35 Years

It seems not that long ago …

Perhaps after deciding to marry, the hardest parts were fixing a date that wouldn’t interfere with our studies and finding a place that fit our notions of an appropriate space that we could afford. We were graduate students with little money but a desire to make the event as much like us as possible, and so after rejecting a few possible places that were too expensive or otherwise not suitable, we decided on Ida Noyes Hall on the University of Chicago campus. The ceremony would be in the cloister along the west entrance, the reception would be in a small lounge inside. For our preparations on the day we would have use of a back hall and some small rooms, including a small kitchen, attached to the lounge. It seemed a fitting place for University of Chicago graduate students, suitably Gothic revival, and cheap enough for us to rent for the occasion.

With the place and date set, we needed invitations. Each invitation was to be unique in some way, within the limits of our available time and money. We crafted the text accordingly, editing wording and form to suit our thinking.

request the honour of your presence

request the honour of your presence

We wanted a festive format, one that would reflect the Gothic image of the University, especially of Ida Noyes, and, perhaps, our own view of ourselves in this academic world. We found a pleasing page margin decoration, filled with dancing peasants, in a book of Mediaeval manuscript illuminations, and I traced it, simplifying a bit in the process; and Lisa inscribed our text in caligraphic Italic into the space defined by the margin. We took the result to a print shop to have cards printed — just black lines on ivory card stock.

The next month we spent our evenings at the dining table with stacks of invitations, fine-bristle brushes, and a box of water color paint completing the invitations, giving each bird its special feathers, each vine or leaf its own character, each little peasant his own colorful leggings, tunic, and hood. No two invitations looked exactly the same. And as we painted we swore that if we ever divorced we would have to create the same kind of unique, hand painted divorce announcements.

The Rehearsal

The Rehearsal

The weekend of the wedding came and we were ready to enjoy the party. On Friday the sky was clear, the day sunny with temperatures in the 80s (around 30 Celsius) and a gentle breeze. Our wedding party were all in town by then so we gathered everyone together with spouses and children to spend the afternoon in Lincoln Park, to walk around the pond, to visit the zoo, to enjoy the outdoors on a sunny day. Saturday, another bright summer day, we all gathered again at Ida Noyes for the rehearsal, the wedding party tinted by sunburns from Friday’s outing. As we walked through the parts of the service, we cheerfully imagined our guests, assembled on the lawn next to the building, viewing our ceremony through the openings in the cloister. All went well, and we adjourned to a local restaurant for the rehearsal dinner.

The next morning we awoke to one of Chicago’s weather surprises — temperatures in the 50s (around 12 Celsius), with gusty wind and chilling rain — and wedding plans apparently spoiled. Fortunately, because we had rented the lounge and its small kitchen area, the manager offered to let us use the Ida Noyes library for the ceremony.

The Ida Noyes library, which adjoins the lounge we were using, is actually a sitting room, its walls covered with huge shelves of books in fine bindings surrounding a large fireplace, less an active library than a refuge for quiet reading or contemplation and sometimes a space for special events. But it is nevertheless a library, and thus a perfectly appropriate place for two librarians to wed.

15 June 1980

15 June 1980

And now it has been 35 years, and I wouldn’t change any of it.


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