One year ago today, Gabrielle and I had the perfect wedding. I know I'm biased, but I'm serious. It was perfect. Our closest friends and family were gathered on the Pennsylvania land that has been in the family for generations. The rustic decorations were natural complements to the mountain scenery. The sun was shining and the temperature perfect for an outdoor wedding. A Celtic band serenaded us during the procession. The drinks flowed freely into mason jars with old-fashioned straws. The food was delicious and accommodating to the wide range of diets represented by our guests (vegan, paleo, gluten-free, Kosher, etc.). The dance floor was in use until the wee hours of the night as the playlist ebbed from French new wave to Irish punk. When the light began to fade, we started a bonfire that grew to twice the size of the people standing around it. And long before the evening ended, fireworks lit up the sky. Junebug even dedicated an article to it titled, "Shabby Chic Pennsylvania Wedding." Honestly, it couldn't have been better.
But the day didn't begin that way. After spending over a year planning out our dream day, the universe presented one final obstacle to overcome. One year later, it's time to tell the story.
It's 7:30am. June 6th, 2015. My wedding day. I'm already half-awake in anticipation of the day ahead when I'm fully awoken by a knock on my door and my godfather, Uncle Mark's voice, "Alexander, get up." There ceremony isn't until 4pm. This can't be good.
I get dressed and open the door so he can tell me, "We have a shitty situation." The septic tank had backed up, leaving the basement a mess and the bathrooms inoperable. In just a few hours, 100 people were about to descend upon this mountain house in the middle of nowhere for my wedding.
I went upstairs and woke my groomsmen up, "Guys, we've got work to do."
Within a matter of minutes they had gym shorts on, brooms/shovels/mops in hand (as well as a beer for one of them) and a jovial spirit considering. The situation was rife for riffing. "Alexander, I thought we were supposed to give you crap this weekend, not clean it up."
The basement was the easy part, though. Fixing the septic was the tough part.
We got the Roto-Rooter guy on the phone just as he was walking out his door to a BMX tournament for the weekend. Once he understood the situation, he dropped everything and came out to help. After looking at the tank's piping through a telescopic camera, he identified the problem: The piping was split in two. One pipe was nearly a foot above the other so there was only 20% overlap.
He looked at me despondently and said, "I wish I could help. I have the material to replace it in my van. But you'd need a backhoe to dig a ditch deep enough to get to the split so I could do it.”
My Uncle Mark looked around at my groomsmen and myself and responded, "We have 4 strapping lads here. Who needs a backhoe?"
So, we went to the garage, pulled out every shovel and pickaxe we could find, and started to dig.
This is where I think I should mention some additional extenuating circumstances: The septic tank was in the backyard.... right next to where the ceremony was going to take place... literally 10 feet from the aisles. To add insult to injury, even though we had rented a portable bathroom to add capacity for the day, it was somehow broken. And even though it was June, it was only 50 degrees. Plus, it was raining. In short: I was in hell.
But, my uncle and groomsmen were determined. They went to work. They kept me on the sidelines at first, refusing to let me touch the tools. I said I wanted to help, but they told me to rest and not worry. They would handle it. Eventually, though, I couldn't stand idly by. I picked up one of the pickaxes and began to work out all of the tension in my body on the rocks and the soil beneath me. "There's a rock." Now it's gone. "There's another rock." Now that's gone. We rotated responsibilities. After an hour and a half of digging and shoveling, we finally found the piping.
After that, all we had to do was remove the end of the pipe, connect a new one, seal it with cement paste, shovel all of the dirt back on top, cover it with wood chipping, and top it off with a band stand so it looked like everything was intentional.
With a nice tip and a nice bottle of whiskey to thank him, we bid good bye to the Roto Rooter guy and looked forward to the rest of the day ahead. Everyone took a long shower that morning. The sun began to peak through the clouds. The temperature rose. Other family members began to arrive.
Once we were all dressed there was nothing more for us to do but wait. I had discovered that morning why having the right groomsmen is so important. After everything we had been through, we decided there was only one thing left to do. We each took a beer, grabbed the gun bags, and went down to the cabin a few hundred yards away to celebrate what we had done and what was to come.
Here's the thing, though: Just as we were walking from the house down to the cabin, Gabrielle and her bridesmaids were pulling down the driveway. They had woken up early to get their hair and makeup done. They had literally spent hours getting ready and were about to spend even more time preparing for the ceremony. When Gabrielle saw us strolling down to the cabin she asked incredulously, "Have they just been drinking and shooting all day while we spent all this time getting ready?!"
It took a lot to get to that day. We faced trials and tribulations together. We survived the wedding planning. And we made it through the many challenges that morning. But it always has been, and still is, worth it.
As a wise man once said, "Nothing in this world that's worth having comes easy."
Happy Anniversary, Love!