These for me consisted of getting picked up by Kathy at the airport (and she had a Carlos Santana sighting while she was waiting for me!), hanging out with her and Spence for the afternoon. Neil had flown up the night before for the bachelor party, and was at the rehearsal lunch, so he met up with us later. Then he went back out to hang out with Josh for his last night as a single man and made sure the groom didn't get too nervous. Kathy and Spence & I chatted and caught up and goofed around, then John Balquist came over for an hour or so to visit and let us know that he and Amber are officially expecting a baby, and to go through incriminating pictures from college. It was good fun.
We went out and grabbed some quick but yummy mexican food, then went back home, goofed around, and fell asleep. The next morning dawned and sent us down the street for coffee, eggs and toast. Spence was incredibly quiet, and we discovered that it wasn't just that he's not a morning person - he was actually feeling ill. So he tried to nap, ended up feeling worse as the day wore on, and eleted not to join us at the wedding. Poor guy.
Kathy and I put on pretty dresses and strapped on cutesy shoes, and headed out to this little park in Piedmont.
The beautiful ceremony
I was stunned. You'll see why.
The ceremony was held in one of those perfect little parks you find in the bay area; filled with flowers and beautiful breezes. The day was absolutely stunning. The gray clouds from the day before rolled back and we were graced with a bright blue sky and the quiet in the trees. We walked down to this little cove in the paths, a little half theatre, backed by beautiful redwood trees. On every chair was a mysterious note card with a seashell attached that said "save this for the ceremony".
The groomsmen walked down the path, boys with that look that's half angelic and half demonic, as if they know some secret joke that we don't showing plainly on their faces. But this time, there were no pranks or prats, just the faces of old friends watching one of their own, a member of that band of motley (yet adorable) brothers, turn in his dating card for the title of husband. Josh's creative writing professor from our days at UC Santa Cruz officiated. He was adorable in his doctoral robe, and the groomsmen were handsome in their suits, grinning at the crowd in ties made by the seamstress who designed and produced all the bridesmaid dresses. The colors were much like this but with blue embroidery (in case you're curious). They were all bright flowers against the cool green and brown of the redwoods.
Josh appeared at the back (which happened to be where Kathy and I grabbed seats - there weren't more than 70 people there at the most, so it was easy to see no matter where we were), hugging his mother and smiling just a little bit shyly at all the people gathered to watch him tie his life to Chrissy's. His dreads were tied back, and he looked quite dashing in his light-tan suit - a dapper man who walked his mother down the aisle and saw her safely to her seat before taking up his place before us.
Chrissy appeared at the top of these marvelous steps hewn into the wall at the back of the seating area, radiant with dark red hair piled on her head and this absolutely exquisite white silk wedding dress, her arm linked with her father. At the foot of the steps her mother waited patiently for them both, and then the three of them, parents and child, walked to Josh's side. Instead of the traditional wedding march, the music turned to that song from the Princess Bride - our love is a storybook story - and damned if it sounds cheezy now, but then it was so lovely, so beautiful, and just so sweet that I felt the tears cluster.
As Chrissy's parents sat, and the couple were left alone at the alter, I realized Josh was in tears - not the horrible kind, but those joyous springs of delight that he couldn't have stopped if he'd tried. But this day wasn't about hiding his love. So he shared it, and took both Chrissy's hands and held on, smiling this smile of intense delight the entire time.
One of the bridesmaids stepped forward to explain the seashells. It's funny, but I'd never realized how disconnected the audience usually is from the ceremony of a wedding - they don't get to claim the attention of the bride and groom since all their thoughts are focused on each other. Not so this time. We were all asked to hold our shells and make a wish or say a prayer for the continued good luck and good love of the couple before us, and then walk to the glass jar they'd sat before them and drop our good wishes in. Josh and Chrissy would then have tangible proof of the love of the people who had been with them on their day, and would keep it forever. As we passed by, one by one, Josh and Chrissy stood and looked us all in the eye. I couldn't help but grin, that big delighted grin, because it was then that I really did feel connected to them, seeing them show their love, seeing them catch our love for them and reflect it back to us.
They had two readings before they took their vows - John wrote them a parable, something that sounded ancient and lovely and sweet and silly (which really, defines them both and John at once). Milo delivered a poem of affectionate joy. There were no long sermons, or quoting from other texts, just honest expressions from the talented people in their lives, and a friend professor who quoted an old poem of Josh's, where he wrote feeling lost and broken and somehow incomplete. And then he talked about how, when he first met Chrissy, he realized that Josh's nerves and little pieces were stitched together by this extraordinary woman. Vows were spoken, kisses were kissed, rings exchanged.
And that was that. They were married!
And then, the party
Not the biggest party in the world, or the most lavish, but sweetly beautiful nonetheless. Vegetarian food that was so good I heard committed meat eaters exclaim in pleased surprise. We got our drinks while the wedding pictures were taken, we munched on appetizers while some people snuck off into the bushes to indulge in illegal but relatively harmless smoking of the special stuff. We took pictures of each other for the guest book (they'd thoughtfully provided a polaroid, so you could fix your picture next to your entry!).
There were toasts from proud parents on both sides, who couldn't be happier about their two children building love together. There were toasts from friends - the 'wing man' that was supposed to give Josh one of those 'emergency out' calls if his first blind date with Chrissy wasn't working out well (and how Josh chose to extend the date and Chrissy then called him on his escape plan - indicative of their entire relationship - she doesn't let him get away with his usual shit, and he adores her for it). Neil gave a toast that almost reduced me to tears.
But, the thing that completely got me wasn't from the guests, but instead from Josh. He and Chrissy stood up after all the other toasts were over. Josh (who is still josh, no matter how lovey and open and honest he is) grabbed the mike. This is the best approximation I can do of what he said:
"Thank you all for being here on the happiest and best day of my life. (said with such certainty and quiet joy while his arm is around his beautiful bride and he's looking right at her). I want to thank you all for being here, not only to witness this, but because, when I look out at you all, I know that if I do nothing else in my life I have lived a successful one. Because you all are such amazing people, and I have to have done something incredibly right to be able to count you my friends and family, and to have you here on this day. Thank you for being here, thank you for sharing this day with us, just thank you."
I get choked up writing it. It was so sweet.
But nothing can stay solemn for long, and so they kicked off the dancing, and we goofed around and went outside for smokes and inside for more dancing to seriously goofy music of the 80's. They cut a small cake and fed it to each other, and then served us all cupcakes! (such a great idea, and quite tasty too!). By 9 pm we were sweaty, slightly tipsy, and definitely all grinning with jackets off and ties loosened, mothers dancing with boys and all the bridesmaids with their shoes off.
It may not sound particularly profound
...but it was one of the most charming ceremonies I've ever been to. Maybe it's just because I've known Josh for so long, and seen him change from this slightly defensive guy who smoked too much and was incredibly nervous and often duplicitous and strangely challenging, to this wonderful man who was just so much in love, obviously, for the entire day. And to see that kind of love reflected back at him from Chrissy's face at every turn, to know that these are two people who just dig each other - it just gets me. I've been to a bunch of weddings. I've been to a bunch of great weddings, actually, weddings where I knew that the people getting married were going to be fucking fantastic because I could see it shining out of their faces as they said their vows. And this wedding definitely takes it's place among them.