The Princess Bride

CHICAGO — I feel like my body is re-setting.

“To what?” Suzanne asks.

To what I felt like before this mud puddle of emotions, to something that I can maybe manage.

Wow, this wedding. Even in normal times, I have a tell-tale heart. You can gauge my mood by the color of my forehead, the timbre of my voice, the way I karate chop the air when I order a deli sandwich.

Here’s the miracle of my daughter’s wedding last weekend in the windiest city, chosen so a breeze  would wiggle the bride’s veil just so. On a summer day in Chicago, everyone’s hair twirls like Michael Jordan.

So, yeah, it was windy, and the bride a little revved up. Much at stake. Folks had flown in from New York and North Carolina, plus an entire tribe of weirdo Californians, just to juice the dance floor a little, just to make sure a few tables were a little too loud.

What a mitzvah. Haven’t had this much fun since my other daughter’s wedding two years ago. Now I’m out of daughters. But the memories will pillow the next few years.

The bride wore white and the biggest smile you’ve maybe ever seen. What do they call that thing that trails behind a bride down the aisle, that thing everyone accidentally steps on? The train? The vapor trail?

Whatever it is, Cakes holds it with both fists. She’s only 2, and already Pixar has taught her how to deal with princess brides. Tenderly, if you can. Like they are made of vellum and fog.

If you ever get married in Chicago – and I hope you will – may I suggest Café Brauer in Lincoln Park, an ornate old barn with a high iron ceiling and a ton of candles.

All weddings are coronations, all weddings are just a silly good time. Rapunzel deserves this. She and Truck pretty much planned it on their own, her mother only able to watch from the VIP seats above.

It’s a lot, a wedding. Pray to God you have a good coordinator. Then pray to God the weather isn’t a swampy mess, like it can be in August in Chicago.

I grew up here, and when I heard the wedding was set for Aug. 18, I vowed to wear a Speed-O and a smear of Coppertone. August in Chicago? I feared everyone would melt like a snowman, and that several of the bridesmaids would pass out, to be hauled off by paramedics.

In Chicago, they have bartenders instead of EMTs, so we were pretty OK on fluids.

Yet… The day dawned sunny and cool. A breeze danced the lake. The humidity? Only in my heart.

When Chicago is “on,” it’s like a tone poem, perhaps America’s greatest city. I wobble between LA and Chicago, of course, and I have this compromise now: California is our best state; Chicago our best city. Whatever. To each his own.

My sister (the Reverend Holly), who had never officiated a wedding, did considerable prep work online, then called the groom’s dad Marty for some family history, then added a few thoughts of her own.

From start to finish, she was movie-moment brilliant.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Wedding Whisperer:

“A girl from the land of the stars meets a boy who went looking for the stars,” she said, summing up the union of an L.A. girl and her aerospace husband.

Trust me, our family is not renowned for its poise in important situations, yet here’s Aunt Holly, owning the occasion.

Cakes was the opening act, coming down the aisle, flipping rose petals out of a basket, letting everyone know the show was about to begin.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

It’s a brave soul who puts the overture in the hands of a 2-year-old. Toddlers are the original “disruptors,” and though Cakes didn’t exactly sit quietly through the ceremony, she did bring all the whimsy and the charm anyone could hope.

She was magic.

Did anything go wrong? Well, I’m too distracted, too wound up in my own world to notice anything else sometimes. From my POV, nothing went wrong, though there apparently was a biting incident when the bride tossed the bouquet to a scrum of over-eager contestants.

“Basically KD side-swiped the flower grab and Michelle bit her because her arm cut in front of her mouth,” is how one witness explained it. 

In other news, I didn’t totally flub my speech, and the salads came on cue, and Sinatra never sounded better.

Best intangible? The crazed camaraderie of a pile of longtime friends – mine and my daughter’s – dressed in their cotton coats, their biggest smiles pasted on their tinted summer faces.

Best moment? When, in the middle of the vows, the breeze whips Rapunzel’s bridal train around behind her … a filagree … a flourish.

Was it her late mother’s touch? Her embrace?  Her maternal futzing from afar?

Yep. All of that.

Well done, baby.

Coming up: A lap around Lake Michigan, looking for lighthouses, smoked fish and grandest hotel you’ve ever seen. For more columns and photos, please go to

42 thoughts on “The Princess Bride

  1. I know Posh enjoyed all the beautiful festivities from the “VIP seats” above. What a lovely post. Felt like I was right there with you all, celebrating the gorgeous bride and dashing groom. And Cakes, who never takes a bad picture, clearly took her duties very seriously. So happy for your family!

