The Big Day (In Detail)

I have an extra day or two out here in the inland Northwest before heading back to Washington. What an absolutely amazing week it has been. We spent an entire year planning for this weekend and now, it’s over. Time to head back to our daily routine.

Last night I thought about how quickly the big day went. It was a long day for sure. It began around 7:00 a.m. and ended close to midnight for us with hundreds of little moments between our waking and falling asleep. And I realized I had better write down what I remember from the day because if I don’t, some of it may be lost to the ages.

So here goes.

We woke up fairly early, took care of the showering and coffee and blah blah blah. Ray Ray and I decided to eschew the whole “can’t see the bride before the ceremony thing” because, well, it’s dumb. I still had no idea what the dress looked like, mind you, and obviously hadn’t seen her in it. We saved that for the reveal. More on that later.

With that out of the way, we began putting a few finishing touches on the back yard reception setting. We hung written nametags on a tree, prepped the bar area, and I tended to a lot of technical work for the day’s A/V equipment.

With the reception ready, I took Ray Ray to her hair appointment and then shot off to pick up Jobo, my brother-from-another-mother who would spend the day as my body man. Let me digress here for a second and give some advice to anyone planning their wedding. Have a body man. This person’s job is to cater to your every need throughout the day. You need water? Bam. He’s got a bottle ready at all times. Need someone to hold something? Clean and empty hands ready at all times. Need someone to run off and get snacks while the photo shoots go on endlessly? He’s already got the nearest mini-mart pulled up on Google Maps. (I used the word “he” because that was my experience. This clearly doesn’t preclude a “body woman” and… you get the idea.)

Our first task was to pick up the keg of beer and bring it back to the house, which took us about thirty minutes to knock out. With the keg securely at the house and buried under a mountain of ice bags, we jumped in my rental car (treated myself to a Mustang on this trip) and responsibly sped off to the house where some of my nearest and dearest Chicago-based friends were staying. Jobo and I arrived just in time for breakfast: eggs, bacon and chocolate chip pancakes.

And stories.

So. Many. Stories.

This group and I had, in one combination or another, been roommates for the better part of a decade. Two of them were groomsmen in the wedding and the official reason for the visit was to collect them and bring them back to the house to get ready. With an hour to spare, we began telling stories and reminiscing, partly for our own edification but also to introduce Jobo to the group and give him a feel for how this gang rolls. Within minutes we were all bent over in laughter, some of us in tears, as we recalled stories that I dare not recount in this space. It was the perfect way to kick off the day: a stroll down memory lane with folks who’ve walked beside me for years.

Properly fed and reminisced, four of us hopped back in the car and responsibly darted back to the house. We arrived just as the rented bathrooms arrived, and this was kind of a big deal. Clearly the two bathrooms available in the house were not sufficient for a crowd of just over one hundred people, so we rented very nice bathrooms that had to be hauled in on trailers and need multiple power sources because they are fully powered to include air conditioned. This is one item on which we were not going to skimp. Too important.

After some help guiding the swanky port-a-potties in to place, I gathered my things and my groomsmen, which now included Ray Ray’s brother, and we huddled at the neighbor’s house while Ray Ray and her bridesmaids, with whom she spent the morning at the hair salon, went about their business. Our prep involved ironing shirts and suits, pinning on flowers and, after a short while, snacks. The breakfast we ate three paragraphs ago seemed to wear off quickly. After a bit more time, our photographer Jenn came to collect me and promptly escorted me to the back yard for the big reveal and some of the day’s first pictures.

I remember the next moment clearly.

Jenn positioned me with my back facing the house. I stood there, still as a statue aware that a lot of time, energy, worry, and effort went into what I would see next. In truth, Ray Ray could have been wearing burlap and it would not change a damn thing. A dress has no bearing on the fact that every day I wake up with her is a good day. To that point we had been together five years, two of them overseas, so what she looked like had little bearing on the course of our relationship.

And yet it meant so much.

I began fidgeting a little. I suddenly felt the same excitement I felt on Christmas morning as a child. I heard Jenn guiding Ray Ray out on the grass. I heard their footsteps. I suddenly had trouble breathing. I don’t know if it was the stress and fatigue of planning the wedding finally manifesting itself, or a sheer joy knowing that we were finally getting married, but I started to lose it. I was overcome with emotion. Jenn tapped me on the shoulder to let me know it was safe to finally turn around and I took an extra minute to breathe. I’m glad I did because I turned around and… Holy. Mother. Of. Mercy.

The reveal.

My bride was the most beautiful creature between the ages of zero and dead.

Jenn captured this moment thoroughly in photos and, should I ever get around to it, I’ll be sure to create a wedding day gallery for you to check it out. Suffice it to say this is where the marathon of pictures truly kicked off.

