Stuart and Therese’s Wedding in Ottawa

There comes a time in your life when things start getting a lot more adult than you’re normally used to. For me, it was when my friends started getting married. But I didn’t really start getting self-conscious about it until this past weekend.

On 30 June 2002, I had the honour of attending the wedding of two of my closest and dearest friends, Stuart and Therese. (They were marrying each other. Added bonus: I only had to buy one gift.)

Although Therese and Stuart currently live in Calgary, the majority of their family lives in Ontario. The entire affair was held at Therese’s parent’s house in Carp, about a 25 km drive from downtown Ottawa. It would mean, for me, a trip back east, back to Ottawa for (another) summer wedding, and a chance to meet with old friends.

I flew out on the 28th, flying to Hamilton via WestJet. (I’ve formally sworn off Tango — they might have cheaper fares than WestJet, but their total lack of service is enough to keep me going to WestJet. And I ain’t the only one.) Arriving late, I had to catch a cab to my mom’s house in Oakville. It’s not exactly a cheap cab ride.

But stay in Oakville I didn’t — the next morning, after rising, showering, and running a couple of errands, I headed out to Ottawa. It had been five and a half years since I drove to Ottawa, and I was actually looking forward to the trip. (Or I would have, if the stupid tape deck in the car had accepted the cassette adapter so I could play my MiniDisc through the radio.) But all in all, it could have been worse … the radio could have been broken.

I left Oakville almost an hour and a half late. And I paid for that delay, too. Although I shot down the QEW, the Gardner Expressway, and up the DVP without trouble, I had forgotten the cardinal rule of long weekends in Southern Ontario:

Leave early, or sit in traffic.

I got partway into Scarborough when my blunder came to fruition. Hard traffic. Really hard. And it lasted all the way out to Whitby. A drive that would normally take about 30 minutes took well over two hours.

It doesn’t take much to remind me of the reasons I no longer like Southern Ontario, especially in the summer. Topmost on my list:

  1. Traffic (especially rush hour or long weekend)
  2. Heat (especially when combined with humidity)
  3. Smell (especially when stuck in traffic when it’s really hot)

Traffic didn’t really clear up until almost Kingston. Needless to say, I found out that Dad’s Chevy Cavalier can do 130 km/h without difficulty at all.

Not having driven in Ottawa since about 1996, I had never taken the 416 before. This was a vast improvement on the old Highway 16, which was a deathtrap in winter, and just took too long the rest of the time. My speed barely slowing, I found myself in Ottawa in about the same amount of time it would have taken me on Highway 7, and without hitting traffic.

Unlike the majority of others, I would not check into a hotel during my stay. Instead, I was invited to stay with my friends Stefan and Rebecca. As I would not be hanging out with Stuart and Therese the entire time, this was a chance for me to catch up with them, and hopefully have some fun.

I soon found that my memory of their house’s location was a little off, and I ended up having to call for directions. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far off, so it only took a couple of minutes to show up. (Now I know exactly where the house is.)

Rebecca was there (Stefan was off getting supplies to begin home renovations), so we chatted a while before everyone else came home. Deciding that the sticky heat of an early Ottawa summer was not exactly comfortable, we decided that maybe air-conditioned entertainment was more appropriate. It was movie time…

Ottawa, like many other cities in Canada, is suffering from movie theatre overload. Theatres that were considered luxurious only a few years ago are now waning, becoming second-run “cheapie” theatres. (Oakville doesn’t even have a Famous Players or Cineplex anymore — only AMC exists in town, and only on the very east end.) The theatre we were in will be a cheapie in the next six months, we guessed.

Although Minority Report is an excellent film, the lack of air conditioning in the theatre didn’t make the movie any better. In fact, we couldn’t wait to get out of the movie so we could cool down after a while. I just made a point of not moving during the 2.5+ hour show.

The movie over, Rebecca, Stefan, and I opted to retreat to the relative wildness of the Bytown Market, the favoured hangout of the young and reckless. During the school year, this is where you can find the majority of post-secondary students in the National Capital Region. During the summer … well, I don’t really know where they all come from, but there’s a lot of ’em.

We wandered around, trying to find a place that had nice margaritas and not too long a lineup. It took us a while, but eventually we found the right place. But by then, it was nearly closing time. So we downed what we had, and made way for home.

The next day was the Big Day. But it wouldn’t start for me until 3:30 that afternoon. We started the morning with breakfast at a nearby restaurant. Then it was a leisurely return home, a long shower, and a very careful dressing. (Although I had to borrow one of Stefan’s undershirts to prevent nasty perspiration stains from finding their way to my shirt.)

Did I mention that it was borderline insanely hot?

Ottawa, like Southern Ontario, gets very warm in the summer. The temperature was in the low 30s, which in itself is quite warm. However, on top of that is the humidity, which cranks the perceived temperature to something like 45. (This is all Celsius, by the way.)

The trip out to Carp was a relatively easy one, even though I hadn’t been there for at least six years — probably longer. Luckily, I remembered something about the Crazy Horse Saloon, which marked where I had to turn. After that, it was just a matter of finding the right house. It wasn’t too hard — there was only one wedding on the street that day.

