We have great friends who have two wonderful sons. Last year, the younger son married a terrific woman. We were invited and acknowledged that we would attend. A few weeks later, we were invited to another wedding on the same date. We knew that bride from her birth (25 years!), and ended up going to that wedding instead. We can’t begin to describe how badly we felt missing one wedding for another, but life often presents dilemmas.
We knew a year ago that the older son was marrying an equally terrific woman on 08/08/08. We promised that only the wedding of one of our godchildren would keep us from attending. Ironically, in a surprise, our goddaughter got married on July 5th. Thankfully, she didn’t pick 08/08/08.
The Chinese consider the number eight to be very lucky. Many couples picked that date with a number of interesting news articles written about the various events surrounding those weddings.
We checked Google Maps and saw that the drive from NYC to the Church (St. Mary’s By The Sea in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ) normally takes under 90 minutes. Given weekend beach traffic, we added an hour, believing we left plenty of time. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
It took us over an hour just to get to the Lincoln Tunnel, a trip that normally takes 10 minutes! So, we blew our cushion before the trip really started. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better after that. We sat for a while on the NJ Turnpike, and then again on the Garden State, and finally, the streets were very slow in Point Pleasant Beach itself. We were sure that we would miss the entire ceremony.
Somehow, miraculously, we arrived only 30 minutes late. I’m sure we missed some moving words, but we got there in time to hear the vows that the couple wrote for each other, and to witness the actual marriage. Whew! Here’s the proof.
The Church is beautiful and the ceremony was warm and inviting. The Priest (Father Jerry) from the groom’s Church in Northern, NJ and Father C. John Thompson-Quartey, the Saint Mary’s By The Sea cleric, jointly officiated. That was an extremely nice touch as well. Here’s a photo of both of them, along with a very touching moment as the Groom and Best Man held hands across the aisle in prayer:
Hand Holding Prayer
In addition to seeing the actual marriage, the ceremony lasted an additional 45 minutes after we arrived, so even though we missed the beginning, we felt lucky and blessed to experience as much as we did.
Instead of throwing rice, everyone blew bubbles toward the couple as they came back up the center aisle. They couldn’t stop laughing, partially because one person had a high-speed bubble gun, and was able to shower them with bubbles. It was great fun! This picture is way too blurry. I shouldn’t even post it, but at least you can see the bubble gun on the right side:
Another lucky thing that day was the weather. August can be particularly brutal in this part of the country. Amazingly, the high for the day was roughly 83 degrees. There was a pleasant breeze as well. The only (bad) break in that weather occurred seconds after the ceremony was over (unfortunately). As the bridal party was heading to the limo, the heavens opened up in a downpour. In a coincidence (or was it?), there was a tremendous downpour after our goddaughter’s ceremony as well, though it held off for 20 minutes that day.
Thankfully, it turned out to be a passing storm, and within 15 minutes, the skies were blue and the weather was perfect again. We waited in the Church until the storm passed before heading to the reception.
The reception was held at the Waterview Pavillion in Belmar, NJ. This is a gorgeous facility across the highway from the marina in Belmar. The setup was clever in addition to being beautiful. The main reception hall was set up with tables surrounding the dance floor. The ceiling is two stories tall, and the second floor is a wrap-around balcony (all four sides) looking down on the dance floor. We were all guided upstairs for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The spread was wonderful, with lots of choices.
I hate to single anything out (because it was all really good), but the Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster Pastries deserve a mention.
Lois and I were among the first handful of people to arrive, so we ended up sitting alone at a round table. After a while, we were joined by people we hadn’t met previously, the cousin of the bride’s grandmother and her husband. We couldn’t have asked for two lovelier people to spend time with and get to know. A bit later, we were joined by friends of the groom’s parents who we met once before. They too are wonderful people who we would enjoy spending more time with than we have gotten to in the past.
Here is the couple we first met. We made sure to get her email address so I could share this link with her. Thanks for a lovely visit Joyce and John:
While we were enjoying ourselves upstairs, setup continued in the main hall. The tables were all set previously, but the appetizers (fresh strawberries) and rolls were being put out, and the DJ and Band were doing some sound checks. The band deserves a special mention, but I’ll defer that for a minute.
I mentioned earlier that the setup was clever. Here’s why. While the main hall had the tables surrounding the dance floor on three sides, not every seat has a great view of the entire dance floor. In other halls, the dance floor is at the head of the seating area, obscured from view of the majority of the tables. Because we were all upstairs, they were able to give us a very special perspective on a part of the reception that every wedding includes.
We were all asked to get up and stand at the railings on the second floor looking down on the dance floor as the wedding party was announced. First the Parents of the Bride. Then the Parents of the Groom. Then the groomsmen and bridesmaids (in pairs). Finally, the Bride and the Groom (now officially Mr. and Mrs.). Every one of us had a great view of the entire procession. Excellent!
Here are two photos of that (hopefully, you’ll get a good picture of what we all experienced). The first shows the procession all lined up making a bridge for the Bride and Groom to pass through. The second is after the Bride and Groom passed through, waving to everyone:
Awaiting the Bride and Groom
Welcoming the Bride and Groom
More special, the traditional first dances (Bride and Groom, then Father and Daughter and finally Mother and Son) were all the more special since 100% of the focus and attention was on them, with no conversation and eating going on in the hall itself. Like I said, beautiful and clever at the same time!
