The first time I’ve ever done something like this.
THE WEDDING DAY — “You have to be mysterious,” my mother instructed me on the the etiquette of a groom, “you have to keep your bride in suspense about whether you are going to show up or not.”
So I sat – mysteriously – in Bangor, wearing a t-shirt and ratty jeans as the rest of the souped up wedding procession and guests drove out to Trenton. Chaya and I were to be married on this day – June 28th – at her grandfather’s home on the coast of Maine.
It was the morning of my wedding day. The morning of the only day in a person’s life that has the adjective “big” attached to it.
My Big Day.
My mother, full sized sister, little Chinese sister, my big headed brother in law, and nice and nephew hustled and bustled through the morning and drove out to the coast. Myself and my father sat in the Bangor apartment drinking coffee and talking about anything other than weddings. It was the perfect sort of morning. I had a big plate of eggs sitting in front of me, and I tried to force them into a gut that I pretended was not clenched shut in nervous anticipation.
No matter how hard I tried to be cool, I could not shake the apprehension. I suppose this comes with an impending marriage. I thought of what a good story it would be to run away, but knew that it would be a far better story to have Chaya as my wife.
The wedding guests began arriving a few days before. My family got in from Western New York in the middle of the previous week. Life has been a little crazy and very good every since. I did not dare try to jump on the computer during this time — my mother would have sank her fangs into me if I even shot a glance in the direction of my great beast of solitary time pass. My Asus Eee PC sat lonely in the command center, enjoying its vacation.
Glow bowling in Maine
“I can’t believe that all of these people have traveled all this way for us,” I proclaimed to Chaya the night before the wedding at our bachelor/ baccalaureate party. We went to a bowling ally for Mini Glow Bowling. Mini Glow Bowling turned out to be exactly what it sounds like: bowling mini balls at mini pins in the dark, with glow sticks tied around your arms and legs.
It must be a Maine thing.
I spoke words of disbelief as I stared out over the crowd of people who traveled from all stretches of North America for our wedding. They had glow sticks tied all over their bodies and they kept taking pictures of me.
Chaya and I made all of these people travel. All of these people transported themselves thousands of miles as the result of a great whim of love and passion that bursted open on a mountain top in Jordan.
Even though I was drinking beer, I found this fact incredibly sobering.
I believe “wow” was the most articulate expression that I could mutter. The small little snowball that Chaya and I began rolling in Petra had grown into an abominable snowman that took on a life of its own. We were doing this, our wedding was for real — a monster that we no longer had any control over.
It is funny how humans need to have facts, speculations, and memories confirmed by other humans to make them real. I do not know how many times I have witnessed a stupid statement mutated into truth just because some jerk agreed with it. People arriving in Maine for our wedding likewise turned the proposed marriage into reality.
We were really getting married.
Chaya and I stood back and watched our friends and family Glow Bowling. I suppose people still like me. Not a bad thing to know. But I must acknowledge the possibility that my continuous proximity to cheerful Chaya perhaps makes me appear a little more likable than I really am.
My father and I eventually changed out of our well worn clothes and put on our wedding gear. My father was in a button up shirt, business man pants, and slick shoes. I dressed in my journalism suit, which would serve as the smokescreen for the antique tuxedo that I planned to strut out in for the actual wedding.
I read through the wedding plans that Chaya and I had constructed a few days before, and was taken by surprise: I had a ton of lines to recite, complete with a Hebrew prayer. For some odd reason I had not previously found value in rehearsing all of this.
I think that I am a wise man. Well, until I am on the road to my wedding with no knowledge of the lines and prayers I will soon have to recite in front of the family that I will soon be a part of. Coolness, clearly, can only go so far. Cucumber Wade was no longer as cool as a cucumber. He was panicking (coolly panicking, of course).
I inserted a cheat sheet of my nuptial lines in my pocket and studied hard on the ride out to the Bangor airport. I did not want to forget my own vows before I was to proclaim them.
We drove to the airport and picked up Erik the Pilot – my best man. We began driving out to my wedding. I tried hard to act cool about it all.
“Yeah, I’m getting married. Did you see the Stanley Cup finals . . .”
I was not cool about it.
Erik the Pilot — the best man — before the wedding
We drove by a hitchhiker holding a sign that said “Bar Harbor”:
“Hey, that hitchhiker is going to your wedding,” Erik the Pilot joked from the back seat.
I looked a little closer – that hitchhiker was going to my wedding.
“Stop, stop, stop!” I yelled in surprise. “I know that guy, he is going to the wedding!”
We picked up the hitchhiker. It was one of Chaya’s traveling friends, on the long road to our wedding.
