Lucky Thirteen

Thirteen years ago today, Nick and I were married and – if I may be so bold – our wedding was pretty freakin’ awesome. I’ve already written here several times about what it means to be married, about how our relationships has grown and changed over the years, about Nick himself and who he is. So today, as promised, I want to talk about our wedding itself and why it still makes me smile after all these years.

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I have no idea why we’re laughing, but it pretty accurately sums up the tenor of the evening.

If I got married today, I’d be all over Pinterest – Ooooh, let’s serve those at the reception! These are fabulous invitations! Who knew you could do that with a ball of twine and some feathers?!  When Nick and I were planning our wedding, there was no Pinterest. The internet, although definitely part of our lives, was not the place to go to get information and ideas about your upcoming nuptials. The sources that were available – gen-you-wine old-fashioned books and magazines – provided us with bunch of ideas, a few of which we adapted, but mostly we were on our own.

Which suited us fine, because we knew only three things for sure about our wedding: we really wanted to get married to one another, so that was, you know, kind of the focal point; we wanted our guests to have a kick-ass good time; and we wanted the wedding to really represent who we were. Meaning it would be musical, fun, geeky, loud, joy-filled, a little different, and enormous portions of delicious food would be plentiful.

Knowing that the musical aspects of the wedding were really important to us, we got started early by arranging two songs to be sung a cappella (see: geeky), recording the different parts and burning them onto CDs (again, not so easy to just email the files; and also again: geeky), and mailing the CDs to our extremely good-natured and supportive friends – members of the a cappella groups Nick and I had been part of in college – who’d agreed to sing with us over the course of the weekend. To their credit, every single one of ’em learned those parts; when we got together to rehearse for the first time (less than an hour before performing), it was like turning on a wedding11
I Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” by Smash Mouth, what else?

For the rehearsal dinner itself, which was hosted by Nick’s family, we decided to bring a little Minnesota flare into our New York festivities. Nick’s mom and aunts hand-dyed the tablecloths and created the table centerpieces themselves, using preserved local Minnesota flowers and cattails and then shipping the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle all the way out to the Big Apple. It felt homey and warm and special and I was so grateful to them for putting so much effort and love into every detail. Nick’s dad created a slideshow of photos of Nick growing up, while my mom created a video of photos of me growing up, and the whole night felt like the perfect combination of his family and mine.

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That there would be the hand-dyed tablecloth and really cool Minnesota flowers.

Naturally, there was singing. We sang a cappella with our friends – a mix of old songs (including an old-school ditty called “Daddy” whose lyrics begin, “Daddy, let me stay up late… for tomorrow is my wedding date…” I know!) and the ones that Nick and I had arranged. Nick performed on his guitar, I sang with my forever BFF, Kiki, and Nick and I did a few songs together, welcoming everyone into this crazy world of ours.

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The morning of big day dawned cloudy and rainy, but the skies had cleared by the time the festivities began. I’d asked my singing pals to join me and my bridal party just prior to entering the church so that we could sing “Going to the Chapel” (in harmony, duh).

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Going to the chapel… literally.

The wedding ceremony itself was lovely and vibrant, nodding to tradition while turning things on their ends. Although we got married in a church, I refused to walk down the aisle to the organ because I think organs sound like something out of a horror movie (and yes, I was a music major and studied Bach and all that jazz [pun intended!] and I still can’t stand the organ; hey, you like what you like), instead choosing Offenbach’s “Barcarolle” from The Tales of Hoffman (after falling in love with it in the movie Life is Beautiful) for the processional and Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” (yes, the march, like you’d hear on the Fourth of July) for the recessional.

At the reception, we wanted everyone to have an absolute blast, to dance and eat themselves silly and enjoy the hell out of the whole affair (in part because, c’mon, how often are we going to do this? and in part because of the timing of the event). To begin, we had our first dance; nowadays, I’d be scouring YouTube for fun and charming First Dance Videos, but then, YouTube wasn’t even a blink in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye (I know he didn’t invent YouTube – Google tells me that it was created by three former PayPal employees – but it’s the first name I came up with, so there) – so it was just up to us to come up with something a little unusual. Ultimately, we decided to add a bit of whimsy to the dance (“The Way You Look Tonight”, a longtime favorite of ours) and incorporate a “choreographed” section complete with pat-a-cake clapping and doing “the swim”; it was very dignified.

