The merry peal of wedding bells echoed along the tree-lined streets and off the distinguished brownstone facades of Park Slope this past weekend. Friday night brought the long awaited nuptials of my good friends Matt and Jenny. As far as I’m concerned, Matt and Jenny have been married since I’ve known them, which is to say I don’t know anything other than them existing as a couple. They’re also one of the more pleasant couples to be around as they’ve never given an off that overly attached vibe. While they complete each other, they’re also equally as wonderful in an individual sense. I suppose that last fact makes their union even more charmed, as you couldn’t wish a better mate for two lovelier people.
I remember the day several months back at Rope in Fort Greene when Matt announced to me and Arby his honorable intentions. He was so sure of himself and so excited to be reaching this grown up chapter in his life. It was as if he developed tunnel vision staring directly at his wedding day, knowing exactly what it would be like down to every last detail on the wedding ring.
I was a little taken aback by the short span of their engagement since usually you get more time to digest these stages, but I suppose when a couple has been together as long as the couple in question, throwing a year in between calling yourself engaged or husband and wife is just additional time best left for other things.
As I walked towards the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on an absolutely beautiful Friday evening in the fall, I had the feeling that I was walking into a storybook. The perfect couple, the perfect place on a perfect night. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick the perfect place to enter the ceremonial grounds.
Minutes before shipping myself off to the wedding site, I had been offered a ride with Arby, Megan, Robert and Courtney to the grounds. I declined figuring it was the perfect night to walk and I’d really only have to walk between five to ten minutes down the road. Passing by the Grand Army Arch and Brooklyn Public Library along Eastern Parkway, I came to the entrance of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There were several ticket windows open. I walked up to one of them and notified the worker that I was there for the wedding. The worker waved me in neglecting to tell me that the wedding was on an entirely different side of the park. I spent the next ten minutes or so aimlessly wandering the premises trying to figure out where everyone was. Part of me figured that I must be early, while the other part of me knew that I was a long way from witnessing any wedded bliss.
After a spate of back and forth calls with Arby, I came to the realization that I had used an entrance on another side of the Garden. I quickly reversed field leaving from whence I came and walking a shorter distance than expected to the Washington Avenue entrance to the brilliantly welcoming garden grounds. Upon my entry I was immediately directed to the whereabouts of the reception. I was ensured that I was in the correct place when Jeff G emerged from the area where the ceremony would be taking place with a brief flash of the finger guns.
Just like that I was immersed in a sea of friendly faces dressed to the nines for the special occasion. Arby, Robert, Courtney, Abbi, Zak, Emma, Andrew P, Alix, and many others were enjoying their first sweet taste of wedding bliss as shaped by a champagne flute. Rather than jump directly into the land of alcoholic indulgence I decided to pace myself with a splash of sparkling water. I didn’t want to get myself in trouble too early. It had been a few days since I’d tempted a rise in my blood alcohol content on account of an illness the result of either a 48 hour bug or food poisoning seemingly kicked only minutes before departure.
Somewhere during my glass of Pellegrino the wedding planner beckoned the guests t0 please take their seats as Matt’s bandmate Rich coolly played some Steely Dan songs throughout the process of getting everyone situated. Arby and I took to the back row as we had many times before in Music industry classes back in Syracuse University, though this time we were not armed with pencils and crosswords, just a desire to not be too front and center.
The wedding party entry seemed to happen rather fast. Matt seemed to cruise non chalantly down to the wonderful willow tree reserved as scenic mark of matrimony, the “I do” spot if you will (and you will). Next came Marie (from what I can recall), the maid of honor and Jenny with her father to give her away.
Doing the officiating was their friend Dan, who though not a religious minister of any sort had gone through the necessary pains to be ordained and have authority invested in him by the state of New York. Dan read from a thankfully non-religious, but nonetheless lovely nuptial script, though a good deal of his dialogue and the couple’s mimicry of his orders got lost in the sounds of whipping autumn wind through the trees. Adding to the proceedings, Matt’s sister Brooke read a poem, as did Jeff G. Jeff’s poem struck me funny as it was mostly romantic, but the first line of “now you are mine” was read in almost a terroristic sense, like a film villain declaring that he’s finally got his arch nemesis exactly where he wants him.
Nothing, however, could mar the setting and the reason we were there though as two excellent people that I think the world of ultimately tethered themselves to one another with the bond of marriage. Once that was done, all bets were off. It was time to celebrate.
It still took me a while to morph into celebration mode. Still feeling a bit uneasy about my physical state I first cautiously nipped at the hors d’oeuvres with ginger ale in hand before upping the ante to champagne. Caution thrown into the wind, and the wind certainly blowing the night got off to a more relaxed than rollicking start. After moving the festivities to the lovely reception room the food was delivered in rapid fire succession in the midst of a few speeches and first dances. Matt didn’t let his first dance with his new bride go by without one of his trademark leg kicks. That was followed by the best man speech delivered by Pete and a Maid of Honor speech delivered by Marie.
Just after the former and before the latter I was making a comment to slight bag of nerves that was Marie as she was about to get up to give her speech. While erratically grabbing my champagne glass I managed to fumble my drink sending a wave of bubbly over my face and some splashing on the soon to be speaking maid of honor. The entire absurdity of the brief happening seemed to loosen Marie up and pave the way for a more than memorable speech. Not to shine a light on my clumsiness, but I was glad I could help.
After a good period of culinary fulfillment featuring the likes of Cornish Game Hen conversation with my stellar tablemates about the artistic musical format known as the LP gave way to an all out 80’s dance party, with a few classic oldies thrown in for good measure. The youthful contingent jumped onto the dancefloor and made sure the evening was a lively one. I assume Matt had a big hand in putting the music playlist together because there was not a bad song in the lot. Megan and I had a nice, yet mournful slow dance moment as we paid tribute to the fallen Patrick Swayze during Unchained Melody.
One unfortunate hiccup befell the party during this jolly portion of the evening. Marie notified the crowd that the karaoke guy that had been secured for the post-reception entertainment had to cancel due to a death in the family. While we understood, we were also extremely disappointed.
Negative news aside, there was a welcome break from the frenetic dance pace as Matt helped answer the somewhat existential question of…”if you have a band…and you get married, does your band play at the wedding?” The answer…Yes. Matt and his bandmates in Mahogany took to the floor and banged out several stellar songs much to the delight of the audience. Ever the showman, he groom did his share of on his knees writhing so as to ensure the audience that this indeed was still his day.
While Mahogany’s performance seemed to spell the near end of the festivities the party was to rage on downstairs at Union Hall. Splitting several cars to the bar on Union Street, we all met ready to continue our merrymaking ways, but with little in the way of organized entertainment. While Karaoke would’ve given us our second wind, the party without it seemed to be a futile slog through the evening save for an extremely lovely tribute to the couple Arby edited together that we were able to show on the screen of the venue.
Having refrained from hardcore boozing for a large portion of the night, I wasn’t quite where everyone was. People were very tipsy to say the least. I could tell the night was winding down solely on the lack of balance displayed by some of the revellers. This was the sign of a successful wedding. Smiling faces and a worrisome wobble. The night would soon come to an end and I wandered the few blocks home after a pleasant evening experiencing another blissful union.
The rest of the weekend wasn’t so eventful. I ditched out on a baby shower on Saturday on account of feeling under the weather and I watched football Sunday. I didn’t feel like I missed anything either. Nothing would’ve compared to such a perfect Friday evening.