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Wandering: a new york city wedding

September 17, 2010

This was one wedding Martha Stewart will overlook.  She’ll adjust her teeny reading glasses and shuffle to the next couple in the review pile.  Not because the wedding wasn’t poignant.  It was.  Not because the details weren’t perfect.  They were.  Not because we didn’t all wish it had been our own weddings.  We did.  The Watson-Carl wedding of 2010 is simply unsuitable for the pages of Wedding magazine.  Sure, the spreads would look perfect, the pages would be clipped and folded in brides’-to-be idea books, and vintage Parisian postcards would be all the rage as place holders for upcoming wedding seasons.  No, Martha Stewart won’t be able to get a handle on this wedding because it won’t replicate well.  It won’t survive mass production.  The wedding surpassed boilerplate perfection to climb into the rare, unpopulated ether of personalized perfection.  Copy that you can’t.

This was the wedding of Anna and Brandon.  And in that, it stands alone.

Rehearsal at Blue Angel Wines in Brooklyn

I think those of us fortunate to circle like satellites in the orbit of Branna (their moniker, not mine) knew we were involved in something special from the moment someone shoved chilled glasses of wine in our hands to walk down the make-believe rehearsal aisle created in the backyard of Blue Angel Wines in Brooklyn.  As the wedding party broke into conversational chunks along the Williamsburg sidewalks between Blue Angel Wines and the sultry French bistro, Le Barricou, rehearsal dinner locale, I could almost see the magic brewing, creeping like foggy tendrils between our ankles, teetering as they were in heels.

Rehearsal dinner at Le Barricou in Brooklyn

The magic, assuming the shape of robust fog, rolled in big-time for the wedding.  As rain made spastic attempts at frizzing our hair on the mad dash from taxi cab to the front door of Studio 450 on West 31st street, we bridesmaids couldn’t help bemoaning for the twelfth time in twelve minutes that the 75-degree sun of the previous day had mistakenly graced the wrong wedding day. After a s-l-o-w elevator ride to the penthouse, floor 12 please, the view stole our complaints.  Stepping out into a world of white—white floors, white walls, white ceiling—we realized that the weather had coordinated with the wedding planner all along.  Vast expanses of windows framed views of mid-town Manhattan.  The magic fog muted all colors, draped distinguishable landmarks in coquettish costume, and floated the wedding on an ethereal barge far out in misty seas.  Replicate that, Martha.

Beauty runs in the family. The mother of the bride zips up the gown while the sister of the bride (and maid of honor) assists.

Anna was the perfect bride.  Not because she looked stunning.  (She did.)  Not because she thought of everything.  (She did.)  Not because she made everyone, down to the tiny flower girls, feel immensely loved.  (She did.)  Anna was the perfect bride because she smiled, widely and infectiously, through all of the preparations, radiating a joy that is unique to a bride on her wedding day and twists the hearts of all who glance her way.  Anna was the perfect bride because she cried, slightly and infectiously, the moment her eyes landed on Brandon waiting for her at the end of the aisle.

Brandon was the perfect groom.  Not because he looked handsome.  (He did.)  Not because he was everywhere, tweaking the final details.  (He was.)  Not because he made everyone, down to the caterers and photographer, fall a little more in love with Anna.  (He did.)  Brandon was the perfect groom because even in a room packed with people vying for his attention, he had eyes for no one but his bride.  Brandon was the perfect groom because on the day when he pledged his life to Anna, the words he spoke immediately took up residence in his actions.

The vows were perfect.

And in my ever-so-humble and not-at-all-biased opinion, the wedding party was perfect.  Since the bridesmaids have all made sworn vows to reunite in the City for Branna’s anniversary (I know, just how the newlyweds want to spend their anniversary), I think it’s fair to assume the Bridal Party Sorority was a raving success.  If a measure of a person can be found in the person’s friends, I think Anna and Brandon are pretty fantastic individuals.  Adorable, navy, postage-stamp size cocktail dresses from Zara masqueraded as bridesmaids dresses and snazzy suspenders lurked beneath the dark coats of the groomsmen.  The groomsmen’s choice in buttons and the bridesmaid’s selections of jewelry were as unique as the individuals sporting them.

The personal touches didn’t stop with buttons and jewelry.  Anna and Brandon’s wedding is the perfect example of how, even in New York City, a wedding doesn’t have to wring out a fortune from the father-of-the-bride’s wallet.  The flowers, loose, bohemian, gorgeous visions of white, cream, and green, were assembled (borrowing some of the magic of the day, I’m convinced) by Janice Liao, a friend who was making her flower-arranging debut with the help of armfuls of Chelsea Flower Market blooms.  A string trio serenaded the wedding ceremony, and a jazz band handled the cocktail hour, but the musical scene was stolen by Eric Marshall, friend of bride and groom, who consented to arrange “Wake Up” by the Arcade Fire as the wedding processional.

And the reception.

