Savage Enterprises Publishing
Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

The Last Word

Event of a Lifetime — (August 2003) By this point you've probably heard the stories, seen the pictures, and read the liturgy. So, you might be wondering about how the experience was. I'll try to illuminate you :) I'd like to start at the beginning, but since so many events leading up to the big day exist, I have to draw the line. Thus, I'll start on Thursday August 28th.

I worked half a day and then met up with Chantale to enjoy a half-day spa treatment at the Ovarium. An hour-long floating bath followed by an hour-long massage. It was more than enough to relax us :) Afterwards, we headed to the church to meet with the Pastor for the practice ceremony. Chantale's father and sister (Sylvie) were there along with one of our musicians and usher. We walked through the ceremony talking and explaining what we would do and how, laughing and joking the entire time. I had gotten all the booklets printed up the day before and thus we had the proper liturgy to follow along. It was all great and I admit to a lump forming in my throat when I walked in to the music and stood at the front waiting for Chantale :) When we were all done, we offered to drive Sylvie home. But first, a stop at Subways to EAT!! :) We had a great time chatting about everything going on and it was one of those "nice" moments to remember: calmly enjoying our subs in the empty restaurant.

Friday morning, we got up early and headed to the hairdresser's. I had an appointment and had asked for it first thing since it was going to be a busy day. Chantale's father had the appointment after me but wasn't warned of it since it had changed so often (he thought it was at 3:30pm). Good thing we called to remind him :)

We left to pick up my mom and the goodies she had baked for the Fellowship after the ceremony and for the sweet table at the reception. From there, we headed to a cousin's house who had insisted on doing the same thing. Afterwards, we stopped off at Chantale's parents' place to say hello to the out-of-towners, and to pick up a key for church. We drove to the church, unloaded some goodies (including the wine) and then got back on the road to make our way to the Gallant. An hour later, we finished unloading the food at the Pavillion and Chantale and I drove my mom back home but not before heading to pick up the kids!

With my mom back at her house and the kids in the car, we headed back to the West Island to wash, shampoo, and vacuum the car before finally heading home where we did some quick house-cleaning prior to more family coming to visit! It was pretty wild to have such a large number of people in the house at one time. In fact, we ended up having two tours going on at the same time: one in French and one in English/ German! :)

The visit over, we took a few minutes to breathe (and admire all the gifts we received) before getting changed and driving back to Chantale's parents' place, then turn around and head to La Porte Greque for a large family supper! (But not before a quick side-trip to fix one of Chantale's nails! :) ) The supper was excellent and it was incredible having 45 family members there to share it. Lots of stories, smiles, and photographs. :)

With supper over, the kids and I dropped Chantale off at her parents' since she was spending the night there with Sylvie and a couple of other close family friends. I went home, put the kids to bed, and went online to send Chantale some files she was going to need for Saturday. Then, I got ready for bed and tried to sleep. Initially, Francisco was to sleep over (after cigars and booze, of course :) ) but those plans had changed. At any rate, considering I had spent over 7 hours driving, I figured I would fall asleep quickly. Nope, didn't happen :) I wasn't tired and so I read in bed.

At 11:55pm, I wanted to call Chantale. We knew there was to be no contact on the day of the Wedding but the night before wasn't over yet! :) In the kind of "co-incidences" that our lives are made of, she ended up calling ME about 2 minutes later! :) We chatted briefly and quickly until Sylvie stormed into the room and demanded that we close the line :) I went to sleep shortly after that. Until the phone rang again. At 3:30am. It was Chantale's friend Louise calling from Australia. She had gotten her time zones confused and thought it was 7:30am. "Hi Mike, can I talk to Chantale?" "Chantale? She's not here." "Oh! Did she leave already?" "Where would she go at 3:30 in the morning?" "Oh no! I'm so sorry!" It was pretty funny :)

Finally, the day of the Wedding. I woke up calmly and in good spirits as the sun streamed into my room. I went to check up on the kids and they were also awake and happy. We lounged around and after breakfast got Melyssa dressed. James and I then drove her to the Church where we were to meet Chantale's mom and pick up our corsages. I sang loud, silly songs the entire way there. Just imagine the regular "Going to the Chapel" song slowly transforming into a Rap and the Punk version and you'll get the relative idea of goofiness I was in at the time :) At the church, I chatted with some friends who were helping to set up the Fellowship and looked at the flowers and decorations already in place. Very nice :) That done, James and I drove back to the house while Melyssa left with Chantale's mom to go back to her place and get "prettied-up" :)

Back at home, I got some overnight bags together and packed the kids' clothes while James went to play on the computer. Francisco and Line showed up at 10:30am and we chatted for a bit before we all got changed. A relaxing, yet still very exciting affair :) I helped James into his tux and his tie and cuff links and before you know it, us three men were all dolled-up looking great :) We took a few pictures and finally loaded up the car and made our way back to the Church.

