Just a bit late: Jill's wedding.

Aug 15, 2008

About two weeks ago Lyssa and I took a couple of days off from work to drive in the direction of Princeton, New Jersey to attend the wedding of her sister/my future sister in law. Lyssa was Jill's maid of honor, so it was essential that she attend; for a change, I didn't have anything official to do so I was sort of at loose ends much of the time. So, we packed our stuff, loaded up the TARDIS, and steeled ourselves for a cross-country drive to the Garden State. Before we had a chance to depart, we heard a loud "thump!" outside the door of the apartment. Ordinarily, this is not a good sign but as I cautiously peeked around the doorjamb it was neither a group of angry federal marshals, one of my exes, or a sniper accidentally firing a 50 caliber round into the front door but a package from UPS.

Perhaps I should explain.

About a week before Jill's wedding I rediscovered the Dell gift card in the china cabinet which I'd gotten for being such a good customer (eleven years of laptops and counting) earlier this year. Due to the fact that I was on field assignment much of the time I dropped it into the empty sugar bowl in the cabinet and promptly forgot about it, but while cleaning up I noticed the gift card and attached rectangle of white plastic. I wracked my brain for a while to figure out what I should order (even considering ordering a solid-state video camera that looked a bit too much like a gun for my general safety), but it was Lyssa who suggested that I buy myself a digital camera to replace the one on extended loan from my mother, which I really should get back to her. What arrived on my doorstep that morning was a Canon Powershot SD1100 IS, a digital camera about the size of a pack of cards with an image resolution of eight megapixels, a zoom function that's half optical and half digital image extrapolation, and best of all image stabilization algorithms built into the CPU that correct for the jitters (like my hands when I've had too much coffee to drink). In short, it takes wonderful pictures, and it came with a two gigabyte SD card, so as of right now I have more image space than I know what to do with.

So now I had a camera with which to take some (decent) photographs at the wedding. The trip to Princeton in general and the Nassau Inn was almost anticlimactic: we made it there in about three hours' time, counting a stop-off to stretch my legs and re-align my back. Traffic was the lightest I've ever seen it during the day, though I don't do a lot of driving while most people are at work for obvious reasons.

If there's one thing about Princeton, it's that it's much nicer than a lot of New Jersey that I've seen. It's very upscale, comperable to Falls Church in Virginia or Fox Chapel in Pennsylvania. It has also very clearly grown over time around and through the college of the same name. The streets are just as winding and tricky to navigate, there are still many one-way streets that you have to get used to (or just walk as much as you can, which is what I did), and like any college town it's geared more towards people walking around than it is for people driving anywhere. That said, I was surprised at how nice the Nassau Inn was - the lobby was one of the nicest I've seen in a while and the rooms were spacious, comfortable, and for a change had decently working air conditioning and a nice view. It didn't take Lyssa and I very long to check in, haul our stuff up to our room on the third floor, and drop everything off. The cost to park in the Inn's garage was $19us per day, which isn't bad given that they've pretty much got the market cornered on parking spaces in their area. I've paid much more for far worse parking situations.

Like most every hotel, just off of the lobby was a restaurant with attached pub (the Yankee Doodle Tap Room) with prices you'd expect of such an arrangement. On Saturday morning I paid $16us for a cup of coffee, some orange juice, and your standard two eggs over easy with bacon and toast combo platter. While food from the 'Tap Room is very, very good, easily head and shoulders over the usual fare, it's pretty far toward the pricey side, so I suggest leaving the hotel and visiting the cafes or small restaurants around Princeton for most of your meals if you happen to stay at the Nassau Inn, or if you've been granted access to the expense account from hell. If you plan on visiting the pub after hours, be prepared to spend about $9us per drink, give or take a bit depending on what you order. I didn't try any of the pub food, so I can't vouch for it one way or the other.

