Grace and I got married on November 24, 2003, in Sacramento, California.
Just to get the photo’s out of the way, since that’s what you all are here to see, click on the composite thumbnail below to go to the image viewer (assuming you’re not already in the image viewer):
If I were a heroic superblogger, I would have posted these from the road, stopping at T-Mobile Hotspots along the way to upload pictures and text. I had better things to do with my time, so we’ll have to settle for this three-week late post written over a couple of cold weekends in New York.
The plans were to have a big weekend, flying out from Newark Friday night with a few people — Bernadette, Michael, Danny, Scott & Liz — to spend most of the weekend in San Francisco before heading to Sacramento on Sunday afternoon. (A side note: we flew Continental; they offer advanced check-in for people with E-Tickets, so you can (minimally) select your seat online 30 hours before the flight. We were able to snag the bulkhead seats, which arguably have more leg room than first class. Right now is the Golden Hour for such seat snagging, since most passengers apparently haven’t caught on.) We were going to meet my brother at SFO, and then pile into an Alamo minivan (the only rental company to offer an eight-person minivan) before heading to the hotel.
We spent the Saturday doing mainly touristy things. In the morning, we walked over to Swan’s Oyster Depot, where the New England clam chowder and sourdough bread were very good, and I had too many oysters. There was the long walk from there to the Ghirardelli Square area, past Lombard Street. After a short stop for banana splits, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf, and eventually back down to the Union Square area. Grace and Liz went off to do beauty spa things, Scott went to look at electronics, and Michael, my brother and I went to the hotel-affiliated gym for a socializing workout (and a mild fear that I wouldn’t be able to fit into my tuxedo on Monday after a food-heavy weekend). We were all to meet back at the hotel lobby for the late evening event meal for the weekend.
This was at Masa’s. The fun trivia about this restaurant is that it’s run by Ron Siegel, who was the first American to beat an Iron Chef (Iron Chef Sakai, in fact). He must hate people who come up to him for autographs. We did see him poke his head out of the kitchen a couple of times to survey his restaurant; he ducked back in before we could take the celebrity photos with blindingly bright flashes.
Granted, affixing the adjective “celebrity” to any noun tends to devalue that noun: celebrity boxing, celebrity dairy farming, celebrity government. But Siegal’s celebrity comes from actually doing something impressive (albeit only tangentially related to being a great executive chef and somewhat hokey, though the Japanese apparently take the TV show very seriously) in his field. The meal was fantastic, and was the best food some of us have had in many years. Unfortunately, we were seated at 10PM PST, and, jet-lagged Eastern Timers we were, couldn’t fully appreciate the food by the time the last couple of courses of the nine-course tasting menu rolled around close to 1AM. Thankfully, we just had to go through the restaurant’s side door to get to our rooms; Grace booked us in the Executive Suite Hotel, in whose lobby Masa’s is located. And we got a room discount for having restaurant reservations, to boot (note that the room photos for the hotel don’t show the weird decorative pillows of Platonic solids on the beds. We’d move them off to sleep, and the cleaning staff would put them back on.)
We drove out in the minivan (now dubbed the “wedding mobile”) the next morning, intending to get to Sacramento by mid-afternoon to run a couple of pre-wedding errands and to have what would be a rehearsal dinner at Grace’s parents that evening. Before heading out over the Bay Bridge to I-80, we took a long loop through the city, around Golden Gate Park and up to the Golden Gate Bridge for a quick walk to mid-span. We went to Ton Kiang for dim sum, on the western side of the city. Grace’s classmate Rebecca, who was a chef in San Francisco before medical school, recommended it to us when Grace and I visited the city two years ago. The food is still great — very light and not at all greasy — better than the dim sum I’ve had in New York.
The drive to Sacramento was uneventful, and the errands did get done, though not without a mixup on the part of party favors that took a couple of trips to the mall to fix. My parents arrived on time, and everyone got along together very well — it’s the first time our parents have met — despite the language differences. Grace’s uncles grilled a lot of steak, chicken, pork and fish for a wonderful home cooked dinner, finished off by pies and Portuguese sweet rice. With bellys full and belts loosened, we drove the wedding mobile to a hotel in downtown Sacramento for the night.
We got up early for the 8AM appointment at city hall (“city hall” being the name for the muncipal offices where they issue the certificates; the mayor wasn’t there). Grace’s friend Anita met us at the hotel. The women did Grace’s hair and makeup, and Grace wore a red dress for good luck. Bernadette also did my bowtie in about thirty seconds after Scott and I struggled with it for fifteen minutes. She said it was like tying a shoelace; the bowtying should have been videotaped for posterity. Grace and I put our stuff into Anita’s VW, and everyone else’s bags went into the wedding mobile: the ESTers were departing from SMF directly after the informal post-wedding brunch at Hyatt Vines restaurant. We then drove the short distance to city hall, and met everyone else there.