We got to the Church at the same time as my parents (and David Shtogryn and his wife, too!). Again, we took some more pictures and then made our way inside for more chatting. I gave my parents their corsages and pretty soon, once I started to sweat, I told Francisco it was time to go chill out in the Pastor's office. James stayed with my folks and Francisco and I went away to try to get me to relax/ calm down/ stop sweating! :) I don't know if I was so excited I just ended up getting nervous, or a combination of everything! Either way, I was jumpy and having quite the time trying to bring my heartbeat back to normal :)

The Pastor came in and we chatted. My hairdresser came by to look in on me, gave me the "thumbs-up" sign and left. Melyssa came in crying because she had been forced to leave Chantale with her dad and come to the Church with Chantale's mom. Poor little kid was just confused and really, really wanted to stay with Chantale. It was a heart-warming moment. It just ended up being too bad that somehow her allergies kicked in at the same time and thus her eyes turned red and swollen and stayed that way throughout most of the night (small smile). Finally, 1pm came and I joked with the Pastor and Francisco about how if there was ONE thing I could have been certain of, besides the fact that Chantale and I were going to marry, was that she would NOT be at the Church at 1pm :) True enough, 10 to 15 minutes later, word came that she was there. The three of us said a quick prayer and after the Pastor checked in on Chantale, we marched out to begin the procession.

What was going through my head as I stood at the doors to the entrance of the chapel? I can't really tell you. My brain was going a million-miles a minute. I saw smiles everywhere and got some pats on the shoulder. I held my hands behind my back. Tightly. The Pastor walked in and Francisco and Sylvie followed. A few beats later, I began my walk. I tried to stop myself from going too quickly and smiled and nodded to many around me. All I saw were faces. I couldn't tell you who I truly noticed. I got to the front and stopped. The Pastor motioned and I moved closer, Francisco taking his place to the left of me. The doors were closed and the audience collectively held their breath as the doors were eventually opened… and some latecomers snuck quickly inside. :) Again, we waited, and soon, we were rewarded.

The Ushers opened the door, and Beauty was revealed! Chantale and her father strode in and calmly walked down the aisle. I know she initially expected herself to walk in slowly, looking around to see who was there, but during her entire walk, she focused only on me. What a vision she was. Nothing about her dress was expected and she was simply radiant. The hairdresser had done such a wonderful job that Chantale got as many comments on her hair as she did on the dress! :) They walked to their designated spot and I approached. Her father kissed her, shook my hand, and I took her arm under mine after giving her a small kiss on the cheek. We approached and stood before the Pastor, Francisco and Sylvie flanking us as we listened to the musicians perform. And then, it began!

If you read the Liturgy, you can follow along with what happened. It really did go by that book. The things left out were the constant smiles and joy flowing from everyone to everyone. Our feelings during the readings, our feelings during our vows, my being filled with so much emotion I have to admit to some sobs during my vows, our feelings during everyone's blessings, our shock and elation to see MY parents go up to take communion. Truthfully, we hadn't expected many to go for communion. Within a few minutes, we were amazed at the numbers that turned up. So much so, in fact, that someone had to go and help the Pastor out! :) Maybe it was the fact that my dad provided the wine and Chantale's dad the bread. Either way, we were quite touched.

Before we knew it, the ceremony was over in its entirety, and those wonderful words were uttered: "I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride!" And what a kiss it was! :) Full of love, happiness, joy, amazement, and long enough to satisfy everyone with a camera :) The music filled the chapel as we made our way back down the aisle and fled into the Pastor's office to spend our first 10 minutes of Married life together, alone :) Francisco and Sylvie stood guard by the door and ushered everyone into the kitchen for snacks. Chantale and I talked, hugged, laughed, and laughed some more. When our time was up and we knew the majority of people were in the kitchen, we walked out to join them as best we could (being stopped, of course, every few feet :)).

Eventually, people began to leave and we decided to head to the Gallant. A few photographs later, Chantale's dad drove the two of us to the reception. Very relaxed, very happy, and smiles which never left our faces from the moment the day began, we drove up, waving and smiling at everyone who passed us :)

The Maple Pavillion at the Auberge Gallant was simply beautiful. Guests were there enjoying cocktails and snacks and we joined them to then spend the next hour taking tons of photos. The duo we hired to provide music were entertaining the crowd and it was an incredible scene right out of memory or movie magic. We couldn't have asked for a better day! Sunny, beautiful, not too hot, splendid! Once we finally finished with the pictures, we greeted everyone into the Pavillion and then took our seats. Francisco began by welcoming everyone and making the first toast.

Again, what can I say about the reception? The workers were incredible and highly efficient. The food was SO good as to be unbelievable. The ambiance was wonderful. The DJ was in his game. And everyone had a truly great time. We had put out disposable cameras on every table and thus flashes went off all the time. All the tables looked to be having fun and we could see everyone enjoying themselves. It was the kind of night you could imagine going on forever.

