“Life is imperfect,” declares Dolly Jacobs. That’s why she wasn’t too thrown when her long-awaited wedding to Pedro Reis, co-founder with her of Circus Sarasota, was dampened by rain. Or when Pedro’s three sisters arrived from South Africa without their luggage (it was found in time for the wedding itself). Or even when the priest presiding over the wedding, the Rev. Everett Walk, an old friend, forgot to turn off his cell phone during the ceremony and it rang at a crucial moment. In true circus fashion, the show must go on, and this wedding was such a special and heartfelt moment for the couple and their 250 gathered friends and family that nothing could spoil it.
Dolly and Pedro, both with years of experience as high-flying aerial stars, know about imperfect. In a perfect world, their wedding would have taken place almost 20 years ago, not long after she and Pedro met while performing in separate units of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (an attraction of opposites, they both admit, with Pedro outgoing and fun-loving, Dolly quiet and serious). It was, after all, the Fourth of July weekend of 1990 when Pedro first proposed. Dolly had flown up to New York to visit him from Sarasota, where she was taking care of her ailing father, the late, great circus clown Lou Jacobs. Pedro had found a simple but dainty engagement ring, and nervously set it before her on the table in his show trailer and asked her if she would marry him. She said yes, and it seemed as if their “I do’s” would be only a short time away.
But two days later, Pedro fell from improperly rigged equipment and broke both ankles. Instantly his health and recovery became the couple’s prime concern; and it was, Pedro says, “an eternity” before he was healed and ready to take to the air once again. Wedding plans were put on hold indefinitely. “There was no urgency,” says Dolly. “There were times when he wanted to go to the courthouse, but I didn’t want to do it that way.”
But, she adds, it just felt right now, when her 85-year-old mother, Jean, and godmother Margie Geiger, who taught Dolly her Roman rings act, could be at her side as the two exchanged vows, and when friends from Sarasota and around the world could come together in the Ringling Museum courtyard (which to hometown girl Dolly is “sacred ground” for its circus and arts heritage) to help the two reaffirm the commitment to each other they’d already made in their hearts.
Dolly and Pedro began planning the wedding more than a year ago. She selected her elegant pearl Badgley Mischka gown and long veil trimmed with sequins from Le Couture Bridal in Lakewood Ranch; her blush and peach floral arrangements of roses and orchids from Mr. Florist, whose Ron Carter also acted as wedding director. She and her sister, Lou Ann Jacob Barreda, and longtime best friend, Golda Ashton Hay, went shopping for bridesmaids’ dresses,
finding the perfect cocoa brown shades of taffeta at Metro Mix. Christina Fenner, whose husband Bill designs Dolly’s costumes, was called upon to craft the whimsically romantic pink and white cake, and each table setting was designed to include a small gift box with a “Big Top” framed photo of Dolly’s famous father, so that he could be part of the wedding in spirit.
Meanwhile, Pedro enlisted his two best men, Circus Sarasota clown Chuck Sidlow and longtime friend and tent master Luis Garcia, and chose a striped ascot to accompany his English morning suit attire, complete with gray vest and pinstripe pants. Invitations flew out to circus “family” in Holland, Brazil, Mexico, England, France and throughout the United States. The couple chose a post-wedding reception dinner of beef tenderloin or salmon, catered by Paul Mattison. And as a Who’s Who of guests from the circus world and Sarasota society began to arrive, they kept one nervous eye on the weather forecast.
In the end, the rain did come, and as guests waited in the Rubens Galleries—not a bad place to linger—the wedding arch was hastily moved to the entrance of the museum courtyard from its original position near the statue of David. Then best man Sidlow, hair in a samurai-looking ponytail, steered everyone to the covered entryway before the wedding party began their processional. The bride herself, wearing a simple pearl necklace and a bracelet with a heart charm with edelweiss inside from her father, her raven hair swept up in a jeweled clip, made the long walk down the north loggia to the sounds of Angelico (a duet between Pavarotti and Sting,) kissed her mother, and locked arms with her bridegroom as the vows began, her voice trembling slightly on the word “husband.”
As if on cue, once the vows were spoken the skies began to clear and turn a beautiful shade of deep velvet blue, corks started to pop, and to the strains of Fools Rush In (remember the lyric, “Some things are meant to be”?), Pedro and Dolly danced their first dance together as man and wife. During the toasts, Pedro even found a way to turn the rain to poetic use, saying that “all the beautiful things in nature need rain to be blessed,” describing his lovely new bride as the rain that blesses him—in love, in work, and in life.