Start spreading the views – Part Three
It took a visit from Charlotte to remind me that I owe you all the conclusion to this story, so, finally, here it is.
The drive near the wedding destination was lovely. The entire road is flanked by magnificent estates, some with buildings that have been in place for a century or more, others newly built to the same level of grandeur. All hovering around 100 acres. If you aren’t a billionaire, you don’t even house hunt here.
We dropped the bags at the hotel (I had a bed added to my room for Anna, who would get dressed with me), threw ourselves into the shower and then jumped back into the behemoth to race to the outdoor dinner.
The bride and groom thoughtfully put two bottles of champagne, slippers and robes in every guest room at the inn.
The roads are very small, old and winding. And, of course, just when we got there, the skies opened and poured rain. I didn’t even try to get any pictures of the festivities that night, but it was all a joy. Good food, great family and friends, the best atmosphere right on the water. It was perfect.
The next day we decided to take advantage of nearby shops and grab lunch in town. What a charming village! I purposely left my wallet in the room and took cash to protect myself from what I knew could be a feast of riches to which I am all to prone to indulge. It was a good thing too. All I managed to do was snag a pair of Donald Pliner shoes (he is one of my favorite designers along with Sesto Meucci and Jon Josef.) Naturally I signed up for the mailing list at the store and so now I can walk leisurely through the inventory from home. Sort of defeated my initial admirable discipline, lol.
We still couldn’t decide what shoes Anna was going to wear, being the fussy little fashionista she is. We had to get back and drop her off for the rehearsal and photographers at my soon-to-be nephew’s home.
When in doubt, have several choices, so Anna and her retinue arrived to great applause with a trail of people carrying her outfits. We had to keep reminding her that my niece was the real star of the weekend.
It is hard to know what to expect when invited to a series of events like this one. None of us could anticipate it. Now, I did grow up with people who ran in these circles. I was no stranger to the country club, winter in NYC, summer at the summer beach estate crowd. But nothing prepared us for the scale and imagination that went into this weekend. Suffice to say, we spent a small fortune to go — we could have had a brand new car or trip to Europe for the same money — but we all came away feeling like we were royalty and every penny was worth it.
Why? Not just the sumptuous nature of each element of celebrations, but the warmth, welcome, tender and thoughtful care my new nephew’s family put into the entire occasion. They truly are the epitome of kindness and generosity. I like to think that this is the soul of the progressive movement: sharing one’s success with others, unselfishly. My niece is an only child and she just joined a large, effusive, enveloping family who treat her (and us) as if they have known us all our lives and are meant to look out for us as well. She and we couldn’t be luckier and Deanna, Al and I are so grateful that we decided to go and bask in it all.
As is typical in the summer in the Northeast, it rained off and on that Saturday. I had come prepared with fancy umbrellas and sparkling party shoes that were water-resistant. I nervously asked my niece if they were prepared for rain. Hah! The minute the words escaped my mouth, I knew the answer. She said, calmly, with a twinkle, “Aunt Beth, not one drop of rain will touch you, unless you want it to …”. Hmm. How’s that possible, I thought, as I imagined the long driveway and looked out at the deluge during the party the night before. But, when we pulled up, no less than six attendants rushed to the Murano, each opening a door and over head were the most enormous umbrellas I have ever seen. They looked like mobile canopies. I daintily stepped out, bravely leaving my own coverings behind, donned my original shoes — white and glittering — and was ushered to a long, covered path, festooned with lush flowers and sparkling lights, covered in rich white velvet.
In front of me was a long white line of guests, all of us (save one — more on that later) obediently attired in satins, silks, organzas, linens of every shade of neutral you could conceive. There were hundreds of us and the effect against the white mansion and white foam of the sea beyond the lawns was magical. On those lawns were giant decorative bins equipped with individual oversized silk flowered parasols in white, just in case we wanted to wander around the estate, rainless! Amid the lavish seating areas with — presumably — water proof couches, lounge chairs and oversized cushions — were attendants bearing white and gold platters of food and drinks. Also were flower-twined swings and entertainers. Some on stilts, some with animals, others juggling attired in top hats and bedazzled satin costumes in white, black, and deep blood red. It was a visual thunderclap as we rounded each curve to a new and more astonishing scene.
The family constructed an entire raised building on their rear lawn abutting the Atlantic, just for this one party. It had soaring ceilings, was entirely made of glass walls on all sides, held together by a slender steel frame. The floor was carpet and wood. There were dressing rooms with water closets attached, for ladies and gentlemen and inside were gleaming black and white tables interspersed with full sized game animals from Africa.
It looked like a safari soiree, exotic, mysterious, and celebratory. You couldn’t see one end from the other. And on one side stretched the glittering Atlantic, a calm steel gray but dotted with white foam that made it seem as if the ocean was dancing to the live music all afternoon, as it melted into evening, then a black velvet night when the stars appeared somehow right on cue, the clouds having long swept past.
All afternoon and evening, attendants circulated with beverages and delicacies. It seemed impossible to imagine eating dinner, but when the time finally came to sit down, we were treated to the meal one would expect. Sometimes it is hard to envision how food can be elevated to such a new height as to be memorable, but they achieved it this night. Honestly, despite all the places I have eaten, all over the globe, this might have been the tastiest yet.
