Thursday, July 3, 2014

Twenty Plus One

I don't know why, but as I began writing this post, Sonny & Cher's The Beat Goes On popped in my head.

And it's pretty appropriate.

We married, twice, on the second day of July in 1994. Once, in our appartment, in the morning, as I fought my hangover from the night before (why I celebrated my last night as a single man in a wine boutique, across from Parliament Hill, on Canada Day, getting wasted, I'll never know), our friends showed up, in silk undergarments that we had given as gifts for helping us with our special day. In our small apartment, we were to perform a rehearsal of the ceremony that would happen later that day.

It was a rehearsal for the show, for our family and friends. But in the eyes of the law, it was the rehearsal that mattered most, for it was during the run-through where we would sign the marriage certificate. Our chaplain, Maggie, from the Unitarian Church (who agreed to marry us without any religious overtone), was only licensed to marry within Ontario—our ceremony would be held in Québec.

You would think that her presence for our wedding was a bad omen: on her first visit to our apartment, weeks earlier, a torrential thunderstorm raged overhead; on the morning of July 2, as she knocked on our door, thunder crashed overhead and a gush of precipitation fell outside, obscuring views of the neighbourhood.

With the recital done and the legal documents signed, we were wed. Coffee and breakfast for our guests, and then onward to complete final errands before the big show. A hair cut for me, a stylist for Lori. Picking up the wedding cake and flowers. Off to the bank, for some cash: crisp, 100-dollar bills for our chaplain; a crisp, 50-dollar bill for my best man—years before, we had bet who would get married first.

I lost. Or won, depending on how you looked at the situation.

The ceremony was to be held outdoors, on the grounds of the Mackenzie-King Estate, at Kingsmere, in Gatineau Park. We were the first couple to ever reserve the tea room for a wedding dinner and party. Special permission from the National Capital Commission, who owned the property, was required. We were granted not only the use of the property but access to the tea house's caterer, who presented a fabulous dinner. The only stipulation was that we had to be off the premises by 1:00 AM and, during the ceremony, we weren't able to keep visitor's to the estate away from where we were exchanging our vows.

Not that anyone disturbed the ceremony.

The ceremony was outdoors, with no alternative for the weather. No tents, no early access to the tea house, which wasn't available until an hour after the ceremony, when the grounds were closed to the public. If it rained, we'd get wet.

Thunderstorms raged during our rehearsal in our apartment, rain fell intermittently from an overcast sky all morning and into the afternoon. Forecasts called for severe weather, with the chance of hail. Indeed, some guests, who drove from Kanata to Gatineau later told us that they drove through a hail storm, worried for our ceremony.

My best man and I had our own fears as we ran our errands. Downpours forced me to resort to umbrellas (I hate and generally refuse to use them) as we ran from the vehicle to the stores, protecting my hair. We considered stocking up on umbrellas for our guests, but at this rate, the grounds at Kingsmere would be soaked and very unpleasant to stand in.

But as we crossed the Ottawa River, into Québec, the rain stopped. As we travelled north, past Hull, the clouds lightened. And when we reached the Mackenzie-King Estate, we were met with ground-drying sunshine. Even a light breeze picked up and kept mosquitoes at bay.

It was a perfect day.

Twenty years later, the beat still goes on. Not every day has been perfect, but we've managed to weather every storm and come out shining.

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