Friday, October 31, 2008

Please Be Seated

Cruising around other wedding blogs as well as commercial sites gave me a serious inferiority complex about my shortage of DIY skills. Although our wedding had a "hand crafted" feel on the whole, that was mostly a matter of our obsession with details and tricking actual artisans and craftspeople to do our bidding.

Our one craft project, which I blogged about in September, turned out nicely, though, and I thought I'd share the final product with you:

I'm not sure whence we stole the family-wedding-pictures idea, but I'm seeing it pop up all over the place, and I'm really glad we pulled it off, and grateful to both our moms for helping out.

This last close-up shows the milk-bottle flower arrangements that the moms made so nicely with celosia, eucalyptus and some kind of berry that I have yet to identify. The framed portrait you see is of Michael's grandparents looking so elegant.

By the way, the card basket cost $5 on the clearance shelf at a craft store and the guest book was a cheap $7 acid-free journal from Barnes & Noble, with a vacation picture glued to the cover. My philosophy on these things was, if we don't have the time, money or inclination to really make these anything special, then lets not spend any real money on something that will just be a compromise. What's written inside is what we'll cherish anyway.

P.S. Thanks again to Missy for taking great snaps!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Raise the Bar

Several people who read this blog were guinea pigs in our months-long experiments with wine and beer. For their edification, and for anyone else who might be interested, I am happy to provide the final list of drinks we served:

Gruet Winery (New Mexico) Methode Champenoise, Brut, non-Vintage
Hugues Beaulieu (Cotes de Languedoc) Picpoul de Pinet, 2005
Evan Williams Bourbon in Mint Juleps

Folonari (Veneto) Pinto Grigio, 2005
Castellana (Abruzzi) Montepulciano, 2006
Spaten (Munich) Oktoberfest "Ur-Marzen"
Red Hook (New Hampshire) "Late Harvest" Autumn Ale

Talisker, Scottish Malt Whiskey, 10 Year
Oban, Highland Scotch, 14 Year
Macallan, Fine Oak Highland Scotch, 12 Year
Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Clear Creek (Oregon) Eau de Vie de Pomme, Barrel Aged 8 years
Clear Creek (Oregon) Williams Pear Brandy

We were really pleased with all our choices, limited as we were by the ridiculous liquor control laws of North Carolina, our budget and our obsessive wish for magnums. The wines paired perfectly with the food, and the brandies paired nicely with the cheese course.

And if any of you are interested in re-sampling, we have a ton of this stuff left over.


Water-Colored Memories

Two weeks feels like a lifetime - keeping up with everybody else's wedding blogs reminds me how intense the last year has been - and how peaceful and just-right life feels now.

We haven't got any professional pictures back, but we have many talented photographers among our friends, and I am happy to share a few of their snaps - those that I would consider "general interest" pictures. Many, many thanks to Jennifer, Bethany, Tom, Missy and Kristen for these great images.

I am happy that somebody took a good photo of the ceremony program, after the trouble we had with the offset printer. I am proud of the design of these programs, but more importantly I am grateful to Dave for designing such gorgeous invitations, which served as the template for these pieces.

The animals on the farm were a big hit with the guests as we hoped they'd be, and the buses arrived early enough that people had plenty of time to tour the whole farm and enjoy it in the daylight. Lemonade and iced tea were served during the hour before the ceremony.

The chickens were very sociable, and the donkey stayed quiet throughout the ceremony. He appeared to be paying rapt attention, in fact, which was a bit unnerving.

The brass quintet was a bit underwhelming. But, I think only Michael and I really noticed their ponderous timing and freewheeling sense of tonality, because we had so often listened to great recordings of all the music they were to play. Nonetheless, part of the reason for having the quintet was the juxtaposition of the elegant and the rustic. I assume this was their first time playing in or beside a goat paddock, and it was a cool thing to see.

The ceremony was just exactly what we had hoped for - thoughtful, prayerful and dignified. We really chose excellent readers who brought drama and insight to the scriptures. My best college friend, who is now an academic theologian, gave a reflection which - to put it crassly - blew minds. Our "collaborating presiders" did their work with grace and confidence. And our two vocal soloists sang beautifully.