The Holton household was a flurry of activity, and I was one of the first to show. (Actually, I was asked by Therese and Stuart to arrive a little early. I had certain duties they wanted me to fulfill.) Therese was not quite at the panic stage yet, and seemed to be handling everything very well. Mrs. Holton seemed quite well off, as did Mr. Holton. Danica (Therese’s sister) was completely at ease. Stuart, who was roaming about, seemed a little nervous, but had planned everything out so well that he seemed barely fazed by the whole event to come.

Before long, the guests started appearing in droves. Some people, such as Stuart’s parents, I hadn’t seen in a while. Others, such as Jay, Matt, and Nabil, I had seen more recently, coincidentally at another wedding (Jay’s, to be specific). Then there were people from Guelph (where Therese when to university) that I hadn’t seen in almost six years. And then… well, the list is fairly lengthy. Suffice to say, it was good to see all.

I took my place in the front row of the guest seats, where I could get a good view of the ceremony. Stuart and Therese trusted me to take some of the key photos (I really hope they turn out), so I had to be in a place where I could see them. I also had to cue the music at the right times, and still try to look like I was just a guest. Juggling two cameras ain’t easy, especially when you don’t have the luxury of telling people not to move.

The sound of bagpipes soon wafted through the trees and under the tents — Stuart walked through the garden path, up the aisle, and to his place on the deck. After a few moments, the tune changed (and no, not to “The Marriage of Figaro” — although that would have been rather interesting on the bagpipes), and Therese walked her way up to take her place next to Stuart.

Then came the moment that 10 years ago I dreaded, that for the last four years have been expecting, and for the last six months, had truly hoped would be their happiest day. The ceremony began.

Stuart was dressed in his fine kilt (his family is Scottish), but donned a lavender-blue button-down shirt with a matching silk tie. Therese’s dress was a matte silver silk with spaghetti string straps. Her hair was up (a rarity for her), with a small tiara to tie it all together. Although the tiara had been a bit of a joke when she first acquired it, when Therese walked up onto the deck, I couldn’t help but think of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”. It had been a very long time since the last time, but I was envious of Stuart.

The feeling passed quickly, though, and I was swept into the affair. It was simple, quiet, and exactly what I’d expect from Therese and Stuart — complete with a bit of humour when Therese stumbled across one of her lines, and teary when Therese had trouble getting another out through her half-sobs of joy. This was truly a happy day.

The ceremony was short, but sweeter than the most luxurious sugar. Okay, yeah, that sounds cheesy, but you gotta understand — this is the first wedding I actually cried at. Until then, I didn’t really get the joke: “I always cry at weddings.”

The vows were exchanged, as were rings, and before we knew it, came the kiss. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I almost forgot the music cue.

Therese and Stuart adjourned to a small table to sign away their lives, so to speak. Pictures were taken in spades. The Music Gods smiled on Stuart and Therese that day — the first song in the queue (Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” finished just as they returned to centre stage, to be pronounced (offically) husband and wife. As they left, I skipped to the fifth song, the one they wanted to play as they finished and left the stage, The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”.

The crowd moved to the front yard, where the majority of the “formal” photographs were taken. There was no professional photographer, Therese and Stuart were relying on the rest of us shutterbugs to get the photographs. I was entrusted a little further with Stuart’s manual camera (which, thankfully, he’d already preset for use) — I only pray that the pictures I took meet with his approval.

Pictures wrapped up, the party slowly began as people started to filter over to the tent again (a group of us had moved the chairs around and put up tables during the picture session — I was supposed to coordinate it, but I got caught up in the photos). Drinks came out (well, they’d been out for a while, but they came out a bit faster now), and people started mingling.

While people mingled, we had one problem to solve. In all our haste, we had forgotten the head table. There wasn’t one. But luckily, there were enough people to solve the problem — two small tables could seat eight, and suddenly everyone was happy again.

By the time table started in to get their meals, we had to start lighting the citronella lamps to try and cut down on the armada of mosquitos that were started to thin out the available blood supply.

Dinner was wonderfully simple: Salads, poached salmon, and a hot buffet that included roast beef. It successfully covered everyone’s tastes and desires … especially those of us who love a variety.

Dinner completed, people began to mingle again. Slowly at first, some moving into the house to escape the invasion of airborne bloodsuckers, others taking their leave and heading home (or to their respective hotels). Dancing was informal, and not really long-lived. Although the constant movement kept the mosquitos at bay a little better, not everyone was completely comfortable in the unbearable heat. (Even afer the sun went down, it was still quite warm.)

People began to dissipate like steam from a kettle over the next couple of hours. I was one of the last to leave. I returned to my car, and headed back towards Rebecca and Stefan’s.

As I drove in the cool(er) silence of the night, I thought about the day’s proceedings. Yes, things had changed. Stuart and Therese were no longer just friends, or partners, or significant others. They, like many of my friends, were now married. Life was again moving forward, in its inexorable march forward. And while I was so happy that their wedding had been a joyous one, there was that slightly ominous undertone of the finality of life, that this is an event that I will witness but once.

But that’s why I take pictures, so I can relive the moment any time I want. And it’s why I write these journals, so I can also remember my thoughts and feelings.

Congratulations, my dear friends. May your marriage bring you joy, prosperity, and the sound of little feet.

And I ain’t referring to your cats.

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