Monday, September 15, 2008

Stumbling down the aisle.

I'm a little compulsive when it comes to throwing parties. I like for things to be just right. I want my guests to swoon a little when they see how elegant and perfectly thought out things are. I want them to think, "Wow, this is the best party I've ever been to! How does she do it?" In other words, I have a bit of a Martha-complex. So imagine this applied to wedding planning and you start to see a problem

Knowing this about me, my mom offered me advice while I planned my wedding. She said, "No matter how perfectly you plan, something will go wrong. You have to be ok with that. And to be honest, it is the little bumps that make your wedding story interesting."
At the time, I politely smiled and nodded. Nothing was going to go wrong at my wedding. I'd planned, I'd made notes, budgets, charts and I knew it would all pull together. Not a doubt in my mind. And then it didn't.

If the little bumps are the things that make your wedding story interesting, mine is a classic. From the annoyances to the major disasters, I think I have them covered.

Remember, I got married on September 15, 2001. That would be enough for most people. The national tragedy that nearly caused us to cancel our wedding far outweighs the other problems was the biggest, and I certainly don't mean to minimize that in the least. It just seemed that our wedding was destined to be plagued with problems. And keep in mind, I was still a bride. I was still working on having the wedding we'd planned. Now ask yourself, how many brides have to really panic over the catering contract stipulation that they did not guarantee service in the event of an "act of war"?

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

From the moment Mr. Dog proposed, our honeymoon plan was to take a bike trip in Italy. A car accident in February forced us to change plans. A roll of carpet fell off a truck in front of my car. I hit the roll and managed to stay in control of my car, but the impact caused an injury in my shoulder that took a year of physical therapy to correct. Since we weren't going to go biking we were forced to change plans. We'd decided on Turkey. Until September 11th changed our minds. We ended up taking two honeymoons, one for a week of camping in Big Sur with the dogs. The second, a scuba diving vacation in Belize. Heavenly. I still dream of Turkey, but Belize was no slouch for a honeymoon.

I used a dot com (in the era of the dot com bust) as a the travel/hotel coordinator for our out of town guest. The plan was they would find group discounts for hotels and offer those to our guests. I had this all set up months in advance. Days before we were to send this information out to our guests, the company tanked. I got a terse email thanking me for using their service, but they were closing up shop immediately. Sorry for the inconvenience. I was left to scramble and figure out where guests could stay, how to book blocks of rooms and where the best hotels with the lowest rates could be found.

I ordered my wedding band online. Ebay to be exact. Say what you will, but if you love antique jewelry and don't care about gemstone perfection (or even if you do, but I don't) you can't find a better selection. I'd found beautiful 1920s eternity band of rubies in a platinum setting. It was ornate, elegant and perfect. I sent payment, the ring was shipped and didn't arrive. I contacted the shipper. It had been insured, I contacted the post office, I had to wait up to 30 days before I could process the claim. Three weeks into the wait, I found another ring, another eternity band, rubies and diamonds with an engraved platinum setting. I ordered it. It arrived. It was lovely. It fit, it nestled next to my antique engagement ring with the perfect blend of sparkle and color. The next day the first ring arrived. So I have two wedding bands. I wear one, the other is in my jewelry box.

Within days of getting engaged I contacted a friend of mine to make my dress. She had a background in costume design, but was an excellent designer and made beautiful clothes. She was thrilled. I explained to her what I wanted, the classic 1930's Jean Harlow gown. No problem. She did sketches, came up with other designs and we agreed on one. A two layered gown, a simple sheath style dress topped with a beaded sheer. Stunning. Unfortunately it was more than she could deliver. The beading never happened. The dress didn't fit right. After my final fitting the Wednesday before the wedding, when the dress didn't fit, the beaded sheer dress looked more like a Home Ec project and I was distraught, I called and offered a few suggestions. She balked. She delivered the ultimatum. Take as I make it or leave it. Panicked, I spent Thursday with my mom in downtown San Francisco looking for an acceptable alternative. I had low expectations. You know how it is, when you really need a specific item, you can't find it or you find it and they don't have your size? Amazingly enough, I was wrong. I found a beaded dress at Loehman's that would have fit the bill, but opted to have a peek at Macy's before I committed. And I found it. The dress I had sketched way back when. Simple, elegant and oh so perfect. I had to drive to San Jose to get it in my size, but that was a small price to pay to be able to call the dressmaker who had burned me so badly and tell her the dress was unneeded.