Near the end of the day Lyssa left to attend the rehearsal for the wedding while I unpacked a bit, hung up our clothes that we'd need for the wedding the next day, and set up the hotel room to our liking. One thing I noticed was that the Nassau Inn doesn't offer wireless net.access in the guest rooms, only wired, and they don't provide Ethernet cables so if you want to avoid the third form of death ("Off the Net") I suggest that you either bring your own cables or your own access point. Furthermore, net.access is granted in blocks of 24 hours each which are charged to your bill; upon trying to visit any websites, you'll be directed to call down to the front desk to request the day's access code (seven characters; first three are commonly accepted abbreviations for the day of the week in capital letters; last four are digits which don't seem to follow a pattern; for example, FRI2643). Their website says that they offer free wireless in the Yankee Doodle Tap Room and the lounges but I didn't try it (though I did see people using it from time to time). I spent some time figuring out how their guest access scheme worked but I wasn't able to sneak anything through (whoever wrote their firewall rules did a pretty good job); I didn't find any open access points around the hotel, either.

As you've probably guessed, I had some time on my hands while Lyssa was at rehearsal because there really wasn't anything for me to do until the rehearsal dinner started around 2000 EST5EDT. I did a bit of ironing and changed out of my travel clothes (read: shorts and t-shirt) into something a bit more formal (read: business casual), pocketed a book to get me through the unknown period of time between leaving our room and actually finding the wedding party, and took the elevator down to the lobby to wait. While I was at loose ends I helped myself to the complimentary coffee (surprisingly good) and cookies (yay!) by the front desk with my book until Lyssa and her family found me. Rehearsal had gone well and the ceremony seemed to please everyone, which are always good signs. I must confess, I don't know most of the people who were there; I'm bad with names to begin with, and I hadn't met most of the people there before. I wound up spending most of the evening interacting with the people I knew from before (Lyssa's family) more than anyone else, though I did hang out with Lyssa's other sister and the best man at the bar later in the evening.

Having little to do most of Friday, I slept in (Lyssa got up early to go to the hair stylist and sundry other places with the bridal party to prepare for the wedding ceremony at 1800 local time), got dressed, and then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room (spoken of a few paragraphs ago) with a book and a few cups of coffee. The rest of the day was spent messing around on the Net, catching up on e-mail and news, reading more of The Best of 2600: A Hacker Odyssey, and wandering around Princeton to see what I could see. Interestingly, I didn't get lost while I was out and about because Princeton is logically laid out insofar as foot traffic is concerned. I poked my head into a dozen or two stores while exploring (it's nice to see that budding chemistry nerds can still purchase real, useful chemistry sets these days), wandered around the local bookstore for a while (due to their prices and length of my "to read" booklist, however, I didn't buy anything), and generally saw what I could see. Like many college towns, Princeton is a nice place to walk around for a couple of hours.

Around 1700 I turned around and headed back to the Nassau Inn to get changed for the wedding ceremony. Ordinarily, it doesn't take me long to get ready for a formal event, so once again I (carefully) curled up with a book to wait. Lyssa rang my cell and asked me if I could hang onto a few things for her, so I then had to figure out where the bridal party was holed up and relieve her of her purse...

Yep, once again, I was purse bitch.

The space for the wedding ceremony was set up in the courtyard behind the hotel, with neat rows of white chairs on either side of the white train. Soft live music sounded from the violin and accoustic guitar at the back of the raised stage, atmospherics that mingled weirdly with hushed conversations and the various sounds of snapping cameras. Per tradition, Mike and the groom's party came out first and took one side of the stage. The bridal party came out next, with Lyssa taking point. After weeks of hassle and worry about her gown, it all came together in the last few moments before the ceremony started - black satin and understated beaded highlights around the corset with silver shoes. The officiant was a woman from a local secular humanist organization whom I hadn't met before and didn't see later: the ceremony that they'd written was one of the nicest I've seen from the audience of a wedding; it was elegantly assembled, short enough to carry well, but long enough to get across the important thing: that Jill and Mike were in love and celebrating their union in front of family and close friends. In truth, I don't remember Jill's part of the ceremony. I had a difficult time hearing her from where I was sitting (note to self: replay the recording on the camera and see if the mic had an easier time picking it out). I do remember, however, that Mike recited a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit.