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What? You didn’t rock ’50s and ’60s hand motions during your first dance? Pity.

Since this was, we figured, our one shot at sharing a bit of ourselves with this collection of charming guests who made their way across the country to join us, we wanted to include some of our favorite family traditions – including Christmas crackers (you know, the kind with exploding snaps at each end that are filled with a paper crown, a small slip of paper containing a joke or bit of trivia, and an itty bitty toy), which my family has opened at special dinners since I was a kid. Except that any old Christmas crackers wouldn’t do, so we – along with my mom – spent hours upon hours filling empty crackers with music-themed items: piano erasers, quarter note pins, and the like.

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The crackers, ready to go at at the tables…

us wedding3 Naturally, we put the crowns on as soon as we opened the crackers. Duh.

Our love of music was woven into all areas of the reception. Our band had told us they’d learn one song of our choosing – and so we chose a relative unknown, “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?” by Hurricane Smith, because it was one of my grandfather’s favorite songs and we used to listen to it while roasting marshmallows at the bonfires along the lake; we invited our entire families to join us for the dance. Our seating cards were written on music staves, sending people to a table not named by number but by a place that was important to Nick and me (Denver, Disney World, Canandaigua…).

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My cousin, looking to figure out which table he was at. (Hint: he was with us.)

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Dramatic reenactment; you get the idea.

Our a cappella friends joined us once more for a performance. Our wedding favors were CDs featuring our favorite songs. And, of course, there was the whole sing-a-song-with-the-word-‘love’-in-it thing, which turned out to be one of the best aspects of the entire day.

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We oh-so-cleverly did a mashup of Lyle Lovett’s “She’s No Lady (She’s My Wife)” and the George Gershwin classic, “Boy! What Love Has Done To Me!” (as sung by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald). #MusicGeeks
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Yep, our buddy B is still wearing his crown. Because he rocks.

In short, everything was just as we’d hoped it would be; we had the perfect wedding (for us). I realize that not everyone can say that their wedding was everything they wanted, and that ours was makes me tremendously grateful. (Grateful, as well, to my – and Nick’s – parents, who never played the role of overbearing in-laws, instead deferring all important decisions to us so that the day could go exactly as we’d imagined.)

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The first few shots were staged – no actual plunging – but then we really did jump in at the end, which scared the heck out of my stepdad, who was taking the photos.

We wanted the food and drinks to be abundant and delicious; it was. We wanted the band to play songs that everyone would get up and dance to; they did. We wanted people to come together to sing and be silly; they did. We wanted autumn to be fully incorporated into the wedding – the decor, the food, the colors, the flowers (I believe that I’d asked for the reception locale to be “dripping with flowers,” a statement that, in hindsight, might have been just a bit overboard – but, gee, they sure were pretty!); it was.

We wanted to share our love of our home states with our guests; we did. We hoped they would join us in celebrating some of our families’ most cherished traditions; they did. We tried to ensure that music, and its importance to us, was felt at every turn; I believe that it was. We wanted everyone to feel welcome and happy, to be able to relax and just kick back and enjoy themselves, to know how grateful we were that they were there; I think they did.

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Laughing about something different this time; yes, Nick is wearing his crown, and yes, I’ve got a yellow plastic treble clef pinned to my wedding dress.

Even now, thirteen years later, people who attended our wedding tell us that it was one of the best weddings they’ve ever been to. Although that’s certainly a kind and flattering sentiment, I believe that it wasn’t so much the wedding itself that was memorable; it was that, for one day, we put ourselves wholly out there: this is who we are. We love music. We love our families. We adore our friends. We live for good food and laughter. Traditions matter. Levity is a must. Humor is essential. Laughter is the best. We really, really dig one another’s company. We believe in fun. And we are so, so glad that you’re joining us.

Our wedding wasn’t a one-off celebration that marked a complete departure from our personalities; it well and truly started our lives together because it was a representation of who we are as individuals and as a couple. Today, we’re still living by those values, right down to the geeky a cappella love and the continued use of Christmas crackers.

I feel so thankful – and lucky – that our marriage started off the way it did, with a wedding that was everything we’d dreamed of. I’m even more thankful – and feel even luckier – that our marriage itself is only somewhat like what I’d imagined; actually, it’s better.

Happy baker’s dozen anniversary, Nick! Here’s to dozens more – and to more laughter, more singing, and more cake and wine.

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