Twenty-five years ago, at 5:21 p.m. on January 2, our priest pronounced me and Kim “husband and wife.” I’ve already blogged the awkward love story that eventually led to that moment, and I’ve shared a lot about our life together in the two and a half decades since. But I’d like to focus first on that ceremony, then on the greater three days that became known as “our wedding.”
Common prayer, uncommon words
We were married in accordance with the rite in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, which means we made our Declaration of Consent with the words “I will” rather than “I do” — I’ve always thought that’s a nice touch. It’s less “I promise right now” and more “I promise now and forever.” (And we have done exactly what we said we would do — loved, comforted, honored, and kept each other, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others and being faithful to each other alone.)
The Declaration of Consent was earlier in the ceremony; the vows came right before the exchange of rings, followed by the 5:21 pronouncement. There were some cool words in those parts, too — “In the Name of God, I, Dan, take you, Kim, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.” She repeated that vow to me. All with our hands bound together, another nice touch. And we got through it without choking up. For some reason, it was the rings that did that to me.
First, the priest asked God’s blessing on the rings, which were declared to be a physical symbol of the vows by which we had bound ourselves. Then came the hard part. I don’t know why I choked up a little, other than that’s just my Irish tear ducts that want to open too often. But I don’t know why it specifically happened at that part. Maybe I found the words to be particularly powerful: “Kim, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It was on the “all that I am, and all that I have” part — maybe I knew that didn’t amount to much, so I was worried I wasn’t putting enough into the vow.
Then the priest, who ironically would be separated from his own wife within a year, joined our hands and said, “Now that Dan and Kim have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder.”
These are all powerful words, and the moment was solemn. Then we got back to partying, as we had been for the two days prior.
The Velvet croaked
I had asked Kim in May to marry me, and we knew we wanted to be married during the Christmas season. But we were foiled in every attempt to find a place that was available in December. I can hardly plan something more than seven minutes in advance, let alone seven months, so I found it surprising that everywhere was booked. Then we realized the time after Christmas is still part of the season, and might make things easier not only for planning the wedding, but for celebrating future anniversaries — the time before Christmas is crazy-busy already.
So we opted for the first Saturday in January. Kim had her heart set on a place called the Velvet Cloak Inn, so we scheduled an appointment with their event planner to discuss the details. We wanted to have a Christmas tree at the reception, and she told us she could probably do that, unless someone else booked something for earlier in the week and wanted the tree gone. We wanted a certain size room and she told us she could do that, unless she needed it for New Year’s Eve. We kind of scratched our heads over those responses, losing out to an imaginary party that wasn’t likely to materialize.
The planner had an obvious disdain for the size of our reception, preferring to work with a larger group that could bring her more revenue. But she was “willing” as long as we could be flexible. The kicker was, she wanted to demonstrate that we had come to the right place, because they did so many weddings. She pointed to a bridal portrait on the floor behind her desk, leaning against the wall. And she began to tell us all about the wild bride with her unusual haircut, and how funny she thought the whole situation was, because she “loved her brides.” I should have stood up and walked out, but I didn’t want to disappoint Kim.
It turns out, Kim was as shocked as I was. I just didn’t want to assume she was willing to walk out on her dream location. It turns out, she was. Not that she wasn’t disappointed — she was — but she didn’t want to sign a “contract” that could be overturned at any moment by a greedy bitch who wasn’t content with a bird in the hand, nor give said bitch control of her beautiful bridal portrait, leaving it lying around God-knew-where, judging Kim’s looks, and telling some other couple all about the crazy bride who wanted a Christmas tree to stay up past New Year’s Eve.
Months later, on the morning of our wedding, I indulged in a little immature revenge at the behest of one of my groomsmen. He dialed the Velvet Cloak and handed me the phone. When someone answered, I asked if they had a wedding scheduled there that day. When they said they didn’t, I shouted, “Well, you could have!” and hung up the phone. Not my best moment as a human being, but somewhat worth the minor cost of my shame.
