A week before the wedding, I had a little case of dress regret. I'd bought the first dress I tried on back in December (on my birthday, no less, if that isn't a sign) on a stroll up the Ku'Damm and then basically forgot all about it. (That's what having a book manuscript due six weeks after your wedding will do to you: Put things in perspective.) Seven days out, then, I was suddenly unsure. Should I have gone long? Not done strapless? Had more lace? Luckily, there wasn't much I could do. Besides, I had the very distinct impression that this was my equivalent of cold feet. I gave myself a stern little talking-to (along the lines of "your dress is very pretty and it is way too late to do anything about it and also you are an idiot") and got over it.
When I got to Italy, my mother and father were waiting for me. A little treat for me, since I rarely have the two of them in the same place at once. We spent a few days running errands, making zucchini flower frittata for lunch and discussing wedding stuff. (My father: "I still cannot believe you aren't having any music." Me: "..." My father: "Really? Are you really telling me you're not going to have any music?" Me: "Nope, no music. None." My father: "I'm pretty sure that's the worst idea ever." Me: "..." My father:"...!")
The concerned father in question, searching for wedding music on Youtube to convince his stubborn daughter to change her mind and instead getting lost down a rabbit hole of Beniamino Gigli recordings from the 1920's.
There were important things to take care of in those final days before the wedding, like asking our five-year-old friend Emma if she wanted to be our flower girl (she did!) and then bringing her a small basket full of lavender heads with which she solemnly practiced, after her grandmother demonstrated how to walk down an aisle majestically, regally casting flower buds to the left and right. (In case you are wondering how she did in the face of 100 unknown guests a week later, I can only say that she should be hired out for all future royal wedding work - she was perfection.)
Another person who should seriously look into an alternate career if being a biologist and professor at some point no longer proves interesting to her is my stepmother Susan, who not only corralled a bunch of my girlfriends into a color-coordinated wildflower picking spree by the side of the road to Urbino the day before the wedding, but then turned the patch of grass behind the house into a veritable florist's workshop the next day, producing the most carefree, beautiful flower arrangements that she popped into glasses my mother found in the dining room cabinets and filled with gravel from the driveway. Also perfection.
Some of the loveliest bits of the days leading up to the wedding were all the busy, crowded dinners we had outside on the stone patio. Each day, more family and friends arrived and each evening, more and more chairs and plates were pulled out and put to use. With so much of my life divided and compartmentalized in different countries and continents, having all these people in the same place at the same time made me so happy. I might have even thought this was the best thing about the wedding.
Until the wedding itself.
Behold our first pasta course! Passatelli alla portolotta, or breadcrumb pasta with teeny tiny clams and other shellfish sautéed with tomatoes and probably a little bit of garlic and parsley. There was a second pasta course, too (that's how things are done in Italy, I swear), tagliatelle with meat ragù, and then branzino with stuffed tomatoes and skewers of breaded, grilled shrimp and calamari and there was rabbit, too, roasted with wild fennel and potatoes. And salad.
But I, for one, gave up after the passatelli up there. I spent the most amount of energy in terms of wedding planning on figuring out the menu (our caterer wanted sushi! In the rural hills of Italy! And I have a bit of a hard time handing out emphatic No-Freaking-Way-Are-You-Kidding-Mes so the negotiations dragged for a bit with me being all polite and we would really prefer a rustic, country thing and him being all, but signorina it's your weddddddddding) and then on the evening of the wedding itself I took one look at the food and lost all my appetite instantly. Furthermore, I realized I didn't even care anymore if anyone else liked it. I'd just had the most spectularly moving experience of my entire life and that was all that mattered. Is still all that matters. So was the food any good? Who knows, you'll have to ask one of our guests.
The day after the wedding, I walked out to the transparent tent set on the edge of our land and found a bunch of detritus in the grass. A few place cards that my mother-in-law hand-lettered the morning of the wedding. The wooden stumps my friend Dietrich sawed up for me and that we used as the table number holders (now they're picture frames at the apartment in Berlin). And a prop from the photographer's photobooth set-up. I found a few more props over the next days, including a dapper little brown mustache on a stick. I took that with me, too. I would have taken the entire tent with me if I could have.
We toasted with leftover Champagne over the next few evenings as our guests slowly left. And I told my cousin's daughter Giulia, who was still bubbling with the excitement of the wedding, that the next wedding we'd celebrate would be hers. She's only 12, so we've got a few years to wait.
And then it was all over and the house got very quiet and I took a hundred more photos of the sun casting its special evening light over everything, the way I do every evening when I'm there, every year that I go. It felt a little dreamlike, then, the fact that only days before people had gathered right there to eat and dance and celebrate with us. Now it was just ours again, filled with the incessant chirps, whirrs, hoots and warbles of the insect and animal kingdown all around us, and the insistent wind blowing, ever-steady, through the acacias and the olive trees. But I see it with different eyes now. Or the same eyes, but a different heart.