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Willy and Vero's Wedding

Started: 2021-10-23 15:44:15

Submitted: 2021-10-24 17:20:44

Visibility: World-readable

Celebrating a wedding in the global pandemic

My brother Willy announced his engagement to Veronica Trinidad Gallegos at the end of 2019 and made plans for a small wedding during his spring break in March 2020. Then Vero had trouble getting to the consulate for her visa interview, and 2020 happened, and the wedding was postponed indefinitely while the consulates were closed and visa applications were suspended. Once the consulates reopened and began handling non-emergency visa applications again in the new presidential administration this year, the US government misplaced the visa application and Willy had to engage the services of his local congress-person's office to get the State Department to reopen the visa application. Vero finally got her visa this summer, and she and Willy finalized their plans for a Labor Day 2021 wedding, a year-and-a-half late because 2020.

But even with Vero in the United States, we were still in the middle of the Fourth Wave of COVID-19, and Napa County had decided that they were unwilling to issue marriage licenses to couples not living in Napa County, apparently for fear of destination weddings becoming COVID-19 outbreaks. (I feel like there's an equal protection violation in there somewhere.) Willy was a Napa County resident, and Vero became a Napa County resident two weeks before the wedding, but she didn't have documentation to prove it. So they had to drive next door to Vacaville, in Solano County, to get a marriage license (which was anyway valid anywhere in the state of California).

We left Santa Cruz on Saturday, the 4th of September, the day before the wedding, to drive to Santa Rosa. By the time the wedding date was finalized, there was very little lodging left in Napa, so my sister Bethany and I ended up getting an Airbnb for our families in Santa Rosa (45 minutes away from the wedding in Angwin). We met Bethany and her husband Josh at the Airbnb (and decompressed a bit from the long drive in Bay Area traffic, up I-880 in the East Bay and across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to US-101 to Santa Rosa), then headed to East West Cafe in Santa Rosa for dinner with the wedding party. This was, it turned out, my first chance to meet my future sister-in-law in person (though she'd been present on our regular videoconference calls during the pandemic), along with her mother and sister Diana.

Wedding Day

Sunday, the 5th of September 2021 was the wedding day. We had a full schedule of things to do in Angwin, starting with breakfast at Willy's house. We grabbed coffee on our way out of Santa Rosa, drove across the hills separating Sonama County from Napa County, drove past the vineyards and wine tasting rooms in upper Napa Valley, and up the hills on the opposite side of the valley, ascending Howell Mountain and reaching Angwin at last.

Dad, Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, Uncle Willy, Aunt Vero at breakfast
Dad, Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, Uncle Willy, Aunt Vero at breakfast

Vero's mother cooked a vegan pozole for breakfast and was excited to share it with us.

Pozole at breakfast
Pozole at breakfast

I visited Willy's house once before, just prior to Thanksgiving in 2018. Then it was just him and me in the cozy one-bedroom house; this time we had a dozen people sitting in the living room eating at once.

Willy and Vero eat breakfast
Willy and Vero eat breakfast

After breakfast, the next event on our schedule was the wedding rehearsal. The wedding was held in Scales Chapel, at the church at Pacific Union College in Angwin, where Willy teaches history. Kiesa was already at the chapel, getting organized to play piano for the wedding.

Willy and Vero's wedding rehersal
Willy and Vero's wedding rehersal

The pastor (whose name escapes me) took charge of the rehearsal and walked us through the simple ceremony. We practiced the whole thing several times until we had figured out the timing and where to stand, while my photography assistant took pictures and I offered advice on the composition of the shots and where to take pictures between the practice runs. I like this picture below in particular because it frames Vero and Willy in the middle, surrounded by all of the family present at the wedding. (Julian's head is barely visible on the front row of seats next to Kiesa.) The only person not pictured is Calvin, who was taking the picture.

Willy and Vero triumphantly depart their wedding rehersal, again
Willy and Vero triumphantly depart their wedding rehersal, again

The start-and-stop nature of the wedding planning meant they were not able to line up a wedding photographer, so I became the default photographer by virtue of owning a fancy DSLR. But I was also best man (and Willy's only wedding attendant) so I couldn't take any pictures during the wedding itself. I appointed Calvin as my photography assistant and gave him a crash course in using my Nikon DSLR, then we reviewed the wedding album from my own wedding 19 years ago.