Immediately after the ceremony, the sun emerged from behind the clouds and illuminated the horizon with a dramatic, fiery sunset. On the porch and the lawn of the farmhouse, our guests enjoyed hush puppies and oyster po' boys washed down with champagne (Gruet Brut from New Mexico), dry white wine (a picpoul from the Roussillon) and sweet mint juleps.

The tent was gorgeous, with three long banquet tables. We were glad to have insisted on long tables against our caterer's advice, because they were perfect. Each place was set with a personalized menu card and a packet of vintage-style postcards, wishing "Greetings from" all the places we have lived and worked - and the places from which so many of our guests traveled.

On the center table, draped in burgundy linens, the centerpieces of dahlias, zinnias, celosia, artichokes, eggplants, pears and peppers, were (of course) 100% local and organic, and assembled by a team consisting of our moms, my aunt, my sister and Michael. They were so nervous to do such a big and important job, but as you can see, the results were lush and elegant. I am very happy we didn't chicken-out and spend a lot of money on a florist.

The other two tables were draped in navy, and had hurricane lamps set into magnolia and laurel wreaths, with votives and green hydrangeas scattered around. An absolutely fantastic salad of squash, goat cheese and figs was set at each place so that guests could start eating during the first of four (!) toasts.


Our Illegal Wedding: Now With Extra Illegality!

As soon as the ceremony ended, an odd feeling set in. I probably asked a dozen people, "So, does this wedding seem a little weird to you?" I suppose it was mostly that surreal sensation that many people report: This is it. We are getting married right now. Jesus tap-dancing Christ!

But, there were plenty of other unplanned occurrences that made our wedding day peculiar. For one thing, it was intermittently disrupted by bursts of machine gun fire in the distance - which (blessedly) many guests mistook for fireworks. The brass quintet played all the music at a funereal pace that made Michael and me pull our hair out - although it undoubtedly sounded fine to anyone unfamiliar with those pieces. Also the DJ (in whom we had so much faith) was after all a mind-boggling idiot.

Most importantly, though: our wedding was shut down by the police!

I'm not joking. Apparently, at the quiet end of a country road, sound travels a long way. We might have learned this from enduring the distant machine-gun fire all afternoon. The police came at 9:30 to ask us to turn it down or turn it off. A neighbor from about a mile down the road had called them in hysterics. A very hateful, very sleepy neighbor.

Dave, the owner of the farm, fended the police off for a while. We turned down the volume a notch. It is in fact quiet out there, so we truly didn't need it dialed up to 11. This satisfied the police for a while, but at 10:30 we heard they were on their way back. We told the DJ to wrap it up (probably the most merciful thing to do, in fact) and, unsurprisingly, he chose to end the night some awful music, not on our playlist, that I do not care to recall.

Fortunately, by then, we were good and boozy, actually having a great time, and amused the unique distinction of having our wedding shut down by the cops.

So is it, in fact, just me - or was our wedding a little bit weird?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Nice Day for a White Wedding

While Emerson and I were on our honeymoon, we were (of course) constantly rehashing and reliving The Most Beautiful Wedding Ever, when we came to realize that our wedding was really, really white. Back before the book came out, we used to read Stuff White People Like, so we decided to see exactly how much white people would like our wedding.

First things first: the wedding was on a goat farm that we found by meeting the goat farmers at their cheese stand at the Farmer's Market. I mean, the whole wedding was practically an advertisement for a farmer's market, given the local and organic nature of nearly all the food as well as the flowers (#5 Farmer's Markets, #6 Organic Food).

The ceremony featured a brass quintet, obscure pieces by 19th and 20th century composers and a soprano solo sung in Czech, in clear expectation of our guests Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music (#108). We wore clothes that we found on eBay and in thrift shops (#49 Vintage). Also, one's attendance at the ceremony was the ultimate consecration of Having Gay Friends (#88).

The menus were printed on unbleached, recycled paper (#64 Recycling). As you have already read on this blog, we toiled and agonized to find exactly the right Wine (#24) and Microbrews (#23).

