Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hitched -- Now With Photos!

Tara (a family friend) was at Jim and Michelle's wedding, taking bazillions of photos. At the brunch this morning, she gave away CDs with all the photos on them, and gave me permission to put any I wanted up on the blog.

There will be more later, but here's a first taste:

From left to right, these are:
  1. Rodrigo (who gave away the bride) and Michelle, just before Rodrigo walked her down to the arbor.
  2. Jim, Frank (the minister), and Michelle, during the wedding ceremony.
  3. Karen, Michelle, Jim, and me, in one of the bazillion formal photo sessions after the ceremony.
  4. Michelle and Jim, during their first dance as a married couple.
  5. Michelle, Jim, me, and Debbie, while I was giving my toast.
As always, you can click on any of these photos to get a larger version.


Jim and Michelle are married! The ceremony (at Pine Hills Lodge, just outside of Julian) was beautiful, and the festivities carried on until way past our bedtime – we left at 9:30 PM, and many people were still there, dancing and having a good time.

This was the first time I'd ever been the “best man” for a wedding, and I really had no idea what I was expected to do. I'd been told that my job was to (a) give Michelle's wedding ring to Jim at the appropriate moment in the ceremony, and (b) to give a toast during the reception afterwards. So I thought I'd have lots of time to take photos, and I brought my camera along. But actually there were many things that the best man was supposed to do, so I ended up having very little time to take photos!

The first photo above is of Debbie and Jim. We arrived a little early, and Jim had not dressed yet. This is the last photo you'll see in which he looks anything like normal!

There were dozens of people taking bazillions of photos at the wedding. I'm sure we'll be getting lots more photos from other people, and I'll put some of them up here. Our friends Vera and Konstantin were there (with huge happy smiles the entire time), and Konstantin took lots of photos; he's already promised to send me his...

Before the ceremony, we walked through the area where it would be held. Behind Debbie you can see the arbor; that's where the actual ceremony took place. There were over a hundred guests in those chairs (and standing behind them) just a half hour after I took this picture.

Michelle's brother-in-law (Rodrigo) was the man in charge of the male half of the wedding preparations. He rounded up Jim and I, and took us off to a cabin where we made our preparations. Jim changed from his shorts and Hawaiian shirt into his suit, and Rodrigo (who is an expert on men's clothing) made sure our ties were tied correctly, that our suits were correctly assembled, and that our corsages were pinned where they were supposed to be.

Then we had a short break as we waited for the minister to show up. Here you can see Jim standing in the doorway of the cabin, looking just a little nervous and excited. The minister (Frank) arrived a couple minutes later, we all sat down in a screened porch. It turns out that Frank is interested in technology, and when he discovered that he had a couple of geeks in the room with him, he launched into a conversation about new broadband technologies for rural Internet service. That was an unexpected topic at Jim's wedding, but I think it served to relax Jim a bit...

Rodrigo came in and led us all back to the arbor for the ceremony. Jim, Frank, and I arrived at the arbor first, and then we waited for Michelle and Karen (the matron of honor) to walk down. As we waited, we noticed that a cat had joined us at the arbor. It stood right next to Jim, facing the audience, as though he fully expected to be a part of the proceedings! We heard the wedding march first, and then we saw Michelle and Karen – Michelle was beautiful, and simultaneously happy and crying. There were many tears in the audience; all happy tears. The ceremony itself was very short and simple. When the moment came for me to give Jim the ring, I had a bit of trouble getting his attention (as he was completely focused on Michelle, of course) – I had to pull on his sleeve to get him to accept it . But I don't think anyone noticed, and soon the ceremony was over – and Jim and Michelle were officially Mr. & Mrs. Barnick!

This is when things really got busy for me, and the best man duties became numerous. The photographer organized a large number of group photos, always, of course, including the bride and groom. Every time I thought she had taken the last group photo that included me, they would call me over for another one. I think there must have been at least 50 group photos that I was in. Finally they were all done...but then the photographer (Terry) wanted to take a group photo of the entire group – over a hundred people! She went up to a balcony on the second floor of the lodge, and arranged all of us below her. We all had to squeeze together tightly to fit in her picture; to get this to happen, Terry was barking out commands like a drill sergeant, rounding up people from the edges and getting everybody squished together tightly enough.

Finally all the formal photography was done, and we were ready for the reception. All of the guests went inside and were seated, and then Karen and I walked in (and were introduced by a speaker), followed by Jim and Michelle. They had their first dance together as a married couple (very cute), and then we all sat down for dinner. It was quite a scene – Jim and Michelle circulated all through the guests, who were seated at many tables. The head table had about ten people seated, including Jim and Michelle (eventually even they got to sit down!), Debbie and I, Karen, and a few other friends and family. After our dinner, the champagne was poured, and it was time for the toasts to the bride and groom. I was the first; here's what I said:
I first met Jim over thirty years ago, as we served together in the U.S. Navy – and we both still had all our hair. Through all the years since then, he's been my best and closest friend. We've shared many things – work and play, lots of laughter, a few tears...and now we're next-door neighbors out in Lawson Valley, near Jamul.

I've had the privilege of watching Jim grow from a shy, naive kid from Minnesota into an altogether admirable (if somewhat hair-challenged) man from California. I can tell you first-hand that he's had a good life, in many ways an enviable life. But until that wonderful day when Jim first met Michelle, one very important thing was always missing from my friend's life: someone to share it with.

Now, Jim knows me very well. Right about now, he's probably expecting me to say something deeply embarrassing. And you know I could! But...relax, Jim. Instead, I'm going to be serious – at least for a moment – and quote one of my heroes.

Ronald Reagan once said:

“There is no greater happiness for a man
than approaching a door at the end of a day,
knowing that someone on the other side of that door is waiting for the sound of his footsteps.”

Michelle has brought great happiness to my friend Jim, and vice versa.

So today I toast them, and offer this wish: may it always be so.
Karen spoke after me, telling all of us the story of how Jim and Michelle first met. She had us all both laughing and crying. I'll never be able to remember all she said, or do it justice – I'm hoping that someone took a video that we can post. Rodrigo took the microphone after Karen, and before he could speak, someone in the audience begged him not to make us cry any more. He didn't.

After toasts, it was time to cut the wedding cake – and then the music started, and many people got up to dance. Debbie managed to talk Jim into dancing with her, to Chubby Checkers and “The Twist.” When she finished that dance, we were ready to drive home – too much late-night partying for us old folks!

It's Sunday morning as I write this, and in just a few minutes, we're headed back up to the lodge, where Jim and Michelle are hosting a brunch for all the wedding guests.