From Vegas we took a red-eye via Chicago to Syracuse where Carisa’s mum met us at the airport. We took a scenic route back to their home, through the Finger Lakes wine region of upstate NY. We stopped at 3 wineries on the way and I sampled plenty of the local varieties, which had me falling asleep in the front seat the rest of the way home.
Carisa’s parents place is just outside of the small town of Binghamton in NY state. I wasn’t expecting it to be so rural, so it was a lovely surprise. It’s so relaxing being out of the city. I met her step-father Ron and their three dogs, and was put up in the guest room for a few nights. We spent those couple of days getting our craft on – Carisa made so much stuff by hand for the wedding, it was a huge effort.
After a few days we drove a couple of hours closer to the city, into the Hudson valley area where the wedding was to be held. Shane flew in from Alaska that morning, as did his family from Ireland, so they all arrived together from NY in a big rental van. His mum, dad, two sisters and the fiance of one sister are all fantastic people. I got along well with all of them, even though I had some trouble understanding his dad, whose accent is particularly strong. A group of Shane’s friends also arrived from Ireland on the same day, including two of the groomsmen, so I got my fill of Irish accents over the weekend!
Despite it being the first time Shane and Carisa had seen each other in a couple of weeks they took me in that night as I didn’t have a room booked – rather than have me pay for my own room at the hotel I shared their king sized bed like the poor orphan child I am. Shane was up till the wee hours catching up with mates anyway, while Carisa and I caught up on sleep instead. Much needed after staying up till the wee hours crafting away!
We had just that one night in the hotel – the next day we checked into Stonegate House, where a big group were staying for the wedding weekend. Oh. My. God. What an amazing place! It was a proper mansion – the fact that Carisa kept referring to it as a house was very misleading!
It had the gardens of an English manor, and had actually been the setting for a silent film back in the day. It was three floors, about 8 bedrooms, a huge kitchen, and a beautiful back deck overlooking the immaculate gardens. It would be amazing just to hire it out for a week and do nothing but play ping pong and soccer, cook big meals and hang out with friends. We had a very busy few days but I did feel like I got to enjoy the place a bit too, especially one sunny afternoon the day before the wedding spent doing some last minute craft projects on the deck while some deer casually strolled out of the woods and through the gardens. It was magical.
We took a trip that afternoon out to the church for the rehearsal. Never remind rehearsing the ceremony, it was good to at least rehearse getting there! – Carisa and I accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up on a through-way, which is a freeway with basically no exits! We had to go 20 miles in the wrong direction, then wend our way through small country towns while losing our mobile coverage which we were relying on for directions, before finally arriving only a mere 15 minutes late. Phew! It was a beautiful old stone church situated on a bluff with a view overlooking a valley of gorgeous autumn colours. Quite the spectacular setting. I’m glad I got to see it on a nice day…
That night was the bachelor/bachelorette party. At 7.30pm we all piled into a bus – guys and girls, and drove the 1.5 hours into New York city, where the guys and girls went their separate ways. The girls started off on a rooftop with views of the empire state building. I couldn’t have asked for a better first look at NY city.
From there we moved to a club which was a bit of a dive but with 15 girls hell bent on having a good time it didn’t matter. Although I had a fantastic night the 1.5 hour bus ride back to the Hudson Valley was particularly awful. I felt for our driver Reggie, who handed out spew-bags for the return trip. Thankfully I don’t think anyone vomited until we got back to the house.
One of the greatest things about the weekend was being reunited with friends from our time in Madrid. Carisa and Shane of course, who are currently living in Alaska, Martin and Izzy, who live in North Carolina and were the wedding photographers, Matt who now lives in Indiana, Jerry who just moved back from Madrid and doesn’t really know what what he is going to do with himself, Tommy who is currently living in NY city, and very importantly Anita who was Carisa’s flatmate in Madrid but now lives in Malaga. She popped over just for the weekend – getting in to NY about midnight and coming straight to the bachelorette party, then heading back to Spain on Monday night on a red-eye. Massive effort. Anita was my room mate in the mansion and took very good care of me when I got super drunk on several occasions. As she said several times, we are the perfect couple. You have to say it in her Spanish accent though, sounds much better that way.
Carisa went to the effort of organising several events over the weekend, rather than just the wedding, which gave everyone more chance to catch up. The night before the wedding we took a cruise on the Hudson River in an old school paddle boat steamer. I met several of Carisa’s uncles on the boat, including the much talked about Uncle Joe, who is a proper cowboy. He didn’t come in a cowboy hat though, most disappointingly.
I was expecting the boat cruise to be over at a reasonable hour so we could all get our beauty sleep before the big day but a sizeable number of folk came back to the house and kicked on until well into the night. The next day started very early (at least for the girls) with the ballroom being converted into a hair and makeup studio (yes the house had a ballroom). As I was the only bridesmaid staying at the house I was the first to get my hair and makeup done, leaving me all ready by 9am. I potted about offering people champagne, feeling that was the best use of my time at that hour of the morning.