As they tend to be, the wedding's reception consisted largely of people milling around, people jockeying for position around the cheese and fruit spread, and queues of people waiting for Mike and Jill's signature cocktail, the mojito, at the wet bar in the reception room. I nibbled a bit (well, probably more than I really should have) while waiting for Lyssa to emerge from the throng. The hardest part was over, and now all she had to do was coast through the reception and then dinner. We mingled a bit and spoke to a couple of people in her family; where I could, I snapped photographs of the crowd.

Around 2000 EST5EDT, it came time to herd the gathered guests upstairs into the private ballroom, which had been set up for dinner while the wedding ceremony was going on. Per usual for weddings, there was a dancefloor set up in the center of the room, a bandstand at the front of the room, and the usual array of tables and chairs for the guests. Lyssa and I sat at the same table with Grant and a few other people from the wedding party, whom I spoke to a bit through the evening. There were several courses to dinner, from salad to main course to a sorbet to cleanse the palate (which is something you don't see every day) to the chocolate-unto-death wedding cake that got smiles from all concerned. There was even a table set up by the door where you could make grab-bags of candy to take with you and a small box on a stand with cigars (very expensive cigars, which also means that the mere act of looking at them can rob you of years from your lifespan).

The band that Jill and Mike hired to play the reception is an outfit called the 8th Street Funk Band, an ensemble which covers what most people think of as the classics of the 70's and 80's. I don't know how seriously they take themselves but they clearly enjoyed seeing everyone dancing and having a good time while they were on stage. In the state of New Jersey, there appears to be statute on the books which makes it a hanging offense for a band to not be able to perform a cover of at least one Bon Jovi hit in any way, shape, or form - Jill and Mike closed out the night to an excellent version of Living On A Prayer from Slippery When Wet, which happens to be one of my favorite albums, and very appropriate when you think about it. Near the end of the evening, Lyssa eventually managed to get me out of my chair and onto the dancefloor after dinner was over, where we spent the rest of the wedding celebration.

After everything was said and done and the wedding party cleared out of the ballroom, everyone headed upstairs to their rooms to change out of formalwear (though Jill and the best man stayed in their finest) and then invaded the Yankee Doodle Tap Room on the bottom floor to wish the newlyweds well by partying the night away. I think it's safe to say that we packed the pub to standing room only that night, though some of hung around outside in the courtyard until the wee hours of the morning smoking the cigars from the box and shooting the bull. Personally, I went offline around 0300 on Saturday morning to catch a few hours of sleep before Lyssa and I had to pack our gear and head for home.

Saturday morning brought with it a number of rather fragile people carefully ordering breakfast and lunch at the hotel's restaurant and wondering why it wasn't really possible to order lunch until 1100 rolled around (rule number one: never argue with the bride and groom), a situation that seemed fairly easy to rectify. Somehow, we pulled ourselves together for lunch before setting out for home. A surprise thunderstorm, however, put the kibosh on efforts to drive the car around the block to the front door because no one much felt like sprinting for the garage through rain blowing sideways. After twenty minutes or so the rainstorm broke and Lyssa and I were able to pack our stuff into the TARDIS without worrying about everything getting soaked (especially her gown). With that, we plotted a course for home using my GPS unit and we set out once more on the highway, with a couple hours of Henry Rollins' spoken word performances to keep us moving. We finally got back home around 1730 EST5EDT on Saturday afternoon and opted to take it easy for the rest of the weekend, which amounted to sitting around relaxing and catching up on a couple days' worth of e-mail.

So, there you have it. Jill and Mike got married. There really isn't much else I can say on the topic, save that Lyssa and I are next.