A solid majority of the guests were friends from Graduate School (#81), The Ivy League (#98), or both. Except for those who went to art school with Emerson (#47 Arts Degrees) or grade school with me (#16 Gifted Children).

And let's not forget about our honeymoon, which was just as white. Since we missed our early morning flight, we killed time by buying new iPhones (#40 Apple Products). It worked out great because we were able to take pictures of our honeymoon and upload them instantly to Facebook (#106). And while on our honeymoon we did many things that white people like, such as wine tasting (#24), doing things by the water (#51) and wearing outdoor performance clothing (#87).

And of course we capped it off San Francisco (#91), where we enjoyed the very best imaginable Sushi (#42). And the plane ride back? I'm almost ashamed to admit we brought the Sunday New York Times (#46).


Monday, October 13, 2008

We Now Return to your Regularly Scheduled Honeymoon Program

Do you know what happens when you show up to the airport just one minute after the 30-minute baggage check-in deadline? You have to stand in line all morning waiting to rebook your flight (and get bilked with no-longer-waivable fees). And you lose the first 7 hours of your honeymoon.

It's probably not so stressful (and slow!) if you're the only person in the airport to make this mistake - but I would say Delta's 6:40 flight to Cincinatti this morning was half empty. All those ticket holders were in the "International Check-in/Domestic Disappointment" line along with us.

On the upside, maybe you get the extra hour of sleep you wanted. And, you finally have a chance to buy those casual fall shoes you wanted for your vacation. And, you finally get a fancy lunch at the boutique hotel by the airport. And, your new itinerary puts you in scenic Sausalito just in time for dinner.

After the initial sting, this setback isn't so disappointing. Although, having some wedding pictures to enjoy would be soothing, too.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Holy Sh#t, We're Married!

I know that I should probably be doing something else other than blogging on the morning after my wedding but for some reason I am compelled to do so. So here we are.

We'll have a full wrap-up soon but I wanted to get a few thoughts down this morning.

The first thought is: holy shit, we're married! My second thought is, to quote the great Stephen Colbert: "Great wedding? Or greatest wedding?" My third thought is: Yuliya would be so disappointed.

I should probably leave it at that for now, but I will say one thing. My second favorite moment was when the horse galloped in triumphantly during the interlude and my favorite moment was when the burro came braying and kicking right after him. That's right. A burro.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's 74 and Sunny in Durham

Let's get dressed up and have a garden party . . .


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blog Blogis Gratia

So our big day is fast approaching. Eight days ago I started a new job and today is the day that I do my first real experiment. Today is also the day that my parents come into town and the true beginning of the weekend. With all the activities and responsibilities looming, I felt that I really wasn't going to get any time to blog after this morning, so I should do it now.

Of course, I don't actually have anything to say. I'm a little nervous, a little excited, a little stressed. But none of that makes for interesting reading by the masses. I have no final bits of wisdom or trivia, no hifalutin thoughts about the nature of marriage or the significance of this particular marriage either to our own lives or the lives of our families and friends. I certainly don't have the time or energy to compose some rambling, humorous post with witty parenthetical asides. I'm worried we've forgotten to take care of something, although if we have forgotten to take care of something it pretty much isn't going to be taken care of.

I guess I just want it to happen already! C'mon, future!


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It was just like any other day.

All week I keep hearing about things I'd love to do this weekend if I weren't busy, you know, getting married. There's a big game at UNC, not to mention good Big 10 match-ups on television all afternoon. Several appealing movies are opening, and the NC Museum of Art is showing a classic Claude Sautet film. The Kickin' Grass Band is playing at Cat's Cradle - we've been to no live shows since we moved down here, and this is one that would inspire me to get out of the house. Also on Saturday night is Campout Carolina, a night of electricity-free solidarity in support of a healthier environment.

And as much as I prefer fresh air to electricity, you better believe I am sleeping indoors all weekend.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cost Cutting and More Cutting

I picked up our programs and menus this morning. They look lovely. Remember when I asked why offset printers could charge such radically different prices for the same job? Well, I found out.

