November 24th, 2009

no face

The Wedding, In Which We All Cry A Lot And Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt

I have to say it. I didn't get weddings before now.

I mean, I love weddings, and they're wonderful, and I love being around friends and family. But I fundamentally didn't get what weddings are for until I had one.

See, I've been married before, but I'd never had a wedding. I had a divorce before I had a wedding. And you know, when Cher says in Moonstruck that she didn't have a real wedding, so she had bad luck, I kind of believed her, knowing what came after. So this time I wanted the real thing--bridesmaids and a dress and dancing and all of it.

I had no idea what was going to happen. All those months of planning and thinking and choosing and it all finally happened and I was just not prepared for it to be perfect. For it to just tear me to pieces and build me up again with its beauty, with all that love.

This is almost impossible to post about, really. There was just so much. Friday night, at the Velvet Tango Room, where I was vibrating with nervousness because so many people were meeting for the first time and I felt like I had to take care of everyone but it all went smoothly anyway. The bachelor/ette party with my mad ululating bridesmaids abducting me from a Starbucks, and the rest of the wedding folk chasing clues all over town only to burst into theferrett and zoethe 's house whooping triumph. All those quiet moments with zoethe , my fairy godmother, planning and crafting and plotting. Listening to tithenai and stealthcello practicing in the basement. Showing all my friends the amazing photo of justbeast's father at age 18, with a cigar stump in his mouth, looking handsomer and manlier and more hardcore than a dozen Clint Eastwoods. All these impressions, like autumn leaves, drifting by in my memory--pretendpeterpan's laugh, roomette's teary smiles, all my cousins sharing Starbursts outside, all the guys with their clothes muddy from pulling car after car out of the muck at the shower. My aunt and grandmother and my mother sitting on a white couch, laughing. Janice, who made my wedding dress, creating glory in wine red in zoethe's basement, out of miles of silk and satin. How do you chronicle all that? tithenai is doing a lovely detaily post, but I just can't--it flows together like wine and paint, to me.

And then Sunday morning, which dawned as gorgeous and golden a day as you could possibly ask for--we had been so worried about rain, because Patterson's Apple Farm is very much outside, and we'd had this moment with zoethe and I went to see the space, and were facing having the ceremony in the parking lot, due to heels not playing well with mud, and Betty, the coordinator, rushing in to show us this secret, radiant grove in a stone ravine where no one had ever gotten married before--we wanted that place so much, but if it rained...but it didn't. My weather witches rule. The light was autumnal and rich and slanted, the trees all full of golden leaves, and all my most loved ones laughing and lovely. I was calm that morning--everyone kept expecting me to freak out and have a stress attack, but I didn't. Not even close. I was just so happy. And my family was there, my family, my uncle and aunt and cousins like siblings, my father and my mother, who hadn't seen each other in twenty years, all these generations, and my chosen family too. How could I be stressed?

We did have a few minor issues, but each of them turned out more awesome for having fallen through. The cake topper looked like a lost cause. Both the vendors I had ordered one from failed me one after the other (the first one an especial nightmare) and I had decided I just didn't care, no cake topper was fine. But sheryl67 and rbradakis weren't going to let that happen. In one night, they built us a steampunk robot cake topper that rivals any I've seen, and brought it in triumph to the wedding. My unicorn heeled shoes that I loved so much sank into the earth to the hilt when I set foot on the ground--roomette went and got me adorable new ones, but they sank too. So I ended up, in that fabulous red Victorian dress, wearing my black cowboy boots underneath it. Which, I think, pretty much rules. And there was the music--but I'll get to that in a minute.

Everyone was so kind and helpful, I was just floating--the only tragedy being the classic one--you can never spend as much time with people as you want to at your own wedding. I tried so hard, but it's just impossible. And all through the morning, kylecassidy ...just took the most amazing wedding photos ever, ever in the history of the world. (I don't even have them all uploaded yet, but some are here.)

xhollydayx did my make up--and let me tell you, it was superpowered. When we first talked, she asked about waterproof mascara, I said: "Nah, I'm not going to cry. I'll be fine."

Well, I started crying walking down the aisle, and I never stopped. Just...hearing that song, the song Ivar Tryti wrote for The Orphan's Tales reinterpreted by my dear, darling tithenai and stealthcello, in that magical glade, with all my beautiful friends arrayed up there and waiting for us--and oh my god did the girls look amazing in their tuxedos!--and justbeast , all warm beside me, I couldn't not cry. I couldn't not cry as s00j sang for us, a song just for us, so full of references to our shared life and work and love. I couldn't not cry as passionandsoul spoke, as we first spoke Mike Ford's declaration, and then our own, sillier vows, as scathedobsidian passed fire over our joined hands. I couldn't help but laugh that justbeast had forgotten to take off his engagement ring, and had to pocket it before I put on his wedding ring. I just cried the entire time.

We had phenomenal Russian feasting at the reception--and if you want to have an event in Cleveland, Patterson's is your place. They were amazing to us, and the place looked warm and bright, all red and leaves and candles floating in water. We ate and drank and then the toasts began. We opened up the toasts to everyone, after the wedding party finished, and as we have an extraordinarily well-spoken social circle, this turned out to be a great idea--except that we were toasting with vodka, so there was a lot of drinking. That we all met on the internet became a running joke (mishamish : Unlike most of you, I didn't meet Cat on the internet. I met Dmitri on the internet.) yagathai had a great line in: may you both roll nothing but 20s from here on out. scathedobsidian quoted Star Trek. mtolan toasted us in Russian. My mother had asked ahead of time if she could read from The Eight Legs of Grandmother Spider as part of her toast, to represent the maternal line of our family, and though that made me nervous I said yes.