I heard the wedding guests chanting “Siman Tov, Mazel Tov,” (“Cinnamon Toast, Muffin Top” for the gentiles) on the cliff above. They were all standing up and stomping their feet in expectation of the groom and bride’s entry upon the marriage stage. The stage was a seaside deck that looked over a cliff that was connected to the rear of Chaya’s grandfather’s home in Trenton, Maine.
I am the groom.
I am standing on the rocky shore of the Atlantic ocean below the cliff, out of sight of the wedding party. I am sitting on a rock with my mother and father. It is raining and my mother is trying hard to give me the impression that she is not fretting about the fact that her sharp, new wedding dress is getting spotted with rain drops.
The entry of the groom from the foot of the cliff was to be a great surprise.
I tried hard to light my pipe with a match in the strong sea breeze and sideways shooting rain. Somehow I managed.
It was now time to go on. I stood up from my place on the rock, hugged my parents for the last time as a single man, and began my accent of the steps that lead to the top of the cliff. My father lead the way, and my mother hung on to me, arm in arm.
I was wearing an antique tuxedo, a bow tie, a top hat, had a ram’s horn stuffed immaculately into my belt, and a funny looking wig plopped over my otherwise bald head.
I figured that I needed some sort of special surprise to usurp the otherwise prim and prompt appearance of my dress. I could only hope that my bride would not take my humorous jest for treason, throw down her bouquet, and run in the opposite direction. I stood on the verge of a risk that could potentially burn down the wedding, but it was one I that found worth taking.
I had a deep suspicion that my bride would expect nothing less.
The wig looked remarkably like the hair that I sported as a 15 year old . . . well, before I accidentally lit it on fire trying to smoke marijuana out of a folded up Chi-Chi’s place mat in Erik the Pilot’s garage. The Pilot was right there to save me though — I still remember the look on his face as he beat me on top of the head trying to stifle the flames — but my long, beautiful head of hair was sizzled. The wig was the perfect reparation for the misdeeds of my adolescence. It is only a pity that this flash of nostalgia had to come out on my wedding day.
I bought the wig at the party store among a wave of laughs and giggles from my father and Chaya’s brother, and an oath of secrecy was taken that we would not mention it to the more sensible sects of the wedding party.
It was a special surprise after all — even baldos should have hair on their wedding days.
I was nervously puffing at the meerschaum pipe that Chaya bought for me in Turkey as we climbed the stairs to the top of the cliff. My father lead the way and my mother walked at my side.
In a moment, I was on — standing proudly in front of a crowd of people whose job it was to look at me. I was the show. I tried to cast my gaze upon some familiar faces in my search for bearing. I tried hard to act cool. I rested my hands upon my hips and took a few last puffs on my pipe. I was nervous.
I then removed the ram horn shofar from my belt and turned towards the sea. Calling out my bride with this horn was her signal to join me on the wedding stage. I put the ram horn to my lips just as my best man, Erik the Pilot, whispered a well timed “oh no.”
In the days leading up to the wedding I had been practicing my shofar blowing techniques diligently, and had just mastered it in the empty moments of that morning.
With my best man’s lack of faith in my shofar blowing ability, my confidence withered. At his “oh no,” I choked. A windy farting sound emitted from the ram horn, and I hastily halted the disaster of this errant blow by passing the instrument over to Erik the Pilot. He proved to be a superior shofar blower.
He blew out a loud bellow from the horn and called out my bride for me. I suppose this is what best men are for.
At this signal, the crowd broke out their kazoos and took up the tune of “here comes the bride.” The kazoo music was good enough to lure the bride from her lyre, and she stepped out onto the wedding stage from her hidden location in the adjoined house.
There she was — My Bride.
She was beautiful.
She was wearing a fake mustache.
Chaya looked at me, I looked at her — [a moment of suspense] — then she cracked at smile at my hair. I laughed at her mustache. The crowd laughed at both of us.
We had clearly met each other’s match: between her fake mustache and my wig we found our gags neutralized. I raised Chaya’s veil and removed her mustache. Chaya took off my top hat and removed my wig.
And with my little Chinese sister crying loudly about being cold, and my dog Sage and little nephew bringing up the wedding rings, Chaya and I were married in the rain.
I stomped the glass and kissed my bride.
After a long journey that began in Nicaragua in ’06, recharged last autumn in Brooklyn, and then took us through the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East only to arrive frantic and pregnant in Maine . . .
Chaya and I are now man and wife.
The Ketubah was signed, the marriage license was officially stamped, and our wedding consummated by running away together arm in arm.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com is now a married man.
Waiting for my bride
Chaya waiting to be lured from her lyre by the sweet sounds of a kazoo orchestra
Vagabond Journey artist, Just Catania, with his girlfriend, Helen playing a kazoo
My mustached bride walking down the aisle to kazoo music
Kissing the bride?
Breaking the glass
Becoming man and wife
Photos by Marissa the Circassian and Josh Park.