The bride was beautiful in the lace gown she bought in Chicago, her veil so sheer that its ivory color was apparent only where it fell in folds. The groom was handsome in his military dress uniform, pants pressed with knife-edged creases, shoes glossy and spotless. The ceremony was a full Catholic Mass, held in the intimate confines of a chapel, in quarters close enough that we parents in the front pews flanking the altar could see our daughter’s and son’s faces as they wed. They spoke their vows clearly and calmly, their happiness mirroring our own. My husband squeezed my hand throughout all the Will Yous and Do Yous, like he does at every wedding we attend. It’s our private renewal, a silent way of saying, I love you; we’re in this for life. We said our own marriage vows in this church 33 years ago.
Wedding guests were mostly immediate family, the accents a blend of New England and Old South, with a few mid-Atlantics mixed in. The bonds created were not just between husband and wife, but between families. His people are now hers, and her people are his.
The reception was a sit-down dinner at Zaffino’s, a favorite local restaurant where the newlyweds had enjoyed frequent date nights. Romance bloomed over good tomato-basil soup and sautéed salmon. On the night of the wedding, the restaurant glowed with the light of pillar candles on every white-clothed table, decorated with fresh Fraser fir, pine cones, and cranberries. The scene-setting magician was my friend Kim F, who dedicated herself to the task with joy and skill, not even flinching when I accidentally broke the glass out of the stand that would hold the cookbook that served as a guest book. (A friendly stranger in an out-of-the-way glass shop cut me a new piece of glass for free with two hours to spare, a little wedding day miracle.)
The bride and groom put much thought into seating charts, and as the levels of conversation and laughter rose to a steady, happy hum at all the tables, the success of their planning was evident. Our couple requested their own table for two, and Kim placed their chairs side by side overlooking the room, so they could observe their guests with ease. It all worked beautifully.
Servers brought out soups and salads, then plates of delicious salmon, chicken Marsala, and lasagne, and refilled wine glasses as the evening progressed. As diners finished and plates were whisked away, champagne flutes and bottles of Prosecco appeared, along with cupcakes that I made gluten-free for my daughter who cannot have wheat. I made the small wedding cake, too, in chocolate with a vanilla buttercream frosting. It leaned precipitously to the right, looking as homemade as it could be, but in testimony to the magic of the wonderful evening, I didn’t care. It tasted good, it wouldn’t make my daughter ill, and it provided a somewhat horizontal surface for an exquisite cake topper: two wooden figurines painted by an artist on Etsy to look just like the bride and groom in all their wedding finery.
There were heartfelt speeches and toasts, including two by the couple who own the gym where our bride and groom met. With tenacity and finesse, knowing my daughter had a crush on a certain Air Force pilot she’d seen at her CrossFit class, Leslie (the wife and coach) orchestrated situations that put our kids in proximity to each other, including a long car ride culminating in a canoe trip. Two people learn very quickly if they’re compatible when options for exits are reduced. In this case, love was the eventual result.
As Saturday’s festivities drew to a close, guests drained the last of their drinks and began to form two loose lines outside the restaurant’s front door. A blazing fire pit provided ignition for 5 dozen sparklers, but the bride and groom’s get-away was speedy, and they were gone before we knew it, so we waved the sputtering sparklers at each other and laughed, hearts full.
(Top photo by Hannah Hale. Above photo by Haley Colclasure.)