When she woke up Friday, Alicia Payne knew she was getting married that day. She just didn’t know when or where.
Not that she’s the indecisive type. And give her a little credit; she did know to whom she was getting married. It’s just that the bride-to-be and her fiancé, Jeff Green, had something else in mind for their wedding day. And that included only Green, their pastor and a select, secret-hoarding cabal at your local newspaper knowing where and when the ceremony would take place.
It also included a rolling celebration of all things Austin, some of the places they frequented while they were courting, with them and their guests enjoying a day one might plot out to show off the city for an out-of-town visitor. (Just enough fun places to show them a good time — not enough to make them want to move here.) It started at 9 a.m. at Juan in a Million, everybody’s favorite spot for a cheap and delicious Tex-Mex breakfast, where Green, 49, enjoyed his last Don Juan as a single man. They sat around three tables in a U-shape and dipped chips into salsa spicy enough to revive any of those who weren’t yet awake. The plan was to go until midnight, with eight stops along the way: Juan, Peter Pan Mini Golf, Home Slice Pizza, Hey Cupcake, Enchiladas Y Mas, Top Notch (with an outdoor screening of “The Princess Bride,” which Payne had never before seen), Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and Gourdough’s.
It was going to be a good day. It was going to be a long day. And the weather was perfect. Billy Idol would have called it a nice day for a weird wedding.
“It seemed like something totally different and uniquely Austin,” said Green, who sells cars, mostly wholesale, to dealers. “We made it about celebrating with friends and family at our favorite spots.”
In lieu of a guest book they had a box of “blessing stones,” upon which guests could write wishes for the happy couple. In lieu of gifts, because they’d each been married before and weren’t young newlyweds in need of approximately everything, they encouraged attendees to bring canned goods for the food bank. They rode around town in a van, passing time between stops playing a homemade, Austin-centric bingo where folks got squares when they spotted things along the route: an H-E-B, a Capital Metro bus, Hopdoddy, a hippie. That last one may as well have been a free square.
Who gets married like this? These two. Most every place on the itinerary was special to the couple, especially Enchiladas Y Mas on W. Anderson Lane, where they sat in the glassed-off bar area next to the main dining room on their first date and where, at the very same table about two years later, Green took a knee, looked his beloved in the eye and asked The Question.
“The entire restaurant watched,” recalled Payne, 36. “It got really quiet. I should have known because employees on their day off came in.”
They were back at the same place the afternoon of the wedding without, as yet, a wedding. Before that they were at Hey Cupcake getting the requisite bride-and-groom-cake-showing shots.
Payne was not impatient in the least. Green was not tipping his hand.
“I’m going to lead her to believe it might be just around midnight,” he said, tipping a frozen margarita instead.
Then: Top Notch. Remember, there was no rehearsal. The congregation assembled for the movie. “At Last,” sung by Etta James — “My lonely days are over/And life is like a song” — played and the pastor just happened to walk up front, just happened to have the couple join him.
She knew the second the song played what was going on. That it was time.
Vows. Certainly the only ones ever recited over, “Thank you for coming to Top Notch. How may I help you this evening?” coming out of a speaker pointed at a car.
Time to say I do. Kiss. Sign the license and take photos. Flashes in the dark as cars rushed up and down Burnet Road to much less meaningful business.
Time to watch the movie. To go to Mozart’s. Ah, coffee.