Last week was the worst week of my life and the best week of my life. On Wednesday evening, my Dad passed away (a blog post for another day). On Thursday, I left for Iowa to get married. Jeanne and I had been planning our wedding since the end of September, and since the date for Dad’s funeral is up to Arlington National Cemetery and may be several months off, there was no reason to change our plans. We had planned for it to be a very small affair anyway – just us and 2 attendants – so we decided to go ahead and leave. Between the original plan and the date of the wedding, we did add one guest – a cousin who lives close enough to drive to the location we had chosen.
Jeanne & I, along with our dear friend Lorena, drove about 1/3 of the way the first day. We got back in the car Friday morning, arrived in Davenport at 2:15 pm, and met up with my sister-in-law who drove in from Wisconsin. We got there in plenty of time to pick up our license at the court house, check into the Bed & Breakfast we had found, and get to the church for a 4 pm rehearsal. All went smoothly that day, and we went to bed early to be well rested for the big day.
Saturday – our wedding day – was almost perfect. The day began with sleeping in (which we all needed), followed by a yummy breakfast casserole, cinnamon rolls and a trip to the mall to get our nails done. My color matched my flowers and Jeanne’s color matched her blouse. It had been sprinkling as we walked into the mall, but when we left, the sun was shining – yay! After a quick bite at Panera to make sure we all made it through the afternoon, we returned to the Beiderbecke Inn to get ready. Jeanne was ready first and went downstairs to wait. My cousin Michelle arrived and kept her company while our 2 attendants helped me get into my dress. Michelle then came up to see me and give me two tokens to have with me during the ceremony – a hankie that was her mother’s and a pin that was one of Dad’s other sister’s. The pin belonged to my godmother, and was a silver shamrock with a pearl at the center. Both gifts were very meaningful and gave me a sense of having part of Dad with me on this special day.
When I was finally ready, I came down to meet Jeanne. As I rounded the corner in the staircase, I could see her waiting at the bottom – her mouth hanging open as she saw my dress for the first time. I was so happy she liked it! We took tons of photos, inside and out, and then headed for the church, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, a UU congregation very similar to our home church of Neshoba.
When we got there, several cars were already in the parking lot. Our minister in Memphis had emailed the minister in Iowa to suggest that he invite members of his congregation to attend, since we couldn’t have our church family with us. When we went inside there were already 2 families and a couple of other people. More arrived before the start of the ceremony – we were amazed at how many people came to see 2 strangers get married. One couple, Dana and Betty, told us that they had been married over 2 years ago, and when they had their ceremony, they had also been together 19 years.
The ceremony itself was lovely. The minister said a few words of welcome, and talked about love. One phrase that stuck with me was he told us to “knock gently on each other’s hearts, and open them to each other in gladness”. Our friend Lorena, who we gave the title of “Best Woman”, read the chalice lighting words. Lori, my sister-in-law, who was the “Matron of Honor”, read a passage from Robert Fulgum. Following that was a prayer that Lorena and Lori read together.
Then came the vows – we had each written our own and not shared them at that point. I was already a bit teary because Lori & Lorena had each teared up a bit during the readings. I went first because I didn’t want to cry at Jeanne’s and then not be able to get through my own. Turns out I cried during mine anyway. But I got through it. Jeanne’s were touching as well, so I was glad I had a hankie in my pocket!
We exchanged rings and then all of a sudden we were married! Our recessional was “Can I have this dance” by Anne Murray, so we danced for a bit in front of everyone, and then walked down the aisle. As everyone left, we stood by the door thanking them for helping us celebrate. Several of them gave us cards, and one woman actually gave us a gift. It was a small figurine of 2 people (of indiscriminate gender) embracing – we found out later, it was crafted by a famous local artisan, Isabel Bloom.
We took more photos, went to the minister’s office to sign the paper work, and then went outside to take even more pictures. Our Matron of Honor, Lori, is a wedding photographer by profession, so she knew just what poses to capture and how to take advantage of the light. Most of the photos were taken on her camera, so we will get those after she has a chance to upload and edit them.
It was quite breezy on Saturday, so that presented a challenge, but Lori is experienced in dealing with challenging situations, so I have no doubt the pictures will be amazing. As we got into the car to leave the church, the rain started up again – just a sprinkle, but we were thrilled that it waited until we were finished with pictures.
We returned to the Beiderbecke to put our feet up and visit for a while. Michelle had brought Prosecco and sparkling pear juice, so she, Lori & Lorena toasted us and our marriage. We opened gifts from Michelle and Lorena, opened all the cards from the members of the church, and then got ready to go to dinner. Fortunately, the rain had stopped again!
We had a 6 pm reservation at Biaggi’s, a wonderful Italian restaurant that has locations around the country, but none in Tennessee, so we hadn’t heard of it before. I just found it the way I did most of the parts of this weekend – searching on the internet for “Fine Dining in Davenport”. The atmosphere was warm – literally and figuratively. We were seated near a fireplace in a back room – a round table set for 5. Lorena sat next to Jeanne, Michelle was next to me, and Lori was across the table from us – perfect vantage point for the photographer!
The waiter, a nice young man named Angel, informed us that the manager wanted to provide a bottle of wine for our celebration, so we went with Prosecco again. For appetizers, we ordered calamari fritti and lobster artichoke dip, shared around the table. Then it was on to soup and salad – I had a Caesar and Lori & Lorena shared a beet salad and a bowl of lobster corn chowder. The soup was passed around also so we could all taste it. Everyone agreed that the food was all delicious. Then came the main course. Jeanne ordered a seafood pasta bowl that included shrimp, scallops, muscles, and clams in a tomato sauce. I had shrimp & crab cannelloni in a lobster cream sauce. Michelle had chicken piccata, and Lori & Lorena each ordered a ½ order of a pasta dish – the cannelloni and a black fettucini with lobster and wild mushrooms – and then shared them. We should have all gone with 1/2 orders – Michelle, Jeanne and I all had leftovers, while Lori & Lorena cleaned their plates!
Finally, it was time for dessert. Lori had brought a stunning cheesecake made at a Wisconsin bakery, Simma’s. Besides being beautiful, with swirls and plum-colored dots that matched my dress, it was the most delicious wedding cake any of us had ever tasted! It was two-tiered, and we used the figurine given to us by the member of the UUCQC as a cake topper – it was the perfect size for the cake.
We had to say goodbye to Michelle after dinner, but it had been a wonderful day and we were so grateful she was able to be there to help us celebrate. Lori, who was doing triple duty as witness, photographer, and driver, got us all back to the B&B for a relatively early night. The drive home the next day was going to be long, so we retired to our respective rooms by 9 pm.
Even if our marriage is never recognized by the state we live in or by the federal government, we are so happy we made this trip. We have hopes that it be legal everywhere one day, but in the meantime, we know in our hearts that we are legally married and that we will continue to love each other … at least one more day than we have so far.