This is long (5000 words!)… and long overdue. Other than myself, I only know of one other person out there that would really love to have my wedding writings finished. Thanks for the reminder, Anya.
August 16, 2002
Another early morning. Luckily for Oksana, she could sleep in just a little bit longer than I could today. I got up at 7 and was out of the house by 7:45. First stop, Joe’s house – to pick up Noah and Rob.
Noah and Rob were ready to go and, because I needed to pick up some family members, we didn’t spend much idle time at Joe’s. Joe was interested in hiking the glacier with us, but he needed to go to work first to see if they could spare him for the morning. The plane was that if he could swing it, he would meet up with us at the trailhead. With Rob and Noah in two, I headed off to the dorms to pick up some rafters.
One of my college roommates, Mike, has been rafting the Mendenhall River as a summer job for the last few years. I had asked him this spring if he thought we could wrangle a free trip down the river for anyone that came up for the wedding. Not a problem – a date, time, and enough able-bodied rowers was all he’d need.
At the dorms we picked up my Mom, Don, and Mariah. Oksana, having roused herself from her slumber, showed up to escort her brother and nephew for the same trip. Everyone was ready to go except my brother, Kegan, who was nowhere to be found. He was supposed to meet us at 8am, but we couldn’t find him at the dorms. Hmmm. Maybe he thought we were to meet at the university, instead. Our train of cars drove down to the campus looking for my grandparent’s rental car – or any other sign of Kegan.
No luck. Eventually I was forced to run home and get my PDA so that we could call Kegan’s cell phone. We rang him up and found out that he was… waiting for us at the dorms! He must have shown up moments after we drove off. We returned to the dorm parking lot, added their car to our train, and made it to the head of the river just a little later than I’d hoped.
Mike was there and all ready to get everyone suited up and in the boat. While they were getting their feet sized for boots, their legs sized for rain pants, and their chests sized for life jackets, those of us not going took plenty of pictures and made plans to pick them up at the pull-out. Soon enough they grabbed their paddles, hopped into the boat, and floated up the lake towards the glacier.
Rob, Noah, and I took a few pictures of their departure and then heading off to Safeway to get some breakfast and some hiking food. While there, Noah gave Joe a call at work – no luck. There were too many important things for him to do at work.
We grabbed a breakfast of donuts (and coffee for Noah) and some food and drinks for our backpack before driving back to the same parking lot where we’d dropped off the rafters earlier. Once there I loaned out a couple pairs of shoes to Noah and Rob, we filled Noah’s pack with our supplies, and dressed in layers because the morning was a bit chilly. That was a mistake – 15 minutes into the hike and we were shedding them fast.
Ever since Rob had agreed to be my best man, he’d been looking forward to climbing up on the glacier. Apparently, the last time he was in Juneau he didn’t bother to make the trip up to the big ice cube and regretted it ever since. I had promised him that we could take some time to go up there earlier in his week-long stay, but it didn’t work out. Unfortunately, today was the last day before the wedding – I had plenty of other things I could have been doing!
On the way up, I made the decision to hike the “long” way to get up onto the glacier. We could have taken a shorter route, but it would have placed us at the leading edge of the retreating ice flow, not further back into the impressive ice field. Considering the fact that we were in a hurry, it was not the right thing to do. As the trail kept disappearing around the bend and going up, up, and up, we had to hurry. When we finally did get to the lookout over the ice, the glacier seemed impossible to reach. Steep cliffs of broken rock surrounded us and our allotted hiking time was running out.
Rob was ready to give up and head back. I didn’t want him regretting another trip to Juneau, though, so after breaking for a few granola bars and a drink, I encouraged them to “look around the next bend.” We found an area that didn’t look entirely impossible to get down. If we hurried, Rob might yet get to stand on the ice.
Using three different routes, Rob, Noah, and I reached the bottom and found an ice cave. While Noah and I had been snapping photos like mad, Rob had been saving the few remaining shots in his disposable camera for a picture in a cave. He found one and I happily obliged. And then we found another one… bigger, longer (disappearing far into the glacier), and with a much more vibrant, blue-ice background. It was tough to climb down and into, but was just too good an opportunity to pass up! We got our pictures and started the climb back up the cliffs.
Looking back the way we’d come, over steep-angled ledges and loose, broken rocks ranging in size from pebbles to boulders, I began to think about the possible consequences of such a hike taking place only one day before my wedding. Of course, the “gee, wouldn’t it be great if I broke a leg” concept ran through my mind, but I also thought about how small cuts and bruises could really mess up the wedding photos. I was extra careful on the climb back up.
