Oh, Bess. You have such a way with words. You've brought tears to my eyes, and a happy, joyous ache to my soul. I am really, all choked up with wedding bliss reading your report.
Love to you, Jen
Got so wrapped up in the story that I almost burned my oatmeal. Oh the pictures! Can hardly wait. Congratulations to the newly weds and to you and Ed for such a splurge.
Okay, I NEVER get sniffly and misty, but I did reading that story! You have a gift for descriptive phrases that convey emotion without being icky-sticky. I cannot wait for the pictures!
Thank you so much for letting me come to your wedding via your blog. It sounds like such a lovely wedding which was enjoyed by all.
How loving a gift from Topsy - staying until she was certain that her boy had found someone to love him forever. Wanted to say more, but my eyes are streaming, and I can't see the screen...
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Saturday, January 29, 2005
posted by Bess |
We were due at the church at noon, to dress and do some, possibly all, of the group photos. BD and I had made early morning deliveries of ice, frozen tid-bits from my refrigerator, last minute necessities and the CD player to P up at the church, but headed home at 11 to shower and for BD to dress. By then, a mean wet slush was tumbling from the glowering clouds; not too heavy, but with no sign of letting up any time soon. I spent a few moments at home in quiet thought, searching for that calm demeanor that would keep people happy, not the giddy excitement that would ratchet up into some sort of mad frenzy. I know I can crank up the energy level in a crowd and I didn’t want to add any unnecessary tension to the day, even if it was happy tension. Besides, I’d promised to do Bride’s makeup and I didn’t want to botch that. Calm was what was needed. Calm was what I faked.
We parted at the church, BD resplendent in his new Brooks Brothers suit and Christmas tie. The girls’ dressing room was across the hall from the kitchen, the guys were upstairs. Bride and MOH were already getting dressed and Amy was there too, photographing the excitement and beauty that is pretty young girls in lace, silk, and curls. BH joined us almost immediately, with two fluttering flower maidens. Emma was beside herself with excitement, because her curls are manufactured and don’t come along too often. How well I remember the thrill of having curly hair instead of the usual straight stuff. It was always worth the effort. BH and I helped the little ones into their dresses, being careful of their hair, of course.
All the girls in the wedding had been to the hair dresser and they were simply beautiful in their curls and French rolls and fluttery head dresses. They all had claw clips for their hair. Silver wire had been wrapped around the clips, some strung with crystal beads, others wrapped with tear shaped silk bits that looked like little cala lilies. The clip had then been covered with silk petals to hide the plastic parts. The wires could be bent around their heads, close in like a cap, or curved outwards to make the silk lilies flutter behind them as they walked. That’s how they wore them and it was as if each girl was followed by a swarm of butterflies as she walked.
Some of Bride’s girlfriends came in to watch the dressing ritual and then someone called to me that my mother had arrived. I dashed out just in time to see her walk through the door, slowly, for Mama uses a walker, but royally in her splendid gown. How beautiful she looked, with the deep purple skimming down in a shimmer of rich fabric, with just that hint of sparkle about the neck. She looked stunning. I don’t know when I’ve seen Mama so stately and pretty. What a delight it was to know that she was every bit as fine as any one else at the party. My sister Penny, who had flown in from Oregon, was with her, excited, happy, laughing and hugging and armed with her camera.
They added to the conviviality in the dressing room, which expanded once again when Bride’s mother joined us. She, too was in purple, and the three of us, we Women of the Parental Role, made a suitable winter palette to act as foil to the vanilla and green of the wedding. All the while, Amy was clicking, moving like a cat among the belled skirts and high heels, the make-up bags and jewel boxes, the silk shrugs and ruffled petticoats. The lights were kept off in obedience to artistic demands and a cool winter light glowed in from the windows. A shimmery light, because sleet was really coming down in earnest by this point.
