JEFF & TRACI'S WEDDING

"We're getting married July 1st," Jeff announced during a rare telephone call from Indiana.

"Oh shit!" I replied. I suppose I should have said 'congratulations' or 'It's about time," but the unexpectedness of the news didn't allow me to respond with anything but an honest reply. In retrospect, I should have said, 'good luck.'

Most of my friends (myself included) have been married and gotten divorced at least once. One friend's marriage lasted two months. Most lasted longer than that. I have hopes for Jeff and Traci's marriage to last. I'm sure that Jeff and Traci share that hope.

I've known Jeff for eight years and Traci for five years - although I've only seen her a few times since the first year I met her. We all worked together at a Colorado guest ranch that first summer, so I saw her almost daily and got to know her reasonably well - but not as well as Jeff did.

"We are getting married in Lake Tahoe, and you are invited," Jeff said, and told me where everyone would be staying. He added that none of his friends from home could come, so only his immediate family would be there, but Traci had several friends coming up from Texas, and three of them were hot babes. Jeff is sneaky. First he gets my sympathy with the "no friends" bit, and then he clinches it with the "hot babes" finish.

After we talked I went on line and started checking airlines and car rentals. Eight hundred dollars later I had airline tickets to Reno, a rental car reserved, and room reservations at the Franciscan in Tahoe Vista, California. I didn't spend that much on my own wedding. I decided that my attendance at their wedding would be their wedding present because I'd already spent too much. Besides, I didn't know what to get them. In retrospect, they would probably have been better off and happier if I had stayed home and made a gift of the money I spent getting there and back.

The big weekend was finally at hand. I had an 8:30 am flight on Friday out of Denver for Salt Lake City where I picked up a connecting flight to Reno. Because I had to be at the airport at 7:30 and lived two and a half hours away, I decided to drive down to Denver the day before. On the way I had to take my dog to a friends house and drop off my horse at the guest ranch. Nothing goes smoothly in my life, and this time I had a flat tire on my truck while pulling the horse trailer and ended up with two new tires. The cost of going to the wedding was now at $1100.

Jeff and I met at the Reno airport, got our rental cars and headed for Lake Tahoe. I let Jeff lead since he had been there in January and knew where the Franciscan Lodge was located. Jeff headed the wrong direction on interstate 80 and we ended up driving almost two hours to make what should have been a 45-minute trip.

At the Franciscan Lodge their Laurel and Hardy management team claimed I only booked two nights, so I showed them my confirmation for three nights, which they had mailed to me. They told me I would have to change cabins for the third night, which was no big deal for me. However, another management mix-up left Traci's three "hot babe" friends with no room after the first night. I had a brief idea about how to solve that problem, but before I could present it they booked a room at another motel down the road.

Jeff had no room at all. Good etiquette dictated that he couldn't stay with Traci before the ceremony, so we arranged to have a mattress put in my room and Jeff slept on my floor for his last night as a bachelor, which somehow seemed appropriate. There was no wedding rehearsal planned for Friday night, but there was a rehearsal dinner. Unfortunately, Jeff's mom and stepfather, who were sharing the cost this dinner, along with his sister and nephew, missed a connecting flight to Reno and were stranded in Las Vegas. They ended up renting a car and driving half the night to Lake Tahoe, arriving at 1:30 Saturday morning.

The dinner was excellent, and after dinner we all drove an hour from the north shore to the south shore of Lake Tahoe where the casinos were waiting to take our money. There were casinos on the north shore about a mile from where we had dinner, but for some reason everyone wanted to drive an hour to the south shore. There were no winners among the dozen of us who went gambling, and the cost of my attending the wedding increased. An hour drive back home completed our first drive around Lake Tahoe.