Anyway, we found a better place place for our reception — Embassy Suites. It was a beautiful venue with a nice, normal event planner who was willing to work with us and put everything we wanted in the contracts. Plus, there was a bonus….
Every year, that Embassy Suites throws a massive New Year’s Eve party in its atrium, for everyone staying at the hotel. They have a special price that includes lodging and the party — you have to agree to spend the night there and stay off the roads — and people come back every year for it. That year, it was going to be two nights before our wedding, so we encouraged our guests to come to Raleigh early and party with us.
The monster bash
It was more fun than I’d ever had in one night. Great food, freely flowing drinks, good music, and dancing without care, followed by a massive balloon drop at midnight. I was wearing a sweater and burning up in that crowd, but I didn’t care. We still have a picture of me kissing Kim at midnight, sweat pouring down my face. I don’t know how she could stand it.
That night, I danced with Kim, her mom, my mom, her aunts, my godmother, and multiple bridesmaids. At one point I was dancing with Nancy Carol, Kim’s best friend and maid of honor, when some drunk stranger wandered up to me, pulled me toward him, and shout-whispered in my ear, “Yo, that girl totally wants your monkey!” I have no idea what he thought he saw, but I’m certain Nancy Carol did NOT want my monkey. Nor did I want her to have my monkey. We were simply dancing. So I admonished him, “Dude, come on! She’s going to be the maid of honor at my wedding in two days!” He got excited at that news, shook my hand, congratulated me on the impending nuptials, and stumbled off to offend someone else. I still have to wonder who this guy was, and why he felt he had to provide innuendo-laden affirmation to random guys on the dance floor.
Like the rest of us, Nancy Carol got a little tipsy that night. She was staying in Kim’s suite, and once the festivities were over and they’d made it back upstairs, Nancy Carol had an urge. No, it wasn’t for my monkey. It was for pizza. She tried her best to call Domino’s, but got a recording and left a drunken, disappointed diatribe about how all she wanted was to have some pizza delivered, and they were really making her mad, and why couldn’t they just listen to her and take her order? She never did get through, probably because she didn’t realize she had to dial “9” to get an outside line before dialing their number, 783-1801. She called seven times, talking to no one, but entertaining Kim.
Strangers at the wedding
At one point I was walking through the crowd when I heard a group of people calling my name. I turned to the table and didn’t recognize any of the four people sitting there. They gestured toward my brothers, about 25 feet behind me. Apparently my brothers had been shouting my name, but I hadn’t heard them. Those two couples did, and when they saw that my brothers were looking at me, they called out the same name. Nothing remarkable, but for the next two days, I kept running into those four people.
It started Friday morning, with me wandering around the atrium in a haze, unkempt and looking probably even more confused than I had the previous night. I walked right by them, and one of them jokingly said, “Hey, look, it’s Dan!” to his friends. I turned to see who had said my name, recognized them after a moment, grinned, and moved on.
It continued from there. Every time they saw me, they’d say, “Oh hi, Dan.” I’d turn to see who’d called me, and we’d laugh at the improbability of us continuing to cross paths. It became a running gag.
On Saturday morning, I ran into them for the last time. They were about to check out, and we chatted a bit. One of them said I looked lost, and I said, “I’m getting married this afternoon.” They hadn’t known that; for all they knew, I’d been there for an extended New Year’s celebration, just like them. I still remember one of the women putting her hand on her chest and saying, “Oh! I just got goose bumps.” All four of them congratulated me and wished me well before heading out. I thought that was pretty cool, and still wonder sometimes what became of them and whether they remember Dan, the sweaty guy with bad hearing who got married that time in Raleigh.
On Friday, Kim had her bridesmaids’ luncheon, which she later told me was miserable for almost everyone involved. One of them was so badly hung-over, she couldn’t eat anything other than the free rolls at the restaurant. All of them were hurting. Nevertheless, they persevered.
