Congratulations, Seele and Justin!

01 October 2009

I realize this is a bit late but between the wedding and guests staying for a couple of days last week, work has piled up such that I haven’t been able to write for a couple of days now.

Two Fridays ago Lyssa and I traveled back to Pennsylvania at separate times to attend the wedding of Seele and Justin at the Stone Villa Winery (1085 Clay Pike Road; Acme, PA; 15610). Like most weddings, the setup was a multi-month affair and took not a bit of planning on the back end to make everything go off smoothly as well as on the front end to ensure that we could actually be there. So, after dropping Lyssa off at the Metro station I returned home, packed a little stuff and my best suit into the TARDIS, keyed the map-coordinates (helpfully supplied by Justin) into my GPS, and set forth northward with some queued podcasts playing on the radio. It’s about a four hour drive to that region of Pennsylvania (it’s actually not that different from driving home) only you take a different exit off the turnpike and head a bit farther north than normal. I had a bit of trouble finding our hotel because my GPS had me take a (very) back road which was still pretty rural and had to ask directions from one of the locals. Much to my surprise, if you just kept going for another mile or so the rural part abruptly ends and turns into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn with a strip mall less than a quarter mile away.

Most of the three-story Holiday Inn had been rented out for the wedding party. I’d called the hotel the night before to confirm our reservation (it never hurts to do so) and found out amidst the confusion that this was the largest group they’d ever hosted. The reservation desk told me that two floors and change had been set aside for the wedding block, and in the confusion the reservation that Lyssa had made for us was cancelled because it had been folded into the room block. After arriving I had a bit of a fight with the keycard lock on the door and had to get some assistance getting into my room. Once inside, though, I set up Windbringer (are you really surprised?) and set to answering all the pages that had piled up on my smartphone on the four hour trip back.

Late in the afternoon the wedding rehearsal was held on site. The patio in the back had been constructed only recently, and I think we were the first party to make use of it. The new patio was built on the beautiful lakefront property behind the building, and we had a breathtaking view of the landscaping with the vineyard itself across the water. On the western side of a small stand of evergreen trees grapevines are strung as far as the eye can see. There is even a small electric fence along the shoreline to keep the ducks and geese away from the patio. Oddly, no birds flew onto the patio to bypass the lake and fence entirely, not that I’ve going to give them the idea. The lake appears stocked with panfish and large catfish that had no fear of people at all. They routinely journeyed in to the shallows where we could see them quite clearly. It was interesting to note that the latter appeared to make meals of the former occasionally, as evidenced by catfish-sized commotion at the surface and one less bluegill when the water settled.

Rehearsal took a while because we had to figure out how everyone would walk down to the patio, who would be walking with whom, who would be sitting where, and other fiddly stuff of the sort. I felt a little out of place because everyone was dressed nicely and I was dressed for comfort (having driven four hours northward through DC morning traffic) but all told things went pretty smoothly. We did two dry runs of the ceremony and worked out how the unity candle wouuld be lit in about an hour. When we wrapped for the day Justin and I took off for the rehearsal dinner, again following the back-back-backwoods directions my GPS gave us (I suppose it was in the mood to take the scenic route that day), and somehow we managed to arrive ten minutes before everyone else.

Go ahead and laugh.

When the parents of Seele and Justin arrived we were shown to a back room of the restaurant; I felt horribly out of place once again. I’d driven up to Pennsylvania in ripped jeans, combat boots, and a t-shirt, which compared to the slacks and button-down shirts everyone else wore made me look as if I’d just walked in off the street. Technically, I had, just not in that particular way. The restaurant we had rented out (which I regrettably never caught the name of; hopefully someone will remind me) was probably the swankiest I’ve ever been to. From the classic cream white walls to the tasteful decorations to the tables to the quality of food, this place practically screamed “dessert will cost more than your hotel room did”. We weren’t given menus, just the run of the day’s specials from appetizer to dessert and after-dinner drinks and asked to pick. Practically everything was top notch; we feasted like royalty that night. I wound up talking engineering and music with one of Justin’s cousins for most of the evening and reminiscing about the rave scene over dessert.

By the time all of us had driven back to the hotel around 2300 local time, Lyssa, Elwing, Irregular Expression, and Bokunenjin had just arrived. After letting Lyssa in and giving her the second keycard I passed out on the bed and slept clear through until morning. I think we woke up around 1000 EST5EDT on Saturday morning. We got up, showered, got dressed, and headed down to raid the continental breakfast in the lobby along with most of the wedding party. Due to the fact that it was little more than a counter of food just off the hotel lobby it wasn’t really worth writing home over, save that the coffee was a) free, and b) didn’t suck too badly.

