We knew something was up by the pitch of Kiley’s voice mail message. She was practically falsetto and the assumption was that she had either bought a new hybrid vehicle or found a killer deal on flights to somewhere in the South Pacific. These are the things that generate gushing and warrant phone calls. Her Facebook page didn’t offer any clues though, so, when we finally did connect on the phone days later, she was still chirpy but firmly sitting on the news. Barely.
“Mark asked me to marry him!”
I didn’t believe it and continued talking about the smoked herring in the Magdalen Islands or red velvet cupcakes or something to that effect.
“No, we’re really getting married!” She sounded rather defeated. “Dax didn’t believe me either. He thought I bought a new Jeep too.”
Backstory: Kiley and Mark have been together for 16 years. It’s not like Mark is some George Clooney-type (though George is now married), or was keeping his options open on the dating field. No, these two are as tight as spaghetti and meatballs. If I were to bet money on the longevity of a couple, I’d move all the chips to the Mark and Kiley square at the casino.
As kids, Kiley and I (oddly) often played husband and wife. I had a sad clown face mask that I wore to represent “husband” and she wore a sheet/sari and usually nothing else. I’m not sure what this role-playing meant or how we came up with this notion after seeing our happily married parents and a steady stream of Little House on the Prairie and the Flintstones family dynamics.
The pixie-dust laced wedding would be in September and atop the Lake Louise ski hill. Kiley emphasized “mountain casual” which to me indicated Gore-tex and fleece and freezing our tits off. When we landed at the Calgary airport the day before the wedding (September 12th), the rental car indicated an outdoor temp of THREE degrees. Jesus. We would all perish on the gondola ride up in a weird Into Thin Air twist.
Backstory: We arrived at the Lake Louise Hotel on the wedding day with fuzzy heads from the previous night’s meet-and-greet barbecue and bonfire on Middle Springs with Kiley and Mark’s assorted mountain casual friends. The hotel didn’t have us in the booking registry. Anywhere. (Story condensed here after much swearing and eye-rolling). Oh, wait, yes, they found it! I was booked in a room with my SISTER and MOTHER. Because, really, what bride doesn’t want to spend her wedding night with her mom and gay sister?
The hotel was a gong show from the get-go and will get a severe Negative Nelly tripadvisor blast, for sure. *Note to anyone in the Lake Louise vicinity for any reason in the future—spend the extra bucks for the attentive service, finery, reliable vibe and grandeur of the Relais and Chateaux property—The Post. Which is directly where we went for post-reception cocktails in leather wingbacks by a grand fire below the regal moose head.
But, before all this transpired—my brother Dax was playing his youngest sibling role to the max. Scene: my mother, in a fray (a beautiful one though)—mostly wide-eyed from prodding herself a dozen times with hat pins in affixing her fascinator to her head), was ironing my brother’s shirt about thirty minutes before we were supposed to be on the gondola. And then she pressed his boyfriend’s shirt as well.
Exasperated after collecting the flowers for the wedding at 9am (and running on no caffeine or breakfast even), my dad and her had been steaming the bridesmaids dresses all morning in addition to other parental obligations. When we knocked on their hotel room door around 12:30, my mom said all the beer was in the car (with a heavy hint). She was parched. I did the run out to the trunk and was surprised to see that she had picked up Okanagan Porter. “This stuff is 8.5%, holy, Mom!” She grabbed the just-filled Styrofoam cup, “PERFECT!”
My parents were glowing though, and looked ready to walk the red carpet at the Oscars.
I have only been to seven or so weddings. I recall being maybe eight and quite proud to strut around in a pair of pink polka dot pants from Reitmans (so awesomely coordinated with my powder blue Venetian-shutter style sunglasses—that were impossible to see out of). The song was Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Up Where We Belong, but that’s my only distinct memory. Maybe it was my Aunt Donna’s wedding? I had only seen her once before that, and not since.
There was a redux wedding for a couple married officially in New Zealand. A wedding where I snagged a ride to the airport in the limo with a then-girlfriend with the honeymooning couple (after an uncomfortable night in too-tight leather pants with a split-zipper. I bent over to put on my Doc Martens in the hotel room and busted the fly which had to be safety-pinned for the night which turned me into a virtual beer piñata). There was a wedding invite from two women who I met at a gay campground just the week before—their whippets were ring bearers. And, oh—Kim’s sister’s wedding at the Cambridge Mill. She still reminds us about her $10,000 bar tab. But, really, Kim and I have not been overdosed on the wedding frontier. However, now we’ve been totally spoiled for any future ones.
Like, cue up the most jaw-droppy scenery and the liquid neon turquoise of Lake Louise in the background. Add a flitting butterfly, a surreal blue sky and a couple of ravens staking their mountain claim. There was chilled prosecco, wide smiles and a service that was shorter than a sitcom (on PVR—fast forward through the commercials even) with a Dr. Seuss quote to boot.
I should mention that the bride was lovely—her dress was a major improvement from her previous ‘wife’ role-play days in a sheet and no pants. Mark was a pillar, blonde and Nordic, with a wooden ski boutonniere. The suited boys and the bridesmaids were radiant in Albertan bluebird sky blue and orange haute couture. It was like a tropical mountain mash-up and so very authentic Kiley and Mark.
We all cried—mostly because we thought it was the end of the world. Kiley had actually shown up on time!!
While the couple was whisked away to Lake Moraine (their falling-in-love zone) with the paparazzi, Kim, Dax, Dragos and I went to The Post to see how the other half were living. The prosecco buzz had us all charged with love and I was still smiling from my dad’s comment after the ceremony when he hugged me and said, “So, who’s next?”
The reception was at the Lake Louise train station, a historic gem steeped in heritage. Trains still roared by throughout the night. Tiny gondolas were strung across the room and a fire blazed and snapped at the entry. Drinks were slung and the circles of Kiley and Mark collided and mingled. A slide show garnered instant laughter and inspiration with the mix of childhood photos and envy-inducing travel pics.
A world map was mounted for guests to sign—mostly encouraging future travel recommendations for the couple. They are already scheming a February honeymoon in the South Pacific—but apparently you can take a “mini-moon” nowadays? For the two mad travellers, I sense many phases of this “honeymoon.”
We dined like royalty on the likes of bison short ribs (the best eats I’ve had in 2014) and Pacific salmon. The wine was a waterfall during the speeches which bounced from a comedic romp to a good razzing and parental praise.
The wedding was just pure lovely. Right down to the chai honey cupcakes. There was immense creativity injected into this day and it was a solid indication of a love that revolves around indulgence, undiluted fun and adrenalin-steeped adventure.
In addition to walking away with cool mini gondola take-home swag, I think it was evident that everyone present was reminded of love’s unstoppable cosmic force. Love the hell out of the person you’re with! When you’ve nabbed your soul mate, it doesn’t require effort, it vibrates and hums and glows.
Kiley and Mark talk to each other every day like they’ve just met. The conversation is endless (Dax always thought it was because they didn’t have cable). But, with Kim—I get it too. When you love and adore someone endlessly, there are never enough hours in the day. This is why Kim and I still routinely stay up until dawn, talking.
Lessons in marriage: you need to find delight and not disappointment in your partner’s quirks. And after watching Kiley and Mark’s slide show chock full of grinning pics from Iceland, Nepal, New Zealand, Belize, (insert 56 other destinations)—anything and everywhere is possible.
And as Alistair Macleod said in No Great Mischief, “All of us are better when we are loved.”