Waiting for city hall to open, we were the best dressed group of citizens waiting to process municipal paperwork: suits and tuxes next to sweatpants. The offices opened a little after 8AM, and we gave the clerk our completed application. In addition to the official marriage certificate, we had a choice of designs for the “souvenir” certificate, suitable for framing. We opted for a plain souvenir certificate, instead of the glossier one with a picture of the State Capitol building on it. Since this was Sacramento county paperwork, none of the pieces of paper had Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signature reproduced across the bottom.
Everyone filed into the waiting room while the clerk processed the application. We took pictures among the parition walls. Grace and I affirmed that we had truthfully filled out the application, and our witnesses, Scott and my brother, signed on the dotted line. Then we waited a bit more, and the Sacramento Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages (yes, that’s his title) came by to let us into the ceremony room. He solemnized the marriage: we (nervously) exchanged our personal vows, the Deputy Commissioner read from his pamphlet, we repeated what he said, put on our rings and kissed.
After the obligatory parade of photos with family and friends — not too many because the room’s capacity was only around 20 — we went to a breakfast buffet at the Hyatt Vines. More of Grace’s family and friends joined us there. The cake was there. We ate, there were more photos, a champagne toast (the first alcohol I’ve had in many years; I got a slight buzz from it), a cake cutting, and people left for the airport. We went to Grace’s parents house, and unwound for the afternoon.
Amusingly, we had a side trip to the suburb of Elk Grove, to fetch our bags from Anita’s VW: her contact info was in our bags, so we had to look up her address from the guest book from the brunch, and then go to AAA to get a street map of the newly incorporated city.
We stayed the night at a Sacramento bed and breakfast, Inn at Parkside.
We spent the next few days around Sacramento, doing errands and visiting Kinko’s to make printouts of photos from the compact flash cards Scott left with me. A good number of 8″x10″ printouts went with my father to Taiwan to show my grandmothers. There were many trips to Starbuck’s and Kinko’s for Internet access, along with Jamba Juice for fruit smoothies; I wanted the fruit to counteract the yummy bacon and pancakes Grace’s parents were making each morning for us.
Grace’s parents and uncle cooked a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: excellent turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, and so on. My parents came back to Sacramento for this dinner, after spending time with relatives in San Jose and Sonoma. After Thanksgiving, Grace and I got away for the weekend before we had to return to New York and reality.
We spent the weekend after Thanksgiving in Napa, staying at one of the fancy suite of the Napa Valley Lodge. Before checking into the hotel, we had lunch at the Culinary Institute of America restaurant in St. Helena (yes, we’re continuing the food theme for the week) and passed through what are apparently regular traffic jams on Route 29, the road that runs up the center of Napa Valley. Amusingly, when we got to the hotel, there were fire trucks in the parking lot. Presumably, there were fireplaces with an unlimited supply of Duraflame logs in the rooms, and someone had set something on fire. We checked in without incident, though the clerk made a joke about the rooms being no-smoking. Burning our own set of Duraflames was fun, though.
Dinner that night was at the Domaine Chandon, a restaurant attached to a winery specializing in sparkling wines. Another tasting menu, this wasn’t quite as good as Masa’s, though Grace had the very good course-appropriate wine selection to go with the various dishes.
The package included breakfast delivered to the room. This was mostly pastries with fruit and coffee. That Saturday afternoon, we visited the Robert Mondavi winery; we didn’t do the (expensive) tasting, but did pick up a couple bottles to bring back to New York. For a late lunch, we stopped at Taylor’s Refresher, a burger joint off the main road that we saw when we first drove through to CIA. We had a pumpkin milk shake and fish tacos there. This was actually one of the better places we ate in Napa Valley. The line was long and the open-air tables were crowded, despite the drizzle. We got back to the hotel after that, to relax before dinner.
Our last meal, outside the hotel’s breakfast and a quick stop at the big salad place in Berkeley on the way to the airport on Sunday, was at Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s bistro down the street from French Laundry. Rich French Food Exhaustion had settled in at that point; while the mussels were really good, everything else tasted salty and greasy. One reason we went to the big salad place in Berkeley was because, really, at that point, after a week of eating richly, all we wanted was a big salad.
Grace dropped me off at SFO Sunday afternoon, and went home to Sacramento for a few more days. I twiddled with my new ring as I watched a DVD on the laptop; I’ve never worn jewelry before and it just felt odd. It hasn’t sunk in that we were married, but I’m slowly getting used to call Grace my wife.