We had some time to kill until 1245 EST5EDT, which was when Justin’s family would be heading for the site with Lyssa and I riding shotgun, so Lyssa checked her e-mail upstairs while I drove to the nearest Walgreen’s to pick up a few last minute essentials, such as a congratulatory card. It didn’t take us very long to get dressed though two people trying to share a bathroom poses a unique set of problems. The drive over to the Winery was quiet and uneventful. If Justin had been any more relaxed, I would have suspected the use of general anesthetic shortly after he’d gotten into the minivan. Justin’s best man did an excellent job and there were no surprises (planned or otherwise), nor disasters or unexpected moments. After arriving we milled around for a while in that special way that only people who are part of a wedding can do, mostly due to the fact that there is nothing else to occupy one’s time. I spent a while talking to some folks whom I haven’t seen since we went to the HOPE conference in 2008 as well as some of the folks in DC whom I don’t see too often, either.

1400 EST5EDT rolled around and the ceremony started right on schedule. The families of the bride and groom walked down the aisle two at a time, split apart, and took their seats in the audience behind me, on either side of the band’s pavilion. There was an awkward moment because no one quite knew when to sit down, and once again I showed that I’m about as psychic as a brick because the 200+ people assembled in the audience didn’t sit down no matter how hard as I thought at them. In all seriousness, that was something that we should have figured out during the rehearsal the night before, and common sense doesn’t seem to have an entry for a situation like this. I was hoping that I wouldn’t need to address the audience directly but, as with many things, the direct approach is often the best.

There is a certain look that a bride and groom give one another when they first meet at the altar – a look that conveys love, fear, and hope, which cannot be copied by actors in any television show or movie. You look at them and just know that they’re crazy in love with one another. Irregular and Elwing had it on their wedding day, Lyssa and I had it, and Justin and Seele had it that day. The wedding ceremony was a bit longer than I’m used to – three pages of large type (which made it easy to read outside) but went without a hitch. Thankfully, we’d gotten the lighting of the unity candle worked out the day before, so that went as well as you could expect.

Of course, just before the climax of their ceremony, the wireless microphone the parents made me use conked out, so I had to do it the old fashioned way. Hours of singing beltway karaoke have given me decent vocal projection when I put my mind to it and it came in handy that afternoon. After the ceremony, a couple of people came up to me and said that I sounded better without the microphone.

I wound up talking to most of Justin and Seele’s immediate relatives over little cups of gazpacho and pizza (the hors’durves of choice at the reception) about work, information security, jewelry making, and steam engines for a couple of hours. I also geeked out over a couple of projects that I’ve been working on with some of the DC folks (which I really need to start working on again – anybody know where I can get some phototransistors that don’t suck?) over a few glasses of Stone Villa’s finest. The same restaurant we ate at during the rehearsal dinner catered the reception, so the food was nothing short of top notch. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of beef, but their Beef Wellington was amazing and the cake (what I had of it) was fantastic. They really outdid themselves that night.

At one point Brian and I went wandering around the lake to take a couple of photographs and spent some time talking to the guys who were offloading and wiring up crates of fireworks (!) that would be set up later that night.

I wound up filling the data card in my camera and have a couple of hundred images to offload, edit, and post soon. Hopefully I’ll get around to that tomorrow night.

Two bands played at the wedding reception that night, a cool jazz trio during the reception proper before dinner and an oldies band after the sun set when the dancing started. An apron dance was held to raise funds, ostensibly for their honeymoon. If you’re not familiar with this tradition (which can still be seen in western Pennsylvania from time to time) it’s where guests drop money into an apron, pouch, purse, or something like that for a chance to polka with the bride. There was a line of us that snaked between the two gigantic displays of home-baked cookies and the tray of souvenier personalized shotglasses (sambuca optional) that we were given before our turns came.

The aforementioned fireworks display capped off the night. Somewhen around 2100 EST5EDT the crew on the far side of the lake touched off a fifteen minute light show that amazed all of us. I don’t think that I can really describe the fireworks display in a way that does it any justice, so I’ll get the photographs up as soon as I can.

When it was all said and done a large number of us piled into one of the rented shuttle buses that drove us back to the hotel and dropped us off for the night. Most of us went upstairs to change into more casual clothes for the afterparty held in the conference room off of the hotel lobby. Lyssa stayed up stairs and went to bed early while I hung out for a while with the families of the bride and groom and assorted friends thereof. I wound up talking with Vlad and Genetik for most of the night about this and that, and catching up on how things have been in Pittsburgh lately, and stumbled up to bed around 0200 to catch a few hours of sleep before brunch and the drive home.

Congratulations, Seele and Justin!