Thinking I was doing my bridesmaids a kindness, I picked a pattern and provided fabric for them to have their dresses made. The pattern was a Vintage Vogue dress from the 1930s and was perfect. They all liked the design, and the color and the fabric. Unfortunately, not all of them had luck with getting the dresses made. Ok, all of them except one got them made just fine, but my sister, my maid of honor, had her friend who promised it could be done no problem, crap out on her and gave her a messed up dress with no back closure and mismatched nap on the velvet burn out. So Kathleen was off dress shopping on Saturday to find a new dress. Thank heaven's for Nordstrom. She found the perfect fill in. It was a two piece set, a long lean skirt and a sleeveless top that were a perfect half step between the deep purple of my bridesmaids and the silvery taupe of my gown. It couldn't have been planned better.

Many of our guests were unable to make it to the wedding. Mr. Dog's brother and one of his groomsmen from New York could not fly out. Mr. Dog's sister was on a flight that was grounded in Las Vegas and was unable to leave because every rental car in the area was immediately booked. A few friends did manage to find flights, and others hopped in their cars. Mr. Dog's parents drove from Colorado as soon as they heard there might issues getting a flight. My family drove down from Portland and Seattle, carpooling when necessary.

The rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception went off without a hitch. I think by the time I able to start breathing again, the morning of the wedding, I'd decided anything that happens, happens. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was that I was married to Mr. Dog.

The curse of the neurotic planner extended beyond the wedding itself. Our elderly pit bull, Rosie had been fighting a battle with cancer. She'd had a rapid decline in the end, and Mr. Dog and I, prior to September 11th, had decided to reschedule the honeymoon. Since we were originally scheduled to fly out on the 18th, I called and switched the flights to leave on the 23rd. I wanted to have her see the vet again and make sure there was nothing we could do and I didn't want this to be rushed. Unfortunately, after the wedding it became clear that the kindest thing we could do was to let her go. On the Monday after we were married, we had to have our dear girl put to sleep.

What didn't change was that our honeymoon was still set for Turkey. As the week after the attacks unfolded, it was announced that the US was going to use airbases in Turkey to fly missions to Afghanistan. That sealed what already had been going through my mind. I was not heading to Turkey at that moment. No problem I thought, we'll just get our tickets refunded. Most airlines were doing that for travel in that time period. Unfortunately Delta only refunded tickets with travel dates on or before 18th. Had I not changed our tickets we would have been in the clear, but our newly changed travel date fell outside of that. We tried to find a destination that Delta went that we wanted to use for our honeymoon, and failed. We ended up just holding on to those tickets for another trip before they expired. We'd go somewhere, but in the meantime we'd buy fresh tickets to Belize. We did, and after announcing to my friends at work, we'd booked tickets for Belize, I was informed that Belize had been hit by a severe hurricane that damaged much of the coral reef in the area.

Years later, when we tried to squeeze in a trip to Paris to use up those Delta tickets before they expired, we met with carryover doom. I was 5 months pregnant at the time. And to be fair to me in this story, you must understand that my passport at the time was a mess. In college, I'd taken a trip to Greece and Italy. I had to get a new passport for that trip, but when the envelope arrived in my mailbox it had been opened and my passport was nowhere to be found. (Yeah, great security for those highly coveted documents, ship them in envelopes emblazoned with "PASSPORT! IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS INSIDE!" or similar bullshit). I rushed and got a replacement passport that was valid for 4 months. I'd have to file a follow up claim that the other passport was never located in order to get a page officially updated to reflect the new 10 year expiration date. So my expiration date was not where the expiration date normally is, it was on a page in the back with an official seal over it. When I booked the trip, I'd checked to see that my passport was valid. I knew it expired that year, but I didn't know which month. I checked and saw it was expiring in October. Awesome, we were traveling in June. It was not until I was in the car on the way to the airport, as I inserted my ticket into the passport where my new expiration date had been updated that I noticed, um, my passport expire in June, and not June after my flight was on the way to take, June two weeks before the flight I was supposed to take. Shit. We ended up heading home, trying to find how I could get an emergency passport, failed because after September 11th that kind of thing just didn't happen anymore, and ended up buying tickets for a trip to Seattle. We decided to just let the other tickets expire unused, it seems to have been the best move

