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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Burberry Suit, a Beautiful Bride and Life was Never the Same…

Gorgeous bride and a nice suit
As the sun set over the Miami Rowing Club in Key Biscayne, on a cool spring evening fourteen years ago, I stood at the far end of a swimming pool near a waterway that led to Biscayne Bay, wondering what was taking so long.

In reality, the delay wasn’t that long but, as I stood there with my brother to my left and my wife’s cousin, who was officiating the ceremony to my right, and nearly two hundred and fifty of our closest friends and family huddled around us, under the makeshift pavilion, staring at us and waiting, I felt my nerves getting the best of me and wanted to get the ceremony underway already!

It’s funny how we got to that point. Our lives took many twists and turns to get there.

When we first met fifteen months earlier, we were both recovering from difficult times in our lives; she from a wedding that had been called off two days before the ceremony, and me from a failed one.

But, we fell in love anyway. In fact, it didn’t take long. I openly admit that I fell head-over-heels in love with her on our first date.

Everything clicked that night. We went to dinner at my favorite restaurant at the time, Monty’s on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, where I had taken many first dates in the past.

But, from the start, I knew this wasn’t just another date. We had amazing chemistry and our conversation flowed effortlessly. We had many of the same interests and moral and family values. She laughed at my jokes (which in retrospect may not be saying much). To top it off, she was drop dead gorgeous, although at the time, I thought I needed to take her out to a few more dinners to beef her up a little (she was a size zero!). It was just too natural.

In fact, we talked about all the taboo topics that people say shouldn't be discussed on a first date; past relationships, marriage, kids and family.

I was so enamored that the following night, I broke my two-day-wait before calling rule (although, I knew I had to temper my enthusiasm so as to not scare her away by looking too desperate!).

Shortly after starting to date, my grandmother passed away from health complications and during the funeral, my then girlfriend practically met my entire family in one fell swoop (everybody loved her! In fact, I got several side comments about how beautiful and smart she was; hint, hint, she’s a keeper!).

Another tragic turn happened six months after starting our courtship. Her father suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 53. It was very difficult for her and her family but it may have drawn us closer to one another and several months later we got engaged (although she would argue that I never formally proposed!).

Because of everything that had happened in that little more than a year of dating and engagement, and the fact that neither of us was practicing our faith very well (not to mention, my understanding of sacramental marriage was non-existent), we decided to get married civilly.

God has been good to me
So, there I was by the edge of the pool, nervously waiting for my bride, then, I saw her enter from the opposite side of the pool.

She was more stunning than I remembered having seen just two nights before, at our pre-wedding get together with friends.

I was truly awestruck by her beauty in her ivory Carolyn Bessette replica wedding dress (that she bought off the rack), which perfectly contoured her body, and I felt the butterflies in my stomach.

Her hair was flawlessly arranged back, away from her face. Her makeup perfectly applied by a professional. She wore full length gloves that went up past her elbows and a sheer shawl draped over her shoulders. She was carrying a small bouquet of the most vivid red roses that I can recall ever seeing in her hands and a smile that lit up the world. She was breathtaking.

Meanwhile, my brother and I were wearing matching classic navy blue Burberry suits with white shirts and silver ties.

In fact, to regress a little, the suits became a matter of contention before the wedding, since I had flown to New York to see my brother, with the sole purpose of getting matching suits several weeks earlier.

It turned into a bachelor’s weekend. Shortly after arriving on Friday night, I went out with my brother, spent all Saturday hanging out and enjoying Manhattan, going to dinner with my brother and a cousin to Smith & Wollensky that night and then continuing our celebration (and possibly having one too many martinis and cigarettes) until about 4 o’clock in the morning.

We found ourselves knocking on a strange blue door at an East Village apartment (or so it seemed) and telling the man that cracked the door open that Belinda, who we had just met about an hour earlier at a dive bar, had sent us.

The guy didn't care who had sent us and told us it was a private party, so we finally decided to go home (I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we had gone into that strange door in the condition we were both in. In hindsight, maybe it was God steering us away from danger).

Anyway, the plan was to spend Sunday looking for the suits, but we didn't get up until about three in the afternoon.

After rushing out and getting something to eat, we finally started shopping for matching navy blue suits. We stopped at a couple of stores but couldn't find one that we liked for a decent price, so we kept looking.

We ended up at Bloomingdale’s on 59th and Lexington. The sun was already setting and after looking around the men’s section for a while, I really liked a Burberry suit with very thin shiny pinstripes but, after checking the price, decided it was way too pricey. However, we soon found out that the store was about to close.

We had two options, either we worked our way through New York City traffic and went back to a previous store in hopes that it would still be open or we made our decision at Bloomingdale’s.

Knowing I was flying out in the morning and that my wife-to-be would be pretty upset if I returned to Miami empty handed, we decided on the latter.

To complicate things, as I found out later, I never activated the credit card that I had taken to pay for the suit.

After running my card through the register several times and getting rejected, the clerk warned us that his register was about to close and it would have to be the last attempt. My brother offered to lend me his card, which after paying for his suit, he wasn't sure if there was enough balance left to pay for mine. I was sweating. The clerk swiped it and it cleared!

Thus, we stood there in our Burberry suits, which were magnificent but cost three times as much as my wife's wedding dress.

My bride came walking down the side of the pool with her uncle to the tune of the Cuban classic, La Bella Cubana, as all our guests looked on.

When she finally reached me the butterflies in my stomach subsided. I couldn't help but stare into her eyes and smile. God has definitely been good to me.

It was a short ceremony. We had a couple of friends read Bible verses, said our vows and exchanged rings. In fact, it was so short that there was a pregnant pause when we were done and I had to announce, "That's it," before everyone started clapping.

We spent the rest of the night dancing, mingling with our guests, eating, drinking and enjoying each other's company.

It was perfect. Everything was perfect that night (That is except the videographer, who missed my brother's toast and didn't record audio during the reception. We noticed several months later, when we got the video and had cheesy music over our friends and family talking into the camera!) and life has never been the same since.

Now fourteen years later, as I reflect on our wedding day, I can see that my wife, not only was the single most important reason for my return to the faith, and because of that, we were able to get married in the Catholic Church ten years later, but that even after all this time, I still get that same restless feeling I had when I was standing there with my brother waiting for her on that cool spring day, whenever she's not around...

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