Niece Sarah Marries Chris

My sister Jan’s and her late husband Mike Peter’s youngest daughter Sarah got married in New York City (Brooklyn) to Chris at the end of September.

Some uncle I am, waiting until now to post this article about the ceremony.

But Valentine’s Day is all about love, isn’t it?

There were two family weddings during a two-week period, one in the Crystal Lake area and one on the east coast. (The trip East led to my winning the Dorf Dorfman Award.)

Let’s start with the rehearsal dinner. That’s where the guy gets to shine…or at least his family gets to pay the freight.

It was held at a restaurant called Marco Polo Ristorante, located in Brooklyn.

We stood outside out European-styled hotel, the Hotel Cosmopolitan, for a pretty long time before an empty cab came by. He asked where we wanted to go and when we told him Brooklyn, off he drove. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera out or we could have caused him a lot of fun at city hall.

Finally, a black car drove up which I took to be a limo. It certainly was not a taxi, but my wife saw a license and figured it would be OK.

The driver seemed to be happy to have a fare.

As he drove us across the Brooklyn Bridge, he told us of the NYC police cars always parked on each end. We notice the next day that there is a sign warning those crossing the bridge that they are under video surveillance.

We were the first to arrive, but soon Sarah’s Uncle David Peters and his wife, Pam Hamilton, came. We learned that Pam is helping a company named Cool and Useful Products market a device that allows parents driving children to communicate with them from the front seat without turning around.

It costs $99 and has been on the QVC television shopping network soon. Or it can be ordered at the web site.

David, Michael’s middle brother, and I had spirited conversations about all sorts of things policy and political.

The Peters family is from Massachusetts and youngest brother Robert was running for the state senate in a 160,000 constituent district to replace an incumbent who resigned to become a lobbyist.

So, you might imagine that yours truly and Mike’s family members tend to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

But, nothing like a spirited political topic to animate my discussion, as my wife and David’s couldn’t ignore.

So, thanks to the groom’s parents, Rhode Island’s Frank and Sandy, for a wonderful evening, not to mention a great meal.

Bob Peters and his family did not arrive until the day of the wedding. I learned at the Saturday night wedding reception that there would be a special election in early November and that he had been knocking on doors Friday.

The aspirant is from Lexington and not a lawyer. All of the Democratic Party candidates are liberals, of course. (He withdrew before the primary election.)

The next night, it was on to the Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn.

My brother-in-law Suhdir Patel, now my sister Jan’s husband, was kind enough to drive us to the wedding site—the Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn.

This is one active urban park, but we didn’t find the closest entrance to the site and the road was one-way all the way around the park and pond. We were pretty much the only car we saw. Bicyclers, joggers and walkers seemed irritated that we were on the road.

When we arrived, we discovered the groom’s parents’ car already parked a good walk from the boathouse. Both cars had to be moved to a parking lot that would not be locked up at night.

On the way, we went through a tunnel and I thought it looked familiar.

The pond, which the boathouse overlooks, also seemed familiar.

But, I’ve never been to Brooklyn, so the question was why it seemed I recognized it.

Our son went through a stage when he watched “Stuart Little” (the story about the family who adopted a mouse) over and over and over and over again.

In the movie there is a sail boat race and we are pretty certain that the lake and bride in front of the boathouse was where it was filmed.

In any event, it was a splendid place to hold a wedding.

On the other side of the tunnel, there was a wedding party about to go to the boathouse to take pictures with the pond as a backdrop. (All of the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. In this small one, the groom is pleased that his photo is being taken, but the bride seems skeptical. Take a look at their eyes. You can also see the wedding party through the arch, if you enlarge it.)

Bride Sarah and groom Chris were already there.

Sarah was upstairs doing those

“Is everything alright?”

things brides do behind closed doors with other women, exchanging hugs with her future mother-in-law Sandy.

You know, girlie things.

Chris was wandering around outside.

But I did manage to coax her out to the boathouse balcony before the sun completely disappeared.

I was surprised that the mothers of the bride and groom wore pretty much identical similar shoes.

The next thing I knew, the official photographer Sarah Tew was taking pictures.

Remember, the photos you see here were not taken by her. I am sure hers are much better. She has much better equipment and got to roam around during the ceremony. My wife frowned when she thought I was going to get up during the ceremony to get a better view.

In any event, the official photographs were taken before the wedding, which was before the pond and bridge disappeared into the night.

Before that began and before sunset, I managed to get this picture of Sarah on the balcony.Did you know that some bridal dresses are convertibles?

They look like a regular long gown until a secret compartment is opened. You can see the unconverted dress above.

Then, a train appears. Niece Sophie Peters Wilson was in charge of keeping it appropriately displayed.

Because of the photographs, Chris got to kiss the bride before, during and after the wedding.

How about that?

The ceremony was conducted by Shane Stratton, the husband of Julia, one of Sarah’s talented friends from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Shane is a sculptor himself. He and Julia stayed until the end, helping gather up the loose ends.

John Pinamonit played the guitar prior to the wedding and while he sang an Otis Redding song entitled,

“That’s How Strong My Love My Love It,”

which Sarah picked out to express her feelings for Chris.

He switched to banjo to sing Chris’ selection: “Little Trip to Heaven” by Tom Watts.

Sarah’s cousin Sophie not only kept the wedding gown presentable, but delivered the rings. Now 11, this grand niece of mine had previously displayed a shyness in front of my camera that Sophie’s mother Elizabeth later said was uncharacteristic.