The way trip back down the trail was fairly short in comparison – only about an hour compared to the three hours it took to climb it. Still, I had plenty of plans for the rest of the day and I felt a little rushed. On the last leg of the trail, while Noah and Rob entertained an Irish girl who we’d helped to find the trail again, I borrowed Noah’s cell phone and started making some calls.
First, I scheduled an appointment with The Wedding Shoppe for Kegan and Rob – they still hadn’t had their tuxedo fittings. Then I tracked down my brother and made arrangements to pick him up in about an hour. Finally, I called Oksana to check on her and see how her day was going. She was doing fine and, thank God, didn’t need any help from me before we were scheduled to meet for the wedding rehearsal at 4pm (She did have some bad news to report, though. We finally heard from Jeff, mere hours before the rehearsal was to begin, and he was still on the east coast – no wedding video for us.) I must admit that it felt funny to be conducting business while hiking in the Alaskan wilderness. Cell phones have changed many things in the last few years…
We got back to my car at about 1:30pm. I immediately took Noah and Rob back to Joe’s place so that they could grab a shower before the rehearsal. I stopped by my own apartment to do the same. A quick change later and I was back at Joe’s to pick them up again. We wasted no time before charging out to find Kegan at the dorms. Once he was on board, we headed for the wedding shop.
Noah and I were all set, so while Kegan and Rob were getting fitted into their monkey suits, we stood on the porch and chatted with Mrs. Garcia. The fittings took longer than the conversation, though, so we spent the rest of the wait downloading the day’s pictures from my digital camera to my laptop. It was gratifying to see that we had a couple great shots from the glacier trip.
When they were finished, we loaded up the tuxedos into the back of the Jeep and headed straight for the Chapel for our rehearsal. We were early – and because of that, for the first time all day, I finally relaxed. There was a flip-side, though. We were famished and there were a couple grumbles that we hadn’t stopped for lunch. With assurances that we would all have a huge rehearsal dinner, I dragged my groomsmen off to the nearby vending machines at UAS. At least we would get something to tide us over.
Poptarts and candy bars in hand, we returned to the Chapel. The first thing we noticed upon entering was that someone had set up the chapel for a concert. There wasn’t anyone around, but the front of the room had been turned into a stage, complete with a drum set, half a dozen microphones, guitars, etc., all spread out. It seemed impossible that we would be able to take our positions during the rehearsal.
While we waited for the major players to arrive, I showed my groomsmen around and we discussed likely places to put video cameras, the streaming video computer, and which window to crack open for a direct line-of-site to the university. Before we could discuss everything, others arrived and began clamoring for my attention.
There was my mom: She and Oksana (and some of the bridesmaids) were concerned about the decorating. I purposefully omitted myself from most of the discussion, but what I picked up was that we’d have two candelabra, flowers, and bows of ribbon along some of the pews.
There was Mike: His only real concern was where the piano was to be located. Oksana wanted it moved from the right to the left and we wanted to arrange it so that he could see the procession and know when to hit his cues. While we worked with other people, Mike practiced with the sheet music.
There was Bonnie: She seemed to be there simply to answer questions concerning the church. It was quite nice that she was always there when you needed something, yet never in the way.
There was Scott: He wanted to know where we wanted to place him as the photographer. Keep in mind that Bonnie (the Chapel by the Lake wedding coordinator) had told us in an earlier meeting that her one rule with photographers is that they stay in one place throughout the ceremony. Apparently, she strongly believed that a mobile photographer (or videographer for that matter) would draw the audience’s attention away from the most significant couple. Oksana and I disagreed. Discreetly, when Bonnie wasn’t listening, I told Scott to do whatever he thought would get him the best shots! Even so, we did go a long way towards compromising. For most of the ceremony, we decided that Scott would be up front by the windows, nestled into a recessed stairwell. He would have the benefits of the natural lighting (no flash), and, near the end of the ceremony, he would also be able to make a quick escape down the stairs, through the hallways underneath the sanctuary, ready to appear at the back of the chapel just in time for the recessional.
There were many family members: Most were just waiting around to find out what role they had in the ceremony and to understand the schedule of events. Oh, and we had a rehearsal dinner planned for afterwards, too. I’ll bet they were interested in that a bit, too.
And, of course, there was Dave Tubley: He was pretty much running the show once everyone had calmed down. He took the wedding party aside and we tried to find our marks in among all the microphones and musical equipment on the stage. We discussed how and where the groomsmen and bridesmaids would arrange themselves (on the stage or off? Two on the stage and two at floor level? How much room would we have?)
