Wedding At The Biltmore Hotel

The scene appears as a set of white filmy curtains blow open, like in an old movie.

In a grand room with a double staircase leading to a second level, a wedding reception is taking place. The bride and groom stand near the bottom of a staircase, smiling and chatting with guests. The bride has a short, black bob haircut with bangs a la Louise Brooks. Her lips are painted deep, glossy blood red. Her dress is a floor length straight white satin sheath with very little adornment. The veil is the showstopper: also floor length and voluminous, billowing out around her slender figure like a shroud. It caps the top of her head snugly and is fastened with a satin ribbon tied securely around her temples. She holds a small glass of champagne in her hand. Her husband stands beside her, dressed nattily in a black tuxedo with an immaculate white shirt, black bow tie and tails. His hair is slicked back and he has a pencil-thin mustache. He is quite handsome.

It’s the 1920s. The room is decorated with huge masses of white flowers. They appear to spill from the walls in fantastic cascades of blooms and trailing green vines. More bouquets fill large Grecian urns set atop stone pedestals in every corner. The air is laden with the scent of roses and gardenia. A man sits behind a big golden harp in the front left of the room, coaxing waterfalls of soft notes from the strings. Three male peacocks with gold foil crowns fastened to their heads wander about, trailing their blue and green plumage across the thick Persian carpet that covers the middle of the floor. Women in long, elegant dresses embellished with ornate beadwork and men in black tuxedos fill the space. They lounge on both sides of the staircase, leaning against the railings as they chatter and drink champagne. Through the entrance to the second level, a massive crystal chandelier is visible, radiating warm light.

Down below, a team of silent wait staff circulate amongst the guests with sparkling glasses full of pale, bubbling liquid and silver trays lined with painstakingly created  hors d’oeuvres. They are all African-American. One woman stands patiently holding a tray being scavenged by hungry wedding guests. She wears a neat black dress with a white apron and a small white cap on her head. To the left of the room, through one door and then another, lays the kitchen. Inside another team of African-American cooks prepare a feast. A giant roast sits on a platter, waiting to be sliced. Men move amongst industrial stoves and ovens, stirring, seasoning and tasting. Three men work on an incredible wedding cake, five or six tiers tall and festooned with loops, curlicues and icing flowers. Steam rises into the air from the busy stoves.

Peacocks | Euclid Public Library

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