After enjoying unseasonably hot, sunny, fantastic weather all week, wedding day dawned drizzly and cold. But the weather was not to dampen any spirits! By the time she was all ready Carisa looks absolutely stunning, and all the ladies crammed into a limo to take us to the church. The remoteness of the church meant the driver took a wrong turn and we ended up taking a circuitous route, continuing the theme of the weekend which was to be fashionably late for everything. The pit stop we made along the way for a toilet break also added to the travel time, but it was totally worth it to see Carisa run into a servo in her wedding dress to use the loo!
As we climbed higher into the hills where the church was perched the fog became thicker and the rain heavier, until finally we arrived and could see no view at all. Ah well, at least I know what it looks like!
My main source of nervousness the whole weekend was making it down the aisle in stilettos more appropriate to Vegas than a wedding (they did actually get an outing in Vegas!), but I managed it without mishap. The priest however had promised us a pew to sit on through the full Catholic mass but had been unable to manage it, so we had to stand through the whole thing. None of us girls could feel our feet by the end of it.
My favourite moment had to be the reading of the vows – Carisa hadn’t had a chance to write them out so she whipped her iphone out of her pocket (yes her wedding dress had pockets!) and read them off that. Classy!
It was a bit of a drive back to the reception venue, but we had champagne in the limo and plenty of music to keep us entertained. The reception was held at Brotherhood Winery – the oldest in the United States. It was a beautiful space – exposed beams and brickwork, high ceilings and wooden barrels. Decorated for the reception it looked fantastic. There were plenty of personal touches to the decorations – Carisa’s parents had hand made a beautiful wedding box for cards from found timber (I’ve pre-emptively put in an order myself); rather than having a minature bride and groom on the wedding cake they had the Atletico Madrid football team’s flag; instead of a guestbook to sign there was a vintage globe – fitting considering the guests from all over the world; and of course all the little hand made touches that added up to a beautiful and unique setting.
You know what one of the best things about a wedding reception is? The food right! And it was great. The appetisers were amazing, and very American! Chicken in waffles?? Another great thing about wedding receptions? The bar! Each of the bride and groom had chosen a signature drink to be available to guests to get to know them better via their alcohol preferences. Shane’s was a Moscow Mule, comprising vodka, ginger beer and lime. That would have been my pick too, had it been available. For some reason Shane was supposed to supply the ginger beer, but with everything else this was completely forgotten until we were enroute from the ceremony to the reception. Scratch the moscow mule – I drank wine instead. Lots of wine. It fueled the dancing, and boy was there dancing! The wedding band (in a completely random coincidence, also called Brotherhood, like the venue) were amazing! They did everything from Lady Gaga to Irish folk songs, and it was great to see a bit of Irish dancing out there (I sat those ones out).
Now, while I haven’t attended many weddings, my experience is that they usually end about midnight. Not this one – from the winery we got ourselves somehow back to the same hotel where we’d stayed that first night, and proceeded to take over the hotel bar until at least 3am. My recollections by this stage were very hazy – the fact that the bar’s sound system was down and there was no music at all until Shane did a quick run to Walmart for portable speakers didn’t matter in the slightest.
Unfortunately, during a particularly passionate discussion with Jerry about the benefits of Pilates and Tai Chi, we decided we were going to get up at 10.30 and teach each other half an hour of our respective specialties. After being put to bed at some unknown hour it was particularly painful when my alarm went off at 10am. I groped around trying to locate my phone to silence the piercing alarm, damning Jerry (and the wine) under my breath. Once I fully came to my senses I saw that I wasn’t wearing any pants. When I wondered aloud about this to Anita she filled me in – “No, you said you didn’t want. I undressed you, yes”. We are indeed the perfect couple!
It turned out to be the worst hangover yet. I was lucky to be able to dress myself and pack, then had to recover from the effort by sprawling across the hallway while others tidied up the rest of the house in preparation for our departure. The idea for the day had originally been to head into New York city, but a terrific storm came over and rained like I have not seen in a long time, making the idea of a drive or train ride anywhere not particularly appealing. Especially not for Tommy, who was on his motorbike. We ended up back at the same hotel again (ah the Ramada, my old friend!) where Carisa, Shane, Tommy, myself and one one of the Irish couples had a lazy recovery day. It was sorely needed after so much partying!
It also meant I could delay having to say goodbye to Carisa and Shane, although I did have to say goodbye to nearly everyone else in the house that morning. After having so much fun catching up 3 years since leaving Madrid, I wonder where and when I will see these friends again. That’s the hard thing about having friends all over the world, is the saying goodbye all the time.