We did it! We finally pulled off the wedding event everyone has been waiting for. It was questionable for a while, given the ongoing custody litigation and the accompanying exorbitant legal expenses. While most couples begin the planning process soon after engagement, we really put it off for 5 months. For a date we had originally set for June 1st. I was worried about how we were going to pay for it, I was worried about finding a dress, I was worried about the custody trial interfering with my plans. We had already created a “list” of people we wanted one slightly intoxicated night at a local microbrew dispenser, scribbled into a mini notebook I carry in my purse for recording bursts of creative thought, blood sugars and boluses, and other very important tidbits that would otherwise be lost in the cavern of my memory were they not recorded the moment they light on my brain.
Todd’s stipulation: our guests had to be people who knew both of us. That meant to get on the list our guests had to at least meet the one they didn’t know yet. In theory this worked well – at least it limited a guest list that could easily have exceeded 100 people and our budget – yet there were still two or three people one or the other of us had to meet at the wedding. This wedding had the most amazing effect on so many people – there was no one who didn’t show up and so many people who really wanted to be there. If not for money, I’d have invited the whole damn Facebook community! It becomes especially difficult when the betrothed each work in some form of public service – which means there are literally dozens of people we know and like that could have been invited. (A side note to those who weren’t there: we wanted you there. We really did. But we’re only rich in love, not money.)
So one of my dearest BFFs couldn’t attend the June 1st date. When I couldn’t convince her that her son’s graduation from high school wouldn’t hold a candle to the extravaganza of my nuptials, I looked at Todd and I said – E can’t make it. E has to be there – she was there from the beginning, a quarter century ago. He said, what do you want to do? Then another dear friend – my SU BFF and sister for life “C” – couldn’t make it either. So, we changed the date. I hope these girls know how important their presence was to me – and thankfully they had the good sense not to have to get a gallbladder removed, or catch vomit from a sick kid. (Incidentally, another “sister” did have to catch vomit, I’m so sorry to say – and we missed you Dolly, but we understand.)
So – we changed the date to June 16th. Then the custody trial was rescheduled for June 11th. Todd said, are you sure you still want to do this on the 16th? I suppose anyone in their right mind would at least consider the implications of the proximity of these two life-altering events to one another, as potentially stress-inducing given the amount of preparation that had to go into both. Me, though, I didn’t. My immediate response was – absolutely. That SOB had sucked enough joy out of my life – and I’m only referring to the last 9 months – and hell would have to freeze over before I let him take my wedding day. And there turned out to be quite a bit of stress the first week or so of June… I was multitasking nearly every day organizing wedding details and making lists, and then my lawyer had things he wanted me to go over and rewrite and add to and comment on and respond to… and he had his own deadlines that I was struggling to meet. Add the last day of school and two kids home all day irritating each other to the mix and …there was more than a day or two where I threw up my hands and cried. And then my better half reminded me that I can only do what I can do. I smiled through my tears…. and grabbed my meds. We got through it. The planning continued.
At least the invitations got done – probably because Todd took that part on himself. We designed the invitations ourselves, verbiage by me and the art design by Todd – a red rose reminiscent of one he drew me on the bottom of the last letter he sent me when I was at NYU. One of Todd’s many connections in education and the arts produced these and assembled them for us – overnight – and did a fantastic job.
So at this point it might be necessary to point out – in case I never mentioned it before – that I have a tendency to procrastinate. So, a month before the wedding, I went to try on dresses. My SU bff agreed to attend this huge part of the planning process – and – after she announced that she was “bossy,” I was sooo glad I’d brought her. She had the dresses coming at a conveyor-pace, and was organized enough to remember to snap photos of me in the dresses I’d tried. Her expressions of “ooooh” and the pinched “hmmmm” made my decision all the easier. I ordered the dress I loved – from David’s Bridal – incidentally, the very first dress I’d picked out in my online search – and it arrived a week later (a full week earlier than guaranteed – way to go Davids!) Next up was finding someone who could hem my dress, since my procrastination precluded alterations at the bridal shop, and I googled seamstresses in my area and found the wonderful and timely – Gilda (Gilda’s Sew & Co.). She did an awesome – and professional – job, even adding a bustle that was perfect, in ONE WEEK. She will forever be recommended in my book. She was done three days before the wedding.
I ordered my blue 4-¼ inch heel shoes online and paid no heed to my husband’s stature or the customer reviews, many who recommended buying the wide width even if you’ve never purchased wide in your life. I don’t have wide feet, but the medium width made my feet look like bloated sausages stuffed into an espresso cup. Nasty. And painful. 5 minutes in those shoes and my toes went numb. So, back to the laptop to order the wide width, which were delivered to my door on the day of my final dress fitting, 3 days before the wedding. And they fit. Were they painful? A little. But I wore them for at least 4 hours before I pulled them off in the middle of the courtyard, along with my pantyhose – no doubt the classiest move ever performed by a bride on her wedding day. I later found them dangling from a glass shelf behind the bar inside, a’la my mom – who loves a fancy shoe for its artistic potential.