As soon as Bride was dressed, she was shooed out by Amy for some more photos. Poor Amy thought the wedding was at 2 and was anxious to get as much done as possible. I had made up at home and besides, I am Speedy Gonzales when it comes to dressing. I had a good half hour to visit with Mama and Dad, Penny and our friend Linwood. I also peeked into the reception room, to be delighted by the results of all the effort of the past 2 days. The room, an elegant rectangle with both long walls pierced by tall windows, had been transformed into a winter wonderland. Cedar trees, decorated with white ting-ting and baby’s breath and wrapped in twinkling white mini-lights, lined all the walls, punctuated by four tall street lamps. The white table cloths on the serving tables had been looped up with the vanilla pew bows to show the dark green tablecloths below. Shiny silver cups, pierced with star shaped holes, holding votive candles, sat amid clear glass marbles on silver chargers in the center of each round dining table. A punch bowl stood in the middle of the room, a fountain of sparkling cider was along one be-windowed wall, and the buffet ran along the opposite wall. P’s white coated staff were bustling back and forth between kitchen and reception room and family members wandered in and out as well.
In the sanctuary the men were chatting. Fathers were talking with grandfathers, brothers with cousins. Outside the storm worsened, great globs of icy sleet slanted down from a bitter cold sky. There was no way I was going to have my mother walk from the dressing room to the church vestibule via the outdoors and I went to consult with Melanie, the Mistress of Ceremonies. In the end we decided that nobody should try to travel that sloppy distance. Instead, Mama and Dad would sit in the very last pew while the rest of the party waited up in the balcony. When it was time to make our entrances, we could slip down the stairs and disappear into the little entryway. So, 2 o’clock found us all upstairs, listening as BD’s silvery flute soared upwards and Kristi’s fingers danced out Scarlatti.
30 minutes is a long time for 6, or even 8 year old girls to sit quietly and patiently, but our girls were golden that day. Now and then they’d ask how much longer, but they were easily appeased by being invited to peek over the balcony edge to see who was sitting below. The first time we looked it seemed as if about 40 people were down there, but as the clock ticked, the pews filled up. The more people taking seats below, the more my heart swelled with happiness, pride, and deep thankfulness. Tears were never far, but a throat catching joy was right there with it. By the time Bride walked down the isle, somewhere between 110 and 130 people had clawed their way down icy backroads to this little church in rural Virginia.
Suddenly BD joined me and I realized it was time. We filed softly down the stairs, tight pie shaped steps curving around 19th century railings, careful to keep the little girls close to the walls and careful ourselves, with our thin high heels and long skirts. Clustered in the vestibule, we shivered and waited, letting in last minute guests who dodged ice pellets as they ran up the slippery walk, hunched inside their coats and beneath umbrellas. The wait seemed forever, and yet seemed to be but an eye blink. And just as the procession was about to begin, Bride’s father stepped up to her, kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear.
The tears really began to flow then. Big ones. Wet, spilling, mascara running tears. I waited just a moment, not to steal the tenderness, and then whispered “The Bride is Friiiiiiied and the Groom is Dooooooomed”. And it was to the laughter that caused that we began TheWeddingMarch.
Handsome, urbane, charming and courtly, 14 year old Watts (a BedfordCousin) offered my mother his arm and down the isle they began. Handsome but much older Ben then offered me his.
Head high now, shoulders straight, tummy tucked in, I followed Mama and Daddy to the front pew and took my seat. BD took his place beside me. Bride’s mother and father followed us and then out stepped Minister, Groom and Best Man, resplendent in dark sober robes and gray cutaway coats. The music changed to Pachelbel's Canon.
Beautiful young women began to walk down the isle; first the MOH, followed by Flower Maidens. They took their place and as Roy gestured for the guests to stand the organ broke into the Overture to Handel’s Water Music.
I wish now that I had watched LD’s face as his bride marched down the isle. Several people told me it was worth seeing. Instead, I had my head turned towards the back of the church.
Bride walked slowly, in time to the wonderful measured notes. In truth I don’t remember all the details of the ceremony - I wish I’d written this sooner, but it’s now Tuesday night and some things have already begun to fade. Still, several things stand out.
