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Chris and Jaqi fell in love after meeting four years ago through Match.com. Chris had moved here from Upstate New York, Jaqi from Oklahoma. He is soft-spoken, sweet, dedicated to his work at Children's Hospital. She is assertive and friendly, a no-nonsense gal with a dry wit.
They arrive at our first meeting brimming with ideas. They want the main focus to be a group activity: a walking-tour wedding or a museum visit. Maybe a cooking class wedding (the guests make their own food)! Community centers and restaurants sometimes offer group cooking classes. So do certain grocery stores, such as some branches of Wegmans.
"Wegmans!" says Chris. Until now, he has allowed Jaqi to represent their half of the discussion. "Wegmans," he repeats, more quietly. There is love in his eyes, a love understood only by those who share his vaguely cultish Wegmans devotion.
Wegmans it shall be. We choose a day eight weeks away and send a "save the date" immediately to the 40 people on the guest list via Evite, because calligraphy on parchment paper with a seasonal color scheme represents everything that's wrong with the American way of life.
Jaqi and Chris do not intend to register for gifts; nor do they expect anyone to give them anything -- an inspiring act of practicality and selflessness that prompts immediate objections. Chris's dad implores them to reconsider. Jaqi's friends and co-workers emphatically warn her of the terrible gifts a bride is doomed to receive when she doesn't specify what she wants. But I don't want anything, Jaqi proclaims, to horrified listeners.
The planners, meantime, fondly daydream about a Wegmans wedding. Vows exchanged in the cereal aisle! Shoppers mingling with guests! Oh, how wonderfully possible it all seems. It takes three whole days for the plan to implode.
The Dulles Wegmans and the company headquarters say no. If we let you do it, they explain, everyone will want to. (Everyone?) Still, we refuse to give up -- this is our location -- and stubbornly pursue a weeklong negotiation. We appeal with logic, charm, persuasion and, ultimately, begging. No use. Back at square one. Actually, square zero, a week of our fleeting timeline wasted.
Jaqi sends us a list of alternative locations, suggesting, among other places: the National Building Museum; the Georgetown Public Library, which she has never even visited; the National Arboretum.
Just one week, and our anti-bride is bailing on us. The flower-hater suddenly wants botanical gardens. The anti-wedding planners are sputtering, frustrated with her for going all wussy-princess on them, and with Wegmans for being unreasonable, and with each other for not having better ideas. Time is wasting! And that's when we realize something -- something bad.
The anxiety. The frustration. The frayed nerves. This feels dangerously like . . . a wedding.
The anti-wedding planners pause to wipe the wedding Kool-Aid from their lips and soldier on.
Lucky for us, the beautiful and traditional spots will be booked already for mid-June. We ponder anti-alternatives. Would Jaqi get married at work? Yes, but the IRS -- like Wegmans -- fears that it would be bombarded with wedding requests if it approves ours. It seems more likely that the IRS would be bombarded with rotten vegetables hurled by disgruntled taxpayers, but we keep this thought to ourselves.