Best Day of My Life

So the wedding was, in a word, fantastic.

Me and my parents, walking down the aisle. I just love this picture.

For those of you wanting more than a word, here goes - or, you can just look at the pictures! (And if you find this place because you're looking for wedding advice in Austin, click here for the people and businesses we worked with. And speaking of credit, these pictures are courtesy of my father and Burkhard - we're getting more pictures later (including from our photographer, who was unobtrusive and yet omnipresent!), but we're leaving for the honeymoon tomorrow - and these are a damn good start!)

We had gorgeous weather - better than any weekend for two months, or any day since!

The wedding was on Saturday, but the whole process began on Wednesday, when my parents, brother, and sister-in-law arrived in town. They mostly amused themselves during the day, but we all met for dinner at a South American restaurant in town which we'd wanted to try, and which was very tasty. We ended the evening relatively early and went home to prepare for more visitors the next day (as usually, we all hang out and have drinks and food until wee hours, which has prompted The One And Only's mother once to remark, "Is all y'all do eat and drink?" My mother pondered the question for a moment and said, "Not only - but that is important!").

The happy couple at the rehearsal dinner, at Malaga. Really not a very flattering shot of me (I have an amazing ability to blink just as a picture is taken), but a great one of TOAO, and compromise - it's what it's all about!

Thursday, The One And Only had to work, and I ran some next-to-last minute errands - I can't even recall what they were, but there were things that needed to be done. TOAO's parents arrived that day; his sister and boyfriend came in late Thursday night, along with his best "man" (actually a woman, like most of the people in our parties). My maids of honor were scheduled to arrive that day too, along with my German crowd - an aunt and uncle, my godmother, and my friend Burkhard. "Scheduled to" is the key word there - one maid of honor, the Lawyer Formerly Known As Sarah, got stuck in Houston-to-Austin traffic, but managed to arrive just as dinner started; the other maid of honor, Saeyun, got stuck in snow-related delays in Chicago and didn't arrive until (gulp) 4 am, poor thing! But that was nothing compared to the Germans - only my godmother arrived that day, while the rest were stuck somewhere other than Austin for at least an extra day. Burkhard had the roughest experience of the lot, as not only did he not arrive until 24 hours after he was supposed to, but his luggage didn't arrive until Monday, two days after the wedding and four days after he did. Luckily he was staying with friends of ours (as our house is still uninhabitable) who were not only fabulously generous, but one of whom was also his size. We had dinner with those who'd managed to arrive, at one of Austin's best restaurants ever (and home of the incredibly deliciofantastic crepa de cajeta), and had a rockin' good time. And again, an early evening.

Happy and contented diners at the rehearsal dinner. Mmmm.

Friday, I had, yes, spa appointments - because if you're ever going to get a pedicure, the day before your wedding is the time to do it. It was fun, and actually relaxing; the person who did my nails not only did a good job on them, but I had a good time talking to her. And, as someone who sees her fair share of day-before-wedding brides, she was fairly amazed at how relaxed I was. I just figured I might as well take a relaxed approach to the wedding, as I could either get stressed or I could relax, and it would probably turn out much the same either way. It also helped that a) I had people I felt I could trust who were involved in the wedding - not just my friends and family, but even the businesses involved were folks I felt confident in; and b) I haven't exactly been planning my wedding since I was three or anything, which meant that "perfect" was a big range. Nor had either of us micromanaged. The bridesmaids were asked to wear black (except my brother, because I wanted him to stand out a bit), but otherwise whatever they wanted - dresses, suits, long, short, whatever; we picked out the flowers we wanted and because we'd seen the florists' work, trusted that the flower people would come up with a great bouquet; we didn't spend time even thinking about what the tablecloths, the serving plates, the ceremony chairs, or anything else would look like, because we knew that the folks in charge of those things would do a great job.

We held the ceremony at the arch, dinner and dancing in the ballroom behind it (which, incidentally, is a "green" house).

Friday evening, the rehearsal dinner was fantastic - the food was incredibly tasty and the service impeccable, converting the locals into Malaga fans and impressing the out-of-towners. It's the restaurant where we first decided to make the leap and try the long-distance thing, way at the beginning of our relationship; it's also where we came to celebrate our engagement, and for many other reasons, so we were excited that it worked out to have the rehearsal there.

A guest relaxing in the sun.

Late that night, I got a call from our friends Helen and Dave, who'd arrived from England earlier in the day, and we decided to meet up at the wedding. Even later, Burkhard finally arrived (though without luggage!), and we stopped by my parents' hotel room for some drinks on the way to where he was staying. There, we ran into friends who I knew were coming but hadn't yet seen, which was really exciting. It was a bit later night than the previous ones, even though I still had vows to write (…er, eh, yeah…), but very fun.

Me in my red dress, with beautiful flowers.

Then came Saturday. I met a bunch of friends at El Caribe, a little hole in the wall that's among our favorite Mexican restaurants in town. Yay, lunch! Yay, friends! Then on to the mall (!!) for the makeover - by a woman who managed to make me look fabulous and yet not look like I was slathered in makeup. Given that I rarely wear makeup, it was pretty impressive that she managed to make me look natural. Then, rush to go get a belt for TOAO, who couldn't find his own anywhere, and pick up Burkhard, who due to the continuing absence of his own luggage had to go buy a decent shirt.

Strapping me in with body tape - a pretty damn hilarious event, as you can tell!

And then back home, really quickly, to grab stuff and put everything together and get out to the Barr Mansion. In the mad rush, I left my hairdryer in the taxi and then sent my unfortunate but uncomplaining and endlessly supportive maids of honor on a mad rush to a) buy body tape (to hold up the strapless dress!) and b) locate the hair dryer, which I thought I'd left in our hotel room (which TOAO has taken to calling "the home-tel," on account of we have no idea when we'll be able to move out…). Finally, though, I gave up on the idea of styling my hair in any way, and asked them to come and tape me to my dress. (Or the other way around.)

