Archive for March, 2011

An Engineered Wedding

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Most of my postings come together pretty quickly. Sometimes I think about them for a while, but once I start typing, the words usually flow pretty easily. This one has taken weeks. Oh, I’m sure part of it is emotional. But most of it is just the sheer volume of information I would have liked to include. Fortunately for you, dear reader, I think I have winnowed it down to a digestible size. We’ll see.

All of my progeny are creative and clever, and each has unique gifts for design, but one of them actually has a diploma that reads “engineer,” so I have no hesitation in using the term “engineered” to describe her wedding. She used a CAD program to design some of the decorations, and showed up at the site with a stack of drawings depicting the key wedding details.

Like any good design, this wedding had some key foundational elements (in addition to the customary fiancee, which, although apparently not required, lends an air of credibility to the wedding planning process.) She wanted it to be outside, even though their schedule placed the wedding in that time of unpredictable weather when winter transitions to spring (Winterspring?) She wanted it to be in the mountains, preferably at a place that had the right feel. And she wanted it to stretch over several days, leaving plenty of time for visiting, participation, and celebration.

With these elements in hand, the couple then picked out a visual theme – birds on bare branches. Birds because he is an amateur ornithologist, and branches to represent faith in the coming of Spring. Or something like that, anyway. And they picked out a color scheme – an organic mixture of yellows, greens, and browns.

Finally, she announced the “emotional theme” (my term) – she wanted it to be “vintage, funky, and fun,” totally surprising no one who knows the couple.

Over the next few months, daughter and MOB visited locales, tried on dresses, tasted caterers’ wares, and planned the event details. They solicited help from family and friends, many of whom they had previously helped with their own weddings, and incorporated a myriad of suggestions into a guiding plan, much of which was captured in the aforementioned drawings.

When the wedding week finally arrived, it brought an unarguable meteorological prediction: like it or not, it was going to rain most of the wedding day. But she was able to adjust the plan while still retaining the most important key elements.

Instead of trying to narrate the whole wedding (there are terabytes of video and still images that can do that far better than I can), allow me to list a few features that stood out for me.

  • The locale was the Stovall House, a mountain inn and restaurant built in 1837. Although the original plan was for the wedding to take place in the back yard overlooking the scenic mountain view, the wedding was moved to the front porch of the house to keep the gathered guests and participants from melting.
  • The wedding celebration really started on Thursday morning, when close family and friends gathered in Athens to witness the groom’s dissertation presentation for his PhD-Chem, and didn’t finish up until bride and groom left the venue on Sunday afternoon headed north for a brief honeymoon near Gatlinburg. They were the last ones to leave. I think they just wanted to absorb every minute of the event.
  • In a similar, prolonged fashion, the “reception” started before the actual wedding ceremony, and continued well after it was over. The food, drink, DJs and tables were in a huge tent erected behind the house. As the night wore on and the decorators began to undecorate, the action migrated into the house, where an impromptu pickin’ broke out, which included a mandolin solo by the groom.
  • Anyone who showed up early was encouraged to cut out bird silhouettes, guided by the original CAD template. Tied with strings, hundreds of them decorated the tent and “wedding porch”, fluttering in the breeze.
  • She decided to use old window frames hung by stout ropes to “define the space” on the front porch. (The bride and groom had spent a couple of hours removing the glass several weeks before.)
  • Bride and groom wore Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, black for him, brown for her.
  • The wedding program was a theme-decorated chalkboard, custom-routed by brother Ben, and hand-lettered on the wedding day by friend and soon-to-be sister-in-law Marilyn.
  • In the middle of the ceremony, the officiant, Amy, led the bride and groom to “literally and figuratively tie the knot,” using two pieces of the same rope that was used to suspend the window frames.
  • The wedding cake was Postel de Tres Leches featured by Taqueria Los Hermanos, a favorite Mexican restaurant of the entire clan.
  • The groom’s “cake” consisted of Gummi Bears in a TARDIS candy jar, just one of many Doctor Who references in the wedding. The BBC programme, Doctor Who, is the longest-running science fiction show in television history, and the TARDIS is the Doctor’s primary mode of time travel. While it appears to be an ordinary British police call box, it is larger on the inside than the outside. (The name stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.) Other Doctor Who appearances at the wedding included a miniature TARDIS attached to the bridal bouquet, the use of a Sonic Screwdriver several times during the wedding, and a surprise gift to the groom of a portable wardrobe, shaped like a nearly-full-sized TARDIS. And the sound track for the couple’s “official” introduction at the reception was the Doctor Who theme song.
  • The bridal bouquet included flowers hand-fashioned by the bride from pieces of her mother’s wedding dress.
  • All of the floral arrangements and reception decor were assembled by friends and family from locally-procured vegetation and loaned glassware.
  • Table decorations at the rehearsal dinner featured bird houses hand-made from driftwood by an artisan in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the groom’s home.

None of this would have been possible without the energy and skills of the bride’s friends and family. She had access to an unbelievable supply of talented and willing workers. Even from my own limited experience with weddings, I know that all weddings benefit from that sort of help. When son Ben married Beth, Beth’s family miraculously created a winter wonderland in what had been an empty event space. But I got to watch this one first hand, and it was both fun and impressive.

To keep my promise of brevity, I’ll draw this narrative to a close by saying that it was a delight to officially make Franklin a part of our family, and to get to know his family over the the course of the wedding and the weeks of pre-wedding planning and parties.

So I am left with feelings of relief that it’s done, satisfaction that it turned out well, and optimism for the new couple.

And, yes, I have been wondering if there might be a market for an advanced degree in Wedding Engineering.

Still here

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Working on a wedding blog, and just working. Meanwhile, here’s a ‘toon.