Monday, December 05, 2005

Did some say LIGHTHOUSE!

Last weekend Wade Owen and Bernadette "Bernie" Nebus were wedded in Columbia, South Carolina. It was a beautiful wedding. Selfishly, it was a great time to meet old friends again and encounter cool people from the couple's life. Selflessly, I greatly enjoyed witnessing their happiness together and seeing the start of their new life.

A typical boring rundown of the weekend's experience from my perspective follows.
  • I flew out of San Francisco since it was MUCH cheaper than flying out of San Jose. That meant I had to wake up at 4:30AM on Thursday morning. I took the VTA to Diridon, transferred to Caltrain, went to Millbrae, transferred to BART, and rode that in to SFO. I flew out on Delta, which was great. The first leg to Atlanta, on a 777, was only half full so I got a row to myself. The second leg was on a 737, packed but much shorter. While in the Atlanta airport I ran into Meg, Wade's little sister who I haven't seen in years.
  • Wade's parents picked us up, and together with Josh and Dave (from the bachelor party) we headed out to the Nebus estate. Pat gave a wonderful meal of lasagna and the dozen of us mingled and got to know each other better.
  • We went back to the hotel and the guys hung out while we waited for Nate, whose flight out was delayed until after 1AM. We caught the much-hyped and greatly disappointing Oprah interview on Letterman and the White Stripes on the Daily Show. Nate made it in in one piece and we returned to crash.
  • Friday was an extremely social day for me; I'm incredibly introverted so it was a little draining but also quite fun. The morning was breakfast and conversation in the hotel. For lunch the groomsmen and fathers went to lunch at an excellent seafood-and-steak restaurant; Wade continued a distressingly generous trend of buying all our stuff.
  • The afternoon held the rehearsal ceremony. I had forgotten a tie and was doomed to feel vaguely self-conscious the rest of the day. While at the church (a lovely building which holds a memorial to Cardinal Bernardin, my favorite Prince of the church and a native of this parish), we met the Wedding Coordinator, henceforth the WC because I cannot remember her name. She was a character out of a movie, a domineering and aggressively committed individual. I think the first sentence out of her mouth condemned the "street people," and it went more or less downhill from there.
  • In opposition to the WC was Father Richard, who served at Virginia Tech, Wade and Bernie's alma mater. He was very friendly and professional, having done this 500 times before he had a great idea of how to communicate what worked. Unfortunately, this frequently clashed with "the way we do things here." He told the groomsmen to let our hands hang at our sides; she instructed us to clasp our hands. He finished his instructions with an encouraging talk about how "There's no such thing as a 'perfect' wedding; if anything goes wrong, just act like it was supposed to happen that way, nobody else will notice." Seconds later she was saying, "There IS such a thing as a perfect wedding, and tomorrow's will be perfect!"
  • After all that, everyone was ready for a drink. So we headed off to the highest place in Columbia, the 25th floor of the Capitol Club for the rehearsal dinner. This was also nice, the drink selection was good (due to the funky SC liquor laws, the Owens had to buy all the booze at a liquor store and bring it upstairs, where the serving staff distributed it), the food was excellent (halibut and potatoes and steak), and conversation flowed smoothly. Josh made an extremely good toast to the couple, which was followed by several more or less entertaining toasts from relatives.
  • While I was having a great time, two consecutive nights of 6 hours sleep and a whole day of socializing had wiped me out. I begged off on the after-hours bar hopping, returned to the hotel, and fell asleep within a minute.
  • I woke up bright and early on the wedding day. Before everyone else made it downstairs I ran into Jennie, a great friend from high school who is now teaching in northern Virginia. We got some Wheaton North spirit going before the wedding party split for the chapel.
  • I love wearing a tuxedo. This is only the third time in my life I've worn one, but they are incredibly comfortable besides looking very sharp. This may seem like a betrayal of my geek pride and defiantly slovenly dress, but in fact is not. For a fuller treatment of this topic please see Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Chapter 34, "Suit."
  • The bridesmaids were all lovely. Besides Franny the maid of honor, Bernie was attended by Meg, Sarah and Katie. (Groomsmen were Josh, Nate, Dave and yours truly.)
  • The wedding was perfect.
  • I was really impressed by how comfortable and relaxed everyone looked. I'm used to seeing either the bride or the groom lose it in one way or another, by crying or getting the giggles or whatever, but there was nothing like that here.
