We have a half hour to kill before the family photos. Mom visits the bridal suite looking regal in a silky white shirt and long black skirt. I line up the bridesmaids for a picture with her, feeling childishly pleased to nab a shot the photographer won’t have. I’m not a competitive person. Really.
Then we whisk and rustle downstairs to find Casey and PJ who have returned from their First Look photo shoot. They beam at us and at each other, but there’s little time to talk as the photographer marshals us in quick succession up the raised platform at the head of the ballroom. For a week, the forecasts had whittled away hope of a sunny, waterside ceremony, but gratefully, the rain had held off - almost – for the wedding party and First Look photos. Now, however, it is pouring in earnest.
Quickly now! It’s almost 5:30 – showtime! – and guests are milling around in the foyer as family groupings scamper to the stage to pose. Hurry! No time for shifting positions, adjusting corsages, closed eyes, or odd expressions. Coax baby Paul to smile! Goofy faces and kissy lips, “Hey Paul! Hey little guy!” Then we hustle off into the back room while the guests filter in to take their seats.
Whew! Breathe, breathe. Yes, thanks, a flute of champagne would be heavenly. The staff, Laina and Eddie– our friends, by this point – are taking care of us. We peek into the hall and see a line-up of loved ones, so we sneak out for hugs. It’s hard to retreat because everyone in that line is someone we cherish.
OMG! The veil! We forgot the veil! Casey was not to wear it until the ceremony, so in the photo schedule flurry, it was left in the bridal suite. Karis runs up to get it and returns. Respectful of its age and delicacy – it has been worn by Ingersoll brides since the 1800’s - she gives the veil to me to tuck snugly into my daughter’s hair, just above her braided bun.
Shouldn’t be a challenge, but I’m struggling. The comb won’t slide in. “I think it’s backwards,” says one of the bridesmaids gently. She is right. But it’s not easy to wrest that backwards comb from the clutches of Casey’s elegant hairdo. Again, I’m holding my breath, self-conscious before all of those watching and waiting.
“I think it’s off-center, Mom,” says Casey. Shit. She’s right. What is my problem? I wiggle it a little and try to convince her it’s fine, but it’s not. One of the girls takes over and eases out the comb, starts over, and it’s perfect. Beautiful. Tradition and the good wishes of all those generations of Ingersoll brides riding with her, flowing down her back.
“All right everyone,” says Laina, “Time to line up!”
We place champagne flutes on the silver trays offered, look around for our partners, and shuffle into line. Which side? Who goes first? Why didn’t we pay attention during the rehearsal?
I’ll be walking with Steve, Dave’s brother, who is officiating today. He must be nervous, but he looks only happy as he takes my arm. You’d never know that he and Casey’s cousin, Christopher, had rushed over during this morning’s downpour to dismantle and wrestle the arbor from the lawn by the shore, it’s initial, wistful placement. Dripping wet, they had lugged it into the ballroom and reassembled it on the stage so Casey would be married beneath the arbor her father made, just as she’d envisioned.
As we take our places in line, I gesture to the ballroom full of loved ones turned expectantly our way and I say to Steve, “None of this would be happening if it weren’t for you and me.”
He looks puzzled, and I continue, “If you and I hadn’t met and gone sledding together on that snowy slope at Trinity in ’73, I wouldn’t have met and married Dave.” A smile breaks across his face and we snug our linked elbows tighter.
“Your turn!” says Eddie, and Steve and I, first in line, head down the steps.
* * *
“It’s a typical night at SBC, the restaurant and bar sounds ever present throughout the high ceilinged brewery. She’s new, confident, and catches his eye. She checks out the frosted blond tips in his hair, diamonds in his ears, a lip ring, and thinks to herself, ‘He thinks he’s cooler than me. So not true.’
“He watches her trying to be cute as she slowly approaches. The young girl then trips and stumbles. All coolness gone, she looks up; he looks down…and they both start laughing.”
So began Casey and PJ’s romance, and so Steve begins the service. Everyone in the ballroom cracks up at the story of this inauspicious first meeting.
