A wedding story (part 8)

Well, we made it!! We are happily married as of May 31, 1997. This is the last installment in our wedding story. It's the summary of what happened--the good and the bad--during our wedding weekend, May 30-June 1, 1997.

Thursday, May 29: Pre-Wedding
I finished the term paper for my journalism history class at 4:00 a.m. so that I could hand it in at the 9:45 a.m. class. Doug went to the airport at 6:00 a.m. to pick his brother Brad up from his redeye flight from Los Angeles. When they got back, they dropped me off on campus, and I handed my paper in and came back home for a quick nap.

Most of Thursday was spent finishing up the few last-minute things I had to do before the wedding party arrived. I finished the bridesmaids' gifts (dipping corked bottles of bath foam in paraffin wax to seal them and decorating with lace and silk flowers) and wrapped them up with the earrings and necklaces I'd gotten each of them. I started putting things in boxes and labeling them as to what went where--rehearsal, church, reception. Doug also finished his shopping for the groomsmen. He got most of them items with a Celtic or medieval theme: dragons, gargoyles, Green Men, Celtic crosses.

Sarah, one of my bridesmaids, came in from San Francisco that evening, so we went to the airport to meet her. Then the four of us went to the Mall of America and met another bridesmaid, Catherine, and another friend at a sports bar. We had a bite to eat, but we came home early to try to get some sleep before the weekend.

Friday, May 30: Rehearsal
The day dawned bright and warm. We all got up fairly early to start the last of the preparations for the wedding. Ann, our mistress of ceremonies and She Who Must Be Obeyed, put the last finishing touches on the dress for my sister Trish, the matron of honor, and the other bridesmaids helped out with embellishing the flower girl's dress, assisting Ann with Trish's dress, and tying ribbons on the Erlenmeyer flasks for the reception centerpieces. Everyone really pulled together. People came to the house all day, and the place was bustling most of the afternoon with my mom and sister helping to iron dresses and organize things for the next day.

Friday really flew by, but everything somehow got done. I'd been told that there is some sort of wedding magic that gets things done that need to get done, and now I truly believe it. I think it was due in large part to our phenomenal wedding party, who all pitched in without a second thought.

We left for the rehearsal around 6:30 p.m. and went to the church. Because it was such a lovely night, we all sat on the steps of the church and chatted until everyone got there. Ann kicked us into high gear, and the rehearsal went smoothly. We went through the entire ceremony twice, and I felt pretty darn good about how things were progressing. So far, no major catastrophes.

After the rehearsal, we trotted off two blocks down to the bar and grill at which we were hosting the rehearsal dinner. Everything was set up as promised, and Doug and I were surprised by several unexpected gifts. Ann had made two gorgeous cakes for the dinner, a wizard and a dragon, and they were as delicious as they were beautiful. And my brother-in-law, Mark, who had been sporting a tee-shirt with "Carpe Diem" on it ("Seize the Day"), presented us with personalized tee-shirts: "Carpe Doug" for me and "Carpe Genelle" for Doug! That got a big laugh, and we were very touched. We planned to wear the shirts on our honeymoon.

Toward the end of the dinner, at which people had their choice of entrees ranging from hamburgers to chicken sandwiches to Caesar salads, two of our ushers started to gather up the groomsmen and Doug. Unbeknownst to Doug, Brian and Bob had planned for the wedding party guys, the fathers, and a few out-of-town guests to come to their place and have a bachelor party. I don't know exactly what went on at the party, but my dad said that it consisted mostly of reminiscing about years gone by (as many of the guests had known Doug for over a decade) and having a few drinks. There were a few gag gifts, most notably Dr. Ruth Westheimer's book "Sex for Dummies." Doug assured me that no naked women jumped out of any cakes!

