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An American wedding: Gratitudes, anecdotes and Murphy's Law

by Kay B. Day

Jen and David at the rehearsal dinner at Carrabbas. The dinner was given by David's parents.There’s no sense of promise quite like the moment in a wedding when the bride and groom say their vows. Even for couples in long-term relationships, the vows hit an emotional home run because there’s the realization this is for keeps: “These things I give to you today and all the days of our life.”

Marriage, after all, is a contract. As I watched my daughter Jen speak her vows, a new dimension arose in our lives. Our daughter was formally beginning her own family of David and Jen.

The ceremony looked long on paper, but it flew by. I alternated between being riveted and being scatterbrained. Buzzing in my brain were thoughts of decorations, catering and the sound system. One minute I was focused on the steady gaze Jen and David exchanged. The next I was wondering how long before I broke out a bandaid as a result of the snazzy Italian shoes I purchased at a deep discount two days before the big do.

The bride and groom had many friends come to share the day, the end of a long journey from engagement party to wedding, and the beginning of an even longer journey as partners in a future. We kept to a fairly traditional Southern format, a complicated sequence of events ranging over a 9-month period.

First there was the engagement party. My husband and I had already met David’s parents, Laura and Darryl. We are lucky—we enjoy one another’s company. Laura and I bonded at a winter party by building a bonfire in the fire pit on our pool deck. I still remember the look of incredulity on our husbands’ faces as they watched us pile split oak logs on some very rowdy flames. My husband had wisely positioned the fire pit near the hose pipe, just in case. Both David’s parents served in the US military—that established immediate common ground with my husband who served and who grew up in a military family.

Jen’s sister Rebecca, a college junior, was maid of honor, so the shower and bachelorette party were held at our house. The shower was great fun and the tea party theme went over well with everyone enjoying a variety of loose leaf teas. The weekend before the wedding, I sat out the bachelorette party to give the girls some generational leeway. David’s brother Christopher handled the bachelor party.

We did the bridesmaid’s supper (instead of lunch because of various schedules) and a day later we did the rehearsal amid a summer lightning and rainstorm only a frog could love. Almost everyone was late—there were multiple crashes on I-95 because of the weather. The finishing touch on the rehearsal was the rehearsal dinner given by Laura and Darryl. We all gathered at Carrabbas—the wedding party was large because Jen and David had so many friends they wanted to include. We had a long table in the center of the restaurant and it was a very pleasant evening on the edge of the wedding. It gave us a chance to unwind, rest for a bit and socialize while enjoying a great meal.

Riverside House was a perfect venue for the wedding and reception.

Guests from near and far
Both our families had kin and friends come from out of state. One of our saving graces was Jacksonville’s Crowne Plaza on the St. John’s River. I wanted our visitors to stay in a place reflecting the beauty of this great waterfront city. The hotel was very gracious in working with us. Everyone who stayed there raved about it.

We were elated to learn my mother would be able to attend the wedding. My brother drove her down—he’s been the best grandfather in the world to our children because my dad died when I was in my early 20s. Mom had surgery for a cancerous tumor in July. Basically they cracked her chest bone, although that’s not the exact term a doc would use. She got it across to all her doctors early on she planned to be at that wedding. She’s almost 80 years old, but she looked beautiful and her presence meant the world to all of us. Her visit ended on a disastrous note made worse because my husband and I caused the calamity. What happened can be written off to the fact that with a wedding something will always go wrong because nuptials, for the bride and groom’s parents, are governed by Murphy’s Law.

Gratitudes in abundance
My major saving grace in keeping things right was a Jacksonville businesswoman who is an ace multitasker. Our wedding planner/director Tina Payne handled much of the planning and all of the heavy lifting. She decorated the chapel and the reception with a summer garden theme and lighted palms. She dressed out the reception room by draping the ceilings in sheer fabric with tiny lights and roses and hibiscus on food and guest tables. She dealt with the caterer and the selections were outstanding. Laura’s family who traveled from Puerto Rico made some native dishes as well—those were a major hit.

Tina handled small details and big ones—from arranging for photography by Ginger Dupree to flowers and favors for guests. She dealt with the caterer and did numerous other things. She always gave me a specific price for add-ons and her paperwork was organized. She is an excellent communicator. When Jen’s sister takes the big step, I’ll ask Tina to help me out again. If I sound effusive, it’s because Tina earned kudos.

Another saving grace was the maintenance manager at Riverside House. Vern touched base with me before the rehearsal, and helped us with everything from the rehearsal to the wedding to the reception and cleanup. We could not have done without him. The staff at Riverside House provided a clearcut contract and the cost for the facility was very reasonable.

I have to hand it to ABC Fine Wine and Spirits for excellent prices and delivery against all odds on the wine and beer for the reception. Despite torrents, remarkable lightning and earbending thunder as well as nightmare traffic, the contract courier made it through the storm to get the goods to Riverside House at the appointed time. Spending time with ABC’s wine expert named Barbara at the San Jose Blvd. shop helped me make selections that returned great quality for the prices. She also checked my guesstimates on quantity and in the end, we provided ample beverages with a small amount left over. A Southern host is always pleased when there's a little left instead of not enough.

Our DJ, Darrell Brown, entertained us with a mix of music and commentary. He did a very professional job and the sound was phenomenal.

