About-to-be married couple Sean Tanner and Jenny Hayes seal it with a kiss during a tour of a hilltop winery in April 2021.
As we hurtle through June, I’m thinking that the phrase “wedding of the century” can be extremely personal.
True, that description is usually reserved for the nuptials of zillionaires, entertainment legends and members of royal families.
But as a former caterer and wedding cake decorator, I know that the marriage of your own relative deserves that title, too, due to the emotional intensity and complexity for the families involved.
Upset and upheaval are almost inevitable, whether the wedding is a huge affair with a towering, eight-tier cake, 750 guests and a budget matching the gross domestic product of a medium-sized European country, or a backyard bash with family members doing the barbecue and Uncle Fred officiating the ceremony.
That’s true even when the bride and groom are handling most of their own arrangements.
When our son Sean and his bride-to-be, Jenny, tie the knot in on the Central Coast this summer, they thoughtfully wanted to make sure the occasion didn’t wear me out.
Jenny Hayes and Sean Tanner celebrate their togetherness in a Big Sur location near where they’ll wed in summer 2022. Sean Tanner
That’s why the night-before dinner, wedding ceremony and reception for 35 or so people will take place about 25 miles away from my home at a San Luis Obispo County location that’s romantically significant for the happy couple.
Most wedding week activities will also happen elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean his brother and I will be shut out of the proceedings. Far from it.
Sean, Jenny and their longtime friend Rich will arrive in the county five days before the wedding. They’ll stay overnight at our house in Cambria, as will Caity and Lyssie, two of our granddaughters, and Caity’s significant other, Connor.
They may also crash here on the Sunday after the wedding, before Sean, Jenny and Rich head back to Arizona, and Lyssie returns to work in Los Angeles.
We’re not sure yet what the post-wedding plans are for Caity and Connor. They’re flying in from the United Kingdom and the coronavirus pandemic has kept their plans in a nail-biting limbo.
Yes, we have room for six adults to overnight here — as long as three of them sleep on the long couches in the great room.
It should work out well, since the girls grew up sleeping on our couches during their visits and usually prefer those sleeping arrangements even when the studio is available. Connor says he’s up for the adventure.
In the meantime, there will be a lot going on before the wedding as members from the two families meet each other for the first time.
Knowing Jenny, I’m fully confident all that will go easily and well.
That’s not always the case.
I remember too many weddings where relatives on one side absolutely did not get along well with the others.
You have no idea how long a wedding can take when people on the bride’s side of the church heartily dislike those in the groom’s group, and vice versa.
Talk about a cold war! “Don’t worry about chilling the champagne, Mabel. The Weather Channel’s issued a frost warning for the church!”
I also recall providing food, beverages, staff, cake AND photography services for a large outdoor wedding that had so much potential for conflict.
The groom was a flamboyant, handsome second-generation Italian, and many of his enthusiastic relatives and guests spoke little English.
The bride was a lovely girl from China, and there wasn’t much English happening in that group of very proper, formal people, either.
Members from both families had come from their home countries, and were worn out from their long trips.
The nuptial couple, however, knew what the issues were apt to be, and had faced them head on long before the wedding.
There was no aisle or designated sides for guests during the ceremony, and ushers encouraged attendees to mix and match.
At the reception table, the bride had set out place cards, arranged so the two groups were forced to intermingle. Sociable people sat side by side with those who were more reserved.
A recipe for disaster? Not with this group, who’d obviously been coached about behavior and interaction in three languages.
By the time the guests had eaten their appetizer and salad courses, they’d figured out how to cross linguistic barriers and communicate, and were happily doing that.
They mingled so successfully that the meal took considerably longer than planned.
So happy and engrossed in conversation were the wedding guests that, when a hidden timer went off and the winery’s sprinkler system suddenly came on in the area where they were sitting, everybody roared with laughter, quickly gathered their soggy belongings and dashed off the lawn.
The cake was safe elsewhere, and so were the gifts. Whew!
That’s the sense of camaraderie and fun I hope every wedding couple has at their celebration — and what I’m absolutely convinced will happen at Sean and Jenny’s wedding.
Minus the sprinklers, of course.
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Kathe Tanner has been writing about the people and places of SLO County’s North Coast since 1981, first as a columnist and then also as a reporter. Her career has included stints as a bakery owner, public relations director, radio host, trail guide and jewelry designer. She has been a resident of Cambria for more than four decades, and if it’s happening in town, Kathe knows about it.