Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Wedding in Umbria: The pre-wedding serenade

Casale Montemoro
I smoked my last cigarette two days before my wedding. The occasion was a party we held at Casale Montemoro, the lovely Allerona guesthouse where most of our US wedding guests stayed.

The party came together in that effortless way that Italian feste seem to organize themselves. The food kept coming, from the kitchen and the pizza ovens and the grill. Five-liter jugs of wine were drained and refilled at every table. Italians and Americans struggled, with good humor and some success, to understand one another. The Italian men flirted with the American women. Everyone danced. Nonno Gino sang. And my friends were as amazed as I at how everyone in Allerona pulled together to help us ring in our nuptials.
I drank too much wine and smoked too many cigarettes, and I’m fairly sure I wasn’t the only one. The next morning, Paolo and I awoke early with a long to-do list ahead of us. The first stop was the reception site, Corno Rosso restaurant near Orvieto. I had to have Paolo make a pit stop so I could buy crackers and a Coke—yeah, that’s how much wine I drank. I sat in the restaurant, head pounding, trimming table cards, finalizing seating arrangements and thanking my lucky stars that I had this hangover the day before my wedding, and not the day of.
That evening, Paolo’s friend Domenico had arranged for an aperitivo at our little bar in town, so once again we had another party to attend. Only this time, I took it easy, and had just a little hair of the dog to quell my headache. My long-lost cousins from St. Louis, two brothers, showed up at the bar and bonded almost immediately with some of the Italian fellows, who happily introduced them to the joys of grappa and limoncello.
Our priest, in a move that I still gripe about today, scheduled our wedding rehearsal for 9:45 pm the night before our wedding. So we walked up to the church and went through the motions, though I think I might have nodded off a few times.
When the rehearsal finished nearly two hours later (!), we returned to the bar, expecting to find it empty. Instead, there were my cousins, arm in arm with their new Italian best friends, still downing shots of limoncello and roaring with laughter. I left Paolo at the bar with a few of his friends and my drunken cousins, and I headed with my team to Montemoro, where I would spend the night and get ready the next morning. I wasn’t particularly nervous, and sad as it may be, I was too tired to be atwitter for the next day; I just wanted to get a good night’s sleep.
A few minutes after I arrived, Paolo called. “Leave the gate open,” he said. “Domenico needs to drop something off.”
Seriously? I was already in my pajamas. What the hell would Domenico need to drop off?
A half an hour later, the gate was still open, there was no sign of Domenico, and I was ready for bed. Maybe he just wasn’t coming. I called Paolo to ask if I could close the gate. “He’ll be there soon,” he assured me. I could tell from the sound of his voice that something was up.
A few minutes later, and well after midnight, I heard the horns. A lot of them, and getting closer. “They’re here…” I called to my friends, who were mostly busy flossing and exfoliating before bedtime.

Through the gates of Montemoro came car after car filled with our Italian friends, all honking horns and shouting. Finally came Maurizio’s tractor, adorned with straw brooms, ribbons, balloons and deer antlers, and pulling a grape wagon. From the wagon spilled Paolo (inexplicably donned in an oversize farmer’s hat) and dozens of our friends. The wagon was like a circus clown car, as more and more partiers poured out. At the bottom of the heap, splayed across the floor of the wagon and laughing hysterically, were my drunk cousins. They got up, fell down, got up again and then fell out of the wagon. Mind you, these are not young men.
Yup, that's my cousin.

Paolo serenading me

With back-up singers Danielle & Barb
Not sure what's sillier, the pajamas or the hat
They were all there to help Paolo serenade me the night (now the morning!) before our wedding. With a boom box and tiny, barely functioning speakers in hand, Paolo sang an Italian love song, his friends joining in an out of tune chorus.

Next, it was my turn to serenade him. I was handed the words to “You’re Just too Good to be True,” as it had somehow become the theme song to our wedding. My friends and I did our best a capella version of The Four Seasons classic before the crowd descended into chaos. Our friend Diego nearly knocked me over with a bear hug and said, “Liz, ti voglio tanto, tanto bene” (the equivalent of a friend saying a platonic “I love you”), tackled another friend to the ground, and then promptly puked in the bushes. My older cousin Dan fell up the stairs and took out a geranium in the process, then tried to reassemble its pieces like it was a broken vase. Randy, the younger of the pair, embraced Paolo and me and told us we had touched his heart with our love. “Heart-o, heart-o,” he implored, pointing to his chest. I didn’t have the heart-o to tell him that putting an “o” on the end of a word doesn’t make it Italian.
The next morning, I was surprised to see my cousins up bright and early, photographing and videotaping the entire ceremony. Someone handed my cousin Randy his passport, which he had lost the night before. About midway through lunch, I spied Dan with his necktie tied around his head, and figured he had recovered from the previous night. I thought once again of my last hurrah two nights earlier, and was once again grateful that I drank too much the night before the night before my wedding. And I was really glad I hadn't smoked the night before.

At the luncheon, Paolo and I mostly just sipped at our wine glasses and left it to our guests to over-imbibe, which several of them did (more puking in the bushes!). We were exhausted, relieved and somewhat in disbelief that the whole thing was finally done, that the wedding went off without a hitch and that we were finally past the finish line.

And when I think back on the entire week of festivities leading up to our big day, I believe my fondest memory is of my husband, in a silly oversize farmer’s hat, unabashedly crooning to me as I sat on a windowsill in my pajamas (unabashedly), and listened. It was the very first time he sang to me and fortunately, it hasn’t been the last. Heart-o, indeed. 
Whew! We made it.


  1. What a fabulous moment. Have a wonderful life -Kelly

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting, Kelly!