Well, damn. Her Cherokee pronunciation is a lot better than mine. She read it, and cried while reading it, and my great-aunt and grandmother, the daughters of that Grandmother Spider, her only children left living, just wept and covered their hands with their mouths. And then my father got up beside my mother to toast us, and I saw my parents stand together for the first time in my life, and smile at each other. And Reader, I lost all composure, and just sobbed openly at the table. But I'm reasonably sure half the room was crying by then. And the shocking thing is--xhollydayx 's make up didn't even smudge.

I listened and remembered how long I had known some of them, like caudelac and roomette, how much I had shared with them, how much I loved them, how much I had gone through with some of them in just a few years. This was it--my tribe, my beautiful, madcap tribe, together and stunning and so alive. So, you know, I cried some more. And I got it. I understood. What a wedding is. All those worlds colliding, all those disparate people getting to touch each other and meet, all that tribal whooping and joy. It's not the end of anything, but a nexus, where the threads of life tangle up for a moment, and there is this unutterable grace, where there can be healing, even between people truly severed, and you point at the earth and say: this is where I begin, with everyone I choose and love.

And then there was dancing. Our first dance was to As the World Falls Down from Labyrinth--and shut up. We wore glittery demon masks made by ioianthe, and it was marvelous. s00j insisted on playing Manticore's Lullaby live for the parents's dance, which was again, just perfect. And then we got down, man, with our very bad selves. I worked very hard on the playlist--though as gieves pointed out, the problem with a playlist full of awesome songs is you get really tired. But a curious thing happened.

Right in the middle of Start Wearing Purple, when we were all hollering along and dancing like crazed Russian fools, the stereo broke. That's right, we blew out the sound system. And the music died. And it stayed dead--the audible click of no chance, mister, echoing from the speakers. And people started to leave. It was 8 o'clock and it looked like the wedding might be over. My heart broke a little--I so wanted to dance at my wedding.

And then I mentioned to mishamish and babymonkey that I had missed the slow dance to The Rainbow Connection because I was outside talking to my father. So they went over and picked up my laptop, turned up the volume, though it was still very soft, and held it next to our ears as justbeast and I danced to it, eventually joined by others--they all sang the Rainbow Connections to us in a circle as we swayed. I cannot even express to you that moment, how it was the moment of the wedding, when my tribe made music where there was none, and closed around us, singing one of my favorite songs, which has always been so much about love and hope and dreaming to me. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

"It's amazing how this is becoming our song right now," I said to Dmitri, and we laughed. Then the minstrels moved on to Skullcrusher Mountain and Bohemian Rhapsody and we were doing fairly well making our own music (our own music! In this day and age, with no instruments, we were making music and merry) when Betty the coordinator appeared with a boom box. She turned it on. The volume was great! And it only got a mariachi station on the radio. No CD player, only cassette. We danced a bit to the mariachi, half-heartedly. And then rbradakis appeared, as if he were a wizard from on high, and in his hands?

A cassette stereo CD adapter.

Which we plugged into my laptop.

And the music was saved! Again with the Bradaki superhero day-saving!

And so we danced, into the night. We sang along, we Time Warped. justbeast and I agreed ahead of time that we wanted to be able to dance with other people--we had our whole lives to dance together, but some of these people we'd be lucky to see again in five years. I danced with roomette to The Origin of Love, with puckathon to I Will Follow You Into the Dark, singing it into each others' ears. We Baby Got Backed and Vanilla Iced. I danced with my little cousin Alec, the ringbearer, and crouched down to let him turn me like my brother taught him. My brother danced with everyone. The Thomases toasted in a big circle with vodka. At some point, Nika, Dmitri's niece, and katspaw156's daughter Carolyn ran up to us hand in hand and intoned in unison: WE LOVE YOU BIGGER THAN SPACE! Which I will now incorporate into my vocabulary of affection. Boys danced with boys. Girls danced with girls. No one batted an eye. I watched everyone dancing--all those parts of my life that had never connected til now, laughing and jumping and busting a move together and my god, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

At some point, justbeast 's aunt took him aside and told him how flabbergasted she was by the beauty of it all. She could hardly speak. She said it was just like every movie she'd seen as a child about 18th century St. Petersburg. In the end, I am very grateful to our families for not feeling that urge to interefere with the plans, so that we could have exactly the wedding we wanted, and no one said a word about me not wearing white or my cross-dressing bridesmaids or our bear shaman officiant or anything that we chose. Nothing but love, and that's a huge gift, considering how stressful wedding planning can get.

It was a profound experience. justbeast and I have been married in our hearts for a long time. Saying the words was enormous, but it didn't change where we were as a couple. What changed was having this night to remember, all our people, all our worlds together in one place--and of course there were people who couldn't come that I wished could have been there, but so many were there. Having this fertile, happy ground to grow from, having the world we make together witnessed by so many extraordinary souls. We've already joked about a wedding reunion--because the thing is, we have awesome friends and I think awesome attracts awesome and some true connections were made that weekend. I don't know if we ever will, but I know I feel pretty damned tight with everyone who was there.

I'll post a few more times--I want to talk about all the people who made fantastic art for this wedding, and a little about the pre-wedding stuff, but it was way past time to get my impressions of it all down, and how much it affected it me, how much I will never forget it, how healed and whole I felt, how loved we both felt and how much belonging and acceptance there was that day. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen, who was there with us, who drank and danced and wished us well.

Once upon a time, they say, there was a girl...there was a boy...there was a person who was in trouble. And this is what she did...and what he did...and how they learned to survive it. This is what they did...and why one failed...and why another triumphed in the end. And I know that it's true, because I danced at their wedding and drank their very best wine.

--Terri Windling