It's December 21, one day before I inch ever closer to that dreaded half-century mark (two years to go), and I am typing my last blog entry of the year. A year that unceremoniously began with me breaking my shoulder as I sledded down the hill in front of my house in a blizzard is now coming to a close after the busiest holiday season I can remember. And there's a possibility of some snow later this week, so we've come full circle indeed.
But there's one last piece of business to take care of, a promise I made to Andrea Engel and Kent Haines, who were married in a spectacular wedding in Birmingham, Alabama back in late October. These guys have been so patient I feel like they should win some kind of award. Andrea knew we were knee-high in holiday orders and never once bugged me to see her photos. Not once. And she had the right to, believe me.
Maybe it has something to do with her Southern upbringing. I met Andrea a few years ago at the wedding of her Aunt Ilene, where she was a bridesmaid. (As I wrote back then, that event is one I'll always remember and cherish. That's Andrea, btw, in the lead photo, hugging her grandfather.) So it wasn't a surprise that her wedding to Kent, someone she's known for most of her life, should be any less memorable.
There were lots of firsts attached to this wedding: My first trip to Birmingham. (Heck, my first trip to Alabama!) The first time I've seen fried green tomatoes served at a wedding. (Delicious!) The first time I've seen a pair of tag-team brothers (Kent's) turn a rehearsal dinner into an open-mike night at a comedy club. The first time I've seen a groom turn a gift acceptance from his bride-to-be into an hysterical photo op. (The guys were in a suite lined with flags and Kent accepted Andrea's gift as if he were Hillary Clinton shaking hands with a head of state in Foggy Bottom.)
More? How about the first time I can remember a rehearsal dinner being staged in a cool, funky gallery where you actually wanted to buy the art on the walls. Or the first time a couple gave out bags of their favorite imported coffee as favors. (I was worried the TSA would think I was smuggling drugs.)
Kent and Andrea's wedding had all this and more. And, just like the wedding of Amy and Alex below, their event was marked not by cool doodads but by the incredible love they have for each other. A love that was beautifully chronicled in a journal that Kent and Andrea have exchanged for some time now.
I guess I should probably mention at some point that Kent, in his spare time, is a pretty funny stand-up comic. He's appeared on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham and never seems to be at a loss for a good quip. When I traveled to Philadelphia earlier this year to shoot some engagement photos, we talked about our mutual love of the early Woody Allen stand-up routines . But when I stole a peek at just a single page of the journal he shares with Andrea, I immediately knew there was one thing he's quite serious about.
As always, the best weddings are the ones where the simplest human emotion of them all rules the day.
Before I go, I want to make a special mention. Andrea's parents, Alan and Lisa Engel, were so gracious in their hospitality and I really can't thank them enough. As I said, this was my first trip to Birmingham and I look forward to returning. (The Convention and Visitors Bureau has a cool campaign. Check it out here.) I saw the Vulcan guy, ate at Dreamland BBQ, and enjoyed the perfect weather. If you're going to start your travels in the deep South somewhere, why not Birmingham?