It boggles me to think I began this blog at a time when the first event seemed so incredibly far off. Back in 2009 Pablo (FMD) alerted me his wedding would be of the destination type and would take place on July 10. The chosen destination was Puerto Rico; my homeland of sorts considering both my parents’ families derived from the island and each have a slew of relatives that still reside there. Needless to say I spent many vacations with this family who often refused to acknowledge that I didn’t speak their language and ran their tongue in ways I still can’t always comprehend. Why I never learned Spanish is still a mystery to me and a point that brings my parents to a full on war of denial, but that’s another story…wasn’t I talking about a wedding here??
My friends (a small group of people I met in college and have stayed very close to) and I arrived several days before the wedding and stayed on the north east coast of the island, but what occurred outside of the wedding is irrelevant here and so I will blog about that on my personal blog. What’s important now is the amazingness my crew and I experienced on the day of Pablo and Amanda’s nuptials.
We arrived to El Conquistador Resort after swerving and climbing through several miles of mountainous terrain. At the top of said mountains, we were met by a stretch of golf course that was something out of a golfer’s wet dream. It was lush, green and ran for miles. Although I’d been to this resort 15 years before, the size of it still amazed me. And that was only the first of many moments of awe that I was to experience during the evening.
Flanked by my two dates (Antonio and Adonis, my brothers from another mother who also came to the wedding solo), we approached the main building of the resort that was truly a wonderful replica of something you might see in Barcelona. I have a thing for terracotta and tile. If it were normal to build a house made of those materials in NY, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But, unfortunately, the only place where such a house would blend in would be Florida. Eh. Moving on…
Everything about the place was elaborate and gorgeous. There were pools, slides, beautiful foliage and an amazing view of the ocean and islands off the coast of Fajardo. While we would have loved to roam around, we only had 15 minutes to find the ceremony and in a normal event hall that would have been easy; on a resort housing what feels like thousands of acres, not so much. I’ve never been more thankful that, unlike me, my friends aren’t plagued with the absence of a Spanish tongue. With just a few quick chats they were directed to the correct area and we arrived just in time.
Upon the crest of a hill stood an altar, sheer white fabric wound about and floating in the soft breeze. Beyond the altar lie the bluest of oceans and the thinnest of clouds. I momentarily lost my breath and then was snapped out of it when I was nearly yanked into a chair by Adonis. Pablo had arrived and was making his way down the aisle. Now I know weddings are about the bride, but I have to say the man looked sharp! A beautiful burnt orange tie accented his light gray suit perfectly, and his robust smile was the final touch.
When Amanda arrived my jaw nearly hit the ground. Firstly, let me say that Amanda is an absolutely adorable young woman, but in my eyes she’s always felt like a kid sister, shorter than me and full of innocence. However, when I saw her come down that aisle, I saw the most beautiful bride, a woman who stood tall and ready to take on the world with her new husband. I started tearing up. “Already?” Antonio asked me, “It hasn’t even really started. Get it together!” I sucked it up and watched the couple take their positions by the altar.
A pastor with a smooth voice brought us all to attention and began the ceremony which included vows, a symbolic mixing of white sand and of course, a set of I Dos. When they kissed, we cheered and when they came down the aisle together as Mr. and Mrs. Diaz, we cheered even more. Then they ran away for photo taking and we hit the bar set up on the grassy knoll. We drank Cuba Libres and Margaritas while we planned timed attacks on the waiters who brought out appetizers like piononos and empanadas. I’d have a wedding in PR just for options like those.
Inside one of the main buildings, we were guided to the reception hall; a quaint room decorated in the orange of Pablo’s tie and Amanda’s flowers. Unlike some halls I’ve been to, the decorations around the room were neither tacky nor old-fashioned. They were modern and majestic looking. We took our seats at the Rio Grande table (each table was very cutely named after a city in Puerto Rico) and awaited the arrival of our hosts. When they joined us, entering the room to some party music and finding their way to the dance floor, it dawned on me that my dear friend was now a husband. Wow.
Watching them dance with their parents brought me to tears once more, at which point I was shoulder checked by Antonio. Low and behold, when Pablo gave his thank you speech, Antonio was right there with me, reaching for a napkin to wipe the tears from his face. At least he held it somewhat together. Me? I was on the verge of sobbing. It had everything to do with the context of Pablo’s speech…
It revolved around Amanda’s fight with Lupus over the last two years. Although I may never fully understand what this couple has gone through since their meeting, I was easily reminded of what Pablo had shared with me about the experience and from what I viewed with my own eyes during Amanda’s bouts of sickness. But the most amazing part of it all? Remembering how Amanda never looked defeated. How she fought through her illness with a sureness and strength that I’ve never seen in anyone. And how, through it all, Pablo was by her side. Damn. That, my friends, is love.
I forgot what brought us all out of the most touching and emotional speech I’ve ever heard, it was probably one of Pablo’s random and hilarious one liners. Whichever the case, we were soon laughing, then eating, and quickly on our way to partying. The DJ’s mix of salsa, merengue and dance jams left me without a choice but to dance the entire evening. Adonis battled it out with Pablo in a dance match, and a plenero band (a traditional Latin improv percussion group) called me out to the dance floor to follow a set of dance rules… in Spanish. I understood that the leader was asking me to shake my hips to the beat, I just couldn’t remember the translation of each numeral he was throwing at me as a guide. “Siete!” he called out, and I shook my hips 6 times, one beat short. Everyone laughed. I told them I meant to do that.
After many rounds on the dance floor and just as many rounds at the bar, a group of us headed to the balcony to smoke cigars. Big mistake. Not because I was smoking, but because the lack of music and distraction brought me front and center to the obvious issue at hand. I was at a wedding. Of a friend my age. Slowly but surely, each of my close friends would be married by 2011. I stood off to the side, and peered out at what was now a very dark ocean. Antonio noticed I had wandered off and came to join me while everyone else turned back to the reception. He’s been a close friend for 10 years, I didn’t need to speak for him to know what I was thinking about, but I did so anyway. While continuing my gaze at the ocean I said, “I just realized my beef with weddings.” He asked, “And what would that be?” “It’s not that I don’t believe in marriage, it’s quite the opposite. I hold them in such high regard that I can’t imagine ever being a part of one.” Antonio has his own relationship scars, some deeper than mine. “I know exactly what you mean.” We said nothing else, but stared at the ocean for several more minutes like two wing-clipped angels staring off at a heaven they can’t be a part of. OK, that was a dramatic statement…but I kind of like it.
Once back at the reception we were immediately thrown in the mix of the ongoing party that lasted well through the evening. When the last song played at midnight, I wanted to pout. I was having too much fun with friends I realized I just don’t see enough. Friends I spent countless hours with in a dorm room or a study hall. Friends that sometimes knew me better than I knew myself.
After long and tight hugs with both the bride and groom, my crew made their way back to the car. Throughout the ride home, Adonis, Dexter and I reminisced (as we often do) about our times together in college while Antonio and Stephanie caught the first train to dream world. We laughed to the point of stomach cramps and by the time we arrived at our hotel I wanted nothing more than to surrender my experience to memory so my brain could get some rest.
But before I closed my eyes, I thanked the higher powers that be for blessing Pablo and Amanda with a love I will forever admire and for blessing me with a group of friends I will cherish for the rest of my life.