At Home with Alan GratiasUncategorized

Alan Gratias @ Home with Jonathan and Corrine

The cardinal rule of every wedding – never upstage the bride – was breached at first sight. The bride and groom, Corrine Spiegel and Jonathan Kearns, were thrilled at the transgression.

Their building, the former Legion, rebranded as CAPE (Culinary Arts of Prince Edward), now resplendent in new robes, transfixed the throng of celebrants and stole the show. Some 250 guests gathered at noon on a perfect September Saturday at 245 Main Street in Picton, lawns festooned with white tents, two jazz bands, and rows of Philippe Stark-clone chairs. The Georgian façade of the historic Ross-McMullen residence glistened with clean bricks, fresh paint, and a restored front entrance with replica walnut doors.

After a fire last year, the signature building was badly in need of re-invention. An oversized veranda skirt, a glass and wood proxy affair, wrapped the front like a southern plantation belle. Guests were invited to tour the ground floor, the revamped commercial kitchen, and the stunning brick-exposed washrooms labelled Antony and Cleopatra in keeping with the Shakespearean theme. Jazz notes and an open bar kept everyone bubbling along. Malabar costumes with pointy shoes and plumed hats spiced the elegant fashions of blazers, Nantucket pants, and Toronto couturier dresses.

For more than 70 years the mansion has served as the Picton branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, and seen some mighty celebrations, but probably nothing quite as glamorous, or as 16th century, as this affair.

You knew things were going to be different, more theatrical, more adventuresome, when the couple arrived in vintage German cars, one blue with Romeo on the plate, one pink with Juliet, both 1957 Goggomobil classics. She beautiful in a fitted white lace dress and he in breeches, knee boots and jerkin, emerged to howls of applause. He, accessorized with a belted sabre and enough leather to upholster a Lamborghini, and she in a flowing gossamer cape, walked hand-in-hand down the red carpet to the trumpets of a Renaissance flourish. Unrolling a medieval scroll, they called out a welcome to dozens of named guests.

The wedding vows were taken under a birch huppah wrapped in white rose garlands. The officiant seemed eager to identify objectors when he asked, “Is there anyone who can show just cause why this couple cannot be joined together in marriage?” I have a feeling the first two objectors were plants, but then spontaneity took over, and several unknown liaisons stood up to deny the union. Several thousand sheep later - the only currency of the negotiations - settlements were in place and the ceremony continued. The bang of a stomped glass under his heel concluded the vows and the union was sanctified.

Champagne was passed, the bars, which had never closed, become numerous, and we all moved under the big tent for a royal feast. It was a blended family affair with ex partners, offspring, and extended family in abundance. Barry, the father of Corrine’s three sons, who catered the event, proposed a toast to the, “Mother who did all the work in raising the boys.”

Jonathan, who will recite Yeats at the slightest provocation, encouraged guests to perform throughout the dinner. A stream of presentations came to the stage, from Scottish ballads to Gaelic love poems, with sonnets, limericks, and rap in-between. It was Dublin and Edinburgh meet Toronto and Picton. Just when we thought things were winding down, Corrine comes by and locks me in an arm embrace.

“Hope you weren’t planning on escaping. The after-party is at the Wexford House next door. See you there.”

Corrine has been in the financial advice business for years, first at Bank of Montreal and now with Scotiabank. She looks after her large stable of clients with the nurturing instinct of her Mother Earth personality, the same winning instinct that made her the Backgammon champ on the beaches of the Cote d’Azur in her university days. A tall woman with an open-hearted approach to life, Corrine is everywhere as a fixer, confidante, and counsellor.

Jonathan, a Dublin trained architect, comes across as quieter, but no less charming and approachable. He is the founding partner of Kearns, Mancini in Toronto, a boutique design-and-build firm that has executed high profile commissions around the world. During the last 30 years they have developed a reputation for singular environments, including the iconic Canadian Canoe Museum, the Fort York Visitor Center and the Deloitte Corporate Headquarters. On the enthusiasm spectrum, Jonathan is closer to the giddy end which Corrine must throttle back from time to time. He thinks big and dreams bigger, and like all zealots, he has the wisdom of the visionary. But be warned, his Irish lilt and flow of charm can fix you in a trance.

Jonathan and Corrine have been connected to the County for a long time. Jonathan first bought a farm in the Bloomfield area in the 1980s which his son has taken over. Over the years they have purchased several interesting properties, each reeking of potential and ambition. Their residence these days is a waterfront bungalow on the Morrison Point Road which is scheduled for an overhaul as soon as they have stopped accumulating new projects. Meantime they have installed an inflatable clear plastic yurt at the water’s edge and planted a field of lavender at the entrance to their low slung about-to-be-rebuilt abode. Dazzling and iconoclastic, Jonathan and Corrine, married at their CAPE, journeying together, destination unknown.

I ask them, in a quiet interlude, about their secret of a successful partnership.

“Complete honesty,” Jonathan says.

“Hide nothing and enhance life,” Corrine adds, kissing her new husband on the lips.

Photo courtesy Marc Polidoro