We went with the cheapest printer. We supplied our own stock - unbleached, recycled paper. They wrecked it. I don't know how, but they wrecked it. They couldn't explain why or how, but I doubt they are secretly hoarding my paper, so I believe they wrecked it.

They replaced it with their own virgin paper. So, not only are our programs not printed on (expensive) unbleached, recycled paper - we used twice as much paper as actually necessary. We are definitely not getting that LEED Platinum certificate now.

Hey, thanks trees! Nice knowin' ya!

I'm gonna go set some carbon credits on fire . . .

Manifest Destiny by Alexis Rockman, Brooklyn Museum of Art


Monday, October 6, 2008

What Is Lasting

So, our wedding will take place in five days, and today is also the feast of Saint Bruno, whose name only sounds the same as my future in-laws' surname. There is no family connection to the saint, but Bruno families around the world probably consider him to be a patron. He is a good man for the job.

Saint Bruno was born in 1030 in Cologne, and he had a fast rise from promising student to professor to presumptive new bishop of Reims. Bruno lived in tumultuous times. His own diocese was rattled by an abusive prelate and the battle to remove him. In Rome, Emperor Henry IV was resisting the church-wide reform efforts of Pope Gregory VII, going so far as to establish an antipapacy in Ravenna.

In the midst of all this turmoil, Bruno's esteem rose among many parties. The clergy of Reims sought his leadership, and Gregory sought his counsel. Bruno, though, longed for a simple life, attached only to prayer and work, eschewing power and influence. During his years in Gregory's closest confidence, Bruno took care to keep himself always in the background. His mission was to free the church from corruption and politics, not to defeat Henry.

Anyhow, the thing I most want to tell you about him is that Bruno, during his journeys toward and away from centers of power and conflict established two monasteries. The first was at a remote spot in the Alps known as Chartreuse, from which the Carthusian Order grew and gets its name. You may also know the liquor called Chartreuse, which the monks distilled and sold to support the maintenance of their houses, and which today is still sold in support of various charities.

The Carthusians live lives of great simplicity and quiet. They rarely speak except to pray. Each act - including prayer - is undertaken at the slowest practical pace. Their charism is captured by their motto: "Stat crux, dum volvitur orbis," which means, "The cross stands while the world is changing."

An acclaimed film was made about the monastery of Grande Chartreuse. The images literally defy words, which is surely the point:

Can you imagine what Saint Bruno would have thought about our modern wedding rituals? What today's Carthusians think of us - if they even know what we're up to? These ceremonies - ostensibly dedicated to the making permanent of something that is imperiled by human whims - have become binges of frippery. Michael and I are as guilty of it as anyone else - each argument we have had about paper, flowers and wine is venal. What will last after Saturday? Where shall we turn our focus?

We have five days left until our wedding. This week, we are going to approach life with our eyes turned toward what is permanent. Whatever is picayune and vain and worrisome is forbidden. Any thought that provokes me to anger is banished.

Each time the Bruno name is said or seen on Saturday, I will consider it a tiny prayer for the aid of Saint Bruno in keeping calm and quiet, and caring most about what is lasting.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Convicted of DWI: Disproportionate Welcoming & Itineraries

Are you familiar with this theory of "maximizers" vs. "satisficers?" I am unambiguously a maximizer, and I really encourage everyone to join our side, because it results in very rewarding weekends. I may not be very organized in every aspect of my life, but I do keep an hour-by-hour itinerary of each Friday through Sunday - and I never look back and regret wasting my days off.

Anyhow - I think we have done a lot to help you maximize your trip. You have the data you need to make serious meal plans. You have two great maps of Durham's organic highlights. And, a smattering of other "local color" suggestions.

But, I just made one more helpful thing for a friend, and I thought, "Why keep it a secret?"

At Duke University, the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and the Viñoly-designed Nasher Museum of Art are both world-class institutions. The Nasher's current show of Spanish masters includes some of my favorite paintings by Juan Sánchez Cotán. Best of all, the Garden and Museum entrances are just two blocks apart, and neither one is too big for a short, satisfying visit.