The women and I had a quiet evening out in St. Paul. Five of us went out to a bar near the hotel and listened to bad karoke for a few hours. But I was really tired, and I knew I wouldn't get much sleep as it was, so we left around 12:30 a.m., and one of the women dropped me off at Ann's, where I stayed the night. I didn't sleep very much, and I think the last time I looked at the clock it read 2:15 a.m.

Saturday, May 31: Morning
Since Ann was running to the farmers' market in the morning to get flowers for the guests, the cake and the reception tables, we got up around 6:30 a.m. I was pretty groggy, but the excitement of The Day, coupled with a cool shower and a cafe au lait, woke me up quickly. The day was perfect: clear blue skies, a light breeze, and temperature in the low 70s that morning that would warm up close to 80.

Ann dropped me off at the hotel where I went to my parents' room and spent an hour chatting with them. The hair appointments weren't until 9:00 a.m., so I had a little while to relax before things got moving. Both Mom and Dad were delighted to see me. Mom said it was a pleasant surprise to have me show up on their doorstep! I put a coat of polish on my fingernails while we talked, and Dad took a few photos of Mom and me. I was really glad I had the time to spend with them that morning--it was an unexpected treat.

We had breakfast at the hotel, and then several of the bridesmaids and I went to have our hair done. That went pretty quickly, and we were pleased with the results. My sister-in-law, Kara, had an amazing braid that circled her head like a crown with little ringlets inside. Both Trish and Sarah had their hair up with ringlets cascading down. Catherine had made barrettes for the women to wear if they wanted, and Trish and Nancy wore theirs. Catherine had also made a headband for Paige, the flower girl, that she would wear. I had a practice run the week before with my stylist, and my hair turned out great as well; it was in a soft twist with tendrils creeping out, sort of like the Gibson Girl. Then we made a quick stop at Target to pick up a few things before we went back to the hotel. It was a kick to wear my headpiece and veil into Target, and there were women from other bridal parties who were doing the same thing that morning!

Around 11:30 a.m., Catherine called my parents' room. She had gone over with Ann to help get the flowers ready that morning, and they were running very late. So Sarah and I jumped in the car and ran over to the Commodore to pick Catherine up so she could get ready. She was a little stressed out because she was afraid she wouldn't have enough time to get ready for photos at 1:30 p.m. But that turned out fine as well; she got ready pretty quickly and calmed down before she and Sarah left for the church at 12:45 p.m.

I put my contacts in at my parents' room and put on my makeup, and then Dad and I packed up the truck with my dress and emergency kit and headed over to the church. We got there about 12:35 p.m. And then I discovered the first aspect of the one major emergency we had all weekend: we were missing some of the flowers. The florist had been there to set up the pew bows and the altarpiece, but Doug's boutonniere and the presentation roses were missing. I called the florist, but there was no one there, and I had to leave a message on the answering machine. No big deal, I thought, and one of the ushers volunteered to run to the florist up the street and get two red roses and an ivory rose boutonniere. Problem solved...for now.

Since Catherine's wedding gift to us was a limousine van, we had decided to have the photos before the ceremony. My personal attendant cleared everyone out of the church, and I went upstairs to greet Doug and spend a few moments alone with him. I pinned the boutonniere on him, along with one of the roses I had pulled from my own bouquet, and we spent a few quiet minutes admiring each other. He had not seen the dress before that moment, and he told me I was stunning. I almost burst into tears right then. He looked wonderful in his black tailcoat and tapestry vest, and I told him so. I'm really glad we took those few moments for ourselves.

The photographer started doing the formal shots. Things were moving along smoothly. Then Catherine came upstairs and asked where the fifth bridesmaid bouquet was. I said I didn't have it, and when I asked if we were one short, she nodded. The florist had only delivered four bouquets, and so along with Doug's boutonniere and the presentation roses, a bridesmaid bouquet was missing. Then I freaked out, the only time I'd experienced any serious stress the whole time. What in heaven's name were we going to do for a bouquet? The florist wasn't available, and there wasn't time to get another made elsewhere. Catherine said later she regretted saying anything, but she was sure we had the fifth bouquet upstairs for photos. Ann, in her role as "bad cop," immediately got on the phone to leave a blistering message for the florist.