  2. Cakes always steals the show………..even with such a gorgeous bride!! But my favorite pic is your three kids……….

  3. Mazel Tov. Gorgeously conveyed. Best laugh of my week with this one: “grew up here, and when I heard the wedding was set for Aug. 18, I vowed to wear a Speed-O and a smear of Coppertone”.

  4. Life will find a way. Congrats to the whole Erskine family, and that aerospace dude too, who we welcome to The Left Coast!!

  5. A column filled with your heart on your sleeve…or whatever you wore that day. All that, and cameo appearances from Posh, Babycakes and Brickhouse…or was that Harry Caray? “Holy cow”. Mazel Tov.

  6. What a wonderful, magical event!
    (FYI – “Windy City” is a reference to the blowhard politicians, not weather.)

  7. Do we get highlights from your speech? The wedding sounds like it was absolutely perfect, including a visit from Posh. Thanks for sharing.

    1. There were no highlights. It sounded like a Mike Ditka rant. There were a lot of “You ready for this’s?!” and “Bravos.” Closed with “To laughter and to love.” I only cried a little.

  8. How lovely – congratulations to all involved!

    Your story about Cakes’ flower girl duty brought back happy memories of my own daughter as a flower girl. Instead of sprinkling flowers by the fistful, she carefully placed each petal on the path to the altar. Needless to say, it took a while…

  9. Mazel tov Chris, your family deserves this happiness
    I’m an LA resident from Chicago too so I totally get the weather references lol

  10. OMG, not only was the bride spectacularly beautiful and Catty Cakes making the word adorable sound inadequate…but that’s a picture of a Flooky’s hot dog! Or a damn near perfect knock-off! Lord do I miss those hot dogs!!! Of all the things I remember as a kid growing up on the near-North side of Chicago (Albany Park), those hot dogs still come in at #1. Congrats, Chris. I’m sure you were the perfect Father of The Bride!

  11. “But the memories will pillow the next few years.”

    I hope you worked that magnificent image into the toast! Line of the day, Chris. You LA folk sure know how to party! Congrats to all involved. Posh is sleeping just a bit more soundly tonight. Cakes has already invested her stock in family futures.

    I appreciate these s-l-o-w weddings. I got married twice on three days’ notice, once under an apricot tree in August smushing jam between my toes, and once in the hospital. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you DON’T take it slow.

  12. This was a superlative iconic beauty of a time, trademark Erskine pouring of gleaming smiles and emotional richness. Yet, when the heart and mind are overwhelmed, the always agile prose can somehow seem subdued by the blinding light of it all. Maybe there just are no words, as in that lead picture of the bride and little Catherine. No words. Or maybe it was this ever illuminating little blue flower of a flower girl that dazed the proceedings a bit. And have you noticed how all the women seemed even more beautiful, the men more handsome, than before, when the light of a time like this visited their faces? Oh! what a wedding can do to everyone in it. Mazeltov, indeed.

  13. Looks like a perfectly magical day. The way it should be. Congratulations! Love the pics…especially the one of your kids! You could’ve also smeared on Sea & Ski as a tribute to your dad! Hope you’re enjoying your time around the lake. You might have to pick up a copy of “Da Yoopers” when you’re in the U.P. 😉

  14. I knew Holly would nail it. SO great to see you all pre-wedding. The weather was quite a pleasant surprise earlier in the week. Glad it held for you and the clan. Blessings to the Bride and Groom (and “Good Job” Cakes!)

    1. Downing beers in McGonigals with you was a great way to kick off our week. We ended up back there on our last night. Got a chance to spend some time with Doug and Janet. Looking forward to the 50th reunion, if it works out.

  15. as always you have me feeling all those feelings when life’s moments align. you are the jack smith of my generation…thank you Chris.

  16. Absolutely beautiful, perfect. Congratulations. When you are in the UP please have a pasty. It’s my soul food.

  17. On a visit to Chicago and just walked by Cafe Brauer and said, this would great for a wedding location. Then came back and read your article. Serendipity!
    As a native Los Angeleno and San Franciscan on my 10th visit to Chicago in 6 years (daughter lives here), I have to say Chicago has it all over California.
    In particular, “Old Town” for young people cannot be beat.

  18. Lovely piece and very touching as expected. Love Chi — glad you had good weather — went once in March and once in July and swore “never again”! Still I fell in love with the City (I saw a man who danced with his wife)!! Simply lovely wedding pix!!!

  19. Thank you so very much for including all your fans in the life and adventures of your family. You truly somehow manage to make us feel like are part of it. Cannot tell you how much I look forward to Wednesdays & Saturdays.

  20. The most beautiful dress! Must be a wonderful thing to attend a child’s wedding. So lovely, my friend.

  21. Finally getting caught up on your posts – This one brought the tears to my eyes! So touching and emotional – So happy for you all! It looked perfect! <3 <3 <3

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