On November 3rd 2006, JetPack “Tyler” Darby was preparing for the biggest moment of his life, and it wasn’t just about preparing to run his first marathon in a few hours. He was about to ask the woman that he loved, the one that he had been following, and dare I say coveting, for almost fourteen years, Kelley Ward, to marry him.Â He did, she said “yes” and the rest is history. OK, it’s not nearly that simple. Kelley, or Special K as we know her, learned early on what marriage challenges with JetPack might be like as within the next 12 months they purchased a new home, and he looked for a new job all while training for Ironman Moo 2007.Â As if, training for an Ironman wasn’t hard enough, JetPack and Special K did all of this with JetPack under the spotlight of the virtual blogworld paparazzi as a member of Team Race Athlete.
I had the pleasure of being a small part of this experience and in the process got to know JetPack and Special K even better, and quickly understood just how amazing and grounded these two people are.
We were so incredibly excited when Tyler and Kelley invited us to their wedding in Philadelphia this weekend. Cindy and I have been a couple for quite some time, long enough to see most of our friends get married, divorced and remarried, so we’ve seen it all and are pretty good at knowing when couples will work and when they won’t. Trust me, it’s not like they’re perfect as individuals, I mean Special K can’t drive for shit. Our mutual friend Emily can attest to experiencing the white knuckling, red-light running, wrong side of the street experiences we had with Special K at the wheel of our rental car in Madison during Ironman weekend. And Jetpack, well he wasn’t planning the Iron Nut for nothing. But together, these two are quite the force, like a tag team of positive energy and purpose. In the case of Kelley and Tyler, this is beyond a perfect match. They’ve already been throughÂ more than most couples were ever intended to, so from our point of view, the hard part is already done. This wedding is, therefore, the beginning of all of the good times and promises that life is meant to provide.
But I digress…
I know that was a long-winded preamble so I’ll cut to the particulars of the Iron Wedding weekend. We arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday night and found that Tyler and Kelley had picked up the cost of one of the nights for our room and provided us with a lovely welcome basket. To continue their graciousness, Cindy and I were invited to the reception dinner, for a terrific meal and an opportunity to reunite with the Darby clan and meet new members of Kelley’s family.
The rehearsal dinner was absolutely perfect with a few toasts, a few roastings and a perfect blend of Tyler playing the strong host and Kelley graciously playing the perfect hostess.Â In a particularly emotional moment, Tyler presented his dad with a beautiful watch inscribed with the words “Iron Father” on the back, representing the relationship they have and the strength that exists within this family which is gaining a new member.
Of course any seriousness went by the wayside with this crew, as after dinner the pre-celebration continued back at the hotel bar with stories of Tyler growing up, the arrival of drunken pilot friends and alcohol, and alcohol and alcohol. I mean seriously, Tyler picked the location of the rehearsal dinner across the street from this pet care establishment. What was he trying to suggest?
Friday morning began with me meeting Jetpack for what would be his last run as a single man, a 5.1-mile run along the Schuykill River and boat house row. The trials and blessing s of life came clearly into focus as we ran passed two homeless men debating the merits of the dollar menus at McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s. We did the obligatory Rocky run up the stairs of the Art Museum steps and from the top we paused to stare at the Cathedral Basilica where JetPack and Kelley would say there vows just a few hours later. Our run continued along, what else, Kelly Drive. Along the way, we compared wedding planning to Ironman planning and Tyler was absolutely convinced that his Ironman was far easier by comaprison.
He did like the fact that the night before his main event, he didn’t have to eat dinner at 5PM and could carbo load with his favorite libation and it wasn’t CarboPro. As we made our way back to Tyler’s hotel and the end of our run, a serene calmness fell over him. He was ready.
The choice of venue, the Cathedral Basilica, was out of this world. It was simply extraordinary. Looking up at the ceiling, we wondering how they possibly crafted this immense and intricate structure. The ceremony began with the priest pointing out that this was a historical wedding If only because the bride arrived thirty minutes early. Never in the history of the church has that happened.
Having lost her father, Kelley walked down the aisle alone, a very powerful and emotional statement that had everyone in the audience holding their breaths and causing Tyler to bubble up and cry like a baby, the priest was kind enough to point this out as well, in case anyone in attendance missed it. Kelley made a beautiful bride and the dress, enhanced by Mary, made for a true once in a lifetime experience and a look that was jaw dropping.
Below, Tyler pulled it together long enough to say his vows, exchange rings and officially begin his new life with his wife. Shortly thereafter, Mr. and Mrs. Jetpack walk back up the aisle with Kelley carrying the red rose that was placed on the railing during the ceremony in memory of her father.
Our first transition required only a short walk to the reception and no change in clothing.
With the formal part of the wedding complete, we all headed back to the Sofitel hotel for the reception, which was without a doubt worthy of “E” Entertainment television in terms of the thought that went into each aspect of the evening. Upon arriving, the foyer contained digital photo albums of the couple and as we walked into the main ballroom, we were provided with paper planes with 08.01.08 written onto them. As the newlyweds entered the ballroom, they were showered in these planes by their guests. This is definitely the first time that I’ve ever thrown a paper airplane at a wedding and didn’t get scolded or removed.
A great touch was that the tables and table cards were not numbered, rather they were labeled with dates and numbers of events from throughout their courtship. We sat at, what else, table 140.6, while others sat at tables recognized for their engagement date 11.03.2006, 13.1 signifying Kelley’s completion of the Philadelphia Distance Run and others referencing their individual birth dates.
Given that the bride went to Julliard, you can expect the dancing to be outrageous and the new couple kicked things off surprising everyone with a Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers routine that would have easily won them the competition at Dancing with the Stars. Yes, Tyler looked a little like George Hamilton in comparison to his lovely bride, but the man has moves and the effect was extraordinary, even more so when we later found out that only 25 percent of the dance was choreographed and the rest was made up on the fly.
Nothing was left to chance. The kids got their own Net Jets kids packages, there was a separate VIP lounge area, great food and amazing friends and family. Joe Wibner “Trifilmer” and his wife added to the experience by bringing with them special race bibs made for this event, which Tyler proudly wore. Even the cake got into the action with a topper of a bride and a groom sharing a ride on their bicycle. I’m not sure if it was a BMC because it required a magnifying glass to see all of the detail, but you can clearly see the deep dish aero wheels.
As you might expect, we took our time in our second transition as everyone including the bride and groom changed into clothes that more exemplified Kelley and Tyler’s clear urban street upbringing.
The evening continued until one o’clock on the rooftop of The Continental, a cool bar on 18th Street. As August 1st rolled over into August 2nd, Tyler leaned over to celebrate the completion of their first day of marriage, a very successful one at that.
For those that couldn’t be there in person, you missed a terrific event, but more importantly you were equally in the thoughts of the bride and groom and in those of the attendees. Many glasses were raised to those who the happy couple knew and invited but were unable to attend.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed being there.
Congratulations Kelley and Tyler on a lifetime of happy experiences and great race results.