It is a writer’s job to take a reader into his mind and plant them in a world where they can see and hear. The physical senses are easy. The writer pulls grass up through the reader’s toes, splashes colors on the walls of their imagination. What writers often fail at is the transmission of the intangible emotion in the air.
In recounting the last few days of my sister’s wedding, I’m faced with this last challenge over and over again. I’ve made an attempt, albeit long and inadequate, to capture the magic in the air.
For me, it started last Wednesday as I drove to Rehobeth Beach with my future brother-in-law, Garrett, for his bachelor party. Besides my brother Josh, I didn’t really know any of the other groomsmen. We picked up a few from the airport on the way and found ourselves in a condo in a repurposed church about a block from the beach.
Jon, one of the two best men, said it best a few nights later that often the best judge of a man’s character is the company he keeps. From the moment the group of guys were together, a chemistry evolved that cannot be explained simply by the fact that we were an outgoing group. We all came together quickly because of our shared love for Garrett. The group came from all over the country and represented different but equally important stages of Garrett’s life. These were the men that Garrett chose to stand by his side as he moved to the next one and they speak volumes about the man Garrett is and the man Garrett wants to be.
After some late nights and time on the beach, we drove back early Friday morning. I was up before most of the others, so I took a quiet stroll on the boardwalk to watch the sunrise, one of the many beautiful sights I witnessed over the last week. On the drive back, with my weary passengers sound asleep, I had some tranquility to absorb the new friends I had just made and think about the future of my sister and the guy passed out next to me.
When we got back, we met all the bridesmaids and joined in on the do-it-yourself wedding on the farm. Tables were set up, ice was procured and a tent came alive on our front lawn. Later, we did a quick rehearsal for the day to come - my sister made the rehearsal extra special by wearing the wedding dress that both my grandmother and mother wore for their weddings.
After, we met under the tent for dinner: pizza from Fireworks. Fireworks is the Nesbit crew’s favorite pizza spot and the restaurant where Garrett asked my whole family to marry my sister. We all had an opportunity to give a toast to Elizabeth and Garrett and I guarantee no one foresaw the emotional ride to come. Garrett’s mom set the tone. My mom read a letter from my late grandfather that he wrote to Elizabeth when she turned 18. Garrett’s grandmother revealed a long kept secret: his wedding band would be his grandfather’s. I told the story of how I got to know Garrett, where I grilled him over a 22 hour drive back to DC from Texas only to realize that he was a man apt for the challenge of being my sister’s other half. My brother looked out under the tent and proclaimed that these were Garrett and Elizabeth’s cast of characters, echoing Jon’s sentiment that we are the company we keep. Garrett and Elizabeth capped off the toasts with their understanding of marriage rooted in others, giving their thanks and requesting the support from the loving community that surrounded them.
For the last month, my mom and sister had been worrying about the weather. Initially, it was forecasted that it would rain on the wedding day, a calamity for an outside wedding. As the date moved closer, only a storm on Friday night, the night of the rehearsal dinner, was predicted. As we sat under the tent that night, enjoying our delicious pizza, the storm clouds gathered on the horizon and we were sure we were in for a downpour. However, the rain came and went, only clipping us at the edges and taking the heat with it. Behind it, the storm left a double rainbow, a continued sign of good fortune.
After dinner, we moved to our backyard for a slideshow and s'mores. The slideshow illustrated the importance of Garrett and Elizabeth’s “cast of characters” and friends and family lingered late into the night in conversation over unholy combinations of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.
The following morning started with a friendly soccer match at Waterford Elementary School with mixed squads pulled from the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Before the match, we had a quick round of “speed-dating” where the groomsmen and bridesmaids got to know each other a little more. Somehow the bride and groom made it through the game unscathed. Considering the bridesmaids represent pretty much the entirety of the Rice women’s soccer team and therefore may very well have some bruised egos about the game, I’ll just say that the bride’s team won and let sleeping dogs lie.
After the game, the set-up for the wedding continued and the wedding party went to work. The boys moved hay bails into position for seating and set up the tent once again for another dinner. The bridesmaids helped out with making things look picture perfect, hanging up pictures and setting up centerpieces. There’s something to be said about the wedding party being so involved in bringing the wedding alive. Our own hands contributed to the farm’s transformation. It almost felt like the farm had been begging for an opportunity to flex its muscles all these years. We could look around and see our part in it all, however small.
Before the time came, the groomsmen were gathered in the basement of my house, playing ping pong, foosball and watching TV. In a poetic moment, Garrett passed out ties and suspenders to all the groomsmen only to realize that he forgot to get one for himself. We joked that this was typical of Garrett’s character: he often forgets to think of himself before others, even on his own wedding day. With two of his friends by his side, he rummaged through my dad’s closet and found a tie to wear. Minutes before we headed upstairs to begin the ceremony, we shared a quiet moment together. Strangers days before, we climbed the steps brothers.
Four grandmothers had made it to see their grandchildren get married and the ceremony kicked off with four brothers - Garrett, his brother Jeff, Josh, and myself - escorting them to their seats. Next up came the mothers. My mom, radiating beauty and love, had Josh and I take her down the aisle. There was an almost imperceptible moment where she saw the two of us and stopped in her tracks. With a smile on her face and slight tears in her eyes, that moment about threw me into the sky with emotion. I was even more unprepared for the arrival of my sister. Right before they reached the aisle, my sister shared a glance with my dad, who gave her a knowing and comforting smile. The looks exchanged in these moments told their own stories. The ceremony seemed like a blur of emotion, picturesque. With the rolling hills behind them, my sister and Garrett got married underneath a beautiful tree. Their vows encapsulated who they both are: serious and committed but unafraid to be silly.
After pictures, dinner (delicious crepes) began. Throughout dinner, we saw Garrett and Elizabeth’s first dance (an awesomely choreographed affair), father-daughter and mother-son dances and some truly fantastic toasts from fathers, maids of honors and best men. All these moments moved us forward through what seemed like a dream. The rest of the night was spent dancing, laughing, smiling. The dance floor was never lonely, with some surprise visits from grandmothers. The newlyweds left the farm after walking through a tunnel of sparklers to the song “Firework”. After their exit, the community of people who came to witness their union came together one more time to clean everything up in a flurry of activity.
But it felt like everyone was still holding on. My brother and I drove to Leesburg to hang out with some of the groomsmen for a few more hours, shooting the breeze at some random wing place until closing at 2am. Goodbyes and promises to stay in touch were exchanged in an empty parking lot. On the drive home with my brother, we both remarked that for some reason we knew that those promises would be kept.
The day after the wedding, Garrett and Elizabeth met the family for one last meal before they left town. After ice cream, my dad made a comment that if there’s a heaven, the last few days are probably a lot like it. This got me thinking about what I had been feeling over the weekend. It made me think of the last scene in Lost. There was an intense joy in that scene. I’ve been waiting to experience that ever since I watched the finale of Lost and I think the days surrounding that beautiful wedding were it. They were a dream. They were heaven. They were intense joy, inter-connectedness. The love was palpable, almost like you could reach into the air and grab it. The whole experience felt like we were being let in on a big secret. And what a secret it was.