Pictures everywhere! Together. Solo. Under the “LOVE” banner. One quick joke photo with the rusty RV parked in the neighbor’s back yard. “Don’t you go falling in love with it ‘cuz we’re takin’ it with us when we leave next month.”

Our limo arrived to take us to the church and the entire bridal party piled in. It was a stretch Chrysler 300m and I don’t remember how I found it other than perhaps I Googled “limo Coeur d’Alene.” It was nice and, going back to my mention of the body man, he made sure we had a cooler of water in there and some snacks. We were approaching mid-day and breakfast was a distant memory. However, the true thing to note that was of the lot of us piled in the limo, including the photographer, only one put their seatbelt on: Ray Ray.

We arrived at the church around 1:00p. Lawda’mercy was it hot – around 90 degrees with no breezes to cool things down. There were zero clouds to be seen, which only magnified the intensity of the Idaho summer sun. Oh yeah, and the pioneer-architecture church had no air conditioning. Great.

Our arrival was slightly chaotic as we rushed to get inside before melting. But we ran into some friends arriving at the same time as us. They traveled far for us and having a brief moment with them alone just before show time was a wonderful bonus.

Back to business. Ray Ray made her way into the church and into a side room where she could tend to a few touch ups on hair and makeup. The wedding party convened toward the back and I promptly made my way up the side of the church toward the sacristy where my dad was waiting for me to help him suit up. We snapped a series of pictures as my mom looked on, happy as a clam that she got these pictures. Then to the back. Show time.

The ceremony began and everything I choreographed went perfectly. Each person processed up the main aisle by themselves and collected at the altar. It was still stiflingly hot and I was grateful we decided to only do the Wedding Rite and some readings instead of a full blown Catholic Mass. Our guests shared the same sentiment.

The ceremony went as planned and was punctuated with humorous improvisation at times. It was solemn without being stuffy. Then came the central moment: rings and vows.

Someone advised us to take a deep breath at this point and not let it be just another piece of the whirlwind day. I asked my dad to give us a second. Ray Ray and I took a breath. “Let’s remember this,” I said to her. We smiled, struggled to put the rings on each other’s finger because we were swollen from the heat, said the vows, kissed and just like that: married.

Insert all manner of combinations for family photos here.

Grab a group shot: us in front of everyone who attended. Classic.

Next stop was the shores of Lake Couer d’Alene for more photos. This went on for a while. Jobo, our body man, ran off to get snacks and more water. I’m telling you: have a body man.

We all jumped back in the limo and returned to the house for the reception. It was STILL very hot. Sweet Lord. We began tending to guests and glitches. And snacking. And drinking more water. Good heavens, have I mentioned how hot it was?

Then came the intros. The wedding party strolled in as our emcee, my brother-in-law, got the crowd worked up. Ray Ray and I entered and had our first dance to Ella Fitzgerald’s cover of Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top.”

The speeches followed and for the second time that day, I was doubled over in riotous laughter. This inevitably led to dinner and friends coming up to us to show us the weather radar. A storm was coming. A big one. Good thing we rented a tent after all.

The storm was quick, but powerful. I was not sure the tent – professionally secured and weighted, - would survive. According to accounts the next day, it was a cluster that took branches off trees and cut power all over the place. Miraculously we only caught the edge of it, nothing more. We were spared, and the temperature dropped about twenty degrees.

Dinner went off without a hitch. As did the cake. Then came dancing. And more dancing. Lots of dancing. For extra entertainment, my best man and I recreated a pseudo-lip-sync-battle-duet of Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky.” We did the same at his wedding in 2005 and folks wanted a repeat performance. This was special to us because that album was a part of our personal soundtrack as he and I fumbled awkwardly through high school.

And somehow, it was suddenly time for Ray Ray and I to leave. How did the day go by so quickly? And, why couldn’t we stay? It was clear everyone else was going to hang out fo the night and we didn’t want to miss it.

We hopped in the rental car and sped off to the honeymoon suite awaiting us at the Coeur d’Alene resort. We checked in, dropped our bags, and fell asleep before our heads hit the pillows.

We woke the next day and joined our friends and family for brunch on the dockside. The only feeling better than finally being married was not having anything to do for the first time in a year. Seriously, the 365 days leading up to this were a constant barrage of tasks and to-dos. No more. Seriously, very little topped it in that moment.

Soon it was time for leave taking and send offs and a leisurly stroll through Coeur d’Alene’s annual Art On the Green fair, which was kind of the whole reason we picked this particular weekend to begin with. It was part of Ray Ray’s childhood and a great event for folks to check out. And it all worked out perfectly.

I’ve left out details, vignettes, jokes, and other highlights. Not because I don’t want to share them but because there are simply too many, and they’re better shared in person.

And we can’t wait to share them all with you the next time we meet.


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