Love Story: Married at the Swan Club
The Wedding of Susan (Strawgate) and Howard Code
Glenwood Landing, October 6, 1985
Susan and I met in the summer of 1982 when I was hired to work as an attorney at a law firm where she was employed as a paralegal while working through law school in NYC. We were both living in Manhattan and became good friends, but Susan was in a long-term relationship at the time. By November, that relationship had ended, and soon after, a group of us from work planned to spend New Year’s Eve together. Before the party was to begin Susan invited me over for a home-cooked dinner. On our walk over to our friend’s apartment for a midnight arrival, we kissed. And the rest, as they say, is history.
A little over two years later, Susan (27) and I (32) were living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when we became engaged in February 1985. We decided that the wedding would be at the end of September. At first we looked at hotels in Manhattan (WAY too expensive), restaurants in Manhattan (WAY too small and expensive) and eventually our gaze turned towards the Island.
Both of us had been raised on Long Island (Howard-Franklin Square and Susan-North Bellmore) and our families and friends were still largely on the Island at the time. One Spring Saturday, we made a few appointments, took the LIRR to my parents house in Franklin Square, borrowed my Dad and his car and began to look at the standard venues. I won’t mention the names, but you know the places. Nice, but something was missing.
Late in the afternoon, we stopped in Carle Place at Susan’s Aunt and Uncle’s home and commiserated with them. Susan’s Aunt Molly suggested a place on the North Shore, “Swan Club.” A light immediately went off in my Dad’s brain and mine. You see, my Aunt Agnes, who used to live in Flower Hill, had been the President of the local Woman’s Garden Club and they had their events there in the 60’s. I seem to recall that my Dad had been to one of her events.
Anyway, the three of us jumped back in the car, flew over to the Swan Club and met with an event planner, who showed us around and quoted us a price, which thankfully fit our budget (we were paying for the wedding ourselves). But when it came to choosing a date, our preference for Sunday, September 29th was already taken. Not wanting to lose the venue, we agreed to get married on October 6th instead, but asked for a little time to think about it.
The three of us drove back to my parent’s house, had dinner, and Susan and I quickly decided to book the Swan Club. We drove back to the club that same evening. The planner was still there and we signed the contract. She invited us to go to the bar for a drink, on them, and we did so. I think they were sometimes open as a restaurant on non-event nights at that time as well. As we sat there, a man sidled over and asked us what we were doing there, since there were no events in progress. Turns out he owned the place. The gentleman, whose name escapes us, asked to see the wedding contract proposal and we showed it to him. He pulled out a pen and immediately started upgrading the menu choices and bar selections for us. One of the best drinks of my life.
It turned out to be fortuitous that we had to change the date to October 6th that year, because Sunday, September 29th, 1985 (our original first choice date) was the day after Hurricane Gloria, a Category 4 storm, which blew through the area. No power, serious flooding and wind damage. Nearly every wedding on Long Island was rained out that weekend. The Swan Club had some exterior damage, particularly to the plantings and flowers as I recall. However, by the next weekend, the day of our wedding, October 6th, the weather was beautiful and everything was back to normal at the venue (the photos we sent you are proof), though you could still see some damage in the surrounding area. So we pledged our troth at the end of the wooden deck (which was open air at the time), under a floral Chuppah, held our cocktail hour outside and our reception in the Garden Room. 120 very satisfied guests! Including Susan’s 94 year old Grandfather.
Our wedding party was my brother and my best friend as my only Groomsmen. Susan had her three sisters and my sister as her bridal party, so the numbers were uneven (2 and 4). The groomsmen wore tuxes but the women were just asked to wear a blue dress of their choosing–no special bridesmaid attire. Susan’s friend, who was a dress designer, designed and made Susan’s dress. Susan’s two year old nephew Jeremy was the ring bearer, but he refused to bear the ring. He stood and cried at the beginning of the aisle (photo sent)! (He’s now married with a baby of his own!) Susan is Jewish and I was raised Catholic, but we chose to be married by a Rabbi in a traditional Jewish ceremony complete with the breaking of the glass. We were fortunate in that our families got along well and our intermarriage was never an issue. The Swan Club recommended the florist (simple Peruvian Lily Stems in a vase was our choice), and the live band we chose was fantastic. And we are still friends today with most of the same people that shared that wonderful day back then!
We honeymooned in Santa Fe (where Susan’s boss gave us his condo on a ranch) and took the overnight Amtrak train to La Jolla to round out the vacation. We continued to live in Manhattan until 1989. Susan left the practice of law, became a legal editor and then a realtor for 26 years now. I continue to practice law, am a Village Judge and I also teach history. We have raised two fabulous kids, in case you were wondering–Emily, age 29 and Ethan age 26 who’s getting married in September of this year. Our childrearing philosophy has been that the only things that really matter are giving them a good education and great memories. We have tried to do both.
Susan and I love to travel together (from driving cross country to trips abroad), spend time in NYC (enjoying theatre and just walking around), host holiday dinners, and often entertain family and friends. We are both long time volunteers–Susan was just honored last year for 25 years of volunteer work for a children’s charity-Friends of Karen–and I have been a Volunteer Firefighter for 28 years. We make each other laugh and are each other’s best friends. Probably more so today than when we married.
Fast forward to late January 2018. Susan and I, 32.4 years into our happy marriage, were driving home from a family event in Northport, taking the coast roads back home towards Westchester County, where we have made our home the last 29 years. As we were heading down the road from Glen Cove, I veered to the right over to Shore Road to see the Swan Club for the first time since 1985. Happily, it is still there. We were welcomed to walk around, went out to the deck (now enclosed but otherwise looking like we remembered), enjoyed the beautiful sunset view, entered the Garden Room and reminisced about where we sat, where the band set up, and where we danced. In short, we took a trip back in time and then were asked to put it all in writing.
Here it is.
And we’d do it all over again.
Howard & Susan