"Mawidge...mawidge is what bwings us togewer today... Mawidge, the bwessed awwangement, that dweam wiffim a dweam..."
One of the best things about weddings is the way they bring together two completely different groups of people, who would normally never have anything to do with each other, and turn them into one big family. My family just got a whole lot bigger on Saturday with the marriage of my niece Annie to her new husband Tony. The wedding took place in Connecticut, in the quaint little town of Bethlehem, about a stone's throw from where my sister Cindy lives. But you would have thought it was just down the road from Buffalo, because that's where Tony's family is from -- and boy did they ever turn out for this shindig.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tony's family one Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. His brother Mike was working in Las Vegas and I drove out there from LA with Annie and Tony to join them all for the holiday. I had already met Tony's mother, Sue, since she had been out to visit LA a few times and had even come to see The Buzzards. In fact she was one of our most ardent supporters. So I already knew that meeting the rest of the family would be a treat.
With a mom as cool as Sue, how could you go wrong?
We had a great time in Vegas. Thanksgiving at Mike's was excellent. I met Tony's dad, Mario and his sister Christina and brother Nick. We watched football and ate turkey and I heard some inside dope on Tony. Later on, Mario, Tony, Mike and I played a little blackjack at the Hooters casino. We each managed to lose about twenty bucks. It was a little distracting in there. But not for the reason you would think -- the place was under construction and it felt like we were playing in battle zone.
At one point, Mario and I went for a long walk together. We strolled through Caesar's Palace, The Bellagio and a couple of other hotels. We must have walked at least four miles and almost all of it was indoors.
The whole time I was with Tony's family, I felt like I had known them for years. It was instantly comfortable. Even just standing around waiting for the elevator was fun with them. Being so far from my own family, it was great to have such warm folks welcome me into their midst.
So, ever since I heard that Annie and Tony were getting married, I've been looking forward to seeing them all again. And this time they really would be part of my family. Bonus!
The wedding, which was completely envisioned, planned and executed by Annie, was unique and personal in every way, from the setting to the wardrobe to the catering to the centerpieces. Every aspect was marked by flair, intelligence and individuality -- just like Annie.
I was asked to do a reading during the ceremony, which apparently made me a lot more nervous than I thought. As I was driving my parents from the hotel to the historic estate where the wedding was being held, I thought I would take a "shortcut" down a road I thought I knew fairly well. See, some years ago, I lived in my sister's basement while working for the swimming pool company where Annie's dad worked. We used to drive all over the area, fixing pools and such. So, I thought I knew where I was going.
But I didn't.
Also, did I mention we were late?
So, as we headed down Flanders Road, plunging deeper and deeper into the bucolic landscape of Nowheresville, Connecticut, I began to get a sinking feeling. I imagined the whole wedding party standing there waiting for me as I rushed up to make my little speech, out of breath and barely able to speak.
But by some quirk of dumb luck, Flanders Road really did turn out to be a shortcut. Not the shortcut I thought it was, but a shortcut nonetheless. We got there in plenty of time. I was still so nervous that I literally couldn't speak -- but a nice bartender helped out with a needed gulp of water and then I was fine.
And as soon as I saw Annie, I forgot all about my silly worries. She was so lovely. And everything was so perfect. And Tony was there -- the luckiest man alive. And my family. And my new family. It was really one of the most wonderful days I've ever known.
Then came the reception. We had been worried about the weather for days, but luckily the rain held off for the ceremony. The reception took place under a massive tent, put up by the company Annie's brother Chris works for. With beautiful flowers supplied by Annie's stepmom, centerpieces crafted from fruit jars and raw wood, assembled by members of the family. In fact, the whole operation was a family affair, including members of the far-flung extended family who'd come all the way in from Los Angeles where Annie and Tony first met.
It was a testament to Annie's creativity as well as the love that holds this amazing group together. Annie and Tony's LA friends have made me feel as welcome as Tony's family did. And now, meeting even more of Tony's family and friends, I was struck by the realization that every single person I've met through Tony is one of the nicest people I've ever met. And that makes sense to me, because Annie is one of the nicest people in the world. And if anyone were going to be lucky enough to marry Annie, it could only be a guy as great as Tony.
But the magic of Annie's wedding didn't end there. It seemed like, in addition to bringing together the members of two new families, there was also a bringing together of some of the members of old families as well. Watching Annie dance with her father felt like a moment I had been waiting for most of her life. Once the greatest of pals -- now getting a second chance to remember the love that will always bind them.
As I listened to Tony's sister Christina, in a moving and heartfelt toast, refer to Annie as one of her best friends, and then my sister Cindy expressing the same feelings about Tony's mother, I realized that this wedding was so much bigger than two people. It was truly a wedding of families. Old and new. Literal and figurative. East Coast and West.
After the wedding, I got a chance to hang out and reconnect with my own family, whom I never get to see enough. I had some great talks with my sister Susan and learned how to grade English papers from Cindy.
Next comes a road trip to Florida with my parents. That may be a little too much bonding, actually.
But I will come away from this experience a richer man. Richer in friends and family and love.
Thank you, Annie and Tony, for sharing your miracle with us.