So yes, ten years ago we were married at St. Joseph’s in Old Town Alexandria and had our reception at the Mount Vernon Inn. It really wasn’t my dream wedding because A) I’m not the type of girl who dreamt of her wedding day and B) my father had just died, the estate went into probate and there was no money for anything not marital critical path. I wore my sister’s dress, and made most of the decorations. Our siblings stood up for us. A friend did the invites, another friend did my hair. We chose a restaurant for the reception. There was no sit down dinner. It was take what you want and find a seat. The food was intended to line stomachs, not stimulate palates. (If I recall it was something like beef tips and creamed corn. Maybe there were some hush puppies and a pasta station. ) The only splurges were the band (a seven-piece Motown extravaganza) and the booze (mostly top-shelf liquor.) We felt that these two things were party priority and in the end, it was a wise decision. It’s also helpful to point out that we had already put down large deposits for both as my father had given me a check the day before he died. We were surrounded by people that loved us, we were joined, and that was what mattered.
On Saturday night we had plans to visit friends of ours in Old Town. It was some sort of pre-holiday family reunion at a restaurant and my husband warned me that it would be a bit fancy. I wore the dress I bought for his birthday dinner, and put on make-up. I put a blazer on Beck, a pretty outfit on Lulu and loaded up the car. On the way down he said, “We have a few minutes, let’s drive past St. Joseph’s.” I turned to Beck in the back and said, “Do you want to see where Mommy and Daddy were married?” He did. Unfortunately I asked too soon so at every light he asked, “Here?” No honey, not Jerry’s Subs and Pizza. “Here?” No honey, not the motel on the corner. “Here?” No, they don’t marry people at gas stations. After a few minutes, I said, “Here! Here is where we were married!” Sand stopped the car and I said, “I don’t think we have time to go in.” He handed me a cryptic note. It was only then that I began to suspect something. The votives up the church steps were another clue.
The church doors swung open and there, waiting for us, were some of our closest friends and family. Monsignor C., who married us, was up on the alter. My friend MJ handed me a bouquet that was more beautiful than the one I had carried ten years ago. As my Irish grandmother would have said, I was “gobsmacked,” and then I started crying and yelling, “I’m hormonal and emotionally unstable! What are you people thinking?!” I pulled myself together, handed Lulu off to my brother-in-law from Boston, Sand had me pack my camera, so I gave that to another person. I wiped my runny mascara and walked up that aisle for a second time.
We renewed our vows and Sand put another ring on my finger, a diamond pave eternity band. He had the friend that designed our invitations in 1997 do a program. Inside he wrote about how we met and how grateful he was for our life together. He thanked everyone for being a part of our lives and our journey. There were pictures of us then and now, Beck, Lulu and even a tribute to the damn dead dog. I would tell you all that I started crying AGAIN but really, would you be surprised?
While we were at St. Joseph’s he had arranged for teams of friends and neighbors to set-up for the party – at our house. The man left a four page instruction manual of what furniture needed to be moved where for “Team Neighbor.” How to set up the rentals, what foods went on what platters, what flowers were for what vases, who was responsible for each activity, etc. I had no idea there were so many eyes on us as we left the house, waiting for our departure. We weren’t up the street when coolers, rental tables, chairs, linens, and dishes were pulled from sheds, garages and basements in a flurry of activity. In the hour we were at the church the house had been transformed. My husband missed his calling as a gay event planner.
My only complaint? By the time I had actually begun to process everything, it was over. Thankfully there are pictures. I had to said to Sand years ago, “You can never surprise me.” I was wrong.