SANTA BARBARA — We’re up at this bacchanal in Santa Babs, that chi-chi little hamlet two hours north. Bit of a Brigadoon. On weekends, it is mobbed with visitors buying scented candles – Santa Barbara’s main cash crop – or baked oysters. Or bolo ties.
Very ranchy this place. Smells of whiskey and sumac. Love the red-tile roofs and the huge, ancient wall lamps. Everything about Santa Barbara seems tasteful in ways LA does not.
And there’s this wedding. Nice to see weddings again. There are about a billion of them this summer and fall — our planet can barely accommodate them all. Some are even on Thursdays.
Love is in the air, obviously. Knew I smelled something.
For us, this wedding is the first in a series. Next, there’s Britt, then Emily, then Mel. The lovely and patient older daughter is holding a second wedding, for those who might’ve missed the first last summer.
It all kicks off with this Santa Barbara bash, on an old orchid farm, amid the sage and chaparral. Wine country. Up here, even the bees are a little drunk.
By now, you’re probably wondering” “What did he wear?” Well, my walrus mustache, of course, plus a too-tight shirt that fits me like a wetsuit under a beige seersucker jacket.
Who wears beige seersucker? Evidently, I do.
My plus-one (Smartacus) is wearing too-short dress pants; my buddy Gino is wearing greenish jeans. Pete forgot to shave.
Bottom line: Men should never dress themselves.
Rapunzel’s boyfriend, Alex, is looking relatively sharp in a bolo tie he bought on State Street that morning, after a mega-breakfast at Joe’s (great hash browns!).
This whole weekend has the sheen of a high-priced soap opera, where the characters are fit, tan and toothy. Nobody seems fat, except me in my too-tight shirt (now a car rag).
Rapunzel? My younger daughter shows up wearing freckles, like a kid actor playing Becky Thatcher. I love her freckles. They are a butterfly hatch….too many to count, and sporadic. Some summers you see them, some summers you don’t.
Meanwhile, here are some undeniable truths about weddings:
- If you have a good DJ or band, you have a good wedding.
- If you have a great band, you have a great wedding.
- No one really listens to the pastor, no matter how good. Guests are too busy talking in their own minds: “Should’ve gone bathroom.” Or, “14 groomsmen? Who has 14 groomsmen?” (more on that in a minute).
- Open bars are good luck. They guarantee the couple a long and happy life together.
- That smashing-the-cake-in-the-face thing? Probably our worst wedding tradition (though the photos of it are always fun).
Even if you follow these important guidelines, there are no guarantees.
In my experience, every wedding is an unrehearsed play. Sure, there is massive prep and even a bit of rehearsal. Yet you never know how it will actually play out.
Is the preacher drunk? Will the bride bolt? Is the wedding singer menstrual?
This one plays out pretty perfectly, here on the former orchid farm/cattle ranch.
The ceremony is under a 200-year-old magnolia — a tree in a Tolkien fantasy
There are 14 groomsmen, and 10 bridesmaids, a modern-day record. Jesus had 12 Apostles. Connor has 14 groomsmen. Same goal.
Honestly, when all the groomsmen line up next to the groom, it resembles the Dodger dugout. The bridesmaids are stunning, like the 10 finalists in some major pageant. One is a lanky, husky-voiced double for Lindsay Lohan.
Then came the handsome groom and the Florida-bred bride. There might’ve been gold dust in her makeup. Had to be platinum in her hair.
“Babe of a bride,” as Rapunzel puts it.
To me, the ceremony seemed super long – 20 minutes – though I suppose that’s rather swift in comparison to most.
Next thing we know we’re having cocktails down by the beach, then dinner in the orchid hot house, with my buddies Ulfie, Hollywood Harv, Top-Gun Semcken… Pete, Gino, Jim, Gary and Joe (At best, I’m the fourth-funniest dad here).
Then there are toasts, then a very, very live band.
This Bob Gail wedding band is the best I’ve ever heard…eight pieces that sound like 12. There is no cringy banter between songs, only more songs, from Beastie Boys to Earth, Wind & Fire.
One side note: I cry a little at weddings, especially when the groom danced with his beautiful mother Susy.
Another side note: When I dance, I actually repel women. But Smartacus? He’s 18 now, and women of all ages seem to circle him, like coyotes. He’s taller, that’s why.
And cheerier…happy as a poodle. I glance over at one point to see him in a conga line, holding a young lady’s ultra-wiggly waist.
Oh my. Mazel tov! Mazel life!
As you know, I am the poet laureate of American weddings, the Robert Frost of tuxedoes and taffeta.
If anything, being a widower has boosted my appreciation for marriage in general.
From here out, I know that Connor will have someone to warm his coffee, or to let him know if he missed a little spot shaving. I know Tyler will have someone to ask, “Hey, wanna try that new sushi place? Or just stay home and chill with the dogs?”
What’s even better than a best friend?
A best husband. A best wife.
Stay tuned for details on our next Gin & Tonic backyard bash. And please support this silly enterprise with a purchase of a book or a t-shirt. You can also read past columns on the website, or sign up for the monthly Newsletter. Or pick up valuable grooming tips (just kidding). For info, please click here.