It had been decades since I’d attended a New York wedding.
We arrived at 6 p.m. to a spectacle of characters making their way toward the red-carpeted entrance of Bellport Country Club. It was a balmy evening here on the south shore of Long Island and these arrivals were too good to miss. Everyone was already snapping pictures.
There was Wonder Woman and Batman, Captain Jack Sparrow, Uncle Fester (with light bulb) and Wednesday. There was my sister as Mary Poppins, her daughter as Minnie Mouse and my youngest sister, her husband and daughter as the Frankenstein family. I went as Mother Nature and the husband as a leathered biker.
My brother and his bride met on Halloween four years ago. So it was fitting, when they decided to wed, that they do so on the anniversary of their first encounter. And that their wedding be a masquerade ball.
My brother, Phil, is actually my half-brother and the same age as my son. My dad and stepmom both died by the time he was 13, and it was decided that he go live with our cousins. We don’t see each other much. I guess you could say that, until last year, we were estranged. My sisters and I were so glad to share in his wedding.
Phil was dressed as a prince, and Pam, his bride, as a princess. The wedding party was angels and demons. The priest who officiated drew the line at the demons: No horns or tails during the ceremony. When the bride appeared, the priest strutted half-way down the aisle and ordered, “Everyone stand up!” (He had been in the military, hence the drill sergeant tone.) Pam walked (with her father, dressed as General Robert E. Lee) down the aisle to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”
The priest was an irreverent reverend. He made the joyous occasion fun, but also became serious at the sacred moments. There was no tension about doing everything right, as there tends to be at such times. We laughed and cried.
Then we moved to a reception room, where the floor-to-ceiling windows opened to a balcony overlooking the golf course. We sipped cocktails and nibbled hors d’oeuvres while the wedding party did their photographs. We strolled about, eating stuffed clams on the half-shell, crispy breaded ravioli and miniature bruschettas. At the open bar, I ordered a Cosmo—it wasn’t strong—and (something I learned the hard way) stuck with that all night.
My favorite part was meeting up with relatives I thought I’d never see again. There was Uncle Russell, who, I discovered, is actually my first-cousin-once-removed. (His wife, Linda, explained the whole “removed” thing to me.) They were dressed as prisoners in striped garb. There was Aunt Joanie, another first-cousin-once-removed, in her 70s. She wore a hospital gown, open in the back, with a big plastic butt sticking out.
Then there were the McKaharays, from my stepmother’s side of the family and always dear to us Browns. Sean, his wife, Michelle, and his mom, Nancy, were up from Atlanta. Michaela had come from the West Virginia panhandle. Melissa and her husband, Russell, lived the next town over.
After about 90 minutes, we moved into the banquet room, greeted by a huge ice sculpture of a jack-o-lantern. The band was all set up. The wait staff was still loading the food bars with the delicacies that awaited.
I’ve been telling the husband for years that the only reason he likes the Chinese restaurants here in the Valley is because he forgets what good Chinese food tastes like. The food at the Chinese bar proved my point. All the food proved my point. Sesame chicken spiced so right and, oh, filet mignon that melted in your mouth. An antipasto bar with prosciutto, pepperoncini, salami, all kinds of cheeses, olives, crudités, breads. A sushi bar. An Italian bar. A salad bar. A carvery featuring beef, lamb, pork and other meats.
What I ate burned off while dancing. The band, the Green Machine, was mostly loud and fast. Everyone danced for hours, even Russell and Joanie, with her butt sticking out. The music stopped just before midnight. As we gathered our things and moved toward the door, there was an announcement about a bar opening upstairs for those who wished to party on.
I kissed my brother and his bride goodbye, with much talk of seeing each other again soon. Part of the reason we were estranged is because Phil is notorious for not returning phone calls or e-mails.
Ah, but now we’ve got Pam.