With all that happened surrounding our wedding, it seems amazing we were able to pull it off. I joke sometimes that the wedding crisis should be our guarantee of a perfect marriage. And so far that has held true.

I remember watching Sex in the City, while on maternity leave with Big Dog. Charlotte was marrying Harry and it seemed that her wedding was surrounded with a series of small mishaps. She was beginning to take it as a sign that the marriage was doomed to fail. I looked over her list: a blot on a photo in the wedding announcement, groom seeing her dress before the wedding, a bitter Best Man lashing out at the Maid of Honor, wine spilled on her dress, and the like, and smiled. A single thought crossed my mind. Lightweights.

Tell me, how perfect, or better yet imperfect, was your wedding?


Unknown said...

Wow! That's quite a story! Intriguing for sure!

Erin said...

Oh, what awful timing for your wedding! We actually went to Belize on our honeymoon, too, and it was fabulous. We did the jungle part, though.
Our wedding was a pretty easy event, aside from a few mishaps on the day of with the reception place. Even though we were told they'd put out table favors and whatnot, they decided on the DAY OF that they didn't do that, so my dad and BIL were there at 8AM putting out favors, seating arrangements, etc. Oh, and also my doofus of a husband drank too much at our reception, but looking back, it makes a good story. Basically, our brother-in-law had to undress him on our wedding night because he couldn't unbutton his own pants, and I was too busy getting out of my corseted dress to care about doing it myself!

geekymummy said...

Your wedding was amazing. Our wedding was reasonably hitch free, though I do recall a certain husband of a certain bridemaid got into a punch up at my husbands stag party!

MIQuilter said...

I think you're right about the good wedding=bad marriage and bad wedding=good marriage thing. My first wedding went without a hitch. We were married for less than 2 years.

Fast forward to my second wedding. I did WAY more planning. 3 months before the wedding went to Clinique to get a makeover and have them write down all the colors/etc that they used so I would have professional makeup on the day of (I never wear makeup so I though having a pro do it would be a nice touch). I ordered flowers online about the same time. We were planning a small affair (about 35 people - only immediate family and a few close friends). I had hubby arrange the mini-moon (just a weekend together after the wedding - still waiting for the real "honeymoon" vacation!). Find out a month before the wedding that hubby has booked all of the mini-moon vacation plans for the weekend AFTER the wedding.... hmmm.. that's weird, I think... ask him about it and he said "well, I thought we'd be so tired from the wedding weekend that if we waited a week we'd actually enjoy it more"... kinda makes sense, but very unconventional. don't have time to be upset about it - too busy planning every single other detail.

Fast forward to morning of wedding. Flowers arrive. Flowers that I didn't order.... well, some I did order and some that I ordered didn't arrive.... hmmmm.... the ONE type of flower that I REALLY wanted wasn't even in there. They subsituted at the last minute becuase they couldn't get the ones I really wanted. Creative license and all.... Oh, well, I think. Can't do anything about it now, just roll with the punches. And have a swig (not really but being the control freak that I am, I did start to stress). All the bridesmaids were going to get their hair done at the same time, same place... but 1 of my sisters (and a bridesmaid, of course) was sick. Vomiting all day.... hmmmm... ok, let's change the plans... other sister nurses the first sister and I go with the others for hair and makeup. Hair turns out great. Then it starts to rain. Oh, and we were going to have an outdoor wedding. Frantically buy umbrellas so we don't ruin the hair and go for makeup while meanwhile groomsmen were frantically moving the outdoor venue to indoor venue. Luckily I had thought to make alternative plans for rain.

