For Better or For Worse

We interrupted the first weekend of living with our in-laws to attend a wedding in Newton, New Jersey. (Why are they living with their in-laws, you may ask? Tune in next week for the whole unbelievable story).

Back to this story: we had this out-of-town wedding for two people that I had only met once. The hub thought we should go (he is big on doing The Right Thing even when it is also The Hardest Thing), despite the fact that we had been packing boxes until two A-M the entire week, getting ready to move.

So I agreed to go.

Have you ever noticed that the trips that you don’t want to take are often some of the best ones?

For some reason, HTG thought that Newton sounded like northern Jersey. That’s the Jersey that everyone thinks about when they make fun of the Garden State. They picture barges of trash and loud-mouthed girls with orange tans and overly white French manicures. They think that every street corner has strip clubs full of guys that look like Tony Soprano. (Note to New Jersey’s tourism board: you can send my check to “Cellar Dweller in Baldwin, Maryland…care of her In-Laws”).

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when our trip took us to central New Jersey, through some of the prettiest country roads I’ve seen for quite some time. This is why they call it the Garden State.

Newton is in Sussex County, a county which famously had more cows than people until the 1950’s or so. Its original name was Tockhockonetcong, but the surveyors in 1715 thought that wouldn’t look too good on a t-shirt (nor would it fit on the map they were drawing), so they opted for the more marketable Newton. Today, Newton sits on the Tockhockonetcong River; if you can say it, you must be a native. Or drunk. When I’ve had one too many, I’ve found that everything I try and say comes out as “Tockhockonetcong.”

You can learn more about the town’s history at

We arrived at the Yellow Frame Presbyterian Church in Newton a little early. My husband informed me that–even though the invitation said that the wedding started at 3:00–it wasn’t going to start until 3:30 because “it’s a Chilean thing.” (The bride is from Chile). So we hung out in the parking lot and took a couple of pictures, while I listened carefully for music that would suggest the whole “Chilean thing” was just a rumor. I hate going to weddings late.

While we lingered, I noticed that there was a large fan–the kind we used to keep the cows cool–in the front window of the church. I began to suspect that the chapel was so historic that it didn’t have air conditioning. (As much as I love old buildings, I do not love old buildings without a/c or heat. Really, I’m a historic traveler, people, not a re-enactor).
The church was a Queen Anne structure, my favorite architectural style. That meant that there were lots of great details everywhere–from the hardware (see left) to the stained glass above the unsightly cow fan. And there was a wall full of photos of the church’s ministers over the years, going back to 1750.
Speaking of details, the bride and groom thought of them all–including cute paper fans that their ushers handed to all of the guests as they entered the church. Between the historic church, and the flapping fans, the whole day had a nice old-fashioned feel.
After the wedding was over (in a record 23 minutes–if that’s a Chilean thing too, I may love Chilean weddings as much as I love Chilean wine), the hub and I lingered a bit longer, checking out the historic cemetery across the parking lot, as well as some of the other picturesque areas around the grounds. (Note to self: plant more cosmos next year. And get a mailbox).
Remember how I said that your worst fears can create your best memories? Later that afternoon, we were treated to an open bar (a good resource for newly married couples as well as those married for years and years), unusual appetizers like Chilean meat and corn pie…which was exactly what it sounded like. When the bride came by to say hello (which is when I spoke to her for the second time in my life), she said it was her favorite dish as a child. I’m no child, but I could see it cracking my top ten pretty easily.

After the appetizers, we enjoyed a Chilean sea bass that was worthy of a fancy restaurant with a $100 tab. It was, as I told the groom, like a great anniversary dinner.

After the eating and the greeting, the hub and I slipped away (pre-cake) to start the long drive back home, driving away from one of the prettiest parts of New Jersey as the sun went down and the deer came out. The drive reminded me of why I happen to love the state–from their juicy red tomatoes to their gorgeous Victorian structures to their juicy, gorgeous call girls.

Oh, and it reminded me that I wanted to wish Charles and Magaly a happy happy union: may you love each other no matter what-through thick waists and thin hair, for better and for worse, while living with your in-laws or living out your dreams. I hope your marriage lasts as long as the Yellow Frame Church you were married in.