The party was very handsome, as a wedding party should be, and the little girls behaved with wonderful solemnity.
TheDarlings vows were fairly traditional, but they added one important promise: To always be truthful to each other.
As the exchange of rings drew near the MOH leaned down and whispered something to Emma, the older of the two Flower Maidens. Emma stepped down and whispered something to Bride’s father. He looked puzzled and shook his head. Emma rejoined the party, but I knew what had happened. MOH had forgotten the groom’s ring. Roy never missed a beat, merely nodded his head to BD who stood and read a precious sonnet about being love’s cockleburs riding on the great bear’s fur till it was time to fall and fructify. Very apt for my country boy. For both of them, come to think of it
And then they were married, Mr. and Mrs., and presented to us in all their joy and blushing happiness. Kristi began the vibrant and energetic hornpipe, the most familiar movement of the Water Music, as they took their first steps as man and wife. Originally the bride and groom had planned to return immediately after their recessional and release their guests from the pews, working their way back up to the front of the church. This way they could dispense with a receiving line, and be back up at the altar for formal group photographs. The wretched weather changed the plan just a little. Instead of guests being ushered out of the building they would be invited precede the Bride & Groom back up the isle, past the groom’s side of the church and out the back door to the reception room via the back halls.
Such a change from routine was a bit of a surprise to the guests, but nobody caviled about it. Instead, all of us got to greet all the guests at least once. Surprised laughter, grateful recognition, hugs, kisses, introductions to my parents, the whole thing took 20 minutes. It was only then that I began to conceive how many people had braved that awful storm to celebrate with us, the birth of this new family. 186 people had sent acceptances before the dreadful weather forecast. More than two thirds of them actually came!
Sometime during the hubbub, my youngest sister Barbara showed up but things were just too full of movement and chatter and energy to do more than nod and smile. We still had to pose for the formal shots, the group and family pictures, and for that we had to clear the front of the church. People who wanted to take their own pictures lingered, but for the most part the guests made their way to the reception. It was another 20 minutes later before I stepped into the hall, crowded with happy guests, delicious food and that party sound.
I confess, by then I was pretty much rushing down the slope of my personal emotional roller coaster. It was easy going the rest of the way, with a breeze in my face. I can’t remember much of the details of the evening, only that it was a splendid fun time. I am usually like this when I’m hostess to a big party; I go from group to group, trying to speak to everyone, my eyes surveying the room pretty much call the time to be sure that nothing is in need of attention, no guest seems lost, no passage seems blocked. In the end, I usually forget to eat the food and never have any meaningful conversations. But I do have a lot of fun.
We had the usual disposable cameras on all the tables and I made sure to stop at each one, snap a shot or two of the guests seated there, then encourage the guests to take lots of pictures. Happily they did. There are lots and lots of amateur photographs, many of the guests, a few of Bride&Groom and even some of me. Alas, they come up pretty grainy on the blog but I will figure out how to make them work and include them in this post.
The combination of fabulous food, pretty settings, and the icy storm just outside the windows, combined with our friends’ love and affection for the couple, to fill the room with joyous energy. Everyone was ready to have fun, to eat well, and to be delighted. My own reaction was one of profound gratitude that so many beloved friends would brave such a storm to drive deep into the backwoods of Essex County, to celebrate with us. I was constantly saying thank you to people, and even now, a week later, I’m still feeling grateful and honored.
And who were these intrepid ice-bunnies? There were Ted and Peggy
- some of our earliest friends. We met Ted while we were still living in the tent! And how well I remember the time Peggy and I were caught in a thunderstorm so blindingly heavy we pulled into McDonalds, grabbed baby LD, and dashed inside, only to find that he was buck naked! There was Ted’s sister Betty Ann, who taught LD 10th grade English, and her husband Mac. There were Roger, who helped BD build the house and his wife Isabelle. There were all the local Reunion Cousins, some extra Haile cousins and all of Grandma’s boys, with spouses. Only one baby was there, BD’s little great niece, Ruby.
