By Velma Knight
Posted: 31 May 2014
The second half of the story we wrote in October 2013 has been some time coming, but it has certainly not been forgotten. Readers will remember with what excited anticipation David and I prepared for our trip to New Orleans for the wedding of Jessica Manning, the Ambassadorial Scholar who Plimmerton Rotary hosted ten years ago.
David and I were counsellors for Jessica during the year she studied at Victoria University. After she returned to the States Jessica graduated as a Doctor and has since worked in medical research in many third world countries.
After finally agreeing to a blind date, Jessica met and fell in love with a United States Army Major – Matthew Mason. Matthew was a recent Harvard graduate and was stationed in Thailand where he serves in the Diplomatic Corps. Their courtship proved to be logistically difficult because Jessica was working at a Boston hospital and also completing a degree at Harvard. We all know loves passes through many barriers and so it came to pass.
Jess and Matt married at St Michaels Church on 19 October 2013.
Some American weddings last five days and theirs was one. We arrived at 5.30pm as the family dinner was about to start. First things first – and we were handed a cup of tea - the teapot had been specially purchased as had the teabags! The rest of the evening was spent being introduced to family and close friends, sampling gumbo, the wonderful “deep south” fish dishes and generous slices of strawberry cake. We slept in a huge four-poster bed and even the en-suite boasted a magnificent oil painting (Jess’s father is a talented artist and a cosmetic dentist)
The following day we enjoyed a lunch hosted by the bride and groom and visited the beautiful country church for the wedding rehearsal. We spent the rest of the day enjoying a very inclusive tour of Baton Rouge, a city which now includes thousands of former residents of New Orleans since “Katrina” struck.
Friday night was the “rehearsal dinner” a very formal part of American weddings but which included an enormous baked Alaska, masks and strings of colorful beads, which are also part of ”mardi gras” celebrations. We’ve never seen so many young doctors gathered together! The army guests contingent was less conspicuous – not a uniform in sight. We listened to a tale or two of Jessica’s experiences “down under” while learning to drive a Starlet on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car!
Later, while walking back to our hotel, it was an added interest to see most buildings completely decorated for Halloween with cobwebs, skeletons and spiders.
On the wedding day we all travelled by large bus to the wedding Mass which was a musical delight led by a full Gospel Choir, and later at the large Southern Plantation Reception venue we danced the afternoon away to a Dixieland Band.
Sunday morning saw both families at the windup party, drinking “bloody marys” and eating even more delicious food. One must understand that New Orleans people are proud of their food culture and their plentiful supply of shrimp, crawfish, trout and salmon. It was over all too soon, with many new “best friends” and a promise from bride and groom to visit us and Plimmerton Rotary before the end of 2015. With those words, off they went to Borneo to climb a mountain on their honeymoon before starting their new life back in Thailand. And off we went, to explore more of the quaint and quirky French Quarter.