Over the years, I’ve had my share of surprises and planned a few of my own. As most people, most of my surprises concerned birthdays. When I was dating my wife, she tried to arrange a surprise party for me, but I caught on.
My future wife and I were working the show “Music Man” and I stopped by my future wife’s apartment to pick her up to go to the theater. I saw a party favor under the coffee table. As my birthday was a few days off, I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what was up.
Recently, I had another secret plan: my daughter’s wedding. One of her favourite movies is “Love, Actually.” In the film is a wedding scene. The best man, best friend of the groom, arranges a special send off for the happy couple at the end of the ceremony. A group of singers perform the song “All You Need is Love,” while musicians, hidden throughout the church, play flutes, trombones, and several other instruments.
I made up my mind to do something like that for my daughter and her new husband. The first step was finding a singing group. Fortunately, these days, what with the Internet, such things are easy to arrange. I advertised on a website specialising in arranging gigs for various groups.
Several groups responded. Once I settled on a group, we made our plans. First off, they needed to know where the wedding was taking place, when, where they could set up and how they could make their appearance. This is when things got high-tech.
Step one, I visited the venue and took a bunch of pictures of the patio area, paths around the building and the parking lot. I emailed the pictures to the musicians. I included directions as to where they could assemble and enter the area.
As the group needed a place close to the building, but out of sight for its initial set up, I next turned to Google Earth, which I accessed in secret. By zooming in on the entire block, I was able to examine all of the buildings, and even zip down to street level to check things out. I wrote to the group to tell them where they could park.
Then came the final phase: we talked by phone during my lunch hour. I went out in the parking lot to keep the conversation secret. We finalized the plans.
I took a lesson from a political thriller I’d seen some years ago. A politician said that in Washington if two people know something the whole town does. I knew I had to keep the circle of knowledge as tight as possible. I only told my friend Britannia, who was working as a bartender for the reception. She would signal the group when it was safe for them to move to the parking lot; then she would cue them as to when they could enter the patio area.
Timing was critical. I wanted to make sure they stepped out right as the ceremony ended, which, it was my understanding, took place when the groom stomped on the glass. The ceremony got a late start, which worried me.
Despite Brit assuring me that she would text the group, I sent them several texts myself. I notified them when the ceremony started and later as we stood and the rabbi spoke. That was the toughie, as I didn’t want anyone to see me and have people wonder what I was doing. From my vantage point, I could see Brit watching from the corner of the building.
Then the group entered and my chest tightened. They were early! I was sweating bullets. Would they start singing too soon? Would someone notice them and say something?
The happy couple moved down the aisle toward the building. The group moved forward trying to weave their way through the crowd. They started singing. Everyone turned to watch and my daughter and her new husband saw the singers.
Their reaction was all I needed to make all my efforts worthwhile.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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