Wedding transports guests to a time of splendor
July 3, 2002
On a certain weekend in June, the world saw the most extraordinary “docking” in romantic space. No, there were no astronauts; and the space control center in Houston wasn’t called on to manage the detail, although they would have been sorely challenged by the task. Not only were there numerous details to be seen to, but guests were shuttled to the wedding site from Australia, Portugal, England and numerous U.S. points of departure. Cell phones, global positioning satellites (GPSes) and perseverance were pressed into service round the clock.
Yes, our son was just married in Pittsburgh, Pa. — a once dingy, but newly revived town. The setting was a 132-year-old Victorian mansion, the gracious vestige of an earlier time (from about 1865-1905). Then wealthy Pittsburgh industrialists such as Carnegie, Frick and Mellon made fortunes in the railroads, coal and steel. Unburdened by taxes, these financial giants lavished money on charities, built public libraries and parks and erected splendid homes for their families.
One such man was Joshua Rhodes. In 1870, he built “our” special mansion in the high Victorian style. This mansion quickly shuttled us back to that special point in time.
Found within the walls of brick and stone is a place of splendor. Rich wood paneling frames high ceilinged rooms of immense proportion. Stained and leaded glass windows cast dazzling light on crystal chandeliers. The 12-foot high ceilings have kept their pressed-tin facades, and rich Oriental rugs lie underfoot. Tile-framed fireplaces in every room (once the only means of heat in Pittsburgh winters) are capped by mantles of Italian marble.
The wing over the immense kitchen is the former servants quarters. Secret back stairs lead down to the kitchen and laundry, and one can imagine white-aproned maids and butlers bustling downstairs to their daily household tasks.
Lovingly cradled in the arms of the house is a formal Victorian garden. Butterfly bush, cotoneaster and roses crowd toward a winding brick pathway which itself leads to a formal terrace. A large garden wall borders this terrace, adorned with formal stone statuary and fountains. Potted ferns abound as in Victorian times.
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In the midst of this splendor, wedding vows were exchanged. The bride and groom seem to deeply love each other, and recited special vows that they had written for themselves. Verses from Kahlil Gibran were recited by our older son; and a cello, played by the brother of the bride, intoned music specially written for the occasion. The bridesmaids stood beautifully in periwinkle frocks — our daughter among them. A violin and guitar accompanied the coming in and the going out of those assembled, playing classical music as familiar to wedding parties in the 1870s as now.
Gilding this splendid scene was the presence of long-missed relatives and friends. Great distances were breached, great obstacles overcome by those who came to share a loving time. It was, after all, this company of special people who brought perfect effervescence to a certain recent weekend in June.
Susan Paslov is a retired attorney who teaches English as a Second Language. She is married with three children, two grandchildren and a new daughter-in-law.