Editor: Christine Kreyling
Art Director: Lee Weidhaas
Contributing Writer: Kay West
Photography: Susan Adcock, Eric England,
and Gary Layda
Marriages may be made in heaven, but weddings are made right here on earth. A wedding is the one time when even the most design-unconscious couples are asked to make the kind of decisions usually reserved for the design professional. I remember from my own union 25 years ago that everyoneparents and priest, dressmaker and florist, caterer and bakerkept asking, “How should it look? What sounds do you want? It’s your day.”
They lied. Like most design rookies, I entered into the creative process with the boundless self-confidence of youth and inexperience. I would do it my way. I emerged three months later a chastened, albeit married, lady.
I was reminded of my education in nuptial realities on a recent Saturday, when I sat in a pew in the East End Methodist Church and watched a neighbor’s child plight her troth. It was the first installment of a wedding doubleheader.
I don’t go to many weddings anymore. At my age, the marriages of my peers are second-time-around affairs, usually handled in a discreetly minimalist style and attended by a few intimate friends. Meanwhile, the children of my peers are usually too busy climbing the career ladder to do more than co-habit. Two weddings in one day was an uncommon occurrence.
Later in the day, as I heard the strains of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” waft through the textured modernism of Vanderbilt’s Benton Chapel, I mused on the wedding-as-design. By the time the bride had made it to the receiving line, I had concluded that designing a wedding is like designing anything else. The person who is supposed to be in charge is actually serving a variety of clients with a multitude of special interests.
The clients are known, in real estate terms, as “stakeholders.” These are the people who own a part of the action. The same parents and parson, seamstress and flower-arranger, cook and cake-maker who tug their forelocks and ask the designer couple for instructions are just pretending that they want direction. Actually, they already know exactly what they want to do. They are just trying to figure out how to make to make the bride and groom agree with them.
Before you label me an embittered cynic or a weak sister, let me hasten to say that I am reasonably optimistic and remarkably strong-willed. Nevertheless, in the design of my own wedding, I was more often vanquished than victorious.
In reaction to the wartime austerities imposed on their own marriage, my parents urged me into elaborate lace and eggshell satin with a train yetwhen I really wanted the simplicity of cotton voile. The dressmaker tried to talk me into a veil and out of a hat. I settled for a floral crown. The caterer insisted that chicken livers wrapped in bacon would be just yummy. I responded that I loathe animal livers, no matter what the species. The baker stated unequivocally that a chocolate cake with chocolate icingI can’t remember whether the cake or the icing was the most severe affrontwould be, quite literally, tacky. I stuck to my sticky guns. The ceremony had to abide by the rules of the Roman Catholic Church, which are considerable. The priest permitted the elimination of the word “obey,” but that was about it.
There are also general economic and cultural factors to guide the design choices of the about-to-be-hitched. Dreaming of champagne on the Swan Lawn at Cheekwood is futile if the parental budget, or your own, requires beer in the neighborhood rec hall. There’s no point in talking about a simple gathering for a chosen few in the family homestead if your parents’ religion and your inheritance depend on an hour’s worth of High Mass, complete with vestments, before you are considered to be properly joined.
Within all these squeezing parameters, the bridal couple must still decide on what to wear at the ceremony, what to eat and drink and listen to at the party afterward. Like architects with a corporate clientor a graphic designer in the music biz looking to push the outer edge of the CD envelopethey have responsibility, but no power.
There are some aggressive couples, however, who seize their day and run with it. They jettison traditional values and indulge in self-expression.
I have read ofbut unfortunately never been invited toceremonies in which the happy couple recited their vows while on mule-back, or balanced on a high wire, or right before they hurtled down a giant water slide. The latter is a variation on the bungee wedding, defined as saying “I do” and then literally taking the plunge.
A pair to the southwest of Nashville staged their nuptials on the future site of their house trailer. Their cake was in the shape of a double-wide, and their pet German shepherds served as ushers and flower girls.