Certainly, from the shots I got of her dancing, the reluctance did not demonstrate a consistent desire to stay out of the limelight.

After the wedding ceremony, the newly married couple went to the entrance of the boathouse and greeting their friends and family as they entered. I see some of Peters’ uncles were better at holding back their tears than was I.

I certainly shedding tears when hugging Sarah after the wedding. She helped me through some very dark times while her father was studying at Wheaton College and her mother was at DeKalb. It was after my daughter Alexandra had disappeared to Florida with her mother Robin Geist, never to be seen again.

Sarah is a compassionate person who managed to say the right things at the right time.

The dinner was catered with a mixed drink that my sister Ellen thought was non-alcoholic.

It wasn’t, which may explain how a tradition mother-of-the-bride Jan picked up from what we told her of the Mary Pat Mercer-Bill Bear wedding continued.

Each table was encouraged to sing a song with the word “love” in it.

Little did we Skinner kids and spouses know that we were sitting next to NIH official Paul Coates, who was just the right age to know how to deliver the Monkees’ song, “I’m a Believer.” And sitting next to me was Jane Knights, who owned the original album containing the song.

And, Coates was even in practice, having been in Beijing just two weeks earlier on official food supplement business, where he had performed at a karaoke bar.

In case you don’t remember the lines, here they are:

And then I saw her face.

Now, I’m a believer.

Not a trace of doubt in my mind.

I’m in love.

I’m a believer.

I couldn’t leave her if I tried.

You don’t see me in the picture, because I’m taking it. The bubble blowing guy on the right of the photo is Denny Desmond. The bubbles came from his sister Mary Pat Mercer’s wedding two weeks before. At the microphone is Paul Coates.

Anyway, I’m a bit old to have been watching “The Monkees” on TV. I was either running for or serving as McHenry County Treasurer when it ran from 1966-1968.

And the bubbles kept coming as the night progressed.

Here you can see my youngest sister Ellen assaulting Sarah and college friend with bubbles.

Another table offered up a rendition of “Come On, Baby, Light My Fire!” or at least that is the repeated lyric.

It’s Sudhir with the bubbles this time. Niece Elizabeth has the microphone.

I tried my best to get those Peters’ uncles, aunts and cousins to join in the festivities, but they must be shy like Sophie.

Youngest uncle, Robert, did make it out on the dance floor though.

He didn’t give me any opportunity to take pictures that could have been sold for much to political opponents, however.

Since I don’t take notes at weddings, sometimes I get events out of order.

Mother Jan found and adapted a poem by one of her fellow teachers in Glen Burnie High School near Baltimore. It is copywrited by Denise Heinbuch. Jan changed the first stanza a bit. Here it is:

I held you as a baby, and looked into your eyes,

Another girl to fill my arms, my hope was realized.

A precious gift I had been given, I held you close to me,

A tiny face, and tender smile, your joy was plain to see.

And as a girl, you filled my life with laughter and with love,

Going through the good and bad, your joy rose far above.

It carried me, it carried you, your strength, it took us through,

And from the very beginning, God placed this gift in you.

And now a beautiful woman, a loving wife you’ll be,

And on your wedding day, still a true inspiration to me.

You continue to show strength, courage and great spirit,

It takes a very wise woman to know God’s voice and hear it.

Always follow in His ways, and never lose that tender heart,

Cherish all that He has given you, as your new life together now will start.

For as you enter this new covenant, and your two lives become one,

A daughter I’m not losing, I gain a brand new son.

Always be there for each other, and put the other first,

This will bring out the best in you, and drive away the worst.

So on this, your special day, as you exchange you vows and wedding bands,

Always remember above all, to place your lives firmly in God’s hands.

I love you both,


Sarah was so touched by it that she was dabbing her eyes with her napkin.

I was so moved I wasn’t able to get a decent picture of Sarah’s reaction.

Chris’s mother Sandy also spoke, but about all I managed to do was to get this picture.

Stepfather Sudhir Patel brought tears to many eyes, my own included, when he talked of the dark times Sarah had been through after her father Mike died (of cancer when Sarah was 14).

Sudhir talked of his pleasure in seeing her come out into the light as she fell in love with Chris.

I’m not suggesting that others didn’t make comments of equal impact, it’s just that these hit me the hardest.

After dinner, the party began.

The married couple’s first dance was calm enough.

So was the dance of Chris and his mom.

As was the father-daughter twirl around the floor.

But “Wild and crazy” is a start at describing the atmosphere the rest of the night.

Our 10-year old would have really enjoyed himself, as he did at the Lake Shelbyville wedding of Cat Morrison and Jeff Black in August.

The Skinners saw Sarah while she was still on the starving artist tour in her first stay in Kohler, Wisconsin as “Artist in Residency” at John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry, Cast Iron Division. While there, she took a mold of our baby son’s hand and later cast it in iron.

And, speaking of artistic talent, Sarah’s must have come from the Peters’ side of the family. There is precious little evidence of any on the Skinner side of the family tree.

Groom Chris is responsible for the windows people see during the Christmas season at Swarovski Crystal, for instance.

He and Sarah met at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he and she both received a Masters of Fine Art in Sculpture. Chris has a studio and creates landscape simulations when he is not hanging out with Sarah, working or surfing in NYC.

The couple ensconced themselves in a cabin near Woodstock, New York, after their wedding. They took a more extended honeymoon in Costa Rica around the New Year. That was probably when New York’s weather does not make it the pleasant place it was in September.

And what would a wedding picture be without childhood picture.

All pictures may be enlarged by clicking on them.

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