Restraint, I submit, made for a stunning reception.  Anna and Brandon selected a simple black-on-white theme for their reception decorations, a decision blessed by both fog and blackening night.  With such a simple color palette, the temptation is great to add a bit of spicy zest here or a zing of color there.  They restrained.  With only a few hints of green in the wedding bouquets and modest arrangements on the tables, the spread remained an elegant, arresting black-on-white.  Even the place cards, vintage post cards hand-selected by the bride from the bouquinistes peddling wares on the quais of the Seine, were brilliantly turned toward the guests so that only the white backs with black handwritten table assignments showed.  Such restraint.  Such perfection.

A glance from the other side shows a veritable riot of color.

The menu was nothing short of what you could expect from a bride who has started her own catering company and served dinner to UN delegates.  An heirloom tomato, mozarella, basil salad first graced our plates by showcasing produce from local farms.  Next came a perfectly-pink grass-fed New York strip steak served with sausages and drizzled with none other than the bride’s chimichurri sauce.  Never one to remove the comfort factor from fine dining, Anna also chose to serve family-style sides (could you pass me more of the squash, please?) of locally-sourced sweet potato purée, green beans and peppers, and an arugula salad with mushrooms and fresh parmesan shavings.  Dessert came compliments of Billy’s Bakery in the form of wedding cupcakes.  And the wine flights?  Could have been Jesus’s encore wedding miracle performance.

As in all other aspects of the wedding, Anna and Brandon managed to elevate the customary bride-groom childhood slideshow to new heights.  Thanks to Davis Watson, brother of the bride and videographer extraordinaire, the slideshow launched with hilarious home videos of young Anna and young Brandon lip-synching 80s hits (usually forgetting or mangling altogether the lyrics).  With editing finesse, Davis clearly revealed that this was one couple meant to be.

An additional treat was in store for wedding guests.  Brandon and Anna have the best (read that in the tone of a breathless tween gushing about meeting the Jonas Brothers, as in, THE BEST) engagement story.  And of course, being the planner, schemer, and dreamer that he is, Brandon managed to have the Parisian engagement captured on video.  The resulting film left all of us blinking, spell-bound, and questioning, “Did we just see a movie, or did that really happen?”  Yes.  It really happened.  For more details, I invite you to visit the happy couple’s wedding website, which appears to be professionally created but was just thrown together by the talented groom in his spare time.  Taking notes, Martha?

Snap.  Flash.  Click.  Wedding photos took place on the rooftop terrace stretched across the sparkling New York City skyline.  While I worried about my heel snagging between the floor boards and plummeting to my death all of one story down to the eleventh-floor promenade (only for you, Anna), the wind whipped our dresses around our thighs and tangled the tresses of the bride’s up-do (twirled into a perfectly loose chignon by her talented hairdresser friend and bridesmaid Anna Thiele).  Brandon was braver than I and actually begged his groomsmen to lift him up on their shoulders just at the edge of the terrace.  The photographer zoomed in for a close up.  The photographs from the wedding, the amateur shots making speedy rounds on Facebook these days, will capture frozen slices of the magic that occurred on September 12, 2010.  They fail to capture the living, breathing, loving magic that is Anna and Brandon.  My words fail, too.

Leaving the wedding, guests lingered for a moment to shoot playful photos with a Polaroid camera requisitioned from 1982 for the occasion and tape the plastic squares into a scrapbook, scrawling words of love and well-wishes with permanent markers.  (See?  Black-on-white theme continued even to the guest book.  Such restraint, I say!)  The final parting gift from the newlyweds flanked the elevator doors: mini champagne bottles and small packets of homemade chocolate chip cookies (yes, the bride actually baked all 15 dozen just days before her own wedding.)  And this is where I’ll do you a favor, Martha:  Move on.  Find someone else to feature in your lovely, inspiring magazine.  Because no matter how hard your readers try to replicate Branna’s wedding, they will fail.  Sure, anyone can provide champagne and cookie favors to the guests.  But no one else can have the story that makes such gifts immensely personal and special to the wedding couple.  It’s a story of newly hatched love, stressful work days, hopeful waiting with champagne in hand, missed connections, late-night batch of cookies warm from the oven, and, finally, at the stroke of midnight, connection made.  Champagne and cookies enjoyed.  And years and months later…a New York City wedding.

Anna and Brandon, enjoying your honeymoon days in idyllic New Zealand, I love you!  Thank you for allowing us fortunate guests to share in your lives, love, and wedding.  Just as you wanted, it was epic.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 3:46 pm

    What a lovely wedding review! Oh how I love sharing special wedding days. Mine was like that over 24 years ago, and friends still tell me it was the best wedding they ever went to. New york is also such a stunning backdrop for a wedding! 🙂 Alex@amoderatelife

  2. September 20, 2010 9:27 am

    Thanks for sharing an amazing wedding involving a bride I love and think is amazing, in a review that matches the quality of the wedding.

  3. Janel permalink
    September 24, 2010 8:50 pm

    Beth, this was so beautiful to read. I feel like I was there, tiptoe-ing about. I have goosebumps and the ever so slight urge to get teary. Thank you for sharing


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