Hello, Hello, from the other side of the wedding chaos – and chaos is a great way to describe it. It was a fantastic three day event, with a family dinner on Friday where we met Winston’s family, and welcomed them to ours, and then the wedding day itself, and then a family brunch yesterday to wind things up. Today we’re looking at pictures, resting, laughing and remembering, because it really was a wonderful day. The weather was spectacular – completely out of character for the end of September in Toronto. Warm and sunny, hot even – and it was the perfect makings for a wedding by the lake. So many parts of the day were wonderful, but three parts stand out for me. First- Erin’s shawl was as perfect with her dress as I’d hoped- pictures are forthcoming – for reasons that will be clear in a minute, I didn’t have time to take them myself on Saturday. Then there was Hank, walking his mother down the aisle in a suit and looking like the wonderful young man he is, and then finally, there was my gift to them.
I don’t know if you remember, but two summers ago, when Kate and Carlos married, I pulled together a musical surprise for them. It was awesome – and at the time, Erin said to me that if she ever got married, she wanted a wedding flashmob too. I agreed, because frankly – I didn’t think it was going to come up. There was nobody on the horizon, and I felt pretty safe. Enter Winston, and suddenly here we are, and I realize that she’s actually going to marry him, and I’m actually going to need to come up with something and I started planning. I decided on one of Erin’s favourite songs, I hacked her invite list, I made contact with her planner, and I set the wheels in motion. An email went out to everyone attending the wedding, asking anyone who knew how to play an instrument to step up, and pretty soon the replies were flooding my inbox. This person could play the guitar, that person could play the piccolo (really) and so on, and so forth and with some work, I had a plan.
We held a secret rehearsal on Thursday night – and to get Hank out of the house, Joe and I pretended to take him sailing. I asked him if he would have trouble lying to his mum, and he said it was “no issue”. (I am a nice aunt, so I didn’t ask how much practice he’s had, but after the fact I did let Erin know he was pretty smooth, for a 14 year old, and she might want to keep any eye on him.) We picked him up, drove him across town to the marina, whacked a lifejacket on the kid, motored out of our berth, took 89 pictures of him, texted them to Erin, and then parked the boat and drove back across town in time for the rehearsal at Ken’s.
We had it down by the end of the rehearsal, but I was still nervous. Only about 20 people made it to practice, and there was more than 100 people coming to the wedding, and that’s a lot of wild cards. Would it come together? I had no idea – and I was worrying that someone would tell Erin – when this many people are in on a surprise it’s hard to keep quiet. By this time I was lying to Erin about every 15 seconds about why I was busy, I’d developed an intimate relationship with half of Winston’s family by way of email, we had an unreasonable number of Kazoos and Joe was spending all his time practising on the guitar.
I sent out reassuring emails to everyone involved assuring them that it was all going to be okay – that this thing would be more about enthusiasm than skill, that we weren’t trying to do the song perfectly, and that it was about how it would make Erin feel, not how we sounded. “Stay chill” I told people. “Relax into it.” Then I would quietly, and by myself, have another stroke.
The day of the wedding arrived, and we began to execute our plan. I went to my mum’s to be with Erin while she got ready, then split so I got to the wedding early (thus missing my opportunity to photograph the shawl, but I think the photographer got some.) There I met up with incredibly sneaky wedding planner, and we started hiding instruments with the musicians. The plan was this:
Erin and Winston would have a beautiful ceremony, as it ended, their recessional music would start, then stop suddenly.
As they grew more confused, Sam’s boyfriend Matt would pull out his ukulele and start to play. My girls (Erin’s nieces) and a few helpers would start to sing. Then Hank and Winston’s kids Edi and Zoe would start to sing. A few bars later the family would join in, then everyone, with musicians coming on board as they were able to grab their gear.
Here’s what actually happened.
(You have to click to watch.)
It isn’t perfect, I know, but it was totally perfect for Erin, and she sobbed ecstatically through the entire thing. (As one of her friends said, we know she was surprised because she was ugly crying.) You can hear her losing it through almost the entire video. I know for a fact they loved it (which is always a gamble- once you start screwing with wedding plans) not because it was musically profound, but because it was what we all wanted for them – a chance to show them we love them, and we want only their happiness.
Their whole community came together to hijack their wedding and make it a special, special day. Not a dry eye in the place.
Special thanks to the musicians for doing what they could with over a hundred rookies, and great big thanks to Hank, Edi and Zoe. They really stepped up to show their parents that they love them.
Congratulations Erin and Winston.
PS. I totally earned myself the sister-of-the-year award. You might think that would be an simple thing to nail, considering that I’m Erin’s only sister, but truthfully, she likes to mostly bestow that upon herself, and she’s pretty awesome, so the competition is tough.