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Big Day

September 26, 2009

I woke up this morning with XTC’s “Big Day stuck in my head and I started thinking about fairlywell, who’s getting married today. One of the nice things about other people’s weddings is that they always remind you of your own. Mr. Spy and I have only been to one other since we got married and I was too busy being a bridesmaid and trying to deal with a power outage and an MIA wedding coordinator to do too much reflecting. But as Mr. Spy’s and my anniversary is coming up in just a few days, it’s the perfect opportunity for a little nostalgia.

The morning of my wedding, I woke up in our downtown Chicago loft alone. Although we’d been living together for a while, for tradition’s sake, we decided to spend the night apart, so he went to stay with his sister. The morning of our wedding was beautiful and sunny, but also very windy. I made coffee and wandered around the apartment wondering what I should do. Most of the work was done. I sat and looked out the window and tried not to think about anything at all for just a few minutes, watching the sun slowly creep over our building until it reflected off the windows of the building next door.

As busy and full of people that day was, it’s the quiet moments, like snapshots, that I remember best.

Like coming back from being fussed over with my bridesmaids at the hairdresser (every wedding must have something that goes awry that will mark it as real; mine was the hair. My longtime hairdresser had to leave town for a family funeral the day before the wedding and a less skilled stranger had to fumble her way through it) and collapsing in a chair in front of my fireplace while my friend K bustled around the kitchen pulling out things I didn’t even know I had and somehow throwing together a gourmet lunch for four.

Like standing in the back of the church with my father listening to my boss play the organ. Like kneeling in front of the altar of Mary while a choir of my friends sang Victoria’s Ave Maria, the first piece I ever conducted in a public concert, one that has great personal meaning for me.

We had had trouble finding a place to get married. We weren’t churchgoers, but a Catholic wedding was important to Mr. Spy’s family. The Catholic church I worked at as a chorister, which was closest to our house and was run by Franciscan friars, wouldn’t marry us because although I was there every week, we weren’t officially members. The church where the orchestra I worked with sometimes performed where I knew the organist and where we did our pre-marital counseling is so popular for weddings that even nearly a year out, there were no free days. The church Mr. Spy’s family attends didn’t pass the aesthetics test. We are no fans of those post-Vatican II churches in the round. We ended up at the church that had been Mr. Spy’s family parish before they moved to the suburbs. It is a beautiful old church, a little neglected, but still lovely. Mr. Spy’s mother cried when she walked in at the rehearsal. The last time she had been there was for her husband’s funeral. The church had been the center of her family life for a long time. It felt like the right place.

Then there was the moment when Mr. Spy and I left the church alone and headed out to the stone steps outside to set up a receiving line and wait for the rest of the wedding party. Except that I tripped over the century-old door sill and nearly plunged headfirst to the street. The photographer, who had been waiting for us to come out, made me go back into the church to try it again. The photo in the wedding album shows us laughing as we come out the door the second time. But the first picture remains in my proof album. It is one of my favorites, of me losing my balance, and Mr. Spy catching me.

We had forgotten the champagne for the limo ride to the hotel. Mr. Spy’s friend J, who was an usher, lived nearby and had some in the refrigerator. We swung by their house and toasted each other as we rode to the hotel where we had our reception. As we got out of the car, we landed in a crowd of German tourists who flanked the entrance and enigmatically bowed to us and shimmied their hands in the air over their heads. We slipped up to our room with the wedding party for a few minutes of sitting. By the time we made it downstairs, the cocktail hour was in full swing. Two of my friends were playing in the balcony while friends and family wandered around with drinks. And we were overwhelmed by the realization that nearly every person we loved best was in this room with us right now.

The caterer came over and grabbed my hand. He was a friend, someone I’d worked with many times before. He wanted to show me the dining room before everyone came in. Mr. Spy and I walked around the beautiful empty room full of flowers and candles. It felt like the room was holding its breath When we came back, the crowd seemed even noisier.

Mr. Spy and I lingered in the lobby by the fountain, practicing our dancing. And then the mahogany doors opened and we had to go in, in front of everyone and dance on the empty floor while Johnny Frigo played “The Way You Look Tonight.” We thought we were alone practicing, but someone snapped a picture of us. There it is, in the album, the skirt of my dress spun out wide as I twirled. [You can read more about Johnny Frigo at our wedding here.]

There was not much else quiet about the evening. There was a lot of talking and laughing and dancing and more dancing. I love the pictures of the reception, because in nearly every one, most of the chairs are empty.

I’m having a few minutes of quiet before Julia and Dave’s wedding tonight. I’m waiting for my toenails to dry and the boys are on their way back from a football game. It is about to be all bustle and excitement for Julia and Dave and we can’t wait to be a part of it. So, Julia and Dave, I wish a few moments of quiet, some time to reflect on the day, to pinch yourself, to remember what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and to breathe long enough to keep laughing long after the guests go home.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2009 3:37 pm

    I wasn’t there. I’d love to see your wedding pictures someday. I was at very few weddings of our Indy friends; I was just too poor to travel.

  2. September 26, 2009 3:44 pm

    I’ll scan some in on facebook one of these days.

  3. September 26, 2009 4:11 pm

    I almost ran over a bride last night – the wedding party (bride, groom and about 20 people) were coming up out of the subway as I was trying to get down, led by a photographer walking backwards. It was quite a scene.

  4. September 28, 2009 8:30 am

    I always enjoy stories about weddings, especially from happily married couples. Yours sounds wonderful, and I would also like to see pictures if you ever scan them. Or I could bring pie to your house and look at your album!

  5. Peppypilotgirl permalink
    September 28, 2009 11:27 am

    One of my favorite parts of my wedding was similar, Harriet – looking around at all the people who had come and thinking “how wonderful to be surrounded by so many people who love us”. It was an amazing feeling.

  6. September 28, 2009 12:06 pm

    I was thinking about your wedding the other day, Peppy. What year did you get married again? I remember the ceremony better than the reception (Hmm. Should I be concerned about that?). I remember driving there in a rental car in the pouring rain and being really worried I was going to be late. And I stayed with someone. I think it was Shannon’s family. But we stopped to visit D’Arcy’s as well. It was a fun wedding too!

  7. Peppypilotgirl permalink
    September 28, 2009 8:13 pm

    T’was 1997… yikes!! It did pour too… pitchforks and hammer handles, as my dad would say. Another of my favorite moments was emerging from the limo to a host of groomsmen in tuxes bearing giant umbrellas – I felt like Princess Grace. And LOL re: remembering the ceremony better… hit the champagne fountain, did you? 😉 It was fun – I had a blast.

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