A serious moment at the ceremony.

(Apparently, at some point during the ceremony, there were butterflies dancing over our heads. We had no idea!)

TOAO's best man, meanwhile, had the brilliant idea of giving him a bottle of Glenfiddich before the ceremony. As we were getting dressed, the grooms"men" and bridesmaids asked me if I'd mind if they did a shot. I said only if they didn't give me one, which worked out nicely for us all, except that TOAO was alarmed to find the bottle missing as he'd gone to his dressing room with the same plan… Meanwhile, friends and family organized the placecards, which'd gotten kind of messed up, the flowers arrived (chauffeured by bridesmaid and all-purpose couldn't-have-done-it-without-her friend Colleen), and everyone remarked on how lucky we were to have such a beautiful sunny day (outdoor wedding…), since it's been rainy for the last seven weekends here in Austin.

And a less serious moment of the ceremony!

Finally, dressed and ready about an hour after we'd planned to be (we'd wanted to take family pictures beforehand, but…oh well…), I went downstairs, where friends and family were gathered, drinking water and relaxing before the ceremony. (I'm not a big believer in the whole "you can't see the bride before the wedding" hoohah, thanks.) I only got to talk to maybe two or three people, though, because then it was time to line up like we'd practiced in rehearsal, and start heading on out.

The whole family!

And from there on in, the hectic stopped, and the perfect began. The ceremony was amazing; the officiant, Cindy, is a friend I've known for fifteen years, and she did an amazing job; people who hate weddings told us they really enjoyed it, and even the cynical - at least some of them - were visibly moved. Our reader, Franci, a friend from our UNM days, was wonderful, touching and funny at once. TOAO made people cry with his vows, including me. The grooms"men" and brides"maids" looked amazing, with everyone wearing something that reflected their personal style (as it turns out, low-maintenance is actually not just easy, but fabulous!). And we felt so supported by the whole audience, especially when Cindy asked them to speak in our support "with great rejoicing" - there was indeed great rejoicing (as well as shots taken by the groom's party!). When we walked off, married, we felt amazed at the community that had come together around us, and that feeling carried through the evening and is perhaps the most lasting impression of the wedding.

My party, getting ready to party!
And here we have both parties.

The food at the dinner was spectacular, and I even got to eat quite a bit of it, although I kept stopping to talk to people and listen to the toasts, which had me alternately laughing and crying. The cakes, too, were amazing - a cheesecake (of which nothing was left over, not even crumbs!) and a chocolate cake (of which we have only a few leftovers) - how little of the cakes were left over is a testament to how tasty they were, since everyone had already eaten quite a bit at dinner!

My father, explaining the Sägebock, a German tradition that symbolizes the couple's ability to overcome obstacles together, and to withstand looking incredibly silly in public.
Sawing the Sägebock, which we managed to do pretty quickly...
...and because the saw was so damn cool (and my family spent hours looking for it), we figured we should get even more use out of it!

Little things went wrong, because of course they do, but it didn't matter in the least. We forgot to break out the champagne until about 10:30 pm, because things were so great we hadn't even remembered we were missing it; we couldn't find the mixes to play while eating, but nobody really pays attention to the background music anyway; we forgot to bring out the guest book, and ended up getting people to sign it the next day and after instead, which worked out just fine; and apparently the recessional and processional music got switched, but it's not as if we noticed. It didn't matter, because everything was perfect.

TOAO and my mom cuttin' the rug.
...and more dancing!

And the dancing. The dancing rocked. We had a blast. We danced the first dance to the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love" (which starts, "The book of love is long and boring, no one can lift the damn thing up…") and then cut straight to ABBA's "I do I do I do I do I do," which got people out on the dance floor. A judicious mix of Lyle Lovett, Parliament, Stevie Wonder, the Texas Tornados, Celia Cruz, Robert Earl Keen, and various songs from the 80s followed, and we got just about everyone dancing - including the Barr Mansion's manager, who said he really never did things like that. (But my friend Rebecca is incredibly persuasive!) Burkhard and I even shared an energetic dance to Dschinghis Khan's "Moskau," while the rest of the guests looked on in bemusement and TOAO thanked his lucky stars that someone had come from Germany and saved him from the embarassment of having to dance to bad German pop music in order to support me…

Catching a moment of shut-eye in between dances!

And our friends all got along amazingly well. A number of folks who came didn't know anyone there but the two of us (or just one of us!), and even more only knew one other guest, but by the end of the evening, you couldn't tell who'd been friends before and who'd only met that evening, because they all got on like a house on fire. Friends from all different times and places in our lives - college, programs abroad, my time in Berlin (Burkhard, in fact, was sponsored by a whole group of friends in Berlin!), high school, grad school, karate - got together and started talking and found that they had lots more in common than just us, and more than one person thanked us for where we'd seated them because they got to meet such cool people. (We did sit old friends together, because we don't believe in trying to force people to meet new folks when they'd really like to catch up with old friends, but generally about half the table was new to each other, and they all really got along!) By the end of the evening many had exchanged e-mails, offered places to stay, and kept telling us how great all of our friends were.

The amazingly persuasive Rebecca, and some of her tools of persuasion.

That's the best part of the wedding: Our friends and family came together around us and showed that no matter whether they had already known each other or not, they were a community, a community that celebrated and supported us. Born or chosen, they were all family.

The last song: all of us swaying drunkenly and singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" at the top of our lungs.

Good times!

The day after: Meeting our friends for lunch and still feeling blissed out!

And that not only made our wedding the best day of my entire life, but it is also, to us, what a marriage is all about.

16. March 2005


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