On Saturday morning all 25 of the wedding guests were planning to take a breakfast boat cruise around the lake, but Jeff and I had better things to do than get up at 6:30 and freeze our butts off on a boat for $25 a person, so we slept in. Besides, we would have had to drive an hour back to the south shore. As it turned out, we had to drive the hour to the south shore in order to pick up Jeff's tux and then drive back, completing our second two-hour drive around Lake Tahoe. Jeff didn't try on his tux at the rental place in spite of their encouragement to do so. He said that the measurements he gave them were exact. Later, when he did get dressed for the wedding, his pants cuffs were just about the right height if the lake happen to flood our motel.

At zero hour minus three hours, Jeff and I were sitting in our room contemplating his fate when he announced matter-of-factly: "Since this is my day to do really stupid things, I think I'll go swimming in the lake." We didn't know what the temperature of the lake was, but I didn't think the water was blue from food coloring - and it is fed by snowmelt. Jeff dawned his bathing trunks and baseball cap and headed for the lake, looking like a farmer on holiday.

Traci had hired a wedding coordinator who chartered a bus for the now 25 guests. The bus was to pick everyone up at the motel, including the bride and groom, and drive them all down to the south shore where the minister and photographer were waiting. Then we would all ride back to Emerald Bay and have the wedding on a cliff overlooking the water. Jeff and I decided to drive in his car with the wedding dress and follow the bus. That way he and Traci could leave in the car after the ceremony. The spot where the ceremony was held did not have a parking area so the bus dropped us off and departed. The minister had a two-way radio and would call the bus driver to pick us up when we were done. Before the bus departed, Traci used it as a dressing room to put on her wedding dress.

The wedding was in a beautiful location, but cliffs tend to be windy, and it was also chilly. Ministers always seem to say too much, but as wedding ceremonies go, this one was relatively short and well done. The wedding march was played on a boom box and seemed a little out of context as the bride came down the trail with her father. I cringed as the expensive and beautiful white wedding dress train dragged along in the dirt, but hopefully she won't need to wear it again. I was the only male in attendance that didn't wear a coat and tie, but somehow it seemed inappropriate for a cliff setting. Jeff's brother, who wore a coat and tie, showed up at the reception in jeans, so I felt redeemed.

The minister's two-way radio didn't work, and people driving past must have been puzzled to see a wedding party looking stranded along the highway. The bus driver did return after wondering what had happened, so we were soon on our way around the lake for the third time in less than 24 hours. That's six hours of circling the lake. Jeff and Traci were in their car, appropriately adorned with "Just Married" written on all the windows. The bus driver followed them and honked continuously in all congested areas, annoying some and amusing others.

The reception was fun, the food was good, and best of all, there was no dancing or loud, obnoxious music. One of the problems with large weddings is that the age span and range of tastes of the attendees is so wide and diverse that there is almost no music that you can play that will please everyone. Thus no music was perfect. We could converse with people across the table without yelling, no one got drunk, no one smoked, and we all had a good time. In hindsight it was the highlight of the wedding.

Jeff and Traci said goodbye fairly early and, instead of rice, we blew bubbles at them. It was an interesting variation from rice, but I prefer something more tangible than bubbles, which are impossible to throw. Bubble gum would have been fun to throw, and all the guests could have enjoyed chewing it first, but I suppose it could have gotten messy.

Sunday morning I packed my things in the car and went to the office to change rooms. "We have no room for you," the desk clerk announced. "We made a mistake and thought it was for Monday night." At this point I had had it with the Franciscan Lodge. At $100 a night, I was almost glad they didn't have a room. I got a refund for the room they didn't have that I'd paid for, and headed for Carson City, Nevada where I have a friend that I have not seen for 30 years. He was out of town, so I still have not seen him, and my hope of a free room for the night vanished.

Some sightseeing in Virginia City, a holiday rate at a Reno Super 8 motel, and another round of gambling put my wedding expenses well into the "stupid" range, and I flew back to Colorado on Monday with lots of good memories of an interesting and unusual weekend. I just hope no one else I know gets married anytime soon. I can't afford it.

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