Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wedding Crasher

Since I’ve become some-what of a grown-up by working a grown-up job this summer, 8 to 5 every day Monday through Friday, I decided I’d do what all grown-ups do! And that is GO ON A MUCH NEEDED VACATION! Luckily, one of my best friends from the mission (Scott) was getting married in Salt Lake City, and this provided me with just the opportunity I needed to get away from work for a few days and have an adventure in the great state of Utah.

Looking back on the adventure that was, I’ve drawn some surprisingly similar parallels to one hilariously funny film, Wedding Crashers (of course the TBS version only). So let me “Lock it Up” for you and tell you all about it…

The first thing that I had to do was actually get to the wedding. Being from Virginia I’m not the most directionally-inclined person when it come to navigating the desert-like terrain of Utah. I’ve been visiting family and friends in Utah since I was 3 years old but I’ve never quite gotten the hang of the whole “grid system” (200N, 400S), even though everyone in Utah continues to tell me that it’s the easiest thing in the world. Frankly I’m much more comfortable following directions like “go about a mile and turn right at the second light after the Dairy Queen on your left”. But when people start jabbering on about go east a mile then bare south, I begin to get a headache and start to wish that I had remembered to pack my compass. Lucky for me my Grandpa Bunnel (my mom’s dad) is a retired engineer and a capable cartographer. He drew me maps to and from Salt Lake City, to and from the reception, and he probably could have drawn me a map to and from the moon if I’d have asked him to do so. :) Each map contained multiple routes of arrival, just in case I was somehow able to get lost. And so it began, dressed in my Italian suit and armed with my hand-drawn maps (I brought my GPS too) I made my way to the Salt Lake City Temple where I’d have the privilege of seeing my friend and his wife be sealed together in marriage.

I really wasn’t too worried about parking. My friend, Scott, had said to park in the deck next to the Temple and simply inform the attendant that I was there for the Palmer wedding. My Grandpa had also conveniently drawn the location of the parking garage on his map. The parking garage was directly under Temple Square and was in between the Church Office Building and the Temple itself. I located the place without any real problems and made my way down the ramp into the deck. I had failed to read the blaring sign in front of the ramp that stated “PARKING BY PERMIT ONLY”. So as I pulled up to the attendant’s window I told him what I thought to be “the magic words”, “I’m here for the Palmer Wedding” and he looked at me as if I were speaking Greek. It was a little awkward; I must have looked like a very confused, but well-dressed country bumpkin from the backwoods of Virginia. Then he said, “Umm, yeah, you aren’t suppose to be here!” I was pretty embarrassed, but thankfully the man took pity on me and gave me a parking permit for the day and said “I’m being nice to you. Just go park over there in L2.” It didn’t even occur to me until later that I might have been parking my car right next to President Monson (Haha…”Hey what’s shakin’ Tommy?”). I was so excited about my good fortune that I parked in the first available spot I could find, jumped out of my Grandma’s car, and began searching for a way out of the labyrinth-like parking garage.

It’s still a little unclear to me how I actually managed to get out of the parking garage. I remember going through one door here, up some stairs there, and then inexplicably I somehow found myself outside in the middle of Temple Square. It felt great to walk around the grounds and see all the people getting married (I heard someone say that 55 weddings were happening that day at the Salt Lake Temple) and how happy they all looked being surrounded by their families and loved ones. I took some time to look around the visitor’s center and I even ran into a sister missionary from southern Italy. My good mood suddenly turned to panic as I realized that I had no idea where exactly I was to be in order to see my friend’s wedding. He had told me to be at the Temple by 2:10, but now that I was here it occurred to me that Temple Square was a pretty big place and that I had no earthly idea where I needed to be. In a strange twist of fate (that I’m sure could only have happened in Utah) I ran into an ex-mission companion (Anziano Payton Johnson) and a kid that I had grown up with in Richmond, Virginia (Ryan Witt). These two very familiar faces were able to help me find first, the entrance and second the waiting area where I needed to be.

Sitting and waiting for my friend’s wedding ceremony to start I felt a little more calm because I was in the place that I needed to be. But then as I scanned the room it occurred to me that I didn’t recognize a single face in the crowd. My mind began to race in panic as I realized that the only two people that I truly knew in the wedding were the bride and groom themselves! I had seen their parents once before but could not confidently pick them out in a crowd. In truth I didn’t know them from Adam, and I was sure the feeling was mutual on their side! As I waited along with about 60 other people for various weddings I heard an announcement for “the Palmer Wedding”, and so I took this to be my cue to follow the crowd of people that were heading to the pre-assigned location where the wedding would take place.

As I followed the crowd I couldn’t help but feel very “single” (I think I was one of only two single people invited to see the actual ceremony!) and I felt the burning eyes of the other people in the crowd. I could almost hear their thoughts: “Who is that clown? He must be with the _______ (fill in “bride’s family” or “groom’s family” depending on who was looking at me).” I ignored the looks of everyone else as best I could and eventually I found a seat in the back of the room. Soon we were joined by my friend and his soon-to-be-wife and all of my mishaps, miscues and mistakes were forgotten. Scott saw me first as they came into the room and I could tell he was ecstatic that I had made it. Being able to be witness to such an important moment in my friend’s life made it all worthwhile and I felt honored to have been included. The ceremony was beautiful and at its conclusion I was able to embrace my friend and his wife, they expressed their joy and excitement that I had come so far just for them, and I was able to formally congratulate them.

