Chad and Laura's Tango

17 January 2009
Congratulations to Chad and Laura Brinkley on their Wedding Day!

In the spring of 1997, Kyle and I were working the Pendragon Costumes booth at Scarborough Faire.  We had, in ’95, worked the entire year for Pendragon “on the road”—Arizona, Southern California, Colorado, Northern California, and Texas—with our own wedding and Scottish Honeymoon wedged in the middle.  (Pendragon was accepted to Scarborough in 1995, too, but as we were already committed to the aforementioned schedule, our friend Terry ran the little booth that year.  It was not a structure worth keeping, so it was torn down, and a big, new booth was built in its place.) In 1996, Kyle settled into a nine-to-five job in the DFW area, and MB scaled her faire schedule back to only the two Texas faires. But in ’97 that was about to change again.  Pendragon had just been accepted to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and MB was also going to go to Minnesota and run the Pendragon booth in it’s final year at that show.

So, on one fateful day in May, Marita Beth made a sale of a green and black Italian doublet to a tall, thin, beautiful young man with long black hair.  He was not only good-looking, but also very charming, and in the process of the sale, a warm conversation developed. 

 “Are you from this area?”  No, came the answer.  He was currently a college student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

“Wisconsin? I’m going to Wisconsin this summer!  In fact, how would you like to work at the Renaissance Festival?  I’ve never been there, I don’t know anybody there, and I need to staff a brand new booth!  Wanna job?”

Seriously.  That’s about the way it went.  The young man’s name was Chad Brinkley.

For a number of years, Chad was my “Number One” at Bristol.  He was a fabulous employee—reliable, honest, trustworthy, and highly intelligent.  And, it didn’t take long for him to become a very good friend.  Over the next decade, there were visits to Texas where he was a welcome guest in our home, and when he no longer lived in Wisconsin or worked for me, there, the visits changed direction, and he would come and stay with me for a weekend each summer at Bristol, sleeping on my floor, and putting up with my cat.  For a short while, he lived and worked in Texas, and became a regular fixture at TRF.  Kyle and I have seen Chad through college, graduate school, internships, and entry level jobs.  There were a couple of really special girlfriends, each of them leaving imprints on our hearts as well as his, and remaining good friends even after their relationships with Chad changed.   Chad does not people his life with disposable people, nor do they.  Both of those beautiful women were in  happy attendance at Chad and Laura’s wedding today.

Chad excelled at school and work, carefully placing his goals for his career.  He is now an accomplished Criminal Psychologist, and is very highly thought of in his field.  “Dr. Chad” we’ve come to call him oftimes, and it is his official diagnosis I often refer to when I talk about my cat being “borderline” or “bi-polar!”  He has seen it, marvelled at it, and labelled it!

Somewhere along the line, in Chad’s travels to various renfaires, he met Laura, in Atlanta, I believe.  And some months later, he was again introduced to her by our very own Kelly—as someone he just had to meet!  They hit it off, and for a long time maintained an email/telephone relationship while she finished school and they both grew fonder of each other.  Then, one day, he told us she was moving to where he was living!  And then, there was the announcement that they were engaged, and subsequently the plans for this amazing wedding celebration began to develop.  With Chad’s love for live-action role play, and a flair for the theatrical, it was sure to be an event not to be missed.

So, off to Springfield, Missouri we went this weekend!  Off to be a part of the “Cirque de l’Amour.”  We were appropriately attired, in Masquerade costumes—and even most of those not in actual costumes, were sporting masks.  The four o’clock wedding ceremony was held in the beautifully renovated, gold-gilded Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield, and the marquee read, “Cirque de l’Amour Laura Stout Chad Brinkley.” For an hour or so prior to the ceremony itself, guests were entertained on the street and in the beautiful theatre lobby, by a stilt-walker, a unicycle-rider, a juggler, and others.  A string quartet played for quite a while, while a masked man twirled fire-sticks on stage.

We took our seats and soon afterwards the processional began.  Men in tuxedos and masks.  Women in skirts and corsets and tiers of lace and taffeta—and masks.  The bride wore black and red.  Parents of the bride and groom were seated on the stage so they could easily participate in the ceremony.  Mothers lit candles.  The ceremony was specifically created to include traditions from Laura’s Mexican heritage.  Our good friend Chris Buehlman read a strongly passionate poem about love—in both Spanish and English.   Chad and Laura were wrapped in a black lace mantilla during the singing of Ave Maria.  And in one of the most touching aspects of the ceremony, thirteen coins were blessed and placed in a box—six by the congregation as we vowed to uphold Chad and Laura in their marriage; one each by the attending family members of Chad and Laura; one each by the parents of Chad and Laura; one each by Chad and Laura themselves as they spoke their unique, self-proclaimed vows of love; and lastly, one final coin, as the officiate pronounced them husband and wife.  The thirteen coins now forever intermingled in a keepsake box, as a reminder of the mingling of friends and family.  Beautiful.

Another lovely aspect of the ceremony, was that as each participant got personally involved, his or her mask was removed.  The congregation was asked to remove masks as we vowed our support and blessed the coins.  The soloist and reader each removed masks before presenting.  Groomsmen, bridesmaids, and finally Chad and Laura themselves as they prepared to speak their vows—at which point, no more masks.  Every face revealed to every other face. 

My other favourite moment was right after that final coin and the proclamation of marriedness, and the kiss, when the officiate asked the new Mr. and Mrs. Brinkley to move downstage and simply look out upon their gathered friends and family.  “Remember this moment,” he said—or words to that effect.  Remember the love on the faces; the joy; the wishes for future happiness.  I hope they always will.  I know I always will.

The reception was equally as artful, with a capable master of ceremonies, an amazingly impressive wedding cake, and all the appropriate and traditional customs of tossed bouquets, garters, first dances and the like.  My photo of the day is of the bride and groom as they danced their first dance—a steamy tango they had practiced well.  Beautifully eloquent toasts were given, and a delightful meal was served.  Had it not been for the extreme sniffles and enormous headache that plagued me all weekend, we’d have likely stayed and enjoyed more of the party.  But, with my nasty cold, and Chris’ early morning flight out the next day, our little group bade our goodbyes around nine-thirty.   The beautiful hall above the theatre surely continued to buzz with celebration for another hour or two!  We are so glad to have been a small part of such a joyous day.

Again, our congratulations and heartfelt best wishes to Laura and Chad Brinkley.