Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In the days leading up to our wedding, at least a dozen people told me that I wouldn’t remember anything from the day itself. I’d look back on the whole thing and see nothing but flashes of champagne toasts and table visits, nothing more. I hated that idea. I wanted to remember everything. This is one of the essays I wrote to make sure I never forgot the events of that day. Yes, even the all-day storm that threatened to ruin the whole thing. Effing nature.    

Like Ray-EEE-aiiin on Your Wedding Day! A Deluge of Good Luck

The instant my 10-year-old self saw “Father of the Bride” for the first time, I knew I wanted part of my wedding to be held at my parents' house. I love the reception scene, where George and Nina Banks’ Main Street house is transformed into a beautiful ballroom complete with white linens and twinkling lights. While I envied the fictitious family’s ability to pull that together, I decided to stick to a small, family-only backyard ceremony. Leaving the party for professionals at a reception hall would be much kinder to my worrywart mother.  

JT was totally on board with that idea as was Mum, who squealed with glee at the request. However, my step-dad/Weather Channel addict/eternal pessimist Kip was less than convinced this was a good idea.

“What if it rains?” he asked, the first of 18.6 billion times he would utter those words. We technically had an answer to that question, but unless it was, “The world will likely end,” Kip didn’t want to hear it. It’s an art, really, staying true to your innate grumpiness while surrounded by so many happy people.

The solution was to exchange vows super quick during the cocktail hour at the reception hall. Yes, that would cut into our party time and be super rushed, but it was a solid backup. We had a plan. Everyone was satisfied.

Except me. I hated the idea of JT and I sprinting through our vows like that. How hugely unspecial would it be to get married next to a buffet? Yes, I know the only thing that matters is that we would be married at the end of it all. But I wanted to remember the look in JT’s eye, not the smell of smoked ham.

So when I woke up around 8 a.m. on the big day and heard raindrops hitting my parents’ roof, I just knew it would stop in time for our 2:30 p.m. ceremony. It had to. I peered out of the window of my childhood bedroom and silently asked God for a little help with this one.

Turned out, He was being generous with the luck that day.

8:00 A.M.
My maid of honor, Nikki, who had slept over at Mum’s house with me, and I padded into the kitchen and sipped coffee for a few minutes of silence before the onslaught of dress steaming, hair spray and general giddiness began. JT and the boys were back at our house, likely nowhere near waking up. But here, at Hair and Makeup Central, there was work to be done.

As soon as my other five bridesmaids burst through the door with our hairstylist and awesome friend Steve in tow, their giggles and gossip filled the room with an energy more invigorating than my coffee. Within minutes, Steve was at work on my cousin’s hair, with everyone else flitting around and chatting. Soon, we were entrenched in a game of  “Who knows the funniest YouTube video?” and the phones were being passed around. I looked at my friends, having so much fun, and decided this was a great start to the day, weather be damned.

Then, a voice pierced the joy like a dart through a balloon.

“Radar’s bad.”

Three syllables uttered from Kip from his spot in the living room. He didn’t even bother turning to us when he said it. I felt a tug at my chest. This wasn’t looking good. But I didn’t abandon hope. We had hours before we needed a judgement call. It would be OK.

11:00 A.M.

Three hours and four gorgeous heads of hair later, and Steve was still going strong. The girls had started to steam their dresses, my three-year-old flower girl niece was lounging on my lap and I’d resumed a sense of calm. Everything was moving along. My photographer was on her way, and the florist was due in an hour.

It was still raining like a mo-fo.

I’m not talking drizzling. This was a full on downpour that hadn’t lessened in intensity from the second I’d woken up. I couldn’t remember that last time I saw that much water, aside from the time I flew over the Pacific Ocean. It was time to make a phone call.

“They say this is good luck,” said JT.

“Well then one of us should probably go play the lottery,” I said.

“We have a back-up plan,” he reminded me.

“I hate the back-up plan,” I sighed.

