The bride advances down the aisle in a short, bejeweled, salmon-colored dress, wearing a Fascinator in her hair (more on that later), glowing as brides are supposed to glow. This is Chris, my long-time friend, single all her life until this moment, the one who has lived in New York, London, done business in the Middle East, now back to the States, a chef who throws dinner parties effortlessly, tells a great story, and starts up sparkling conversation, then throws her guests out before the party can get stale. Waiting for her is David, gray-haired, handsome and erect, flanked by his son, his best man.
Chris’ best friend Toad (I never did get the derivation of the name though I’ve heard it a thousand times), in from England for the occasion, waits too, as do David’s three granddaughters as flower girls and junior bridesmaids in their own Fascinators, and one grandson, ring bearer.
Behind them is a wall of windows looking out on a Low Country marsh and stormy skies. Surrounding them are friends and loved ones collected from across the country and world, many clutching tissues in their hands, just to be prepared. But it wasn’t like that. Instead of tears, there were smiles and a few chuckles. There’s something about a wedding when people have seen a lot of life and know what they are getting into.
She was escorted down the aisle by an elderly gentleman, a long-time friend of her parents who have been gone for several years. To the minister’s question: Who gives this woman to be married to this man, he boomed out, “Her mother and father and I do.”
The people who had traveled to share in this day, from Minneapolis, Austin, San Francisco, Delaware, New York, many other ports, got rewards for our travel. As for my husband and me, we got to see Wally, who has become our friend too, retired globe-trotting photographer who, still the expert despite his now-limited vision, quietly advised the wedding photographer on convincing the wedding party to move from the air conditioning onto the outside deck for their photos. It worked.
I met a woman who once taught tennis to upper crust women in Bahrain. In mixed company, the women wore their version of the burqua, leaving only their eyes showing. Once they were in female-only company, she was told that they peeled them off to reveal colorful stylish garb underneath. On the court, they wore sweats head to toe in the 90 degree plus heat. There, she met her husband, a Brit now a U.S. citizen, who used to buy Euro bonds from the bride.
We met the groom’s daughter Clauss, in from Oman with her banker husband and two daughters (the flower girls), who gave a toast about love and its outward-moving ripples that brought out the tissues and ended in a giant family-bonding hug.
Now, I’ll explain Fascinators, a fashion trend I don’t think has surfaced in Chicago yet. They are like hats minus the hat, decorations of feathers and bling mounted on an invisible headband. Festive and surprising, perfect for bride and attendants alike. Each one different, all exquisite, and everyone gets to keep theirs. In the interest of fair play, hockey-playing grandson got to keep the ring-bearer pillow.
During the ceremony, junior bridesmaid Molly sang two delicate solos, and then at the reception, backed by the wedding band, belted out a rendition of “L is for the way you look at me…” that got her a standing ovation.
Having a chance to meet your friend’s friends, seeing some common myths – don’t expect romance let alone marriage after 50 – busted, now that’s worth a trip. The final toast by the grandchildren that ended in a headlong race to deliver a four-person hug to my friend Chris and grandpa, all the more.
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