While we were getting our placements memorized, Oksana and I asked Dave if he wouldn’t mind making a few, last minute changes to the ceremony:
1) We weren’t too keen on having him introduce us as Mr. and Mrs. Arlo Midgett. Mr. and Mrs. Midgett would do just fine.
2) No translation during the ceremony. While planning this wedding, I always thought that it would be a great idea to integrate some Russian into our ceremony. It is, of course, a union of two cultures and I try to be continually conscious of that. We discussed having someone translate certain, key parts of the ceremony and eventually discarded the idea. My favorite, having Oksana give her vows in Russian was vetoed because of the logistics of having Dave prompt her in English (plus, Oksana was going to be nervous enough during the wedding. She didn’t want to “blank” on the translation!) Eventually we decided that the ceremony would simply be in English and that two bilingual people (Jana and Marie) would be strategically seated among the Russian-only crowd. I expected it to be quite distracting, but this late in the game there were few options left.
3) Where was the “you may kiss the bride?” section in the program he had given us for review? We were told not to worry – it would be in there. Good. I started to think this was some weird sort of corporate procedure or something… I want to kiss my bride, dammit!
A wedding rehearsal without a run-through wouldn’t be a wedding rehearsal. Dave gathered us all up in the foyer just before the entrance to the sanctuary and laid down the ground rules. It was going to go something like this:
(Mike would start us off by playing “seating” music.)
The groom and best man will wait in the foyer.
The bride and maid of honor will be hidden in a second section of the church.
The ceremony begins when the ushers begin to seat the direct family.
Noah had the honor of escorting Oksana’s mom down the aisle. The rest of the bride’s family (excluding her father) would follow.
Kegan would then escort our mother down the aisle and seat her on the opposite side. The rest of the groom’s family would follow.
Once the ushers have returned, Dave would lead the five men to the stage via the side aisle and we would take our previously established positions. (Music stops)
Once the groom is safely out of sight, Oksana would be brought in to stand with her father. (Mike begins playing Pacabel’s Canon.) Her bridesmaids would then begin to enter the church one at a time.
After the maid of honor is in her position, Hailee, our flower girl, would proceed next, throwing rose petals in her wake.
(Music changes to Wedding March.)
Oksana enters with her father and the real fun begins!
With Dave herding us, we went through the procedure once. Oksana translated for the Russian element, and everything was pretty much understood. We only hit a couple hitches. Oksana bobbled one of the lines that Dave fed her to the laughter of everyone there, and Hailee, tired after a long day, didn’t much feel like acting out her role as flower girl and shed a few tears as she went through the motions. Jennifer assured us that she would be fine during the actual ceremony, but we made a backup plan, anyway. If, come tomorrow, she still was too shy to walk the aisle alone, Sandra would walk with her.
There was a lot to remember and because of the concert setup, weren’t able to do it as it would be done the next day. Having all the music equipment on our stage bothered me, and after all this planning, I really wanted to make sure everything would be perfect! I politely put it to the group that we might want to go through the routine one more time, but everyone felt confident that they knew their roles, marks, etc. Maybe they were just getting hungry.
Before we could head off to the rehearsal dinner, though, we still had a lot of planning to discuss. Oksana and I talked to everyone and gave them different times and places to show up at the following morning. I’d be arriving at the church early for the wireless network setup, Oksana would be on her own to get her hair done. My groomsmen would also arrive early to help out, our relatives and photographers closer to the ceremony. Everyone from the coordinators to the clergyman had to be accounted for.
Finally, as things were winding down, I found time to break away and speak to my groomsmen. For all their help and for agreeing to support me on my wedding day, I presented them with the Amazon.com gifts. For Rob, season one of Andromeda on DVD. For Joe, Grand Theft Auto III, for Kegan $50 gift certificate, and for Noah, a couple DVD movies. I also had gift certificates for Mike and Scott. It felt good to reward them for their support, but I still felt that what I was giving them didn’t even come close to expressing my true gratitude.
While I was playing Santa, the rest of the wedding party was getting ready to meet downtown for our rehearsal dinner. Oksana was also in a heated discussion with her brother because he felt that his family, being unable to speak English, was being left out of the rehearsal. Oksana explained to him that we had too much ground to cover and she was just too frantic to translate every little thing for him so that he could be in on the decision-making process. Sure assured him, though, that she had told them everything they needed to know.