As for the rest of my presentation – I got my first manicure in 15 years, got an up-do I thoroughly trusted my hairdresser to do without a test run – though Ava and I had to get up at 6am to drive over there on the big day, and this – after only 4 hours of sleep for me (I’ll tell you why later). I never purchased an “undergarment” to lift my girls – and, like everything else, waited until the night before to go shopping at Kohl’s for one. Once I got there I hit panic mode when I didn’t see anything other than strapless bras and frantically texted Todd since he was with my mom, to ask her to find out when the local lingerie shop closed. This old shop has been a town icon for decades – the owner has mannequins in the windows dressed in unbelievable corsets, teddies and other Fredericks-of-Hollywood-style underwear – where they are known for custom bra fitting down to personally placing your body parts into said garments. I wasn’t up for this type of fondling in my anxiety-fueled panic, but desperation drives one to cross boundaries once unheard of. Luckily, mom called me and said you can’t go there – you’ll be there for hours! (Which caused me to wonder just how involved bra fitting can be.) Thankfully, I did find something that could do the job in the store I was already in, plus I remembered to buy new underwear for the big day too!! Double bonus.
As for the jewelry, I finally settled on wearing the necklace Todd had given me on Valentine’s Day 26 years ago (one of the few things I managed to keep well hidden for a very long time) and a pair of unsentimental pearl drop earrings, which disappeared the morning of the wedding, causing another wave of panic an hour before. Thankfully Todd’s cousin, who attached herself to me as my personal handmaid, handed me her 20th wedding anniversary earrings to wear instead. Incidentally, the earrings I lost remained MIA until 5 days later – where they turned up in the washing machine, which means I mindlessly stashed them in my pants pocket at 6:30am and there they lived while I frantically searched every bag and box I’d brought to the wedding.
In keeping with the procrastination theme, we waited until the week of the wedding to get Ava’s dress and the attire for both Owen and the groom. Not too stressful. Well, the boys turned out to be easy, but my little mini-me diva didn’t like anything and we traversed a handful of stores before my mom bribed her into a dress in exchange for a lavender satin handbag at Hartstrings. The saleswoman was wonderful too – she was very encouraging and treated her like the teenager she really is, and even pressed the dress while we had dinner. Ava was very concerned that the garment bag fully conceal the dress from her brother and Todd – who she said couldn’t see it until the wedding day. Thankfully I had already purchased her shoes – a risky move given that she wasn’t there to pick them out – but she loved them and they had the “heel” she wanted.
The wedding itself was meant to be casual – we’ve both been married before in the big frou-frou 150+ wedding – so we had it at my mother’s restaurant, outside in the beautiful courtyard and Todd build the chuppah in two days flat. We had beautiful weather, and wanted our food to be cook-out friendly and casual. The s’mores favors were stolen from Pinterest – wrapped simply in a velum bag and tied with natural twine – I only had to make 72 but I was still up the night before putting them together (um, and writing my vows…) until 2am. We purchased most of the food ourselves at Costco, the rest from mom’s purveyors, the simple, but elegant wedding cake from a local grocery, and Todd picked up the wine and beer we selected to serve our guests. We also wanted margaritas – of course – and had made up two gallons of my favorite nectar, all of which was gone before the party was over… so, not to be deterred… I jumped behind the bar in full bridal regalia and mixed up my own margaritas from scratch. (Told ya we were casual.) My mom’s fantastic staff – my coworkers – did a bang-up job setting up and executing our reception. I am so grateful to them for all their hard work.
We finished at the hair salon around 8 and took a side trip where my super fabulous up-do caught everyone’s attention at the local Wawa when my little princess and I stopped to fuel up on coffee and a fruit smoothie. I thought this must be what it’s like to be a famous celebrity, just trying to be inconspicuous while shopping for something so simple… and normal. I mean, people were staring. My delusion was quickly dashed by Joel – who works with us and seems more like another brother than a coworker – when he told me I looked like Peg Bundy, and all I needed was Ava’s tiny leggings to really pull it off.
The restaurant was buzzing like a beehive – aromas from the kitchen (which was producing not only my food but catering two other events that day), wait staff setting up our outdoor tables, my mom still putting the flowers together – including wrapping my bouquet (she is fabulous at this catering and wedding shit) and Ava’s selected flowers (all purchased at Cosco for very little money and the flowers were beautiful). Todd and Owen arrived soon after, carrying the cake and favors… and right after them, my in-laws and Todd’s cousins from California.
We all walked over to my mom’s house (adjacent to the restaurant) where they would all dress and where my father-in-law wordlessly snatched the boys’ clothes and my iron and started pressing. A time warp commenced whereby people were coming and going, my cell phone kept buzzing, the search for my earrings ensued whereby no less than 3 people looked through 4 bags –including C, who stopped upstairs to witness my descent into wedding tremors – and I texted my other bff “T” who was still at home to see if she had any she could bring. I got Ava into her dress and she wandered off to the restaurant. Todd’s cousin – my handmaid – delivered Todd’s now pressed clothes to him and returned to assist me in doing what seemed like a whole lot of nothing…. Until I turned around at one point and saw Todd’s pants still lying on top of the hamper and exclaimed, “Todd’s pants! Oh my God, what pants is he wearing??!!” She had accidentally taken Joel’s pants, which Todd later told me seemed to not quite fit as well as they had in the store.