Immediately thereafter, we were all invited to take our seats downstairs in the main hall. At each seat, there was a half-glass of champagne already poured. There were three toasts. The first was from the Father of the Bride. Next came the best man, a Major in the Army and best friend (for roughly 20 years!) of the groom. Both were moving (and funny) speeches. Then the DJ asked us to stop for a second for a special toast from the Bride and Groom. At that moment, it was exactly 8:08pm, on 08/08/08. Another clever touch!
There were different sized tables around the hall. We were at a table for eight. All four couples were long-time friends of the parents of the groom. Lois had met one of the women last year at the shower for the younger son’s wife, but otherwise, we didn’t know the other couples. Given how much we love our friends, it was no surprise that their friends were great as well, making for a joyous and interesting evening. Without a doubt, it can be said that the friend of my friend is my friend.
One of the men at the table was 73 years old. He could definitely have passed for 58 (I certainly wouldn’t have questioned it if he was introduced as such). When we left, I shook his hand and told him that I could only hope to be just like him when I turn 73! Here’s a photo of him, along with the Major and the Father of the Groom:
Since we were both extremely impressed with the Major, in every respect, Lois snapped lots of photos of him. In fairness to the one above, with the Groom’s Father, here’s one with the Groom’s extremely lovely Mother:
Marybeth and the Major
As with our goddaughter’s wedding, the food was served buffet style, with individual tables being called up one at a time. Even though we were seated very close to the buffet, we were one of the last tables to be called up (perhaps the last). No worries, the food was still hot and plentiful, so we didn’t miss out on that either.
Back to the basics, the reason we were all together to begin with! We’ve known the groom for many years. I wish I had captured the best man’s toast verbatim, because it truly captured the spirit of this fine young man. Aside from being an all-around good guy, he’s never had trouble with the ladies.
When we first met the bride-to-be, a couple of years ago, we knew instantly that he would be a fool if he ever let her slip away. Clearly, he’s no fool!
She is as lovely a person as you could ever want to meet. Smart, funny, fun-loving, sensitive, and, did I mention, gorgeous? If I didn’t mention it, let me say it now, she’s a knock-out. One of the many wonderful things about her is her 24×7 smile, that lights up any room she’s in. Of course, looks don’t matter whatsoever (really!), and she’s got everything else that does matter, in spades. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the looks too.
Here are the two very happy couples (the newlyweds and us!):
Two Happy Couples
She’s also statuesque (code word for really tall). In fact, she played basketball for Northeastern University. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise (and yet, it did!), that there were more statuesque women at the reception than I’ve ever been around in my life. I was mildly surprised that a pick-up game didn’t break out on the dance floor.
To make the point, here is the Bride, dancing with the shortest person in the wedding party:
Tall Short Dancing
Both bride and groom had a ton of friends at the wedding. It was heartwarming to see them all have so much fun together, and share their common love for the newlyweds. The dance floor was buzzing all night. Here is a nice photo of a group of lovely ladies:
That brings me to something I deferred earlier on. The band. Perhaps that’s a slight misnomer. The live music was provided by Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band. From the website, I can see that they can provide a full range of musicians and band configurations. At this wedding, two of them were there, I believe John Hilton and Monica Moore. All I can say is that we loved every second that they played. The DJ played some background beats for them, but they supplied the calypso-style sound, perfectly. It was a light and uplifting sound throughout the evening.
Tropical Beat Steel Drum Band
When the dancing took center stage, they left, and the DJ (who performed double-duty as a superb emcee the entire night!) took over. He was great, both in personality and in his choice of music to play throughout the evening. While we could always stand (personally) to have the music be a little softer than it ever is, he was not over-the-top in volume, which was also a blessing.
Just like at our goddaughter’s wedding, we got up to dance exactly once, when they invited only the married couples onto the dance floor. Exactly as it was then, the point was to discover the couple who was married the longest. At our goddaughter’s wedding, the magic number was 46. Last night, there were two couples left on the floor after the rest of us lost. The winners were 54 and 55 years of marriage. Here is a photo of the winning couples:
The DJ asked if they had any words of wisdom for the newest couple. One of the couples offered the following:
Drink good wine, and learn to have a lot of patience
Sounds like sage advice to me!
We were driving all the way back to the house (90-120 minutes) after the wedding, so other than the sip of champagne for the toast, I didn’t drink any alcohol at all. I also wasn’t willing to leave until I had some of the wedding cake. I had two fabulous cups of coffee and a slice of the delicious cake, plus a few specialty desserts that were on a platter on each table. After that, we made our rounds of hugs, kisses and goodbyes, and drove home. It took 100 minutes (not bad at all) and we walked in the door at 12:30am.
Speaking of the cake, here it is being cut:
The happy couple is on their way (today) to Hawaii. Another sign that this marriage will last. The groom badly wanted to honeymoon in Alaska. They are both outdoors types, so the bride would normally enjoy roughing it in Alaska as well. Still, she had the sensibility of wanting a more relaxing honeymoon, and her brand-new husband appropriately compromised (by doing exactly what she wanted).
Since I mentioned how badly we felt missing the other wedding last year, the least I can do is show you what a great looking couple they are as well.
I’ve mentioned my goddaughter’s wedding a number of times here. Here’s one last mention. Two weeks ago, we packed up my suit and other accessories and brought them from the house to the apartment. When I was getting dressed on Friday afternoon, I asked Lois to bring out the ties (I gave her three ties to pack so I could choose one at the last minute). Somehow, none of the ties got packed. Oh oh.
Lois called our goddaughter (who lives in the same building we do), and asked whether she could loan me one of her husband’s ties (he was at work, but she doesn’t start for another two weeks, thankfully!). She brought one up a minute later, saying “See, it was good that I got married, or I wouldn’t have had a tie in my closet!”. Amen to that!