Deanna was waiting for me at the edge of the dance floor by the time I had quickly grabbed my suit jacket. In front of us, our friends had formed a line and linked hands, creating an extended human tunnel.
We ran through, with the yellow beam of light that had been hitting the dance floor turning into a strobe as it flashed through the gaps in between the limbs of loved ones. As we ran, faces flashed in front of us. People we went to high school with and cousins we played with at family reunions. Old college friends and friends we made at internships and at grad school. At the end of the tunnel, I see my cousin Alex holding out a white polaroid camera just before it flashes and we reach the end.
We emerged into the foyer of the Greek Orthodox Church and spun around.
“We did it!” we shouted spontaneously.
“We did it!” echoed back everybody else.
“Rice forever!” Deanna shouted purely spontaneously.
That put a finishing hurrah on our wedding, which by the end was everything we wanted it to be. Natural, simple, fun, and memorable. Like, literally memorable. As in, something we would actually remember.
We’d been told prior to getting married that many brides and grooms past have scant recollections of their wedding days. The whole thing is a flash and blur of excitement and familiar faces that it often times overwhelms a person’s ability to take it all in. That makes sense to me. You’re putting together so many different faces from so many different corners of your life, and allowing that massive and unlikely reunion to be eclipsed by the weight of the commitment which you’re about to make. I can understand why I’ve seen so many starry eyed brides and grooms seem like they’re just floating through their wedding day on a giant cloud.
But, I knew I wanted to remember this one. And I knew Deanna wanted to as well. We did what we could to capture it in every way possible. We hired our friend Becky, a great photographer, to capture it. We armed our guests with a polaroid camera. I spent the morning of the wedding, outside, deeply breathing and feeling the warm breezes of the Central Coast enter my lungs, wanting all those sensory experiences to center me.
Our wedding was on top of a small mountain overlooking the ocean-boundary of Santa Barbara. It was a perfect take off spot for paragliding, and had I known that, I might have planned a much cooler exit for Deanna and myself after we were pronounced husband and wife. Although in all honesty, I wouldn’t have changed any details about the day.
It was windy, but it would’ve taken a tornado to even come close to distracting me. I arrived an hour ahead of schedule, and mingled with all the different friends and family members coming up to greet me. Friends from New York and cousins from Illinois. We had people there from San Diego to Seoul.
I allowed myself to take a mental snapshot of all these people gathered in a single place.
Chi and Greg started to play the Ben Howard song, Old Pine. Two long-time friends at the start of their journey towards a music career. I stood next to my pastor from my college years. One of the truest things about mine and Deanna’s journey as a couple is that it is most definitely marked by the people in our lives. Thus, it took a while for our bridal party of twenty, plus our parents and nephews to walk down the aisle.
Then came Deanna. There are no words. Only the smile on her dad’s face, the scent of the ocean, and the collectively held breath of everyone on that mountain.
And of course, no wedding goes without a couple of memorable miscues. We remembered the bread and wine for communion, but not the corkscrew. Our five year old ring bearer started shouting his theory that the wind was going to blow him off of the mountain. But we still wouldn’t have changed a single detail. Weddings aren’t supposed to be pristine, just a reflection of the best parts of being alive.
A couple hours later, we made our way into the Greek Orthodox Church. Our friend Gabe emceed the reception, and called for us to enter as Mr. and Mrs. Lazaro.
We danced our first dance, and danced with our parents. Deanna’s dad gave a toast that got the majority of the people there choked up. Then the eating commenced and I got a little chance to begin trying to say hi to as many people as I could, a quest that got a little easier once our s’mores bar opened up, and people made their way outside to roast marshmallows. This ended up being perfectly timed. Santa Barbara has consistently given me the best sunsets I’d ever seen, and it didn’t let me down on the wedding day. I chatted with old church friends and took pictures with college alum and invited pretty much everybody to come visit us in Oregon.
By the time it was all said and done, our wedding was a bit of a variety show. We had a slideshow and video. The two maids of honor, two best men, Deanna and myself all gave speeches. Jihyun did a round of stand-up comedy, and Ally taught everybody a line dance. You’d think the dancing would’ve lost momentum, but we knew our friends, and the floor was never bare. I’ll always remember seeing my mom and stepdad getting down to Uptown Funk, right next to Deanna’s grandma and her boyfriend.
We left the church and sat in the Mini Cooper my mom lent us to drive off in.
“Let’s just take a minute,” Deanna looked at me.
I thought about the polaroid Alex took of us running through the tunnel of loved ones. I knew I needed to get that picture from him eventually. It’s one of those mental images that would last with me forever, and yet, I’m glad he made a physical copy.
We sought to emblazon that day into our memories for forever, and I think we did. With many deep breaths, thoughts of s’mores, or dancing songs since then, I’ve been able to conjure up visions of a windy mountain, a Greek Orthodox Church, and the best night of our lives.
I’ll be holding on to those forever.