Calvin with Jaeger's DSLR
Calvin with Jaeger's DSLR

As I watched Calvin run around the chapel taking pictures during the rehearsal and wedding, it occurred to me that, in ten or fifteen years, he might point back to this experience as a formative experience in shaping whatever he ends up doing with his life. I can't really predict Calvin's future or choose which path he'll go down, but I think I can at least set up potentially-formative experiences and hope that, maybe, one of them sticks.

Calvin photographs Vero and her mother walking down the aisle
Calvin photographs Vero and her mother walking down the aisle

After the rehearsal we went back to Willy's house for lunch and to hang out there for a couple of hours until it was time for the wedding.

Kiesa plays the piano at the wedding
Kiesa plays the piano at the wedding

Kiesa kicked off the wedding by playing a prelude, which she could extend as long as necessary. This proved useful, since the bride took longer to get ready than the original plan expected.

Howard and Willy before the wedding
Howard and Willy before the wedding

I waited at the back of the chapel until I received word that the bridal party was ready, then I found them in the bridal dressing room.

Vero, Diana, and their mom in the dressing room
Vero, Diana, and their mom in the dressing room

I took some pictures of their final preparations for the wedding.

Diana helps Vero with her veil
Diana helps Vero with her veil

We walked towards the chapel (outside into the courtyard where the light was so much better than inside) and I stopped Vero so I could pose her as the bride walking towards the chapel.

Vero ready for the wedding
Vero ready for the wedding

With the bride waiting outside the chapel we were ready to start.

Audience assembles for the wedding in Scales Chapel
Audience assembles for the wedding in Scales Chapel

Kiesa transitioned from the prelude into the first song, for Bethany and Calvin lighting the candles on the platform.

Bethany and Calvin light candles
Bethany and Calvin light candles

Then I set my camera on the front row of chairs for Calvin to pick it up, and ran back to the back of the chapel to wait my turn in the ceremony.

Mom and Dad walk Willy down the aisle
Mom and Dad walk Willy down the aisle

I walked down with Vero's sister Diana, each of us the older sibling serving as wedding attendants.

Jaeger and Diana walk into the wedding
Jaeger and Diana walk into the wedding

Julian's role in the ceremony was to play Bible boy.

Pastor fist-bumps Julian the bible boy
Pastor fist-bumps Julian the bible boy

With everyone else in place, Vero and her mother walked down the aisle.

Vero's mom walks her down the aisle
Vero's mom walks her down the aisle

My main memory from the homily was to notice that it was considerably shorter than the homily at my own wedding, which seemed like a feature.

Vero and Willy during the homily
Vero and Willy during the homily

Then the couple exchanged vows and kissed.

Vero and Willy kiss at the wedding
Vero and Willy kiss at the wedding

And they walked back down the aisle together, celebrating as they passed the photographer waiting for them at the back of the chapel.

Vero and Willy celebrate walking out from their wedding
Vero and Willy celebrate walking out from their wedding

Reviewing all of the pictures above I can't help but notice that the entire wedding is cast in a curious pink light. This I am inclined to blame on the poor lighting in the chapel, possibly along with my lacking high-quality (and expensive) flashes and diffusers to correctly illuminate the scene for my camera. I have a set of neutral density cards that I can use to adjust the white balance in pictures I take, but it's not always easy to take the time to use the card to get a baseline white balance measurement. So I had to guess on the correct color balance for the pictures in the chapel, and ended up leaving the colors slightly pink rather than trying to overcorrect the colors.

Willy and Vero walk out in the recessional
Willy and Vero walk out in the recessional

And with that the wedding was over and my brother was married. Up next were the wedding photographs and the reception.

Calvin and I took a bunch of pictures of the wedding, and they're all here: Willy and Vero's Wedding.

It's probably a mistake to let filmmakers talk about their films.
- James Cameron, _The Abyss_ Special Edition