Since a wedding is an event that “has to always be remembered,” pictures are a must. This wedding was no different. The forecast had predicted torrential showers, but the rain had held off most of the day and it appeared that we would be lucky enough to avoid getting wet altogether! However, our luck soon ran out. It seemed that as the photographer instructed us to “say cheese” for the first picture, the skies opened up and let loose all they had. We were instantly soaked and left fleeing for cover from the grape-sized raindrops. Someone in the crowd joked, “Well, if rain is good luck, then you guys will be the luckiest couple there ever was!” It was quickly determined that the photos would have to wait until another day, and that we would go straight to the reception that was happening in a town called Midway (about an hour from Salt Lake City).

Umbrella in hand, I ran through the rain to find my car. This proved to be much more difficult than anticipated because the door that I had used to get out of the parking deck had somehow managed to disappear into thin air. For close to 15 minutes I wandered aimlessly through the waterlogged streets in and around Temple Square to no avail. Dejected, I finally consigned myself to swallow my pride and simply walk down the entrance ramp that cars use to enter the deck. However the parking attendant that I met at the top of the ramp didn’t find my plan as acceptable as I did. Instead she directed me to a stairwell that would lead me to the parking garage. At long last I made it out of the rain and amongst a multitude of compact cars and a few luxury sedans. I dried off my face, collected my wits, and thought, “Okay, now where did I park my white…dodge stratus…uh oh!” I had forgotten that I had left my car back in Philadelphia and that I had driven my Grandma’s car to the wedding! I couldn’t even remember what type of car Grandma had! Was it a Ford or Toyota? I think it was gold, or maybe it was silver? Oh no it was definitely brown…I think?! “It’s alright,” I thought, “I just need to find L2. How hard could that be?” It was at this point that I saw a D13 posted on column and realized that L2 wasn’t a parking section at all, but rather that it merely indicated that I was on Level 2 of the parking deck! Maybe you’ve seen the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine get lost in a parking garage? This was exactly what happened to me! I walked around for almost a half an hour pointing and pushing the automatic lock button on the key-ring at pretty much anything that had 4 wheels, 4 doors, and was some form of gold, silver or brown! I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. It must have been quite the site!

I am happy to report that I did eventually find Grandma’s car (a gold 4-door, Toyota Avalon; I’ll probably never forget that again!) and made it safely to the reception. The reception was very nice. Friends and family had come from all over to give their best to the new couple. Since I had attended the wedding ceremony, many of the family members at the reception were interested to meet me and introduce themselves. I had to answer the question, “Who are you related to?” about 20 times! I wanted to adhere to the strict code set forth by my Wedding Crashing Brothers: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, but I couldn't bring myself to follow Rule #14 (which says that You're always a distant relative of a dead cousin) by answering as follows, “Oh…me? I’m Cousin Steven’s sister’s brother! You know the one with the face?!” I was too afraid of being caught in my “lie”. Instead I had to explain that I was merely a friend of the groom from our days in the MTC before our missions in Milano and Rome, Italy. In spite of barrage of questioning, I felt much more in my element at the reception, mainly because it was full of eligible young single ladies. :)

See,,133461,00.html for a complete list of The Crasher’s Code.

Rule #1: Never leave a fellow Crasher behind. Crashers take care of their own. This is the first rule of wedding crashing. Since I had come without a “wing-man” I was free from the clutches of Rule #59; however, coming without a wingman did put me at a disadvantage, and I had to be careful not to get cornered into any unwanted situations. I was on top of my game! The Greeting Line was one of the first things I participated in at the reception. The Greeting Line itself is something of an enigma. It’s a line of about 20 people, but only two with which you really would like to speak. So you essentially have to make small talk with all these people before the bride and groom and then continue the unwanted conversations after the bride and groom until you finally lumber through the line. I was pleased to see that at the beginning of the Greeting Line was a large group of bridesmaids! Following Rules #13 and #17 I made small talk with the lovely ladies. One commented on how my dress shirt was textured, and the sly devil had to feel the material for herself. After I mentioned that my suit jacket’s material was “textured” as well and we had a good laugh.

After I had finished going through the Greeting Line I had an important decision to make. Two tables with open seats caught my eye. One was obviously full of ex-missionaries from the Rome Italy Mission, and the other table was lined with bridesmaids and girls that had done the bride’s make-up. The decision was pretty easy…and I sat myself down with the ladies and began to work my magic! Lock it up!!!

The reception was great! We saw Scott and his wife cut the cake and then proceed to smash cake pieces in each other’s faces, dance their first dance, and of course the bouquet was thrown to a pack a ravenous single girls! Before I left I made sure to thanks Scott and Sarah for letting me come and celebrate with them. They in turn thanked me for coming and let me know how much it had meant to them that I had come so far just for them. Before I left Sarah made sure to let me know that she had seen my shenanigans with her roommates. She said, “I saw you over there workin’ it with my friends!” I said, “You got me all wrong. I was just trying to show some good old ‘southern hospitality’.” She didn’t believe me for one second, and we had a good laugh before we said our goodbyes.

In closing I’ll leave you with this parting phrase and words to live by: Lock it Up!