Cupper, who lent me her sewing machine so I could make TheWeddingDress, and two of her children, little brothers and sisters to LD ever since he was in high school and began farming with her husband. Robert, who starts heirloom tomato plants for LD each spring, and Kelly, who was one of my first knitting students, along with their daughter, Chloe, also came to wish us joy. Lois and Lucille from the library, dear camera shy Suzanne, my lemony girlfriend, and my WW bud, Beth with her distinguished husband, all received hugs and squeezes and laughing kisses. And of course, my own dear family was there, along with our almost-brother Linwood.
Bride’s mother and father and twin brothers balanced out all that Haile Family weight. It’s amazing the impact twins carry! And there were two sets at this function.
There were also some Bride family friends who had plowed through the storm, coming all the way from Fredericksburg. For some, that was merely the last leg of much longer journeys, for the Stanley’s drove over from the Eastern Shore and Cherrie came all the way from England!
A bevy of beautiful young women, Bride’s friends from high school and college,some alone, some accompanied by husbands or boyfriends, in one case, by her beautiful mother, lifted the level of glamour in the crowd.
P had outdone herself with the fabulous reception food. Every recipe was deluxe, even if it was simple. There were tureens made of heavy cream, smoked chicken, sun dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. No gelatin molds here - these were the real thing; baked then chilled then sliced and surrounded by marinated vegetables and served with thin water crackers. There were little bacon wrapped, almond stuffed dates, hot and juicy with sweet and salty flavors. BD had cooked an enormous Virginia Ham - the dark red salty type - and P had sliced it thin and served it in real biscuits. No sweet mild meat in a roll, these were the real ham biscuits and they were all eaten. Not a single one made it to my house and now I think of it, I never got to eat one! No matter. I’m a personal friend of the HamMan. There was smoked salmon mouse surrounded by flaked smoked salmon, and there was a crab dip, because you can’t have a wedding in Tidewater VA without a crab dip. I believe there is something in the constitution about that. In the center of the buffet, P had made a pyramid of cheese and fresh fruit; pineapples, mangos, and grapes. Family and friends were full of compliments, begging for the caterer’s card, asking where we’d found her. I heard the most gushing about the stuffed dates, but it was the ham biscuits that disappeared completely.
And then there was a sudden hush in the room. P was by the door and she announced to the crowd: Mr. and Mrs. William Haile.
The door flung open and the beautiful couple stood to receive their due - laughing, cheering, happy clapping. My sister Barbara had her violin and she struck up a tune while P lead the couple through the room, winding around the tables, and back up to the double doors. Bride had changed into her white fur bolero and matching fur hat. Long antique gloves slid up her arms and beneath the 3/4 length fur sleeves. She took everyone’s breath away, looking like something out of Dr. Zivago. Doffing her outer finery, she joined the party with Groom never more than a few feet from her side. The two of them were such a striking couple, moving among the guests, sitting now with one group and then with another.
It’s funny about parties. For all that they are a chance to bring different folks together, the tendency is for people to seek out the familiar. It was the same at this gathering. Although people mingled, they still tended to cluster with the known quantity. My family sat together, BD’s did the same. The young friends clustered at some tables while the old friends slid chairs together others. I do the same, actually, when I am a guest. It’s usually quite a treat if I meet someone at a party and strike up a new friendship. Certainly my dad flirted with every young pretty girl who happened to come within speaking distance and a number of my friends were enchanted by my mother. I confess, BD’s family seemed pretty happy to stay in their group and I never thought to introduce them to local friends.
As the weather continued to be wicked, a number of guests left early. Others, who had a long way to travel waited just till the cake was cut. There were a few toasts, one from a deeply moved Best Man, who finished his toast with tears in his eyes. One from the MOB, a rhyming autobiographical tribute to Bride, some quiet words from the FOB, and a sweet loving tribute from the MOH, whose clear voice and sweet face charmed everyone. Her toast was a perfect summation of everyone’s hopes and wishes for the couple.