When the time came for the speeches, I think everyone's hearts began racing again. Chantale's father started it off and we know as a fact that he was nervous. But, we knew he would pull it off and he did. After him, it was my turn. Oh, I took my deep breaths to steady my nerves but it was obvious I was nervous. Once I began, however, it flowed very well. Again, my eyes were only on Chantale so I couldn't gauge anyone else, but I was told after the fact that I did indeed manage to make women cry :) Heck, with my own heart so full of emotion, it was tough for ME not to cry. One ad-lib I had made was during the part where I said that after meeting Chantale, I became a new man. Choking back a sob, I said, "-one who cries, apparently!" :)

Francisco followed me, Sylvie followed her, and in an unexpected move, Chantale's Grandmother from BC took the microphone. Francisco closed off the speeches after her by reading another "best wishes" note from Lee, Laura, and Philip :)

The rest of the night passed in the same feeling of "wonderful" as the day. Chantale and I gave out our bonbonnieres (big Violin glass containers filled with maple syrup) as souvenirs, we mingled, we cut the cake, and we danced. Prior to the dance, however, I took the microphone again and made another little speech, this time welcoming and thanking the Italian guests for attending :)

Our first dance was "Your Song" by Ewan McGregor. Yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi sang a version of Elton John's song on Moulin Rouge and we loved it so much it became "Our" song :) And, as we danced and the music played, I also sang it to Chantale (as I've done many times in the last few years). Again, we only had eyes for each other :) Afterwards, Chantale danced with her father and then the dance floor was open to all and I shared a dance with my mother. And the party kicked into high gear :)

As expected, guests started leaving around midnight as many had to drive back into town (1 hour for some, two for others). By 12:30am, we were down to our core group of guests. These were the ones who had all rented rooms at the Auberge and thus had only to walk or drive down the street to get to their beds :) We continued dancing, partying, drinking, laughing, and sharing jokes and stories, as well as cigars out under the stars, until about 2am. There was about 15 of us left outside enjoying drink and cigars while the workers re-set the Pavillion for another wedding that Sunday. At that point, we decided to take the party back to the rooms :) We checked into our rooms, changed, and then went from room to room seeking drink and laughter, eventually settling in Chantale's parents' room where we drank some more, laughed some more, and opened gifts. We had a fabulous time and it was the perfect way to unwind after such a day. If I can, I'll try to scan one of Chantale's favorite pictures from that moment, Francisco and I, sitting on the floor against the wall :)

Sunday morning, we all met for Brunch! Yup, it was all part of the package and a room was set aside for all of us (42 at this point) to brunch together. More incredibly tasty food and conversation followed until everyone slowly started to check out and leave. At noon, we drove back to the house to show it to some more family and friends as well as pick up some stuff. By 5pm Chantale and I were alone and headed back to the Gallant. We made reservations for supper at the same time as David Shtogryn and his wife, Jennifer. So, we decided to dine together :) Again, the food was SO good it was hard to believe. We shared some more laughs, drinks, stories, and a fantastic 5 course meal. Three and a half hours later, we were quite tired and a little tipsy :) David actually picked up the tab for the meal which really floored us. What an incredibly generous and much appreciated gesture. The night ended our weekend on an even higher but always incredible note.

Monday morning finally came and we checked out of the Gallant. Chantale and I took the time to sign the guest book and thank everyone for everything. And then, we got into the car and went home one more time to drop off some more stuff, pick up some other stuff, say hello to our neighbors, and begin our trip to Quebec city :)

I could probably go on for a few pages more about how wonderful and romantic Quebec city is. We had a very lovely time and look forward to going back again. We ate in some incredible places, saw some phenomenal sites, and were introduced to the large and vast history of Quebec. We also stayed in an unbelievably romantic Bed & Breakfast in Levis (pronounced Lay-vee) which is a 10 minute ferry ride from Old Quebec. We took a lot of pictures and walked throughout Old Quebec for about 3 days solid :)

Speaking of photographs, I wanted to share this as well. When we hired our photographer, the deal was that he would take about 80 pictures for us. He had so much fun working with us, that he ended up taking over 200 pictures instead, with no change in the price! :) We also took about 200 pictures with Chantale's father's digital camera and the total number of pictures taken with the disposable cameras came out to over 430. Holey Moley! :) And to this day, we're still gathering copies of pictures taken by guests so that number continues to grow :)

I know I've repeated many adjectives throughout this Last Word, but it can't be helped. The entire event was truly one of a Lifetime. Truly incredible. Truly amazing. And very, Truly Romantic. There was so much love in the air that anyone within looking distance could easily see it. And there was so much joy in the air that anyone within listening distance could hear it. Magic, my friends. It was all Magic. Chantale and I will always be eternally grateful for everyone who was a part of our day in whatever way: from visiting and signing the guestbook, to being at the church, to sending good wishes, to being there the entire way. Thank you, all of you :)

(The Last Word (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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