Saturday April 23, 2016: Alex and Glory’s wedding day. Shadow Ridge Ranch: a country bed and breakfast hide-away seven miles southeast of Placerville in the California Sierra Foothills. Close to Glory’s childhood home: creating and installing decorations, cooking, baking and catering numerous meals, identifying local wines, champagne and beer for the festivities, and introducing urban friends to the rural beauty of northern California seemed to foretell this as an ideal location.
Glory’s creativity went into high gear last fall as she envisioned almost a Christo-like art installation centered around the two huge open air white tents, one for the ceremony, and one for the reception, where the dinner, speeches, and dancing would occur. Her color scheme focused on purple and gold hues, with large paper flower chandeliers in the ceremony tent, a quote from “The Little Prince” (with personal meaning to Alex and Glory) on the backdrop for the actual ceremony, and a wide purple ribbon lining the isle between flanked rows of white chairs.
Large white light bulbs were strung from the center of the reception tent to each corner and then, each bulb had a huge white balloon attached. A circle-within-a-circle concoction of smaller white balloons anchored the center. Crinkly gold pompons were interspersed among the white globes. The u-shaped dining table was decorated with a mixture of Kathleen’s china and silverware, an assortment of brass pots filled with purple and red flowers, gold menus, a delicate lace heart attached to each champagne glass, and two tiny shots of moonshine (courtesy of an errant uncle?). Very festive.
Glory and her uncle worked for months building her creations: a smiling “man in the moon” for photo opportunities, the Little Prince backdrop, the flower chandeliers, brown and white paper bells and stars over the entry way, and all the little details that I couldn’t even imagine. Alex, meanwhile, a pie baker by passion, became an experimenter and baker of wedding cakes, trying a number of recipes over the preceding three or four months until settling on a pistachio/chocolate ganache cake for the rehearsal dinner and peanut butter and jelly cakes for the wedding dinner (not your mother’s PB&J but delectable four-layer cakes with alternating layers of peanut butter crème frosting and blackberry, chocolate and strawberry glazes). Kathleen, Glory’s mother, was caterer extraordinaire, making her own specialties of baked salmon, marinated lamb, orange-flavored polenta, and spring salad with goat cheese for the main dinner, and a variety of appetizers to hold people over for the big feast.
This year’s wetter-than-normal late spring rains turned the area a lush green, with bright-yellow dandelions, popping pinkish-purple ornamental plum trees, and delicate lavender-colored wisteria on the wooden fences. Even without Glory’s decorations this spot was perfect. We were scheduled to start decorating at noon on Friday so we intently focused on the weather outlook, which seemed to change, almost daily, during the two weeks leading up to the event. Two inches of rain fell steadily on Friday, with hail, lightning and thunder in the late afternoon. Installation plans were re-arranged and delayed, concerned that the wet weather would ruin months of hard labor. Still, the balloon lady starting hanging the globes late in the day, not finishing until after 1:00 in the morning. The sound system guy brought the speakers and microphone after dinner, delaying the rehearsal until Saturday morning. Christopher, meanwhile, who was leading the wedding ceremony and in charge of making sure all the pieces were timed just right, was getting anxious. With the delay in putting up the decorations and finalizing all the food, Alex and Glory weren’t focused on the actual marriage event. Yet, the license was obtained, Christopher was sworn as Deputy Commissioner by someone at the El Dorado County courthouse, and we could see the magic start to come together.
By early Saturday afternoon, the programs and confetti guns were placed on the chairs for the guests. Christopher and Alex practiced the timing of several different playlists. Solomon ran down the isle, practicing (as only a barely-one-year-old can do) for his ring-bearer duties. Chris, the flower “man”, freshly anointed to this task, gathered confetti in a basket for his short walk down the isle. Food arrived in huge Styrofoam ice chests. The bartender organized the beer and wine. Glory and her mother disappeared for make-up and dressing.
Guests started to arrive: immediate family and close friends, a few from Alex and Glory’s high school and college years, but mostly current friends and colleagues, the “LA crowd,” urban and sophisticated! What fun to see the mixture of people coming together to celebrate our son and Glory. As Alex said to me before the wedding and in a brief talk after the wedding dinner, he was humbled that so many people wanted to share this day with them. Truly, their friends are kind, bright, funny, and caring people.
Glory’s surprise for her husband-to-be: Slamson, the Sacramento Kings’ mascot, walked her down the isle, high-fiving the guests, prancing in his lion’s outfit, adding humor to the start of the ceremony. Kate and I held Solomon’s hands as he ran down the isle, so adorable in his linen suit, light blue shirt, colorful tie and pocket square, the ring-bearer who wasn’t entrusted with the actual rings. Christopher’s wedding speech, about marriage, deep friendships, and commitment, was heart-felt and wise. Oh, how proud I was that my younger son chose his brother to officiate. The bride and groom’s vows were light in tone but profound in the evidence of their love for one another. And then, it was time for them to kiss and walk together as husband and wife, showered by the colorful and shine confetti from 80 or so confetti guns!
The evening shone: the setting sun backlit the reception tent through the pines. The balloons glowed and fluttered in the breeze. The voices of the guests swelled with stories, meeting old and new friends, congratulating the bridal couple, and making toasts. Soon enough, formal pictures taken, Christopher invited everyone to take a seat, to listen to some speeches, and to enjoy the repast.
Doug and I had planned, struggled, and debated about what to say about our younger son. We didn’t want to spend too much time recounting familiar stories, but we wanted to share why and how much we love Alex. We discussed at the last minute how much time to take given the other speakers. In the end, Doug spoke of how proud we are of the rambunctious, sometimes impossible to handle, little boy who has matured into the creative, imaginative, determined and loving man he is today. We reflected on Alex’s choice of Glory as his partner, a true marker of our son’s character.
The dancing started after the dinner plates were cleared, with invitations to enjoy the cakes and pies. Again, we enjoyed watching friends from near and far dance singly or in groups, splitting off to catch up with someone else, taking a sip of wine, even gathering left-over shots of moonshine for one final toast to this lovely couple. By ten o’clock, the shuttle bus gathered the last guests to drive them back to their hotel. We retreated to our cottage to reflect on this day and the change in our family, a new daughter-in-law. Meanwhile, the catering crew spent several more hours cleaning up the tables, putting away all the extra food (concerned about deer and other wildlife), leaving the picking up of confetti and popping of balloons to us, the morning-after cleanup crew.
Sunday morning was cool but sunny. We did the final cleanup, hugged Alex and Glory good-bye, and spent the afternoon in Old Town Sacramento with Christopher, Kate, and Solomon before we all returned to our respective homes. Today, five days later, there’s still a glow, remembering different details of the celebration, impressed by our sons, looking forward to our next family gathering, and receiving so many heartfelt congratulations on the marriage of our second son.