It is seldom that I write about events I attend or parties that I go to. However, this past weekend, it was my privilege to attend two wedding celebrations in my neighborhood, both of which bear recording. While there were differences in style and format between the two, the similarities between them were even more striking. Both were outdoors, took advantage of the river, the golden Hudson Valley light and gorgeous views of the Catskills. Both couples had been “officially married” months earlier, and both were incredibly relaxed, celebratory, joyous occasions, bringing together a wonderful mix of people.
My friends Val Shaff and Steve Kingsley’s celebration was Friday evening. The two been married six months before, around the winter solstice, at Otto’s Market in town, in a unique and public but intimate ceremony. This larger celebration, taking place around the summer solstice, brought together friends and relations from far and wide as well as various points in their lives to celebrate their union. A torrential rain, hail and windstorm almost threatened to severely “dampen” the party, if not blow it down, but in just the nick of time nature smiled, and the skies cleared. By the time I arrived around six pm one would have scarcely guessed there had been such a deluge a short time earlier.
The celebration began at he couples home, a gem of a carpenter gothic house on East Camp Road. The festivities centered on the lawn and and their quaint barnlike outbuilding, strung with lights. On cue, a group of musicians led the couple and their guests on a procession, down to the waters edge at Cheviot Landing, where Val’s dear friend and yoga instructor spoke with heartfelt words.
A quick trip back up the hill was followed by more music and dinner under a tent.
As I left this magical time, the musicians had made their way into the cottage, where dancing continued into the night.
The next evening, at about the same time, I was turning off of Woods Road and driving down the long, winding tree lined drive of Midwood, where my friends Timothy Van Dam and Ron Wagner were being married. One of the grand old Hudson River Places, the large handsome house and rolling grounds are full of character and history. The views from the lawn were a Hudson Vally painting come to life. Like the previous evening, there was a great mixture of people, old friends and new acquaintances. After cocktails and lively chatter, all gathered around the porch as Midwood’s owner and the couple’s dear friend Joan Davidson welcomed all, introduced the two grooms, and the ceremony began. The Taghkanic Town Judge who had previously “officially” married the two months earlier, presided over the ceremony marked by laughter and tears of happiness, as the two men, together for over 30 years, repeated their vows in front of family and friends. While the sun set over the Hudson, dinner was served, and dancing took place under a tent on the lawn afterwards. Looking back over one’s shoulder, the reflection cast by the moon on the river was a breathtaking sight.
The two evenings were sublime, reinforcing my gratitude and wonderment at how I ended up in this beautiful corner of the world, and knowing so many of the diverse, generous and wonderful personalities here. Both factors contribute in weaving the incredible tapestry that is life in the Hudson Valley. Even more heartening however, was to see couples I know, mature in age and convictions, still happy and in love with their spouses after being together for some time, and willing to reinforce and commit to spending their lives together. It truly gives one joy and hope.