People milled around, going in and out, all evening long. As the sun set, there was entertainment everywhere you wandered, on the estate. Of course the bar was open, but beverages appeared at your wrist just as you were thinking about them, no matter where you went. Every need was anticipated and beyond this, there was the clear intention of creating joy and delighting the guests. There was not one mishap through the two weeks over which the events stretched, right up to the time we boarded our plane again, filled with memories of the East Coast and our good fortune to have been invited to what has to be the most lavish and imaginative wedding ever held on this continent.
I can’t even begin to describe the live (of course!) music. To start the evening off there was a full classical orchestra. That was followed by blues singers with appropriate instrumental accompaniment, including two grand pianos. Next up: jazz, hip hop, rap, oldies, rock, pop — the stage changed continuously, and if you slipped outside and made your way back along the covered path, you would be privy to acts lining up and ready to file in and perform. We got to see a lot of them up close and personal this way. Everyone was moving, hopping, snapping their fingers, dancing — the entire place was alive with activity and fun, all evening and into the early hours of Sunday morning. Some people never left.
There were guests of honor, celebrities (some of whom you may recognize in these frames), lots of family and friends. The bride and groom had an enormous retinue with 22 bridesmaids and grooms who had all been treated to a day of pampering in preparation for the multiple events. Most of them in their 20s, it must have seemed like a dream.
At some point during the evening, after the dinner plates (including divine desserts) were cleared away, long tables appeared with a variety of stations serving cheeses, cotton candy of all flavors, ice creams with a wild array of toppings, chocolate truffles circulated on gleaming trays, and there was a coffee and tea bar, along with the ever present aperitif bar. No one seemed to notice the time. Everyone was up and dancing or outside enjoying all the entertainment.
It seems that dancing and celebrating burn off calories effortlessly. I didn’t think I could consume another bite but I did and so all this bounty was welcome. Our hosts thought of everything. There was even a design your own candy area.
When I say there was entertainment, I am vastly understating what took place. After multiple musical groups, Cirque du Soleil appeared and performed a private show, customized to the Safari theme. Everyone stood in a circle and gaped.
Aerial acts dropped from the ceiling noiselessly. On the stage we were treated to snake charmers and contortionists. Out on the lawn were people tossing fire balls into the air and juggling them amid self-illuminated gigantic glass globes that glowed and created an other-worldly environment that is hard to describe in mere words. There were also flaming swords that performers dipped in and out of their mouths, making all of us swallow hard! At least, I know I did.
In the midst of all this excitement, we met with some amazing close friends of the family and got a chance to chat with them. They are such lovely people.
It was a rare opportunity to thank two Presidents (one who served eight years and one who won but was denied the chance to move this country forward, by an unfortunate vestige of colonial political atrophy) for their lifelong service to this country and humanity. Here is the one person (apart from the bride and groom) not attired all in white (above). This was likely so the secret service could identify his whereabouts at all times.
Anna was one of the stars of the evening. She not only led the wedding ceremony, she danced her heart out and the groom announced her to be the evening’s winner. That is just how generous he and my niece are. At one point during the evening, Anna showed off her break dancing skills as a circle formed around her, everyone clapping and laughing uproariously.
I left just before midnight and the party went on until Sunday morning. At some point during the evening, before I left, I watched as three enormous barges appeared on the water. Within fifteen minutes, the most spectacular display of fireworks I have ever witnessed, began. All custom to the symbols the bride and groom designed for the event.
I only had my cell phone camera and could barely do justice to what unfolded. In hindsight, I could have brought my camera — other people did. But, the family’s photographers later shared over 1500 stunning photographs with us. I printed and framed a number of them so Anna would have them for the future when she realizes how fortunate she was to be a part of this blowout revelry.
It was hard to drag ourselves away. Deanna and I left “early”. Al and Anna stayed all night and were up and at it the next morning. Everyone was invited back to the estate for a sumptuous breakfast, laid out on spotless white linens with all the offerings one could imagine. Omelets to order, of course, crepes, pancakes, meats, all sorts of cheeses, fruits, potatoes, breads and pastries. You name it, it was there. We got a chance to tell the groom how touched we were by all of it, but most of all, the vows he wrote to my niece. If I were to identify the most moving and eloquent tribute to a woman ever written, his speech would have to be in the top ten. It was poetry and magic. I hope he will always view her this way. She deserves it.
We had to be at Newark Airport by 3 pm, so we grabbed a quick bite (delicious!), said our goodbyes and rushed back down that tortuous Route 95, again stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. I thought LA was bad! Before we left, we took some last pictures of the spectacular home that my niece will be enjoying for the rest of her life. I cannot tell you how happy I am for her that she will share the long and unpredictable life’s journey ahead of her with these supportive and caring people. The way they embraced all of us, and especially Anna, shows you who they really are. Money does not mean selfishness. Selfish people choose to behave that way. Generous people choose the opposite in all respects. If we learned nothing else, we saw that in real time, vividly illustrated.
As we boarded the plane, exhausted and yet exhilarated, we chattered about the events of the past two weeks. No trip we have planned (one upcoming to France) could possibly match this one. We all got to return home where we feel the most like ourselves. We met people who embodied all the best values in the world (kindness, love, welcome, generosity, compassion, joy, positivity, inclusiveness) and even got a chance to thank people we admired from afar. It was an opportunity to see what the imagination can do when the budget is unlimited — that was just for fun. We all agreed we can take pleasure in simple things. But it’s nice to indulge our fantasies, every once in a while, or once in a lifetime.