Finally, it was time for dinner. We split up into multiple cars for the ride downtown, and I had to divert a few people over towards my apartment before we could go. For the hike, I had purposely removed the gold watch Oksana’s father had given me as a wedding gift, but I wanted to make sure I wore it. The rehearsal dinner and the wedding itself seemed like perfect opportunities to show it off. On a whim, I grabbed my laptop, too, before getting back into the car.
The following was written after a 25-month hiatus.
When we arrived at the Prospector, it took us a few minutes to find our private dining room. Fortunately, there was a sign in the hallway that said something like “Midgett party” and pointed us in the right direction. I made a mental note to take a picture of the sign before I left… and then promptly forgot all about it.
When we entered the room, most of our family members had already arranged themselves around the table. Oksana and I were at one end, her immediate family arranged to her left, and mine on my right. At the far end, 16 seats between us, sat my groomsmen.
I settled in next to Oksana and tried to keep up with everything that was going on around me. In a room of 24 people, with Oksana and I as the center of attention, I initially felt as though we were being pulled in too many directions at once. Just as I was beginning to calm down, our waitress made her way to our end of the table and took our order. I recognized Venietia at once, although I hadn’t expected to see her until the wedding ceremony!
Venietia used to work with me at Media Services. When we were shopping around for a place to have our rehearsal dinner, I thought about asking her about the Prospector because she used to work there. When she graduated from UAS, though, she got a nice, cushy State job. I assumed that she’d left her waitress job behind, but unbeknownst to me, she was still working there part time. I bring all this up because as she crouched down take our orders, she whispered to us conspiratorially, “Why didn’t you make the reservations through me? I could have gotten you a big discount!”
Oh, well. The obsessive planner part of me was smacking himself upside the head, but with the wedding tomorrow, the real me didn’t much care. I consoled myself with the fact that other people were paying for dinner and went back to enjoying myself with my friends and (growing!) family.
As we waited for our food, I got up from my seat to get closer to the other end of the table. I stopped every few chairs to talk with someone, to make sure that they were having a good time. I had the impression that our two families were really enjoying themselves. My mom was trying desperately to learn how to say “thank you” in Russian; Lena, sitting next to me, was practicing her English; Anya sat on the far side of Oksana’s family and helped translate conversations; and my grandfather bought a round for Oksana’s brother (vodka shots) and then Andrey reciprocated by trying my grandfather’s drink – a Rum and Coke. In fact, looking around the table, it appeared that only person not having a good time was my best man, Rob.
Since it looked like it was still going to be awhile before we’d be served, I decided that it would be a good time to whip out my laptop. Despite sending out a mini-CD with every, single wedding invitation, there were still a couple people who had yet to see the video upon which I worked so hard. My mom was first among them, and as I was setting the computer up in front of her, others gathered around to watch. It went over really well. As surprised as I was that my mom hadn’t already seen the video, I was even more surprised to see it bring tears to her eyes!
As I was returning my laptop to its case back by my own seat, Oksana told me that she was going give out some gifts. She raised her voice and got everyone’s attention before handing out little presents brought over from Russia by her family– chocolate for my side of the family and small Zip-Loc bags full of candies for her bridesmaids. It went over well, but I couldn’t help but worry that my family might have been thinking that they should have given gifts as well.
At any rate, our dinner was starting to arrive and it was time to sit down and eat! Of course, conversation (translated, yet spirited!) continued while we enjoyed our meal.
As I was almost finished eating (my last dinner as a bachelor!), I happened to notice my groomsmen, Rob and Noah, talking to Venietia at the other end of the table. They were looking in my direction and it appeared as though they were making plans that might involve me. Sure enough, Venietia soon came down to my end of the table and asked me if I would take a shot of tequila with my groomsmen – on their tab.
It only took me a couple seconds to answer, but I had plenty of time to go over the implications in my head. I had already had an Alaskan Amber with my dinner and I knew that this might very well end up being more than just one shot. I would need to find someone to whom I could hand off my car keys – probably not a problem in a room full of people. I also had time to ponder my reputation as a non-drinker. I looked down the table to see Rob and Noah quietly staring at me, waiting for me to give my answer to Venietia. Was there a bet at stake here?
I turned to Venietia and said yes, I’d love to do a shot with them. She straightened up, sent a huge smile down to Rob and Noah, and left the room. Her departure was met with a mild eruption at the far end of the table that lent credence to my theory. Rob looked the most surprised; I guessed that he would be paying.
