Vows: Annette Berry and Dan Miller

The New York Times, July 13, 2008
by Devan Sipher

The last giant got married.

On June 21, Dan Miller, the lead guitarist for the rock band They Might Be Giants, became the last of the five band mates to marry when he finally wed his longtime girlfriend, Annette Berry.

Their first date was in 1996. Ms. Berry, a graphic artist and art director in Manhattan, remembers thinking he was smart, funny, handsome and "a yapper."

"When I get nervous, I tend to chatter," Mr. Miller, 40, said. "She said to me, 'You're really quite neurotic, aren't you?' "

She made him laugh in a way few people do. "It was very clear that we both really got each other," he said.

Ms. Berry, 39, agreed. "Because I have blond hair and big blue eyes, people think I'm a certain type, but I'm not a type," she said. He got that.

They started dating regularly, but he was reluctant to use the "L" word. "I don't throw the word 'love' around casually," he said.

But when he signed a book he bought her with the phrase "all the love," she said, it provoked an exasperated response. "He used the word 'love,' but he wouldn't use the word 'my,' " she said. "Who knows whose love it was?"

Though they moved in together in 1999, certain topics remained off limits. "He wouldn't talk about children or marriage," she said. "It just made him uncomfortable."

In 2000 his father, Norman A. Miller, was found to have cancer and died two months later.

"His father was his hero and his best friend," said Danny Weinkauf, who plays bass for They Might Be Giants and was frequently Mr. Miller's roommate on the road.

"Dan was devastated," Ms. Berry said, but he wouldn't talk about it. "He was pushing me away." And eventually she pushed back.

"She threw me out," he said. It wasn't quite that drastic, but in 2001, after a year of mourning and five years of dating, Ms. Berry reluctantly concluded that if he wasn't ready to commit, they should go separate ways.

So Mr. Miller focused on his first love: music.

The band went on tour in Australia three months after the split. But on the way to Sydney, he realized how much he wanted to share the experience with Ms. Berry. "He kept saying 'I messed up,' " Mr. Weinkauf remembered. " 'She's the one I want to be with.' "

Mr. Miller called Ms. Berry, professing his love and his desire to marry.

"I just thought he was jealous," said Ms. Berry, who had begun dating someone else.

He offered to fly her to Australia, but she said no. He sent flowers. He wrote love songs. When he returned to New York, he ardently pursued her.

"It was romantic, but I was suspicious," she said. "I didn't think anyone could turn around that quickly." Rather than being flattered by his aggressive persistence, she said that eventually "it just got on my nerves."

Mr. Miller had a darker response. "When you get rejected, it triggers a lot of things like self worth," he said.

After a year he gave up. ("Begging is unappealing," he said.) But it wasn't easy for either of them to move on.

"Every guy I dated, there was that comparison," she said, noting that she never found, over their five years apart, the same level of comfort and intimacy. "We had wrecked it, and I couldn't find it with anyone else."

They had no contact until December 2006 when he was shocked to receive an e-mail message from her. It took him four days to open it, but when he did he realized it wasn't meant for him. Ms. Berry had inadvertently clicked on the wrong "Daniel" in her address book.

"I was completely mortified," she said.

He wrote back anyway. It was her turn to be shocked. "But then I was curious," she said.

An exchange of messages followed, leading to a cordial and cautious dinner. Then a week later she found herself working in his neighborhood and on the spur of the moment invited him out for a drink.

"You go out once, you're catching up," Mr. Miller said. "You go out twice, it's a date."

On that date, they talked mostly about music, reminiscing about bands in Boston where they both had gone to school, she at Boston University and he at Brandeis. And they made each other laugh. "Annette is not an easy laugh," Mr. Miller said admiringly. "If you can make somebody laugh too easily, you get bored. You want to earn it."

He helped her into a cab, and "I cried all the way home," she said. "I missed him more than I ever realized."

He asked her out to a movie the next week, and they were caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella. Standing close together in a doorway in Brooklyn, she started to cry again.

"I don't remember if she cried because I kissed her or because we were about to kiss," he said. "She was upset and happy. I was as well."

Last month, 150 guests gathered to celebrate their union under dark wood beams and tapestries at the Bowery Hotel in Manhattan.

"Finding love is amazing, but losing it and finding it again is a gift," said Mr. Miller's brother, Stephen, before the two brothers lighted a candle in memory of their father.

Then Ms. Berry's brother, Sean, who was ordained a Universal Life minister for the occasion, led the couple in their vows. But when it was the bridegroom's turn to speak, the usually confident performer broke down. Ms. Berry gently comforted him as her own tears flowed.

"I lost you once, my love, I vow never to lose you again," she said.

At the reception, a swing band played Tin Pan Alley tunes as the couple danced in the amber glow of iron lamps and candlelight. Mr. Miller serenaded his bride with a song he wrote for the occasion called "Stuck," and two of his band mates provided musical accompaniment for the bridal dance.

The emphasis was not on the giants, but on what might be.