I continued to wander the atrium in a haze, occasionally running into old friends who had missed the party but were checking in for Friday night. I managed to get sobered up and cleaned up in time for the rehearsal, where we had fun trying to teach my brother how to correctly pronounce “Corinthians” when he did his reading. Rehearsal dinner was in a roped-off area of the atrium, and the wine again flowed freely.
An ongoing gag from that weekend was a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit from three weeks earlier, “Orgasm Guy.” In it, Rob Schneider plays a guy who reacts to every mildly pleasing thing with a miniature orgasm. It’s stupidly funny, so it appealed to most of us.
I think the gag started when Charlie, one of my groomsmen, asked if anyone had seen the skit in December. Several of us remembered it, and suddenly the atrium was filled with stupid guys tensing up and saying, “Oh, God!” like Schneider. Charlie did it the most, and the best bit happened after rehearsal dinner, when he had gone upstairs to get something, then boarded the glass elevator to come back down. He saw us watching him from the atrium, so of course he put on a show, feigning an orgasm. We could see him mouthing the words, “Oh, God!” and shuddering until he fell on the floor of the elevator, still twitching his legs.
That’s when the elevator stopped on a floor halfway down. Its doors slide open while he continued to convulse in hyperbolic mock ecstasy, and the man and his two young daughters who were trying to come down to the pool, slowly backed away from the open door with mouths agape. We saw them a minute later, boarding the other elevator — the one without a maniac convulsing on the floor.
Just before midnight, I kissed Kim goodnight and promised her I’d try to avoid seeing her until she walked down the aisle. That proved difficult, as we both had to pack for the honeymoon — from the same apartment. I’d moved my things to her place in the last days of December, letting the lease expire on the apartment I shared with my friend Paul. Her roommate was preparing to move out, and I just stacked my crap in their living room.
Bear in mind, there were no cell phones then. No text messages. And we were staying in suites right around the corner from each other. The easiest way to coordinate was to call her suite directly, dialing “7” and her suite number on the phone in my suite. I talked to Nancy Carol a couple times, asking if they were ready to go to the apartment yet. Once I got the word they were walking out of their suite, I stayed in mind for another five minutes, to give them time to clear the hotel so I could avoid seeing my bride on our wedding day. Once Kim finished packing, Nancy Carol called my room from the apartment, and I left the hotel with Charlie so I could go pack my suitcase at the apartment. Getting back into the hotel was slightly more difficult, but with help from Charlie and Nancy Carol, we managed not to see each other before Kim and the bridesmaids left for the church.
Meanwhile, we had a football game to watch. Charlie and I were big Redskins fans, along with everyone in my family and a couple other groomsmen. Paul, one of my best men, was a Vikings fan. They were playing in a wildcard game at 12:30 that afternoon, a fact that most of my friends weren’t willing to let me forget with the church deadline encroaching. But it was decisively the Redskins’ game after the Vikings’ first score, and between hotel room TVs and car radios on the drive to church, we experienced most of it.
Brothers, where art thou?
We had to be at the church in wedding attire by 3:30. We took some bridal party photos — minus the ones with the bride and groom in the same room — before the wedding started, which required a bit more coordination. Once the guys were finished, we were ushered out to the parking lot to wait, where I wouldn’t see Kim. It was 70 degrees that January day, a stark contrast to the freezing temperatures we’ve seen today.
While we were out there, a vagrant approached and asked me for spare change. Bear in mind, I was wearing a tuxedo and surrounded by guys in matching tuxedos, outside a church. We were obviously part of a wedding, waiting for it to start. And I’d left my wallet inside. I couldn’t help, but it was a little weird that someone would have asked under those circumstances.
At one point during the photos, I realized my brothers had gone missing. I went searching and found them in the sacristy, jokingly trying on robes. Fortunately, they were choir robes and not solemn vestments, so I didn’t scream at them. In fact, I joined in the fun and posed for a picture, kneeling in front of them for a fake blessing. I’m still surprised the robes didn’t catch on fire.
