August 25, 2013

Family wedding in Big City Like No Other

At the end of our kayak trip on the River That Flows Both Ways, With-a-Why and I were met by Red-haired Sister, who lives just outside Big City Like No Other. We tied the yellow kayak to the roof of her van, piled the camping gear inside, and then headed to her house. We needed to switch gears quickly. The whole family was gathering in the city for a celebration: the wedding of Urban Sophisticate Sister and Tall Architect.

My first priority was to take a hot shower, but With-a-Why didn’t even change out of his paddling clothes. He sat down at the piano in Red-haired Sister’s house and began to practice. My sister had asked him to play Clare De Lune at the ceremony. And he’d be singing and playing after the ceremony as well. Five of the musicians in the family – With-a-Why, Shaggy Hair Boy, Tawkwondo Nephew, my brother, and Drama Niece — were providing the music for the reception. My brother had even come up with a name for the group: the Upstate Five.

“We’ve come up with a set list,” Taekwondo Nephew said, as he pulled out his guitar. “I can fill you in.” With-a-Why nodded and switched playing mid-song as his cousin set music in front of him.

“You need a haircut,” Red-haired Sister said to me. “No split ends at Urban Sophisticate’s wedding!” I happen to like how blonde the tips of my hair get during the summer, but everyone else calls it sun damage. So we raced off to get haircuts, then Red-haired Sister left me double-parked outside city flower markets while she ran into grab big batches of fresh flowers.

“Okay, I’ve got everything for the bouquet, the corsages, the buttonnieres,” she said, checking off her list. “Text and see if the flower girl would like some kind of floral headpiece,”

That was the first in a flurry of text messages. The minister wanted to see a copy of the poem I’d written for the service. The cousin who was singing at the ceremony wanted to meet her accompanist – that is, my son Shaggy Hair Boy — at 4 pm. The little flower girl said she’d love a floral headpiece. Tall Architect’s family wanted to know if I’d be taking photographs. My parents were arriving at the train station in about half an hour. Oh, and could With-a-Why pick out a song to play as the bride and groom walked down the aisle?

“I know just the song,” With-a-Why said. “But I need to find the music — and then learn it.”

“I know a store that sells sheet music, but it’ll be closed already,” said his cousin. “We’ll have to find it on the internet.”

“Shouldn’t you just play something you already know?” I asked. “I mean, you know tons of classical music – you could play just a section.”

“You can’t just play a bit of classical music. It builds to a crescendo – that takes time,” With-a-Why’s eyes were scanning the computer screen. “Besides, this song is perfect. It’s from the Lion King.”

“The Lion King?”

 “Yeah, don’t tell her. It’s going to be a surprise.”

That’s when I began to question my youngest sister’s blind faith in her family members.

But I needn’t have worried. It all came together beautifully. Red-haired Sister worked furiously on the flower arrangements, and they were lovely. The older woman who was singing relaxed as soon as she met Shaggy Hair Boy, who is both charming and talented. With-a-Why’s rendition of Clare de Lune, played on a Steinway baby grand, brought tears to people’s eyes even before the ceremony began. My sister claims that she had actually thought of asking him to play the very piece he chose for the processional: Can you feel the love tonight. I’d crowdsourced my poem by asking everyone in the family what they thought the secret to a good marriage was: the audience laughed at the funny parts and went silent at the serious parts, which is always a good sign.

The venue for the wedding was a very old literary club, housed in a most beautiful old building. We ate dinner in the library, a gorgeous room with bookshelves so tall that they had ladders. After dinner, we went back into the ballroom, which had been transformed into a cabaret, with small tables set up near the piano and leather couches near the fireplace.

The Upstate Five were an instant hit. My brother played his trumpet. Drama Niece still has the same amazing voice that wowed us all during her Drama Club days. The wild dancing began as soon as they played “Brown-eyed Girl” and my sister led a conga line to “When the Saints Come Marching in.” We all had a wonderful time talking, dancing, listening to music, and getting to know Tall Architect’s family. It’s very easy to take a liking to people when they keep coming up and saying, “Oh, your kids are so talented.”

The best part of the day, though, came earlier when my sister and her new husband asked me to take photos of them. I needed natural light — and so we spent twenty minutes strolling through Central Park, flower girl in tow. The park was crowded, as it would be on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and it felt like everyone in the city had come out to congratulate my sister. As we entered the park, a street musician switched to the song “Here Comes the Bride,” a runner waved and yelled her congratulations, and a woman pushing a baby stroller called out to compliment the wedding dress. The big urban park where people usually walk around in their own little bubbles became one big happy party, with strangers calling out their marriage advice and good wishes.

  Wedding couple with flower girl, in Central Park


susanmtk said...


Sandy said...

Congrats to Urban Sophisticate Sister and her new hubby!

rented life said...

Sounds like a blast! Congrats to Sister!

Liz Miller said...

I'm all verklempt.

kathy a. said...

so lovely!

L said...

AWESOME!!!!!!!!! I hope you post more photos to fb!!

I especially like the part about you liking the people who told you your kids were talented... 'cause they obviously are. ;-)

jo(e) said...

Go check out my FB page, L. I posted 142 photos from the wedding ....

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Lovely lovely lovely! I peeked at the pictures on FB, and it was all so beautiful.

Z said...


Anonymous said...


Lomagirl said...

Sounds absolutely perfect. Faith well placed, indeed.