and thereto I plight thee my troth: the dress code was velvet

It started as a b-school thesis: a mere mention in little paragraph in a study of hierarchical organizations. (Farley's adventures in springboarding from the days of Chaucer to business school are chronicled here.)

As any cook will tell you, the kitchen is not a democracy. The immediacy of goals - get the dish OUT! - the ever-present imminent physical danger - fire! knives! boiling water! - the uniforms that tell you who's charged with doing what -- yes, our friend Farley the Bard and Quondam Minstrel, seeking even more business experience consonant with his true life in the early Middle Ages together with a chance to eat regularly, is actually working in a well-known and respected kitchen. We always say that life is full of surprises, and noone's life surprises us more than Farley's. He has put down his lute, learned to sharpen knives, and is a cook. His desire to live in an earlier age is served not only by the heat and smells of the kitchen, but by one of the restaurant's regular features, a whole roasted animal. Farley got the job by suggesting to the owner, in the owner's native language, that the picturesque fireplace in the dining room be turned into a cooking machine every Friday night, a whole lamb or pig or loin of beef sizzling away over an open fire as the financial types roll in in need of financial-type-comfort food. Farley had learned to keep a spit turning for some undergraduate paper or other, and his expertise as he built the contraption and got it rolling astounded the kitchen staff. And since the financial types, good days or bad, wash down their food with the priciest of pricey liquids, the concept coins money. Farley is a hero. Farley has a regular paycheck. And heroes are irresistible to women. Farley is engaged, Farley is affianced, Farley is getting married.

Traditionally the bride and her family plan the wedding. If you're marrying Farley, things might be a little different.

First, from almost a lifetime of bard-ing and minstrelsy, Farley has quite a collection of outfits. And from a lifetime of staging ceremonial events, and from wistfully standing by at others' weddings and baptisms, Farley has a finely honed sense of drama and presentation. Farley envisions processions, pipers, a trail of maidens, things made from spun sugar and feathers, bread trenchers, a High Table...

As happens so often, practicalities intervened. Advent, Christmas concerts, Winter Solstice pageants, silly requirements that at least one party be among the faithful, have combined to make the largest cathedrals and the prettiest little churches, the stateliest temples, unavailable. A picture of Farley wearing a crusader's cape was posted on someone's Facebook page, and so mosques are out of the question. It's not just the venues and catering halls that are having busy seasons. Farley's old pals among the community of Early Music performers, exotic animal wranglers, pipers, jugglers and acrobats, have paying gigs at concerts, Christmas festivals and circuses all over the country. The parents of our childhood friends, the Very Very Identical Twins, belong to some serious Clubs, all of which are "fully committed." We live in a world of Planning in Advance and Non-Refundable Deposits.

Aideen and female relatives planning wedding
(as imagined by Farley)
The bride is called Aideen. It means Fire. Aideen's mother, to her credit, views Farley as raw material for the father she'd like for her future grandchildren. He can cook, sew costumes, juggle, play musical instruments, chant poetry by heart until everyone within earshot knows the words, make posters with large capital letters that have birds and elves in them -- in sum, Farley can do with gusto all the motherly tasks she hated as a young mom and does not expect of her daughter. She wants her daughter's marriage to leave her in a career-positive position. Aideen and mother conferred, and the two of them took Farley on. The term sheet: they get married at the Marriage Bureau at City Hall in New York City, attended by as many people as the law, well, the clerk, allows, wearing whatever they wanted, and on their first anniversary, the money that would have been spent on the wedding would be deposited into an account in their joint names.
a monumental staircase in the building
that does not house the Marriage Bureau
an interior view of the building that
does not house the Marriage Bureau
Farley agreed enthusiastically. He was under the impression he'd been to the Marriage Bureau and had thought it would be a great place for a party, barrels rolling down the monumental staircase and all. The VVI Twins thought Farley had actually visited the Surrogate's Court Building, an architectural wonder, to provide moral support to an old roommate who'd been disinherited by disappointed grandparents, the roommate having promised Farley to return the favor when the time came.

And the gown. Like many young women, even though she hadn't played "Brides" as a child, Aideen had strong feelings about not looking like a fool in front of people. Steeple hats and wimples were out. Velvet, on the other hand... velvet has to come from Etro. Do you know Etro? you should. Even from the outlet markdown rack, even thrifted, it has magic. This gown was a thin silk velvet, printed with an elaborate woodland motif, in the palest of pale greens. Skinny sleeves, float-y mid-calf skirt, cowl neck. One of the VVI Twins' ladies thought it might be worth marrying Farley to get to wear that gown. On balance, the consensus was probably not, but generally agreed, close. Bronze leather sandals, not too strappy.

Farley wanted to recite his vows in Old Norse or Middle English. The clerk demurred, offered a Spanish-language pamphlet. The bride gave the groom A Look. We  heard muttering, we heard "I now pronounce you," we saw The Kiss With Dip, we cheered, we hurried out of the way of the next couple.
Pictures. Farley had removed his slacks in the elevator, was wearing tights. Maybe hosen. Aideen was wearing a patient expression. The group hastened to midtown, where someone's grandmother had arranged an afternoon collation, that is, alcohol and small edible things in a friend's lovely apartment. From there, uptown to a once-favored college bar, where the world's oldest underage drinkers shocked the staff by producing genuine proof - a certain woman had to be removed after the bartender told her he knew her proof was real, he had no trouble believing she was 42. Watery beer in pitchers, the pipers showed up, it turns out Aideen is a mean stepdancer (this is American for any child of Irish ancestry who couldn't run faster than her parents or grandparents). Blessings in ancient languages. Brother Juniper (a cousin of the VVI Twins) arrived, lowered a few, pronounced a few, burped, left. Aideen and Farley were staring at one another intensely. We thought we should leave.

The bridal couple waved, slipped out. Eight of us (and puzzled spouses who have never understood Farley's magic but are happy to string along as long as their checkbooks are safely locked up at home) settled the bill faster than you'd believe eight people could, stepped outside in the late November afternoon. Spangles and strands of ivy were on the sidewalk where they hadn't been before. In a pause in traffic, we heard hoofbeats. Farley had convinced one of the Hansom cab drivers who ride you through Central Park to show up at the bar when his shift was over,  and looking down the street we saw Farley in the back of the top-down cab, standing, arms outstretched, declaring his love forever.


  1. Best wishes to the happy couple! Sounds like a magical wedding.

  2. Well, our old school friend Farley has a habit of turning up and convincing almost anyone to go along with just about every scheme under the sun - although noone has invested in the time travel project. Yet. But peculiar things happen when Farley's around.

  3. Great, great story! Congrats to your friends!

  4. They sound so perfect for each other! Now what gift will you bestow on this unusual couple?? Wonderful story!


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