Monday, June 29, 2009

Wedding Blur


OK, so after choking on this post for a while, I have realized that it is pretty much impossible to create something that will live up to the expectations that we (people in general, I specifically) put on the "big events," in this case my hopes for a post to perfectly capture a single facet of my wedding day in stunning detail. In part this is because I am tired today, but in part it's also due to the fact that weddings are like this for the couple in question—at least for most brides, I think: hard to experience fully in the moment. This is one reason why a good photographer is worth every expense; you are too invested, too much the director of this production to set yourself aside and just live fully in the "now" of it all. Our ceremony was lovely, beyond a doubt. It was full of love and joyful celebration and outrageous indulgence and passion. All these things, and yet it passed in such a blur. My memory of the event itself is a fragmented collage, a culmination of months of exhaustive planning (past), and a hopeful gaze toward more relaxing days and a settled life (future). But not very mindful in the present; not very zen, I have to say. So I will, without further apology, spill the random bits that lodge in memory and give the flavor of this day, the 29th of June, seven years ago.

I remember: The coiffeuse who came to the hotel room to do my hair and makeup, and who, since I was basically hostage to her at that point, upped the price from what we'd agreed upon—how I sensed she must've had a conversation with someone the night before who told her that for heaven's sake she should charge more, after all I was an American and staying in luxury accommodations (a gift from my folks for the last night of single life; a room I shared with my best friend who served as my only witness of honor). The way this self-styled arbiter of fashion piled on more makeup than I could stand and, after she left, my friend helped restore me to a semblance of self I could manage. The photographer came, a "vrai artiste" without any arrogance at all, and he worked his wonder with light and shadow; he did a series of shots as I dressed, garters and all, and did it with such class I will be forever grateful. Coming down the carpeted stairs of the Hôtel de la Cité, seeing the groom in white tails at the bottom, impressed. We teetered arm in arm across the uneven paving stones of the medieval fortress town of Carcassonne, stopped for photos, and then it was time to drive to the church at the foot of the walled town, just outside the gates, under a light rain that began to fall. Good luck. Shouts as we were driven out of the old city: "Vive les mariés!" Trumpet prelude by Purcell (played on an organ); walking down the aisle with my father, misty-eyed. Sitting, standing, repeating prayers and vows. Tugging with an attempt at inconspicuousness at a beaded strap that kept slipping down my arm underneath the sheer, short "jacket" I wore to cover my otherwise bare shoulders. (This gesture and my vexed expression caught on video by a cousin-in-law, and we laughed about it later.) A bilingual ceremony, missed cues and confusion at having to say the Lord's Prayer in English while hearing it all around in French. Funny moments of language that made me laugh, and the sudden realization that to laugh—however innocently, nervously; even however briefly—was considered by the priest as an insult to the sacrament of marriage. Signing the registries, looking for the priest after the ceremony; he'd vanished, offended. Rose petals tossed at us on the steps of the church; a group photo; a long procession driving from Carcassonne to Cuiza . . . At the reception, a champagne aperitif in an outdoor château courtyard. My parents, kissing, taken by surprise by the photographer and a series of shots depicting love and mirth. Being announced as "Monsieur et Madame," as we entered the dining hall. A blur then of greeting guests, circulating among tables, finding it hard to sit at the banquet-style head table and eat, there was too much going on. But eating nonetheless, and everyone making way through a flight of fourteen phenomenal wines, the best from this region of Southwest France. Toasts, dancing (and how my mother-in-law cut in on the first dance with my husband, before the DJ changed over the music from waltz to Elvis Presley as he was supposed to do fairly quickly but missed his cue); this horrible DJ who played every song I asked him NOT to play (did I actually hear the "Macarena"?); the same DJ who demanded to be seated at one of the guest tables and eat the meal served to family and friends (the sweet and consummately professional photographer grabbing a sort of staff meal downstairs). A stunning "pièce montée" tower of caramelized pastry puffs and nougatine to serve as our cake—plus a decadent chocolate dessert served as part of the château's package menu. Guests talking, laughing, more dancing—the Greek faction taking over at one point. And eventually, as it grew late and guests got tired and gave their final blessings to us, my search for a back way—a secret way—to the bridal suite, room number kept in strict confidence, doing my best to avoid any nod to the French tradition of the "pot de chambre" (the "chamber pot," you can look it up!) . . . my husband and I, successfully escaping to our room, unnoticed, in the wee 4:00 hour of the morning. Exhausted, happy, ready for the next phase of a joint life. Slipping into welcome oblivion.

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