They were greeted at the gracious old Union League Club on West Jackson Boulevard with a box of Chicago treats, a map of the Loop where festivities would be held and an itinerary for the weekend.
They were welcomed at historic Old Saint Patrick’s Church to witness Peter Gregory Strittmatter and Mary Katherine Radelet take their wedding vows. For better or for worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Until death do they part. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
By the power vested in Father Tom Hurley by the State of Illinois, my “numero uno” grandchild, Mary Kate, and the love of her life, Peter, became husband and wife.
The Big Event took nearly a year of careful plotting and planning under the relentless baton of my daughter, Peggy.
First, they locked in the church date. Then found the venue. A weekend was spent saying “yes to the dress” and when it was chosen, Dad was called in to see. With a lump in his throat and misty eyes, he told his daughter she was beautiful.
Every detail was considered. Monogrammed button-down shirts for the bride and bridesmaids to wear during the professional make-up session. Little boxes of champagne candies for all the ladies at the bridal luncheon. Buses to transport guests from one gathering to the next.
Of course, some things can’t be controlled. The weather, which cooperated magnificently. The recalcitrant zipper on Polly’s dress, which didn’t until Marybeth came to the rescue. (My wife looked stunning, by the way.)
And food. Food and more food. For those of us who arrived a day early, a seafood dinner at the Smack Shack. The next night, a sumptuous rehearsal dinner hosted by the groom’s parents, Caleb and Greta Strittmatter.
And, of course, after the ceremony, the Reception in the magnificent ballroom at the Union League Club. With music, to be sure. A full orchestra.
The usual and timeless rituals were performed: something old, new, borrowed, blue. The cutting of the wedding cake, the first dance by the bride and groom to THEIR song, “Nice and Easy Does It.” The long rehearsed bride’s dance with her adoring father.
But there were unplanned moments during the weekend, too. As expected at a gathering of so many young people, bursting with energy and imbued with familial chauvinism, there was a pick-up basketball game in the upstairs gym at the Union League Club.
Teams were comprised of a motley mix of Brennans and Radelets, girls and boys, athletes and pretenders, from ages 14 to 64.
There was a day when Dave Radelet would have been dominant on the floor. He was an All-State quarterback in high school. Recruited by dozens of colleges, Dave chose to stay home and play for his beloved Michigan State.
But on this day, he wasn’t a jock. He was the Father of the Bride. His darling and beloved Mary Kate, oldest of the four beautiful “Radeladies,” needed to be escorted down the aisle, and he had to stay cool.
And cool he was. Bursting with pride and grinning effusively, he brought the spectacularly beautiful MK to the altar in stately grace and presented her to Peter with a hand shake and a friendly slap.
Later, at the reception, the 260 or so guests got a glimpse of the persona that has escalated the Father of the Bride to the pinnacle of the legal profession in Chicago.
In a commanding, but folksy manner, Dave Radelet thanked everyone for sharing in the celebration, which he described very simply as “Joyful.”
He concluded by telling his guests that he has always claimed having the very best Mother-in-Law in the whole world. Polly beamed and squeezed my hand.
Then Dave announced that he would no longer be alone in his good fortune. Now Peter would join him in claiming to have the very best Mother-in-Law in the whole world.
Peggy was joyful.