coffee. They told me it was on its way up from room service.
More and more people gathered. We’d told everyone what room number we were in at the reception, and many of the guests were staying in the same hotel, so we had quite a nice after party. The guests ran delightedly up and down the stairs, out onto the HUGE balcony to look out at the Washington Monument and the ellipse.
We popped the bottle of champagne that had been so generously provided by Julie’s cousin Sara Warren who worked at the Marriot.
My brother showed up, asking if it was true that we knew the head of Rolls Royce North America. “Oh yeah, Julie’s Uncle,” I said. “Wanna meet him? He’s right over there!”
Barbara and Chuck showed up, which made me very very happy. Though when I dropped trou to flaunt the amazing light up disco boxers for those who had not been at NPD, she was slightly taken aback.
Finally, well after 1 in the morning, things began to wind down. The cart from room service finally showed up, well after Fried and the rest of the HBIX crew had tottered off. I signed for it, wondering what exactly we’d needed coffee for, but not really caring.
As Barbara took her leave, I gave her a big hug. “We did it!” I said. “We pulled off the perfect wedding!!!”
Finally, the last guest slipped away, leaving me and my gorgeous bride alone in the amazing suite where I’d awakened that morning as a single man.
We held each other in dizzy disbelief at how wonderful our wedding day had been. Somehow it had not only lived up to but even exceeded the hype.
Julie and I have never said, “I love you” to each other. We’d talked about how it was a rote phrase that people said so often that it was deprived of meaning. She’d said it to her ex husband, and that had turned out to be meaningless in the end. And people say it about things like cake, and falafel, and the color periwinkle. We instead say, “Come ti voglio bene,” or “Ti voglio tanto bene,” which is an untranslatable Italian phrase that means, “Oh, how well you please me!”
But this night as we held each other her eyes glistened with tears of happiness and she said, “I love you! It’s just that simple. You’ve reclaimed even that.”
And now dear readers I will draw the curtain down as we divest ourselves of our finery and bring to a close the first of many many perfect days as husband and wife.