That’s why it’s called a cough drop…
The time came for the ceremony to begin, and I was in an antechamber with Paul and Marc, my two best men. We joked about running the wedding like a football game, so I pretended to kneel in the dirt and draw a diagram. “Okay, guys,” I said. “You’ll run this pattern. This twig is me, this leaf is Father Perry, and this dirt clump is Kim.” I didn’t get any further before Paul repeated, “This dirt clump. Is Kim.” and cracked up. Okay, I hadn’t meant it to sound that way, but he had a point. We laughed it off, and Father Perry came in to tell us it was time.
I began to cough, and he offered me a lozenge. I unwrapped it with fingers that were shaking so badly, it flew out of them and through the vent on the floor, careening off the sides of the duct underneath. This time it was Marc’s turn to laugh, and I knew he was trying hard to get it out before we entered the church.
Back to the beauty
Which brings us back to the ceremony, and the specific time that I’d hoped to post this blog — more than six hours ago. (Told you I can’t plan things.) Well, with luck, I’ll finish it before January 2 is past.
When I saw Kim coming down the aisle, I almost wept in awe. Full stop. I don’t know what else to say. Like her, the ceremony was a thing of uncommon beauty.
Party-crashers, pen names, and pizzas
The reception was one more joyfully raucous party among a three-night string of them. We danced, we drank, we celebrated life and love. My college friends nearly dropped me on my head while we were moshing to Jane’s Addiction. The basketball players from Iona College tried to crash our reception. Some couple we didn’t know actually did crash it near the end, begging us to let them come in and dance. The open bar had closed, so it wasn’t going to cost us anything. The music was recorded and they didn’t know anybody there, but they just really wanted to dance. They were probably the only people left in the hotel who weren’t there for the wedding — we felt like we owned it at that point — so sure, why not? Kim was ready to leave by then, anyway.
I ran to the front desk to surreptitiously pick up the key card for our suite, only to be told there was no room registered to a Dan Bain. I’d forgotten, I’d registered under a pseudonym because we’d told my friends we were staying at another hotel that night. I knew better than to trust them to leave us alone. We left the greatest ongoing party we’ve ever known, hopped in a limo, and drove off.
The limo slipped around the back of the hotel and let us out at the kitchen. The driver came in with us, running ahead to see if the coast was clear. It wasn’t. “There are a bunch of them standing outside their rooms, looking around!” he said. “They’re looking for you!”
Plan B was to take the service elevator up. We made it to the eighth floor without being spotted, and ran into a college friend just outside our suite. He was staying right next to us. Not to worry, he assured us, he wouldn’t tell a soul. Besides, he didn’t know Charlie, who was the ringleader in the attempts to prank us.
We opened the door to room 831, got inside, and congratulated ourselves on having made it. Then I noticed the message light blinking on the phone. There were seven messages waiting for us! Luckily, each one was Nancy Carol, berating us for not being willing to deliver her a pizza early in the morning of January 1. It turns out, when she was trying to call 783-1801, she was connecting to room 831 by hitting “7” for a room-to-room call. By some weird, hilarious coincidence, she’d happened to connect to what was probably the only unoccupied room on New Year’s Eve, and we happened to be staying in it two nights later, where each of her rambling messages was still saved.
Sunday morning, Charlie was shocked to see us come down for breakfast. He’d apparently tried to find our room at every neighboring hotel, in an effort to send us pizza in the middle of the night as a prank. Suspecting I would have used a pseudonym and knowing me well, he’d asked for the room of John Lennon or Paul McCartney at each hotel, including the Embassy Suites. But I’d been smart enough to register as John McCartney.
Happily ever after
That afternoon, we flew to Orlando for our honeymoon and the beginning of a 25-year relationship with Disney. Life has been amazing during the years since then, and we’ve been blessed enough to know love and laughter many times over.
Tonight, we celebrated our silver anniversary by taking the boys to The Melting Pot, an old favorite that was pivotal to the early days of our courtship. But really, I’d have been fine with just ordering from Domino’s….