Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - August 1, 2014

A capital affair!

Last Friday, husband Art and I stopped in Dubuque, Iowa on our way to his native Wisconsin. Past trips have usually been straight-through ones involving 13 or more "grinding" hours. So the nine-hour trip to Dubuque seemed almost relaxing. It didn't hurt that we quickly escaped the 100+ Kansas temperatures. We left Dubuque the following morning and were in Madison, Wis. at about noon. Our ultimate destination was our cottage in Wisconsin's North Woods, but we stopped in the state capital for the wedding of Art's cousin's oldest son Ben and his sweetheart Dana.

I told Art I really expected to enjoy the wedding. The Herrmann clan is a fun group and it helped that I was only a spectator. I didn't feel nervous, stressed, worried or even overly emotional. I could just observe.

Our hotel was just three blocks from Capitol Square in the very center of the city. Streets radiate from the square every 45 degrees and in the center is the capitol building. It looks very much like our nation's capitol and is even slightly taller. Grace Episcopal Church, the wedding site, is on the square.

We strolled from our hotel past the church and the capitol, to the nearby Starbucks, where we met another of Art's cousins, Jeff, and his wife Lorraine. We chatted about our recent trip to France, and Jeff shared observations about a book he is reading.

About 3:20, Jeff said he needed to change into his "wedding clothes," which he pulled out of his backpack! Lorraine put on a different pair of shoes.

As we were about to leave, Jeff asked whether I'd ever seen the inside of the capitol. I hadn't. So we crossed the street, followed one of the walkways and then strolled the well-worn multi-colored marble floors to the center of the rotunda.

They said a guard once told them the best view could be had by lying on the floor and looking up rather than straining their necks. With that, they lay down and I joined them, wondering if I'd be able to get back up.

As we studied the dome, others gathered around the periphery. I don't know if we ended up on someone's Facebook post, but Art took a picture of us with his cell phone.

We decided to walk up to the second level, but had barely arrived when Lorraine said we should be getting to the church - it was 3:50, and the wedding was to start at 4!

As we entered the church, Ben's sisters Hannah and Sarah hugged us and distributed programs and fans. The church wasn't air conditioned and it was a muggy day. Ben's brother Ryan grinned and gave me a big hug. Parents Kris and Jim were flitting here and there, taking care of last-minute details. Ben's grandmother Sue and friend Don smiled and waved from the back pew where they were waiting to be escorted to the front to sit with other relatives.

We were told the ceremony would be a bit nontraditional and so there was no bride's side or groom's side. We chose a pew at about the mid-point of the sanctuary.

Art's cousins Chip and Marcy, seated near the front, turned around and yelled "Hi, Butch" and laughed. (Art's family nickname has been Butch since he was born.) Cousins Dave and Lisa smiled and waved.

As the ceremony began, the minister spoke directly to the parents and to those of us in attendance about how much our support meant to the couple. She told personal stories of how they met, their first date, their adventures together studying, snorkeling and hiking, their ability to make each other laugh. She made us laugh when she related how Ben had planned to propose at a particulary scenic spot in Chicago located between their hotel and restaurant. The cold wind off the lake had made Dana move briskly ahead, wondering why Ben had chosen to walk. The answer came when she turned around and found him on one knee.

The young couple had taken special care to make sure everyone felt welcome. The wedding program included thank-you messages to their parents, siblings and friends, humorous snapshot profiles of their wedding attendants, and heart-warming words of remembrance for their grandparents who had died. They even displayed a vase of flowers in memory "of those who are not with us today in body, but whom we know are present in spirit."

Their attention to details meant a lot, too. The invitation not only had information about where the wedding would be and what accommodations were available, but included a time line of "The Big Day" - including times for the ceremony, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dinner, toasts and slide show, and dance.

For the after-wedding events, we walked to The Madison Club three blocks from the square. A photo booth was available, complete with hats, boas and other accessories so guests could take "selfies." A guest book with photos of Ben and Dana gave attendees a chance to leave personal notes.

Art wrote, "Bups would be proud." Art "Bups" Herrmann was Ben's grandfather and the two had spent a lot of time together before Art's death when Ben was 16.

Later, as Art and I walked back to our hotel past the Capitol, I reflected on the day. I'd only seen Ben at most once or twice a year since he was a young boy. Still, I felt embraced by the love and laughter we had shared at the marriage of these two teachers. It was a good day - a capital day! Bups would have been proud.

Left: the church and the capitol building; center: Lorraine, Jeff and Gloria on the floor of the Capitol; right: groom and bride after the ceremony.

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