April 18, 2009.
I can hear the doors open and my view is obstructed by our standing guests. It feels like forever before Natalie makes the corner amidst the barrage of camera flashes to take her father’s arm.
Somewhere I hear Nicole Kidman and Ewan MacGregor singing to each other.
She reaches the altar and Stephanie Seguin does her thing. A few weeks prior I showed Natalie “When Harry Met Sally…” for the first time. When it was over I was watching the trailer for “The Princess Bride” and was stuck with the idea of having Stephanie open her dialogue with the opening from the dream wedding sequence. Natalie shot down Stephanie performing it with a Peter Cook lisp but agreed on all the rest. I didn’t know Stephanie would have to practice this umpteen times to be able to do it without giggling.
Marriage is what brings us together today…
I’m told later by a half-dozen men they chuckled and were quickly elbowed by their wives.
Deatra Gilmore performs a song. Natalie’s uncle reads a scripture. I have been specifically told my vows have to come after Natalie’s for fear she’ll cry and be unable to read what she has worked very hard over the past few months on. As she reads her vows I can only think of how wonderful she is.
I learned a lesson a long time ago that if you break the tension with something funny it sets the tone and when something does go wrong, and something always will, it’s taken a lot less seriously.
I start my vows with the words, “I love ice cream.” I get an immediate laugh. I tell a story which is what I do and by the time I’m done, I bring it back to the wedding, my love for Natalie and the whole thing makes sense.
I end with me dropping my vows on the floor mostly because I didn’t know what to do with them. I gets me another laugh. I’ll take it.
We’re asked for the rings. I am very cautious of the flowered pedestal behind me since I noticed it in rehearsal and fear I may knock it over. My brothers hands me the ring, the same one that I bought without Natalie’s knowledge the day after Thanksgiving and my brother just removed the price tag from thirty minutes earlier. The ring Natalie has never seen. The ring she’s been asking about for the better part of three months and asking who was my consultant when I picked it out (and that would be no one). I tell her it was the best ring the guy with the Confederate belt buckles and knives at the flea market had.
I extend my hand and keep the ring covered by my fingers. I have to stop messing with her.
When I slide the ring on she doesn’t look disappointed and that’s always good.
We end the ceremony with the traditional kiss and a jumping of the broom. Butch Pattie and several others would comment later how neat he thought it was since he’d never seen it done at a wedding before.
We exit to Barry White’s “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything,” which can’t ever be wrong. We’re ushered back to a spot outside and as the guests file out we greet every one of them. My mother, a woman who shies from attention does her best to smile and not be nervous. It helps that everyone finds her adorable. The guests are corralled into a area where cocktails and hor’derves are served. I’ll spend most of my hour greeting people I have only heard of that’ll I’ll never get a mimosa or mini-spinach quesadilla.
An hour later the guests will be seated and Danielle will be lining us up for our entrance. Five minutes before the ceremony I mention to DJ Stephen everyone is walking into “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen. Puzzled, he tells me he didn’t get that change. He has “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Everybody walks in to “With A Little Help From My Friends.” He disappears for a few minutes and reappears with a thumbs up. It’s Queen… what DJ doesn’t have Queen?
We walk in to the theme from Superman. Later I’ll tell people I don’t even remember hearing it. I dance with Natalie and my mother. She’ll dance with her father and it’ll be the only time in the evening she’ll cry which is an accomplishment for a girl who cries at the end of Steel Magnolias even though she knows Julia Roberts’ days are numbered.
My brother will improvise his entire toast as will her father. Both of them are excellent and very sentimental. Her Maid of Honor, Brittany, has her toast handwritten on a piece of paper I’ll later find out was the reverse side of Natalie’s daily itinerary and she wrote in the room before she came down.
I have told people not to expect too much from your wedding. You’re trying to match a fantasy and good luck with that. Something will go wrong so you should just accept it. We had a Danielle so we were lucky. In the many conversations Natalie and I have had she tells me nothing went wrong. Even the things that didn’t go according to plan, didn’t go wrong.
As the night wound down with David Gates’ “The Goodbye Girl,” and the dance floor filled with couples, with our friends and family, I realized if I am lucky, this will still be me years from now.
As I thank people for coming I spy two pieces of cake on our table. I want a piece for my room and now if I show up with cake and none for Natalie I’ll spend my first night as a married man on a couch in the suite. I take a plate and turn it upside down on the other plate and as I am prying one piece of cake onto the other, Mike, the hotel’s liaison approaches me.
Jim. You don’t have to do that. We have cake for you in your suite and a bottle of champagne. When you pop the cork, you’re going to want to tilt the bottle. That brand is known to spray.
I thank him like’s my own private Alfred Pennyworth.
As we’re leaving, our guests thank us and I turn down several offers for nightcaps. I haven’t spent two minutes alone with Natalie in four days and it’s killing me. I just want to get out of this tuxedo and be alone with her. I find her somewhere in the lobby and we rendezvous, find our things and head for our room. We spend an hour opening envelopes and reading cards and immediately fall fast asleep knowing there are several after-parties happening that we’ll hear about in the morning.
I start my first morning as a married man at 6:00a as we both wake up and eat wedding cake in bed. Stephanie Seguin told me weeks ago your wedding day will be the best day of your life and for a person who doesn’t like weddings… I’ll admit she was right.