Anecdote Chant

Just Married

Lila and I just got married this weekend!

Everyone who gets married has a wedding story to tell. It’s impossible to put together a ceremony and reception, replete with family and friends, food and music, rituals and heart-felt words, without encountering interesting challenges, plans that have deviated, or plans that have turned out better than expected. So, here is our wedding story:

The day before our wedding, a Friday, we were due to have our rehearsal in Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, NY. We had chosen an area called the Roman Gardens, so that we could use a sundial as our “altar” in a setting of trees and some flowers. Everyone was due there by 4:00 p.m., including Saratoga’s mayor, who would officiate at our ceremony. Due to last-minute details, my family and I were late getting to the park. As my Mom drove me to the park, she ran down a list of “do you have this?” and “have you done that?” When she got to ask if I had my birth certificate, I had it, but immediately remembered what we did not have: the marriage license!

In New York State, you have to have your marriage license a full 24-hours prior to the ceremony. I was remembering this on Friday, at 4:30, when City Hall was supposed to be closing. In the rush of all our appointments that day, we had simply forgotten the license.

I promptly grabbed my cell phone* and called Lila, who was already in the park. “Lila, we’re on Broadway, we’ll be coming around the corner in two minutes, you have to get into the car. We don’t have our license. We need to get to City Hall immediately.” Lila was, understandably, upset, especially given that everyone had already been waiting for a half-hour, but, when I arrived, we made quick apologies and rushed off in the car. In the meanwhile, the mayor and my Mom were making phone calls to City Hall to ask the City Clerk to keep the door open for us.

We made a mad rush up the steps of City Hall and jogged down the main corridor and into the City Clerk’s Office, panting and sweating. A quick swearing in was followed by equally fast checks of ID and questions about names, addresses, dates of birth, and other vital statistics.

After a hasty drive back to the park, I did my best to lighten the moment by telling everyone: “Okay, we’re done, everyone; just remember to do everything exactly the same way tomorrow.”

The one reassuring thing that came out of nearly missing having our license was this: Barring a natural disaster, it was pretty much the worst thing that could have gone wrong for us, but we had made it through. Anything that might go wrong the day of the wedding would not compare to almost not being able to have the wedding in the first place.

As for the day of the wedding itself, it got off to an interesting start that had an immediate impact on how we would conduct the ceremony. It snowed. Yup, on May 18, at about 5:00 a.m., it snowed in Upstate New York. It turned to rain by sunrise, but the day remained on the cool side. So we had to go with our alternate plan and have our ceremony indoors at our reception location, the Canfield Casino Museum in Congress Park.

While I waited to get ready, I spent my time transcribing our wedding vows, which we had collaborated on writing, into a journal Lila had made for me for our first Valentine’s Day in 1997; she made the cover of the journal using fabric that had been in her family for many generations.

At 4:00 p.m., I went to Lila’s hotel, a beautiful old Victorian hotel called The Adelphi, for our wedding photos. My groom’s men and I waited in the lobby for a time before being escorted up to a parlor for the photos. Several people delayed my entrance, heightening my anticipation, and, when I finally entered and saw Lila in her dress for the first time, she looked wonderful, standing there holding her bouquet, with her hair up, a small tiara crowning her, a veil flowing down behind her, and a soft smile on her face.

From the hotel, we had to walk to Congress Park. Well, since it started to rain partway there, we had to run. A beautiful bride and groom running under an umbrella down Broadway and through Congress Park in the rain.

A few minutes before the ceremony, my best man, Ryan, came to me and told me that Lila had opened my ring box only to discover the store had sent the wrong ring. After the license, my only concern was whether the wrong ring would fit for the sake of the ceremony. It did, so we used it.

The ceremony lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes. The mayor began with his own pre-amble, mentioning that someday we could tell our kids we got married on a historic day: the first day in 150 years that it had snowed on May 18. Then he read a brief opening that we had written on the theme of marriage being about cooperation, and led us through our vows and ring exchange. Our vows put emphasis on the future, with each of us saying “I will,” instead of “I do,” and we had made sure to include our family and friends by replacing the customary “If anyone here know why these two should not be married…” with “Do all of you gathered here today vow to uphold Lila and Christian in their marriage?” Our family and friends responded with, “We will.”

Turning to face our guests was overwhelming. I’ve been in front of large audiences before, but it was amazing to look at everyone there and think, “Wow! All of these people are here for us? And many of them traveled for hours to be with us?” I was both proud and humbled at the same time.

Lila and I missed much of the cocktail hour to complete our photographs. Our photographer was incredible — she really made us feel elegant, fashionable, sexy, and romantic. I think it would be better to describe the pictures she was making of us as composed, rather than posed, because I felt perfectly comfortable with the way she was having us stand, lean, and look.

Our entrance to the reception was, again, overwhelming. In addition to all the guests gathered, it was amazing to finally see everything we had planned come together. Two years of thinking about candles, flowers, food, music, caterers, ambient lighting, colors, fragrances, clothes, and a hundred other small details came together to add up to a result that was more than could have been imagined.

The reception was hectic — we did make the rounds to talk with as many of our family and friends as possible, and we were asked to pose for hundreds of photos. We did get to eat some, however, and there were a few moments of respite — some time spent at a table full of cousins or a visit to the children being taken care of in the backroom who wanted to meet the bride and groom.

We had arranged, on very short notice, for one surprise for our guests. About 48 hours before the wedding, Lila had completed her search for a belly dancer. The dancer arrived discretely during the reception and stretched out and changed clothes out of anyone’s sight. On cue, she came out slowly with two gold wings swooping in the air and a candelabra balanced on her head. (It’s a mark of an excellent belly dancer if she can perform with the candelabra and not have any candles go out.) Much to our delight — and relief — she was well received by our guests. Two things I liked in particular: she smiled and was obviously enjoying herself the entire time, which helped our guest have fun, and she managed to get people to come up and dance with her — starting, of course, with the bride and groom.

Lila and I had a wonderful time, are very thankful for everyone who came, and have continued to feel honored by everyone who has sent us pictures or told us how much fun they had.

*Part of why Lila and I finally relented and got them was due to concerns over being able to make wedding plans while travelling.


By Christian Lee

Christian Stuart Lee's Rants and Chants has entertained and informed readers since January 2002. Rants and Chants includes non-fiction writing -- anecdotes, essays, movie reviews, and more. He is diligently working on a novel and other projects, which he hopes to publish soon. He is available for freelance writing -- the materials in Rants and Chants will give you a sense of his interests, knowledge, and style.