Notes on the ceremony
A wedding is a cast of characters who bring a story of their own. Joanna Norris, a Jacksonville songwriter and vocalist, did the solo as Jen and David lit the unity candle. It was a Kleenex® moment. Joanna’s performance was top notch. Kent Smedley did our instrumental music and we were very grateful to have a musician of his caliber. Kent has been a major influence on Rebecca’s music career—he ranks not only as a great guitarist and songwriter/performer but also as a great teacher.

Our daughter Rebecca, the maid of honor, and David’s brother Christopher, the best man, did the readings. Rebecca read “Sonnet 43 from the Portuguese.” As a musician she had a natural feel for the rhythm in that “little song,” and her reading was superb. Lines that rank as some of the greatest in American poetry are in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem. A favorite part reads, “I love thee with the passion put to use/In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.”

Christopher did the Bible reading. By the time he got to, “Right now three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love,” all of us were wrapped in 13 lines of exquisite Biblical poetry making up the 13th chapter of Corinthians. He is a remarkable public speaker, a natural on stage,  and his interpretive presentation made it even more profound.

I had collaborated with the bride and groom to write a customized ceremony. We’d spent an afternoon mulling over an assortment of vows, readings and musical selections. As a result, every word meant something special to David and Jen. Sometimes being a writer has its perks.

Our flower girl and ring bearer were a big hit in the ceremony and at the reception. Grace and Jahir should be in show business. They danced the night away and charmed every guest.

There were so many people who helped, and there were so many who came to be part of our big day. All the bridesmaids and groomsmen helped along the way. David's youngest brother Danny escorted his mother to her seat, a touching moment in a day full of such moments. During the ceremony, navy gowns and white tuxedos made an arresting visual statement against a backdrop of flowers in pinks and greens and ivy draped candelabra.

Our melting pot
As I moved around the reception, talking to people, I was reminded of the cultural varieties among us. We had guests and family from Puerto Rico, Chile, the Dominican Republic and other countries, and from major geographic regions of the US, with an emphasis on the American South and New York. If you listed us on a census form, we’d be the perfect melting pot. Every political party was represented.

In keeping with a verbal contract decreed by Rebecca, I refrained from talking politics. There was one lapse when I engaged in lively dialog with a well-informed couple. I made sure my daughter was occupied elsewhere during that interlude.

As the ceremony concluded, I watched the groom take the bride’s elbow to guide her down the aisle. For me it was a gloriously sentimental moment. I could relax now because the mic hadn’t sputtered and the sun had managed to stay out after days of gray, sloppy weather. We all enjoyed the reception. Once the members of the wedding party were announced, the bride and groom danced—a tender moment that is a trademark of the American wedding. Then my husband danced publicly for the first time I can recall. He led our daughter gracefully, a ritual that is many a bride’s dream. David’s dad danced spectacularly, out-maneuvering many of the younger guests. As I watched the revelry, I could breathe a little easier because everything had gone smoothly and there had been no disasters.

Murphy’s Law
As for the calamity I mentioned, it occurred after the wedding reception. My husband and I stayed to assist with cleanup, so my brother drove Mom to our house. We forgot to give him the alarm code. He tried to call us but we couldn’t hear the cell phones because of all the cleanup noise. The police came.

For the first time in his life, my brother thought he might see the inside of a police car. After all, he was standing in a house where wedding gifts and various last minute items were scattered about. He didn't have our password, could not document his presence in our home and our alarm company had no idea who this man was.

To make matters worse, both our dogs fled when the front door was opened for law enforcement. Beagle hound and Schnauzer headed for a romp in the police car. With great effort, my brother finally got them back into the house. The problem was the dog we rescued a couple months ago—he’d never met my brother and he decided he preferred the police car. As commotion ruled, the burglar alarm kept honking. It’s a horrible sound delivered in high decibels.

After trying to explain what he was doing there, my brother finally told the policeman, “I’m Kay Day’s brother.” Happened that the policeman remembered me—we met after a rash of petty thefts in our neighborhood. Considering the chaos and what was essentially an unmanageable environment, my brother put Mom in the car and they made the grueling 5-hour drive back to Carolina. I figured he’d been awake for about 24 hours by the time he got them home. I can’t seem to apologize to them enough. Existing daughterly and sibling guilt have grown by leaps and bounds.

 My brother laughs about it now. “You almost got me sent to jail!” he says.

That was our only calamity. It came as postlude to a day when family and friends came together to celebrate with a young couple born in a country where we make our own futures and we create our own hope. We’ll carry forward memories of the sealing of a promise, and blessings given by family and friends who amid different skin colors, ideologies and cultural leanings, managed to put the greatest of all good sentiments, love, above all else.

Two days later we wished the couple bon voyage as they set off on a cruise, one of the gifts David's parents provided.

It was a very American wedding.

[Ed. Notes: No compensation, rewards, discounts, favors or gifts of any kind are derived from mention of the companies and businesses in this article.Photos were made by family and friends; the official photos will soon be in hand.]

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Reader Comments (3)

Congratulations on this special celebration! Great story about the alarm...

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCurtis Copeland

This is a great site that you have here. It's important that you have a site that focuses on both sides, so keep up the good work. I have a site myself where people can voice their opinion and debate on some of the most controversial topics out there today.

Anyway, good work and maybe we can do a link exchange or something.


August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Such a lovely couple. Congratulations! :)

Hizons catering Makati

September 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZonia C

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