On Friday friend Kevin and his wife Esther decided to publicly renew their marriage vows, as none of their family was there the first time. Kevin asked me to go, and while he didn't push it, I know he really wanted me to come. But the wedding was Friday night at six in the town of Ripon, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the Republican Party (of course back then they were quite a different party). That's about a nine hour drive. With a motel room and the gas, attendance would be moderately costly. So it was get up at six on Friday, drive to nine hours to Wisconsin, try to catch a brief nap, get suited up. Once there I would spend the next five hours partying with people I've never met, as I expected the bride and groom to be occupied. It sounded like a lot of effort for very little fun.

Turns out it was a really small wedding, Kevin has three siblings and only his youngest sister made it. The wedding was in Ripon because she has family there, even though she's a Filpina (yes , this is one of those marriages. Strangely enough though, I think it will work because they really do love each other). She has a couple sisters and a whole-midwestern branch of the family. Including her parents who were visiting. So there were maybe 25 people present. His brother-in-law and I realized the post-wedding beer supply is limited so we made a quick run. Esther gets ready in secret, like its the real day. Her relatives (mostly women) kept busy fussing, and getting food ready. No caterers for this wedding, it was all DIY, the way things used to be. I wasn't complaining. I've had dinner at Kevin's house and his mom can cook. Both Kevin and Esther know their way around a kitchen. So his mom prepared American favorites and Esther's family cooked Filipino favorites. We had enough food to feed fifty.

Just then the justice of the peace arrived. She's a petite, middle aged woman with big glasses and a grin to match. I think she likes doing weddings. But the weather outside was awful. It's been a great day, with me running around with the sunroof open. The clouds are dark and rain starts coming down big time. A rumor comes down that there's a tornado warning, so I run outside to check it. One has touched down a few miles north of Ripon. I decide to head back to let people know.

But Esther was waiting right outside in her wedding dress and she's beautiful as the dawn itself. The judge is there in front of the arch and Kevin motions me over. I ask what he wants.

"Stand here." As in right next to him.

"Stand right here?"

"That's right."

Wow. I'm in the wedding party and I never knew. Kevin's sister got the CD player going and then Esther entered. Tornados and monsoons aside, the wedding is on. The two little boys carrying rings came up with parental coaching, and Esther's dad leads her forward. The game's afoot. The judge grinned from ear to ear as she performs the ceremony, but that seemed about normal. Esther cries as she repeats her vows, but it's a good happy cry. And then it's done and we're taking pictures.

I ended up in a spot arranged for me, two husbands of the Filipina sisters, and a few more Filipina women. I was being set up with Manolo, who is quite pretty really. The guy next to me Brian and I started talking. He says he has in interest in military history. I thought this might prove interesting until he told me that Roosevelt knew in advance about Pearl Harbor and hid it to get us into the war and to help in the upcoming election.

I'm sitting next to a crank! But this day I neglected to tell him said Presidential election took place in 1940. Some right wing Christian stuff and so on came up. I just let him rant on without a word. Then the subject turned to music and now we're talking about reality. We have something in common. The other husband and I started chatting, while the filipina woman gossip in Tagalog. At one round table, the sexes split off.

The food was fabulous, the tornadoes stayed away and it turned out I had no problems finding people to talk to. Kevin and Esther were busy, but with the small wedding it wasn't difficult to find time. Conversations started, people made friends and I if I could have I'd have stayed another day and gone to the cheese factory with them and enjoyed a cook-out. And I wanted to.

That was fun. Who'da thunk it?

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