Mom finally showed up and announced she was taking a shower and gently suggested to me I might want to get dressed now. This was about 25 minutes before the ceremony. What a great idea! Put the dress on, easy enough, and turned to check myself out in the mirror and saw the indentations of my other bra above my strapless gown – fifteen minutes before I had to walk down the aisle! True story – check out the pics of me at the ceremony. So now you all know just how un-fabulous I really am – a real mom who forgets the simple grooming things like brushing my hair, fixing chipped toenail polish, unknowingly wearing a shirt inside out in a public place, or having toilet paper stuck to my shoe. I was mortified! Mom, by this time still wrapped in a towel and about to get dressed, clears everybody out but me and Ava. I heard footsteps on the stairs and turned to see Owen just as Mom drops her towel and he lets out a startled “ooff!” I’m sure he will now be scarred for life. No one wants to see their grandmother naked.
Suzanne returns to assist me in getting to the gate, but Mom is still doing her makeup and her hair is now in these giant curlers. I peer out the windows and see everyone in the courtyard waiting, including my groom and son, and to my horror I hear the wedding music. It’s already playing, and I have a very long walk to the gate. I later learn that by the time I actually reached the gate, the song had played for the fourth time… and that Todd assured our guests that I was coming, because he’s got Owen. We get halfway to the gate – Suzanne, Ava and I – when I realize I don’t have my vows. I left them back on the couch upstairs in the bedroom. S runs to get them. Ava, undeterred, keeps walking toward that gate with determined steps. I follow her slowly, hoping to delay my entrance long enough for S to get back to me, and my legs are wobbly from the worst tremors I’ve experienced since childbirth. Then I step up to the gate, Ava leading the way, and see Todd – and Owen – waiting at the end of the longest walk I’ve ever taken, and pray I don’t trip, or faint (the sensations of both just tingling on the surface of my clammy skin.) Everyone is there, but I don’t see anyone but those two boys I’d give my life for.
Our officiant – the infamous Rob Radikal – looked more nervous than I felt. That did nothing to calm my nerves. What only a few people in our inner circle knew was that Todd and I – in an effort to avert any possible unforeseen issues – had already married in a civil ceremony and we had asked our friend to direct us through our vows in what we referred to as our “spiritual” ceremony before God and our loved ones. He did a fine job. I kept nervously looking over my shoulder for Suzanne, who was now in control of my vows. She zeroed in and slipped them into my hand from behind. Mom finally slipped in from behind the curtain like the Wizard from Oz.
Todd’s vows were beautiful, eloquent and unforgettable. He did his best to hold it together. Then it was my turn. Dammit. I looked at him, smiled with my teary eyes and said…. “ditto.” People chittered. I took a deep breath and read my inadequate words to him. I am my own worst critic, constantly self-editing everything I write – and I knew I could never articulate the feelings I have had for this man for over two decades. I did my best. Everyone was kind enough afterward to say how beautiful our vows were, and a few scolded us for making them cry. Rob directed Todd to put the ring on my finger, and then pronounced us before I put the ring on Todd’s … so a bit of laughter followed that revelation while Todd handed me his left hand and I placed the ring on his right, and then had to take it off and replace it on the correct hand. Still trembling. The kiss! The announcement of our union, and we four turned toward the crowd for pictures before we walked out. We must’ve walked pretty fast – there are only pictures of our backs (and faint bra strap marks) at this point.
We had a beautiful unorganized day – we rehearsed nothing – and everything just flowed. The kids had Wii set up in one of the dining rooms out of the way – and they were on it all day until dusk. I tried to visit with everyone and as these events always seem to be – I still felt I didn’t spend enough time with anyone, and they were ALL important guests. I didn’t see much of Todd, but it didn’t matter – we both remember this day the same way. We drank margaritas, we toasted with Todd’s best friend and his brother – everyone snapped photos, including Todd – and we cut the cake and, when we fed it to each other delicately, Ava took it upon herself to grab some cake and smash it on Todd. My mother-in-law sliced up our cake and we plated it together – and Ava handed them out to all the guests standing around us.
I spent the rest of the day barefoot, dancing with family and chatting, shedding a few tequila-fueled tears over loved ones lost, and mixing up more margaritas behind the bar. Owen played with his “new cousins” as he calls Todd’s nephews and our other dear friends who stayed til the bitter end – Ava danced with my aunt and uncle and our beautiful and most-welcome wedding crasher (without whom a party is only a party). The wedding that began at 11-something a.m. finally ended for us around 9pm, after much celebration, libations, and an impromptu pizza party.