For those of you staying at the Marriott and not renting a car, here are your instructions for making an easy Saturday morning visit to these local treasures:

Step 1: Walk from Marriott to the DATA (transit) terminal.
Directions: Exit from the hotel's north doors - onto the civic center plaza. The Carolina Theater is on your left. Walk in that direction, then along Morgan Street. The DATA terminal is about a block ahead.

Step 2: Buy an unlimited-ride 1-day pass ($2).

Step 3: Take the Route 6 bus.
Directions: The bus leaves every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour.

Step 4: Deboard the bus at Duke University Road & Anderson Street.
Directions: You will see the Nasher Museum of Art at this intersection.
Note: Chapel Hill Street changes into Duke University Road on campus. They are in fact the same roadway. Don't let this confuse you.

Step 5: Visit the Museum, then the Garden.
Directions: From the Museum, the garden is one two blocks north on Anderson Street. Anyone in the area can point the way.

Step 6: Don't miss the return bus!
Directions: From where you got off, the bus returns on the opposite side of the street. Be there by :20 or :40 past the hour.

Reaching the Garden & Museum from the Courtyard (and nearby hotels) is not as simple by public transportation, but it's worth noting that it is an easy 2 miles on foot.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Something Gold Can Stay

Not even our guests are likely to get a close glimpse at our rings, so it doesn't seem like spoiling any surprise to show some photos up here.

Michael and I exchanged engagement rings back in 2006. He gave me mine on my birthday - July 3 - what should have been a big fireworks night in Coney Island, but instead the atmospheric entertainment was provided by lightning. We had Astroland almost entirely to ourselves, and got to ride the Cyclone twice before all the rides shut down. Disappointed about missing the Wonder Wheel - and completely oblivious to the special moment approaching - I was grumpy. I didn't want to walk on the beach ("It's wet and filthy!") or down the boardwalk ("Are you trying to get us mugged?!"), all I wanted were clam strips and funnel cake, and if I were Michael I would have changed my mind.

My ring was a Tiffany silver ring, shaped like a pillow. Michael had wandered all over town on the preceding Sunday in the blazing heat, trying to find something unique for me, but not too expensive. He was still in graduate school at that point. Thwarted by all the local shops closed for the holiday weekend, and his admittedly poor memory for addresses, he trekked 15 blocks up Fifth Avenue through the steam and the throng to Engagement Central. He made a beautiful choice.

The fact that Michael decided to spring the question first gave me an opening to shop at a more leisurely (and less sweaty) pace for his ring. I had time to find a well regarded local jeweler in the East Village, Little King. I even took Michael there, ostensibly to look for wedding bands. Then, I had to sneak 100 blocks back downtown at my lunch hour to actually order the ring, and again to pick it up, in order to give it to him at Christmas Eve dinner, hidden under his coffee cup.

Those two rings no longer exist, but here is how they looked on that Christmas Eve:

We had the cockamamie idea of combining the rings together to make our wedding bands. Back in May, when we were both in New York for work, we took them to Little King to test the idea out, and it was met with enthusiasm.

Last week, the finished product arrived in a padded FedEx envelope. We had my mom and sister check the inscriptions so that we wouldn't accidentally spoil the surprise. They are beyond beautiful; they are perfect; they are entirely and perfectly ours.

We still haven't put them on, and we will probably wait to do so until the moment arrives for us to say: "With this ring I marry you, and with all my worldly goods endow you."


Perfect in 10

I don't trust the Weather Channel very much, particularly since reading a funny article about their numerous foibles and failures in the New Yorker back in 2000. Things have improved a lot in eight years, but the 10-day forecast is still reliably unreliable, and my real favorite weather source doesn't bother with the crap shoot that is a forecast longer than five days.

Nonetheless, we are now within the "envelope" of professional weather prediction, and it is looking mighty fine!

From my direct observation, I have one very solid prediction: it's going to be chilly after dark. Assuming that the weather is more likely to get cooler than warmer over the next 10 days, I want to strongly reiterate to our female guests the particular importance of bringing a sweater, jacket or wrap.