Anyone who has put together a wedding or a banquet has likely come across the name Chiavari.
Before Kristin and I began wedding planning, I’d never heard it before. Once we started getting into the details of our ceremony and reception, when it came down to picking chairs, the name Chiavari kept coming up over and over again.
Chiavari, we learned, is the “chair of chairs.” When you look for venues for your big day, wedding planners and event coordinators will speak of Chiavari chairs with reverence and awe—not to mention a surcharge. They’ll speak to the subtly of the design and the delicacy of the form—which they’ll tell you adds a whimsical nature to your setting.
I was fascinated by the power the Chiavari chair held over people. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mythical nature of the man who creates these chairs, a modern-day Paul Bunyan—or better yet, the heir apparent to Chuck Norris.
I was at a hotel bar when I overheard a group of three inebriated wedding planners laughing and drinking together. I heard one of them mention the name Chet Chiavari, and the following conversation ensued:
Me: “Hey, did you guys say Chet Chiavari? Do you know him?”
First wedding planner: “Heck, yeah, we know Chet Chiavari! He’s a big fella—goes about six-feet-five-inches, 295 pounds. Loves his Galliano.”
Second wedding planner: “I once watched Chiavari carve an entire set of chairs out of block of titanium just by yelling at it.”
Third wedding planner: “The chair Lincoln is sitting in at the memorial—it’s a Chiavari. Chet made it after his parents gave him a box of Play-Doh as an infant.”
Second wedding planner: “Helluva chair maker. The best. Big guy, goes about seven-feet-eight-inches, 455 pounds. Eats toasters for breakfast.”
First wedding planner: “To Chet Chiavari!”
All together: “Chet Chiavari!!”
Third wedding planner: “I hear his left bicep is a Metro stop. It’s a transfer point to the Blue, Yellow, Green, Orange, and the Silver Line—which isn’t even built yet—and to Shenandoah. No, not the Shenandoah in Virginia but Wayne Newton’s compound in Las Vegas known as Shenandoah.”
Second wedding planner: “Chet Chiavari can call Minibar right now and get a reservation for tonight.”
First wedding planner: “Chiavari not only sang the duet on ‘You’re So Vain’ with Carly Simon, but he’s also the confirmed subject of the song.”
Second wedding planner: “To Chet Chiavari!”
All together: “Chet Chiavari!”
Third wedding planner: “I ever tell you guys about the time I was at a wedding with Chiavari and he brought a chupacabra with him to the reception? Chiavari lets the thing loose during the couple’s first dance and then wrestles it in the middle of the dance floor. He pins the beast and makes the bride count it out. He then yells at it, ‘I’m Chet Chiavari! Say my name!’ Wouldn’t you know it, the chupacabra says ‘Chet Chiavari!’ ”
(The group is sitting in stunned silence.)
Third wedding planner: “It wasn’t exactly his name, but it was pretty good for a chupacabra!”
First wedding planner: “To Chet Chiavari! A ten-foot-tall, two-ton fella who could swallow your entire CD collection and spit out an iPod!”
All together: “Chet Chiavari!”
So we decided that we’re getting Chiavari chairs at our wedding.
Read Carl's story from the beginning.