Get to the makeup counter. Yes they have my appointment. Unfortunately, the woman that did my makeup no longer works there. And the card that she wrote everything down on? Oh, she was disgruntled - so she took that with her. So now we have to wing it. No problem (just a bit more desperate for the flask). Manage to get makeup done and to the wedding location in good time. Change into wedding dress, work on finishing touches and notice that (at 5 minutes before the ceremony is supposed to start) that the sick sister still isn't there. Hmmm, odd. I'm pretty sure she knew the wedding was today. At 5pm. I mean, she did fly into town for it and all. She shows up 3 minutes later with her husband all but carrying her. Vomiting all day made her so weak she could hardly walk. It took 3 of us to get her hose and dress on.

Wedding itself went without a hitch. Walked down the aisle, got married. Turned around to get my flowers from my sister (the sick one) and lo and behold - she wasn't there. Hmmm... I knew when we started this 6 minute ceremony that she was (found out later that if she hadn't bolted during the ceremony she'd have vomited down the back of my dress). No matter, I'm married to this wonderful man - let's get on with the party.

Reception appetizers.. dinner... dancing... hmmm... around 10 pm I start to feel "off". No, I'd only had 2 glasses of champagne all evening so I'm not drunk. Nerves? No, I didn't feel nervous but a full day of stress where lots of little things go wrong I suppose could add up. Wait, this is not good.... dash to the bathroom and make it just in time to vomit all over my shoes. Wash them off as well as I could (they were fabric) and put on the shoes I was wearing earlier that day. Riding boots. Black. My feet were so cold and hubby thought it was just funny. Vomit 2 more times at the reception. Hubby and other guests are obliviously dancing, drinking and partying. Finally at 11:30, my dress is SO tight around my abdomen that I have to unzip it and I can't stand up on my own. I'm sitting in an ante-room and have a bridesmaid fetch my new hubby. Weakly make a crack about how I didn't expect to cash in on the "in sickeness" part of our vows so early. Up to this point he had no idea I was sick but 1 look at me and he knew something was up. We abandon the complimentary hotel room and champagne to go home so I can sleep in my own bed. It takes 2 people to get me up the stairs, out of my clothes and into bed. I vomit and have diahrea all night. Hubby starts in on the same tune around 6am. Make some calls, end up cancelling the brunch we were supposed to have the following morning. Find out, curiously, that 8 people in total are vomiting and feel like shit. Sister things that she gave everyone the flu. Her hubby goes to hospital since he's so bad off. Find out we all had food posioning. From the food at the wedding reception. Lost 3 lbs the following week becuase I couldn't keep anything down. Decided that hubby was the most brilliant genius EVER for doing the mini-moon a week later. We could actually enjoy it! Not so fun at the time, but great story. And WONDERFUL marriage :)

(Sorry so long - but you did ask)

Green said...

I ummm... am not married and haven't had a wedding. Just wanted to comment to say I loved reading this story - you're a great writer.

Unknown said...

Well, that certainly is a tale to tell the kiddies and grands. My wedding was simple. Hubby and I flew to Vegas - used the wonders of the www to broadcast live to family and friends and enjoyed a penthouse loft on the Vegas Strip. Weddingmoon. It was lovely. The only thing that went wrong was the limo arrived late, otherwise it went off without a hitch!

Anonymous said...

What, no pictures? Great retelling of the tale and how truly by the end of it you are just thankful you are married and how that is really what it's all about!

BoneFolder said...

God that was painful to read. I kept remembering all of these calamities a few lines before you'd describe them so reading them seconds later was a 1-2 punch. I few of these items I'd forgotten about and a couple of them I hadn't even heard about. Man! Actually, Shoshanah and I trot out your tribulations from time to time to get some perspective, did you know that? And we always end with "Well, at least the reception went great." I was proud to have been one of the few to have gotten to participate, even though that distinction is admittedly only due to convenient geometry... but the wedding was great and the reception was a blast and so there ya go.

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