While we awaited her return, Oksana and I worked our way down the table. While we socialized, people were forming up for pictures at the far end of the room. We took snapshots of all the men, all the mothers, each side of the family. These were the same pictures that I knew we’d pose for again tomorrow in our formal wear and I wasn’t too concerned that I looked a little shaggy. Not shaving for a week before the wedding was a conscious decision on my part. My skin tends to break out if I shave too often and I didn’t want to risk a bunch of red acne glaring back from my wedding pictures for all eternity. If that meant that my likeness in the rehearsal pictures was going to be best described as unkempt, then so be it. (I also rationalized that I’d look that much better tomorrow when people finally saw my baby-smooth chin perched above a snazzy tuxedo…)
While we were socializing, Venietia returned with our tequila and some lemon wedges and salt. I made my way over to my groomsmen and found out what the all the hubbub was about. As I was sitting down, I learned the story: Noah had offered to buy some shots if Rob would drink with him. Rob, looking for a way out, told Noah that he would drink only if I would join them. I guess that, since moving to California almost ten years earlier, Rob was a little further out of touch with me than he thought. While still a long way off from even your typical casual drinker, I have at least made some peace with alcohol in the intervening years.
I asked Joe if he was planning to drink with us and he declined. Perfect. He was driving. While we lined up for the inevitable photos, Rob gave me a quick lesson downing tequila shots: Tequila first, then go for the salt on the wrist, finally the lemon wedge. All this ceremony, I was expecting the tequila to go down hard. 1, 2, 3; half a dozen flashes go off in our faces, and we’re done. Only Rob made a face while downing the shot, and while I can’t speak for Noah, I thought the lemon wedge was worse. Maybe those vodka shots with Oksana’s family helped to prepare me!
During dinner, discussion turned towards the possibility of a last minute bachelorette party for Oksana. Ideas were batted around, alcohol-serving establishments were mentioned, and names around the table were added to the list. Although I was concerned that a late night might adversely affect Oksana’s enjoyment of our big day, I fully supported her going out with her friends. Unfortunately, by the end of dinner, the plans fell through. Too many people needed to go to their respective homes first, and it didn’t appear that the real party would be able to start before an obscene hour. Ultimately, Oksana decided to call it off.
As the party wound down, I excused myself for a quick trip to the restroom. As I returned, I found my mom and stepfather in the foyer looking over the bill. My mom had decided to honor the tradition of the groom’s parents being responsible for the rehearsal dinner and was now feeling the pain. Although she wouldn’t let me see the total, I did manage to ascertain that it was it was northward of $600. That amounted to about $25 per person and didn’t include the bar tab (everyone had to fend for themselves for alcohol). I was happy to hear later that, when my dad’s parents offered to chip in, they wouldn’t let my mom say “no.”
With the bill was settled, it was time to go home. I gave my keys to Joe and we crammed 5 people into our car. Rob was still looking a little blue and I asked him what was going on. He said that during the rehearsal dinner, he noticed that he was the only one at the table that wasn’t either married or engaged to be married. I did a quick mental check of the participants, and while it wasn’t exactly true (there were a couple kids eating with us), he was essentially correct. I felt bad for him and promised to do my best to introduce him to someone at the reception tomorrow.
It was barely 9pm and perhaps because I had assumed that I would be waiting up for Oksana, I was still pretty wound up. Rob and Noah were also looking for something to do, so on the way back to my apartment, we decided that we’d at least throw in a movie.
When we got back to my place, Rob pulled Real Genius out of my DVD collection – one of our favorite movies from way back. While people settled down on the couch, I sat at the back of the room and only give the movie half my attention. I still needed to work out a few kinks with the software we were going to use on the streaming server to broadcast the wedding over the Internet. While I was working on the computer, Oksana came home from dropping off her family and began packing an overnight bag for our stay the following night at Pierson’s Pond.
With the excitement of the rehearsal dinner behind me, I began to lose energy fast. It had been an extremely long and busy day and I was crashing. I finished up with the computer and had it packed up in a box before the movie was even half over. Oksana was finished with her packing, too, and was as tired as I was. I wanted to spend more time with my friends, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay awake watching a movie I’d already seen a dozen times.
So, at about 10:30pm, Oksana and I bid everyone goodnight and excused ourselves. As we laid down to go to sleep, I could hear the booming surround sound of the movie competing with our roommate, Lonnie’s, music playing through the wall on the opposite side of our room. I worried that I’d end up lying awake all night; I’d be unable to sleep before one of the most important days of my life; I would have huge, black circles under my eyes in all of my…
I was fast asleep in less than two minutes.