We decided to give it more time. During the next few hours:

  • My florist showed up, looking like he’d taken a dip in the Monongahela River on his way over. He laughed off the rain like it wasn’t that big of a deal. Or that it would in any way affect the six-foot tall tree and trellis he had in the back of his truck destined for the reception hall. His water-logged assistant remained silent.
  • My best friend and groomsman Jason arrived. I immediately sent him out to assess the likelihood of pulling this thing off on my parents’ covered back porch. He poked his head out the back door for approximately one millisecond before giving that idea a definite “No.”
  • Kip helpfully reminded me that it was raining every seven minutes.
  • I began to realize that I really needed to make a decision, seeing as how about 40 people’s immediate plans depended on them. I silently hyperventilated.
  • I paused my hyperventilation to look up at my surroundings. I was getting my own hair done at this point, sitting in the kitchen facing the living room. It looked so nice, the open space centered on the tall fireplace. In typical Mum fashion, it was clean within an inch of existence. A thought crept in. Why exactly can’t we just do the damn thing in my parents’ living room?
  • I articulated said thought.
  • Kip threatened to kill me. OK. He didn’t really, but his reaction to the idea was as if I’d suggested chopping up his beloved Shetland Sheepdog to serve as an appetizer. “You can’t do that!” he boomed. “Why not?” I asked. “There’s no room!” he was utterly incredulous. I looked at all the space around him in the wide open room. I felt like this was do-able.
  • I looked at my cousin, who was listening nearby. She saw my face and took charge. “Here,” she said. “Just move this table here, and this chair here, and look. Room!” She was right. A few small changes and we could totally make this work. I called JT and told him so.
  • “Ok, decision made, people,” Mum said as she and I frantically booked it upstairs to get ready.

Jason telling me the entire outside is basically under water as our pianist and good friend Sara wonders how I plan to have her plug in her keyboard in the middle of a downpour. Steve hard at work through all the drama. Credit: Kristina Serafini

The boys begin to arrive. The rain couldn't care less. Credit: Kristina Serafini

During all of the ensuing chaos, I tried my best to take as much of it in as possible. I remember gasping when I saw my gorgeous niece all done up in her dress with a big bow bouncing on her head. I remember my other bestie, Becca, helping me swipe on my makeup. I remember the girls rushing back and forth between the bedroom and bathroom, zipping up gowns, setting their hair with one more layer of hairspray, laughing and giggling the entire time. I could hear Sara, warming up on the keyboard she perched on one of Mum’s end tables, her gentle playing dancing on the air behind all the hubbub as the guests began to arrive.

I nearly teared up as Mum helped me into my dress, zipped me up and kissed my cheek. We posed for a few pictures. Then, it was time.

Smiling so I don't cry and ruin my makeup. Credit: Kristina Serafini

As Sara began to play the opening chords of “Time to Say Goodbye,” with Becca singing the beautiful melody, my girls gathered at the top of the staircase. One by one, they descended, each one turning to mouth “I love you” to me before starting down.

I made my way to the top of the stairs and waited for the OK from my uncle below before starting slowly down. I had crashed down (and up) those stairs enough to know they weren’t my strong suit, floor-length dress aside. When my heels hit the last step, I exhaled calmly.

I caught Mum’s eye. “Nailed it,” I said with a smile.

Kip came around the corner to collect me and guided me into the living room, where our bridal party was fanned out on either side of the fireplace. The guests had gathered in the kitchen, some seated, some standing, all smiling.

But the most important face was JT’s. He beamed at me as Kip brought me into the room. Our minister welcomed everyone and asked who was giving me away.

Love this moment. Credit: Kristina Serafini

“Her mother and I,” said a teary-eyed Kip, and as I leaned over to kiss his cheek, he placed my hands in JT’s. As my soon-to-be husband smiled wide, I knew everything would work out, that day and every other day.

Who gives a crap about the weather when your man looks at you like this? Credit: Kristina Serafini 

I felt luckier than I ever had. And that’s a feeling I’ll always remember.

In front of the fireplace in my parents' living room. Wouldn't change a thing. Credit: Kristina Serafini

Credit: Kristina Serafini

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