By Catherine Wayland
“To my Dear and Loving Husband”
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas did it in an intimate chapel in Mumbles, Wales. The Osbournes did it at a New Year’s Eve Party at the Beverly Hills Hotel with hundreds of guests and the Village People as the featured band – yikes! Liv Tyler and Royston Langdon did it so quietly the first and second time, who even knew they had ever done it at all? But for me and my sweetie here in New York City in the year 2004, how could we renew our marriage vows? Hello mamas, May is Bridal month around here at beautynewsnyc.com, and us ole’ married gals are not going to be left out. It’s time to start bugging the papa bears about that five diamond “will you marry me again” band and let’s party!
Some folks use this celebratory renewal of their marriage vows as a chance to break out of tradition. Andy Evans and Jori Wilkinson, got remarried on a pier in Hudson River Park here in the Big Apple. Following the short ceremony, they climbed on top of a 10 foot, 3-tier cake and went flying along the river as the live figurines atop the cake. They decided to merge their special day with their participation in the Red Bull Flugtag Competition. Evans and Wilkinson were part of 36 teams competing in this goofy, fun loving event and their team name was appropriately, “Happily Ever After.”* John and I on a cake flying down the Hudson River? Nah.
Some, take the spiritual side of things more seriously the second time around. Before the tragedy of 9/11, plans were in the works for 700 clergy and their spouses to renew their marriage vows publicly at Madison Square Garden on September 22 of that year. Post 9/11, the event was moved into the following calendar year and held at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, VA. The event was presided over by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, known to the world as “the marrying man.” This multi-denominational event was meant to symbolize lifetime commitment as the bedrock of society and the common thread of all religions.** Nice, but me? Nah.
Neither of these angles fit my taste specifically. But what, what? Muddling and muddling on my own quite ineffectively, I decided to do the very quintessential New York thang – I called in the experts. When in New York…do as the New Yorkers. Instead of cooking, order in. Instead of a homespun manicure, you can get your nails done for $10 bucks on every street corner. Instead of renewal planning on my own, I called – Tentation, Potel & Chabot – New York (www.tentation.net) Ahhhh…elegance and sophistication at my fingertips. Oh yeah, and get the inside scoop on how the celebrities throw such a shindig here in New York.
Thrilled with their global reputation, I set up an interview/consultation with their leading lady on the wedding front here in New York – Paige Saleun. She was fantastic! Paige listened very carefully to all my muddlings, and then spun her magic. My wedding in 1998 had been a three day blues festival of sorts with music every night, a New Orleans theme, interesting venues, and good ole’ down South feasting that would make the Big Easy proud! My husband and I have promoted a live, blues music event here in New York City every summer for the last 10 years, so the theme and style still fit us. I posed the question to Paige of how to carry that theme through, but make it different and unique for us. She had just the solution.
First we looked at venues. I told Paige how our original reception had been held at a private club that was a mansion and I had dressed the chandeliers with Mardi Gras plumes, and the ballroom ceiling with hundreds of gold lame balloons. It was fun, it was festive. But the idea for this celebration, Paige suggested, was to maintain the colors and gaiety, but to step it up a notch in style and grace. She knew just the place to display our now wiser, but not too much older, love for one another – the Angel Oresanz Foundation Center for the Arts (www.orensanz.org). Exquisite is the word that comes to mind. This Foundation is housed in one of the oldest surviving synagogues in New York, and from every angle, heavenly. By the way mamas, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker got married here – oh la la!
Because the venue felt both celebratory and spiritual, we decided we could do our ceremony right there at the Foundation. My husband and I are members of the Unitarian church, both here in New York and in Rhode Island (where we were originally married and still spend every summer). We would of course ask our New York minister to attend and preside over the ceremony. For ideas on the content of a renewal ceremony, I would meet with our minister. But I also did some research on the web, and found this great site, www.thisischurch.com for ideas that I could share with my readers. For help with writing our vows, I found a great book at Barnes and Nobles, entitled, Wedding Readings, selected and with an introduction by Eleanor Munro. Of course, Jax and Brodie would be included. John could hold Brodie and I could help Jax hold onto our ring pillow.
Now for the food. Both John and I love to cook and love to eat. Food is important. Every year we go to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and every year we come home talking about music acts and the food – “did you hear that set by Olu Dara?” “Yeah but did you get a load of that Crawfish Etouffee’?” Mmmmmmmmhhh. Again, Paige made a brilliant suggestion. Since we had done buffet style for our original wedding, what about a sit down for our renewal ceremony? Yes! That sounded wonderful. The Angel Oresanz Foundation accommodates a wonderful long table right down the middle of the room with beautifully lit candelabras. The menu would be four courses. First course, a Petit Trio Sampler of Oysters Bienville, Crawfish Etouffee’, and Shrimp Cocktail New Orleans style, all stuffed in a hollowed out Mirliton. The second course, an entrée dish of Collard Greens Stuffed Filet of Beef, smothered in Mama’s Gravy with Truffle Mash Potatoes and Vegetable Sauté. The third course, a New Orleans Petit Shrimp Remoulade Salad. And finally number four: dessert. Now, here’s a correction from our wedding. Although we had not wanted to traditionally make every one stand around while we cut our cake – we did want our best man to tell the New Orleans tradition of the King Cake with a toast before the chef started to pass it around. That never happened. So here for our grand finale, we would cut into a fantastic, red velvet wedding cake while we loving explained New Orleans tradition. For our guests, individual King Cakes dripping in Crème Anglaise with Fresh Berries would be passed. And, because dessert can never go on too long, after coffee, we would pass around the table a Petit Fours tray filled with Meringue Kisses, Sables, Aunt Sally’s Pralines and of course, traditional Petit Fours.
But let’s not forget about the dancing. For our original wedding, our invitations had two dancing figures on the front of the invite representing the West African tradition of dancing every evening to celebrate the day. Inside the invitation, I had written a love poem to John about looking at life from every angle together by “dancing, dancing dancing.” John and I, although not at all graceful, love to lumber around festivals, streets, and our living room, dancing. We even have a dance of joy that we dance when someone has a victory in the family. So the dancing and the music for our ceremony was critical. Who did we know who could make us weep with a ballad and jump up and down with joy? Terence Simien, that’s who. We love him! Terence has been serenading us for years! My favorite CD of his is “There’s Room For Us All.” (to find Terence, go on www.skylineonline.com). Ever hit a wall with your man, just pull him off the couch to a little “Groove Me,” and well, mamas, things will be fine.
To sophisticate our festivities of dance and celebrating, Paige thought we could dance with masks (bal masque) to make it more Old World elegant – more sexy, more mysterious. I loved it. I loved every single detail as much as my first wedding. Brava, brava Tentation, Potel & Chabot – New York. Special thanks to mama Paige (Paige has a wonderful, beautiful daughter named Ainsley).
Well Mamas, I write this latest installation of beautynewsnyc.com from my hotel room in New Orleans. How appropriate. Right now, Jax is dancing around the room in a purple, gold, and green, Mardi Gras boa – and laughing hysterically. The love of dance continues in our family. We are here to introduce Jax to our year’s long tradition of attending the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. And Brodie (that’s the name we picked for our new baby boy) is here with us as well. I plan on wrapping my growing belly in beautiful African sarongs and twirling around with the best of them! I wish you were all here with us!
* The Daily Star Online, The Newspaper for the Heartland of New York, Thursday, October 2, 2003
** THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Published 4/28/2002