Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 21, 2019

Special touches create a particularly memorable occasion

When I was growing up, weddings were somewhat cookie-cutter in nature, meaning couples generally “stuck to the rules” prescribed by family traditions, cultural norms and religious conventions. But now, the betrothed often include personal touches that have special significance to them.

The weddings of daughters Katie and Mariya reflected this change quite well, including elements that spring from their personalities and those of their spouses.

Two years ago, Katie and Matt were married in the Grand Tetons because they love camping and hiking, and it fit with their goal of visiting all our national parks. Last fall, Mariya and her wife Miriam had a Harry Potter-themed wedding because they are huge fans of that J. K. Rowling-created tale.

Most recently, the four “kids” and I attended the Washington, D.C. wedding of niece Gabriela and her fiancé Bernie. Gabs is the daughter of my sister Gaila and her husband Humberto, who traveled from their home in La Paz, Bolivia to the States for two major celebrations - the master’s degree ceremony for their youngest daughter Larisa and the wedding.

The whirlwind weekend began in a rather conventional way. The first order of business for Gabs and Bernie and their bridal party was the rehearsal at the venue. Then, about 30 of us partook of a Brazilian all-you-can-eat buffet. Waiters came by with skewers of a wide variety of meats cooked however guests wanted, and sliced off as many portions as we could eat. I loved the different meats, but one of my favorite items was a whole pineapple glazed and grilled with brown sugar.

The next morning, I spent several hours watching the five bridesmaids, the mothers of the bride and groom, and the bride getting their hair styled by one woman and their makeup done by another. It was quite a precision process, with one hour dedicated to hair styling and 45 minutes for makeup application for each woman.

The wedding party traveled to the venue to continue getting ready and then it was time for the main event. The threat of rain moved the ceremony inside, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

But aspects of the ceremony were influenced by things significant to the couple. Gabriela is a lawyer and had been a law clerk in 2017-2018. The couple had asked Patricia Mitchell and Zuberi Williams - two judges she had clerked for - to perform their nuptials as both have supported her in her career and life. Gabs told me:

Judge Mitchell was my cheerleader and advocate as I embarked in the legal field. She not only accepted me for all that I am (emotions and all), but was/is an amazing example of strength, humility and just doing the right thing. Judge Williams was and continues to be my advocate as well, and he pushed me every day to be excellent. He has shown what it is to build a diverse community and to persevere in all situations.

Because Gabriela was born in Bolivia and Bernie was born in the U.S. of Salvadoran parents, they wanted their ceremony to be in both English and Spanish. So friend Musha Salinas Eisner served as translator.

A special touch was Gabriela and Bernie combining pink and blue crystals from separate vases into a single vase. The crystals will later be melted to form a wedding-day memento, such as a serving platter.

Bernie’s love of soccer prompted Judge Mitchell to remark that marriage is “the World Cup” of relationships. The dinner following the ceremony had other soccer references. Jerseys were draped over the couple’s chairs. The one on Bernie’s had the number 67 and the one on his bride’s had the number 19, together forming 6-7-19 - the date of their marriage. Bernie even had a miniature soccer ball tucked into his boutonniere.

One of Gaila’s colleagues at the American School in La Paz made Gaila’s necklace and the dangling blue earrings worn by the bridesmaids. Gabriela's earrings were made of purple and yellow “bolivianitas” - a naturally-occurring variety of amethyst and citrine mined only in Bolivia.

Gabriela’s Aunt Hilda and cousin Mariel sent small wrapped Amazonian chocolates with “G & B” stamped on the silver wrappers. The chocolates, along with tiny llamas from Bolivia and miniature guitars, key-chain backpacks and “cutucos” - wood games - from El Salvador, were at each place setting.

As I was sitting next to Gaila enjoying the buffet dinner, she leaned over and whispered that I should take a closer look at Gabriela’s bouquet. When I did, tears came to my eyes. It had been wrapped with strips of cloth from some of Mom’s blouses. Mom met Bernie one Thanksgiving a few years ago, and a photo of her with Gabriela and Bernie sitting on either side had a prominent spot on the guest book table. After her death, Gaila kept Mom’s blouses and made patchwork cats from them for us three kids. Wrapping the bouquet from some of the remaining material was a nice tribute to Mom, the only grandparent both Gabriela and Bernie knew.

The dance after the dinner included “la hora loca” (the crazy hour) - a time when almost everyone was on their feet dancing, or at least moving around.

All too soon, the celebration was over. But the special touches had made it a particularly memorable occasion.

Left: (l-r) Translator Musha Salinas Eisner, Judge Zuberi Williams, Gabriela, Bernie and Judge Patricia Mitchell. Top - center and right: Mom with the couple and Gabriela with her bouquet wrapped in material from Mom's blouses. Right-middle: The jerseys forming the marriage date can be seen on the chairs behind the couple. Bottom center and right: Miniature backpacks and llamas were two of the items used to decorate the table settings.

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