One of the things Casey loves best about PJ is his sense of humor, and she likes that quality in herself as well, although hers tends toward the slapstick. There’s nothing that makes her laugh like someone taking an arm-flinging, feet-flailing fall, although she claims she always make sure the person’s okay before she cracks up. In the days before the wedding, she was relaxed about glitches, saying, “If one of the flower girls runs out crying, that’ll be funny. If I trip on the way down the aisle, that’ll be funny.” But no one flees and no one falls, and the service, conducted by her uncle who knows and loves her, is funny without any casualties.
Up on the platform beneath Dave’s arbor, their attendants flanking them, the room full of loved ones with glistening eyes, Casey, and PJ are radiant, beaming with emotion so powerful it crosses boundaries and spills into tears. They had discussed this with Steve, Casey voicing her concern that she and PJ would break down bawling in the middle of the service. Steve said he’d take care of it and would slip her a flask if she looked like she needed it. She does and he did. Luckily, the grandmothers don’t pick up on the exchange, but those who do howl with laughter.
And so the ceremony swings, from laughs to poignant and meaningful. Lindsay, the matron of honor, reads a passage from Mitch Albom’s Tuesday with Morrie that closes, “[Morrie] ended the subject by quoting a poem he believed in like a prayer, ‘Love each other or perish.’”
Steve reflects on the saying, “No man or woman is an island unto himself or herself. Both are part of a greater continent.” He speaks of PJ, “a self-professed non-world traveler” helping Casey select the perfect backpack for her trip to Asia, even while fervently wishing she wouldn’t go. He mentioned PJ’s return to grad school and his athletic endeavors, and Casey’s professional accomplishments at Lululemon. “You both possess spirits individual and adventurous, yet coming together, islands within that continent…You have maintained the ability to keep on laughing and remain silly, keeping your lives upbeat and calm, when at times I’m sure it feels like you’re awash in a sea of chaos.”
Maybe it was time to swing back to some humor? So Steve tells the story, in PJ’s words, of the night PJ proposed to Casey. “I had all FREAKIN’ DAY to stew on how I was going to do it, what my wording would be, and how smooth my delivery was going to be (yeah, right.) Here I am – cool, calm, collected – until she pulls in the driveway. Case gets home and instantly hops in the shower…ten more minutes of stewing…finally she comes out, freshly dressed and still wearing a turbie twist towel on her head. I get down on my knee and pop the question. After asking me if I was serious seven to ten times and leaving me down on my knee, she accidentally knocks the ring out of my hand and it goes flying across the room. I think we both agree we wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Songs and guitars have always played the background music of Casey’s life. Since the seventies, it has been a tradition at Sylvestro weddings for the musicians of the family to play Paul Stookey’s Wedding Song. There might have been some inward groans among guests not familiar with the song or the players upon hearing the game plan announced, but groans gave way to pleased grins and nostalgic tears as PJ’s Uncle Dan joined Dave, Steve, Trevor, and Christopher in performing the melody they’ve played together for decades.
True to the bride and groom’s love of the bizarre and the funny, they have asked groomsman Tony Deluca to read Cath Crowley’s poem, Graffiti Moon: “If my like for you was a football crowd, you’d be deaf 'cause of the roar. And if my like for you was a boxer, there’d be a dead guy lying on the floor. And if my like for you was sugar, you’d lose your teeth before you were twenty. And if my like for you was money, let’s just say you’d be spending plenty.”
The vows are a natural follow-up once the laughter quiets and Tony returns to the groomsmen line-up. With eyes bright, full of love and tears, PJ and Casey promise to “love who you are now and who you are yet to become. I promise to listen to you and learn from you, to support you and accept your support. I will celebrate your triumphs and mourn your losses as though they were my own. I will love you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.”
After the exchange of rings, Casey’s cousin, Trevor, reads an Apache blessing, assuring them, “Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other…” And Steve follows with a benediction universal in its message:
The way is long – let us go together
The way is difficult – let us help each other
The way is joyful – let us share it
The way is ours alone – let us go in love
The way grows before us – let us begin.
There is the briefest of solemn moments as Steve’s words die away, then Casey hoots, “WE’RE MARRIED!” She and PJ kiss and kiss and kiss, then the bride pumps her bouquet in celebration, and the new husband and wife strut on down the aisle.