At one scandalously expensive Dallas eventdrachma put the big “D” in Dallasthe bridal couple gave Rolex watches as favors and imported the Fort Worth Symphony to play. Their cake was in the form of a condo development. They insisted on a horse and carriage for transport between church and reception. What they got was a barouche-landau on a major toll road, with ushers stationed at the booths to toss in the change as the wedding party passed. To each his own epithalamium.
I’ve never been to a wedding featuring mules or trapeze artists, but I’ve never been to a wedding I didn’t like. I enjoy seeing how couples constricted by fate and circumstance still manage to make a design statement that is all their own. Like a good poet rhyming by the rules of the sonnet form, or a film director stuck with a drug-addled star, the bride and groom make art within the boundaries of life. This is the true meaning of creativity.
Foundations and Façades
Notes from the design front
Gaudy colors, intensely com-bined, are the sort of thing we associate with the Gilded Agers, our well-upholstered forebears who also put their “bread” into gingerbread. Now that the carefully researched restoration of The Hermitage is complete, however, we are forced to accept the fact that color-saturated interiors appeared during an earlier age too. The home has been returned to its 1837 appearance, the way it looked when Andy returned from the White House. What Old Hickory apparently found on his arrival was pigments a poppin’. The Ladies Hermitage Association is hosting a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, Oct. 16, to introduce Nashville to the felicities of apple green and royal blue, in tandem.
♦ Architecture is now officially a Metro art. For the first time, the Nashville Institute for the Arts is including architecture in the Art-Smart Program for the schools. Introduced in the NIA’s Summer Session for Teachers, the Union Station complex and an East Nashville neighborhood joined the Institute’s 1996-97 repertory of works for study in music, theater, dance, and visual arts.
Kathlyn Hatch, an architect and architectural educator based in St. Augustine, Fla., introduced teachers to the basics and suggested study projects for grades 3-6. Hatch is a special project consultant to Arquitectonica in Miami, and she has lectured widely on architecture and its role in educational programs. The NIA is also recruiting local architects to assist teachers in this educational outreach project. Design professionals interested in helping out should contact Susan Sanders at NIA (244-6930).
♦ The man who made the Seven Dwarfs part of America’s architectural vocabulary is coming to Nashville. Architect Michael Graves will be the featured speaker at the Beaux Arts Ball, an annual function of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the AIA.
To be held Saturday, Oct. 12, at Marathon Village, the Ball will also include cocktails and dinner before the talk and dancing afterward. Tickets for the whole package are $100; for $20, you can catch Graves and trip the light fantastic. For further information, contact the AIA chapter office (259-9664).
♦ The Metro Nashville Arts Commission’s Artist Registry is now a Web site. Local visual artists who want national and international exposure in MNAC’s electronic art gallery are invited to call 862-6720 to register.
♦ If you feel like a bird in a gilded cage, you can find some company at the Exotic Bird Affair. Sponsored by the Middle Tennessee Caged Bird Club, the affair will spread its wings in the Creative Arts building at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds and includes a show and sale.
Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5-6, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call Wilma Crawford at 890-6906.
♦ The Excellence in Development committee has announced the jurors and the nominations for this year’s awards. Jurors for this year’s competition are:
Fred Rux, landscape architect, Mobile, Ala.
David Winzel, planner, HNTB, Indianapolis, Ind.
Rex Gardner, architect, Taylor Gardner Architects, Memphis, Tenn.
Projects already nominated for the awards include:
Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon
Wesley Place, Vanderbilt University
Bullock, Smith & Partners
Ella B. Hayes Center, Dede Wallace Center, Germantown
Michael Emrick/Sara Dennis, architects
Middle Tennessee Medical Center Parking Garage, Murfreesboro
Liberty Hill Farm, Brentwood
R. Chris Magill, architect
Fredericksburg residential development, Brentwood
Henry Sender, National Building Corporation
Street Dixon Rick
The Delta at the Opryland Hotel,
Rolling Mill Hill Plan,
Willis Corroon building
Earl Swensson Associates, architects
Walnut Winds, residential development, Franklin
Franklin Solid Waste Transfer Station
Tribble and Richardson, Inc.
The Farmers’ Market
The Tennessee Bicentennial Mall
Tuck Hinton Architects
The Boyd residence, Germantown
Scott Wilson Architects
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