  • Pictures were not nearly as painful as I had feared. My smile usually feels forced pretty quickly, but I was having a good enough time to keep it going throughout.
  • We got to ride in a stretch limo for the four blocks between the church and the reception.
  • The reception was just as well planned and executed as the rehearsal dinner, despite having probably four times as many people. I didn't circulate as much this time, mainly sticking with the Wheaton North crowd and the wedding party.
  • A live band, whose name I should remember, played at the reception. Josh had one for his as well and I think it's a great idea. A live band is a great way to infuse a room with energy without blasting people out of their seats. I'll probably get a DJ if and when I get married, but that's just because live bands have a hard time with house and trip-hop music.
  • Yes, I danced at the reception. Not well - my only one-on-one dance was with Meg and was very Middle School - but, since I didn't go to dances in middle school, I'm resigned to being in arrested development when it comes to these things. Still, there were enough general fun dances ("Play that Funky Music White Boy" had to be the best one) that I got in some good time on the dance floor, did my little thing in the corner, and left tired but really happy. I need to find a way to do this stuff in between weddings. (And remember, DDR doesn't count since it isn't dancing.)
  • Had a nice long chat with Jennie later. This was the day of Virginia Tech's championship game, so the entire hall went from full to nearly empty over a span of about 15 minutes as people filed out to catch the game. Nate tried to keep things going on the floor, others of us retreated away from the music to continue catching up.
  • When it was all played out, we returned to the hotel, where we were slightly nonplussed to find our room as messy as when we'd left that morning. A handwritten note on the bed explained that they couldn't clean because we'd left things on the bed. Has anyone else encountered this? I don't claim to be a hotel expert but this was the first time I'd heard of such a policy. We basically said "Screw it" and went right back out, clad in tuxes, to continue the party. (Except for Nate, who was finishing up a monster assignment due on Monday.)
  • We caught up with the VT crowd at a sports bar and watched in amazement as a game at a respectable 3-3 before halftime descended into a blowout, as FSU intercepted and dominated over a seemingly helpless VT. Wade and Bernie made their exit. The Hokies were clouded with despair. We ate some spring rolls, drank the last of the beer and retreated.
  • Some girls were EXTREMELY drunk.
  • The rest of us made it safely to the Liberty bar, conveniently abutting the Hampton. Here we upgraded our beer and stared as VT gave just enough hope to keep people from abandoning. I met with Bernie's uncles, whose reputation preceded them. I was also introduced to a fellow St. Louis student who was pursuing his PhD in Columbia, and we had a good and long conversation about BREW, something I can rarely do outside of work.
  • I'm really impressed by people like Nate, who go to bars to meet people. As in meet them, not hook up with. Anytime I go I'm focused on my social group or the game that's playing and don't really do enough to seek out who else is around. I think I'm missing a lot, as this can be one of the most relaxed environments for making those kind of connections.
  • It can have its disadvantages, though. Nate (who made enough progress to join us) had to endure an hour of being awkwardly hit upon by a psych student specializing in suicide.
  • The game finally ended, 22-27, still a major disappointment for our fans but close enough to save them the outright pain of true humiliation. We went back to the hotel.
  • I know alcohol is a depressant, but when I drink I seem to get way too much energy. [When I started writing this post, I had no idea it would end with so much alcohol.] Despite being well past midnight after several exhausting days, I stayed up another hour packing all my stuff up, chatting with Nate, and continuing to read "Best American Non-Required Reading 2004."
  • Sleep eventually came.
  • I got to see Jennie again the next day before she headed out on one of the earliest flights. Nate decided to try and catch an earlier plane so he joined me and Earl in a cab to the airport. One thing I love about small Southern cities - cheap cab rides.
  • My flight was delayed, and apparently I'm still on United's terrorist suspect list, but I got home to SFO around 7:30. All my connections back home went smoothly, and I walked in my apartment door right as the clock turned to 10:00.
And there you have it, folks: the last shot in Weddings 2005. Was it worth two days' vacation? Heck yes! The wedding exuded so much joy, friendship, and love that it will continue to propel me even as it provides further wind to Wade and Bernie's sails. May their future together be richly blessed.

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