Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Brother's Wedding

I recently went home to Wichita, Kansas, to attend my brother Andy’s wedding. He and his wife already were married two years ago by the Justice of the Peace but this was their church wedding. Andy was a soldier in Iraq and then went back for a couple years to work as a contractor, and that’s where he met his wife Melody (aka Mhedz – pronounced like Meds). She is from the Phillippines and was also working in Iraq as a contractor.

Melody & Andy
 I met Mhedz a couple summers ago when she came along with my Dad and Step-Mom (Andy’s Mom) for a visit to Chicago. We had a great time and I was sad to see her go. She’s a total sweetheart, has a wicked sense of humor, is full of energy, and loves kids. I always wanted a sister and am glad that when I finally got one, she rocked!
After the Rehearsal (impromptu bachelor party w/no strippers - this is Andy, Elizabeth [cousin] and I)
Friday we had the wedding rehearsal, which was a comedy of errors because hardly anyone knew what they were doing, most were unfamiliar with a Catholic wedding ceremony, and the 90 minutes promised for practice & guidance within the church was cut down to around 30 minutes. I think maybe the church was double-booked as there were little girls in elaborate white dresses all over the place – 23 people were being baptized that day! We ended up going outside to practice everyone’s roles and joked about finding a Catholic wedding that night to crash so we could watch someone else do it the right way.

Matron of Honor
Saturday was the wedding, and it was beautiful. The matron of honor realized at the last moment that she wouldn’t be able to take photos of the bridal party walking down the aisle because she was part of the bridal party (they didn’t hire a professional photographer, preferring to use everyone else’s candid shots) so she handed me her fancy camera & asked if I could. I was suddenly filled with terror. I wasn’t worried that I wouldn’t take good photos, but that I would be a distraction or that I’d do something offensive because I’m unfamiliar with Catholic tradition. I got the shots, though, and even when the matron of honor motioned me up onto the altar (stage/pulpit area in the church) so I could shots of the vows/rings, and the exchanging of coins (Filipino tradition), I did my job.
During the Mass

The camera took around 5 shots for every slight touch of the button, and the shutter was very loud, so I tried to time my shots during louder parts of the ceremony, like when the priest said something to the congregation an they all responded to him. The pew I was sitting on also creaked loudly every time I stood up & sat down (I only stood up to get more shots when the matron of honor gave me “the look”) so eventually I just stood against the wall so I would be less distracting that way. I wasn’t sure if I was breaking rules by being up on/in the altar, as I know some churches consider it offensive for anyone other than the pastor to walk in certain parts of the pulpit. Later on I’d handed the camera back to the MOH & she went right up onto the altar to get a shot of Andy & Mhedz kneeling, while the priest was preparing for communion. I was mad at myself because I could have been taking some great shots the whole time, but I’m still glad I didn’t commit any religious blunders.

Beautiful bride!
Another part of the ceremony that is practiced in the Phillippines is for the bride and groom to be covered in a veil & then for a string of beads called a “lasso” to be draped over their heads. This symbolizes their unity. Then while Mhedz and Andy were kneeling on the altar, Mhedz sang a song. She was facing the priest and many of us in the congregation thought the soloist up in the choir loft was the one who was singing, until we finally realized it was Mhedz. She has a great voice and many of us (myself included) got teary-eyed.

Slow-mo silliness wave
After the wedding we took photos of the wedding party & then headed to the hotel for the reception. There was a great slideshow of Andy, Mhedz, their families and their time together so far. The food was great and the bar was open – enough said! Mhedz’s friend Angela was the host of the evening, she had a schedule, a script, a microphone and the best personality EVAR. She was hilarious and had no qualms about getting people to follow along with whatever was going on – making toasts, playing games, dancing.

Uhhh . . . where did those groomsmen go? SOMEONE ddidn't want to catch the garter.
Oh, the dancing. If you know me, you know I love to dance, but it was my son Bennett whole stole the show (repeatedly) with his dancing. He’s a serious ham, loves the spotlight, and wasn’t shy about challenging the rest of us to dance battles. We Wobbled, we Shuffled, we Slid. We even Boot Scootin’ Boogied . . . well, we tried, but no one could remember how to do it. We sang into fake microphones on Journey songs, we Jumped Around, we busted out our best Molly Ringwald and got Footloose.
Break. It. Down.

Then most people left and there was a group of 20-30 somethings left to really break it down, and that we did. I lost count of the number of times the other chicks and I went to the bathroom or outside to cool down. We’d just rounded up the stray bottles of champagne & were headed to the pool when . . . tornado sirens went off!

Good times during the tornado.
We (and all the other hotel guests) were directed to a central, first-floor hallway on the interior of the hotel, where we sat on the floor, drank champagne, ate whatever snacks people had brought from their rooms, and tried to calm those who aren’t from the area & were freaked out. We were out of danger as the tornado never came in our direction, but many of us had family and friends or homes and jobs that were right in the path of the storm. From what I’ve heard so far, those we know suffered minor damage & power outages, but no one was injured or lost their home.

My brothers (Andy and Mike) are both military guys, and Mike is also a firefighter/EMT, and they basically ran the entire situation at the hotel because the staff didn’t know what they were doing. It’s great to have people who are trained & experienced in crisis situations when you’re faced with taking care of a large group of people, many of whom don’t know each other, in the face of something dangerous like a tornado. Mhedz sat next to me in the hallway, in her swimsuit & coverup, saying the funniest stuff. She’d barely eaten but people kept handing her champagne all night, so she was a little loopy. We all said that no one will ever forget this wedding!

It was a super fun couple of days, the MOST fun wedding I’ve been to, and I’m really glad I was able to be a part of it all!

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