The party began winding down after the cake cutting. Not, of course, till everyone had enjoyed and exclaimed over the deliciousness of the cake. That was a perfect treat for us all. Of course, we had ordered a cake for 200 people and even with generous slices for everyone, even with the strong urging of guests to “take home another slice”, there was an awful lot of cake left. There was an awful lot of all the food left over, because, of course, until the day actually arrived, we had to prepare for everyone coming. In fact, here it is Friday and we are still eating wedding party food and I have at last grown tired of the taste of smoked chicken!
Just before the bridal couple departed, Emma and Lizzie, the flower maidens, handed out little bottles of wedding bubbles. Folk immediately began playing with them, to the wild delight of great niece Ruby. We bid good-bye to Bride&Groom who slipped out into the dark night - literally - since the ground was covered with an inch of ice. In all the worry over moving in that wintry darkness, the bride never got around to tossing her bouquet, but by then I’m not sure there were any young girls ready to go outside to catch it. No matter. Everything about this wedding was perfect - including any adaptations demanded by the weather.
The last of the guests began making their way to the door now. Not a few took with them gladly offered goodie bags. It was nigh on to 7:30 by the time BD and I left, with a car load of clothes and wedding gifts. Ben and Amanda followed in our truck, with more gifts and other odds and ends. At home we built up the fire in the stove and clustered around to talk about the night’s festivities. BD conked out first, but I stayed up with the young ones and we swapped stories about other weddings, the spiritual meaning of ceremonies, our personal spiritual quests and just any other thing that came up. Around 11:30 P showed up, burnt to the socket, like the rest of us, and we were all abed by midnight.
We woke on Sunday to an ice world; white fields of sleet filmed with clear ice and bare branches glistening with ice-coats. We were bleary eyed, bloated, still hearing our engines running, even though our bodies protested. Cousin Adam called from town and offered to give Ben a lift back to Richmond, Amy and Nathaniel called and offered to give Amanda a ride to BWI. There was hasty packing and swift, brief goodbye hugs. BD took Ben to town while I drove Amanda to Champlain to meet up with her ride.
It was cold as ... well, as all those proverbial cold things - stepmother’s kiss, witches ... well, you know. It was reeeeeealy cold and the wind was blowing a gale from the north. Bright blue skies seemed to mock us. I let all the dogs in after our overnight guests had left and they were watching Dog TV when the phone rang.
“Hi Mom, can we come over and eat wedding food?”
It was TheDarlings, who had had the good sense to go home Saturday night and leave for their honeymoon on Sunday. There certainly was plenty of weddng food left; smoked chicken tureen, crab dip (LD cleaned that up in a jiffy.) some bacon wrapped dates, and cake. Lots of cake. Lots and lots of wedding cake. We sat around talking over TheWedding and nibbling on tidbits. LD sat a long time stroking Topsy - how prophetic - and beaming at his Bride. I, on the other hand, was feeling antsy and anxious to get back to the church where there was still a small mountain of clean-up to do. There was no real hurry, since all church services, all over the county, had been canceled that morning. Still, the size of the job weighed heavily on me and couldn’t rest in comfort till our part was finished. So after about an hour of visiting, P and I headed for the church, driving 20 mph on the ice covered roads, and spent the rest of the afternoon rinsing hundreds of dishes and cups and forks and spoons, packing up serving dishes, removing lights from trees and emptying the refrigerator. BD joined us later and delivered borrowed items to their owners. We couldn’t clean it all up in one afternoon, but we were ready for the truck from the rental place on Monday morning. By the time I left Monday afternoon, there were only the cedar trees to be hauled into the woods. BD took care of that on Tuesday, when I had to go back to the real world and at least pretend to work.
I’ve been writing on this all week, hoping to get it finished before Friday so I could post it with pictures. That hope was forlorn, as it’s now Saturday morning, but at least the story is told. I offer it to you all now, without photos, but you can get the illustrated version on Monday. It was a splendid, perfect, marvelous, happy wedding. It was everything we dreamed of. It was a glorious celebration of life, community, family and love. It is what I would wish for every bride and every groom and every MOG in the whole world.