Then the amazing bridesmaids sprang into action. Kara, my sister-in-law, saw the altarpiece that the florist had delivered that morning and said, "We can do this." Many of the flowers were the same as the ones in the women's bouquets. The altarpiece had been sort of an afterthought, since we already had a gorgeous piece in silks that we had already purchased before we ordered flowers. Kara asked if she could take the altarpiece, and I said yes. She, Trish, Sarah, and Catherine took that arrangement downstairs, got the floral tape I'd packed in the emergency kit and a pair of scissors, and went to town. They decimated that arrangement and the tossing bouquet, added some roses from the ones we had purchased at the farmers' market to hand out to guests, and tied it all up with a few pins, ribbon and floral tape. Since it was different from the other bridesmaids' bouquets, it was decided that Trish, the matron of honor, would carry it. It was just as lovely as the ones the florist delivered, and similar enough that no one would think it hadn't been intended that way. I was astonished and delighted when I saw it. Problem solved...again.

The rest of the photo session went smoothly. Our photographer was really wonderful; he was very patient with the other cameras that were clicking away (and sometimes setting off his lights!) in the background.

Saturday, May 31: Ceremony
About 3:00 p.m., we all hustled downstairs for a few last formals, and at 3:25 all the women lined up for the processional. I had decided at the last minute to wear the blusher on my veil and have Dad lift it at the end of the aisle to give me a kiss on the cheek when he gave my hand to Doug. So we pulled the blusher over my face, and I could feel my throat getting tight. I had sworn to myself that I wouldn't sob my way down the aisle, but when I saw my dad standing there, hands clasped in front of him, I knew I wouldn't make it without at least a few tears.

As Paige, the flower girl, started down the aisle, I slipped my arm through Dad's and felt his arm shaking just a little, though he was smiling. The quintet started the Pachelbel Canon in D, and I looked at Ann and whispered, "We're here." She nodded, beaming. Then I whispered, "Full speed ahead?" and she squeezed my hand and replied, "Full speed ahead. Let's do it!" Dad and I started down the aisle, and I was crying. I cried all the way down the aisle, but fortunately I didn't sob, or the make-up would have really taken a beating. Ann told me that after she sent me down the aisle, she started crying as well. We met Doug at the end, and Dad pulled back the blusher and gave me a kiss, then gave my hand to Doug. We gave the presentation roses to the mothers and hugged them--first Doug's mom, then mine. My mom was really sobbing, and I almost started laughing because we had both thought that I would never cry. Even Doug's mom was teary-eyed.

The ceremony went off without a hitch. We said our vows loud and clear. Doug had written his vows right before the rehearsal the night before, and we had printed them out large on sheets of paper that Kathleen, our celebrant, showed us so we could just read them out loud instead of being prompted. Doug's vows were charming: both humorous and serious, teasing and loving. The unity candle lit easily, the readings went well, and my grandma did a lovely job saying the Lord's Prayer in Finnish. It went so fast. When Kathleen pronounced us married, I could have shouted to the heavens: "It's done! Let's party!" We kissed and hugged, and everyone clapped and cheered, and we went down the aisle beaming like a pair of schoolkids.

Saturday, May 31, 4:30pm - Midnight : The Reception
The ushers handed out bubbles to people as they left the church, and we all stood around outside in an informal receiving line, blowing bubbles and chatting until the limo came at 4:30. We loaded into the limo where the ushers and Catherine had a cooler of beer and CDs in the stereo. We had the photographer follow us to Como Park, where we had photos taken under a garden archway. The day was bright, sunny and warm, and I was on top of the world. After the photos, we got back into the limo and went to the Half-Time Rec, where Doug and I had spent many pleasant hours listening to Irish music and having a few drinks with friends. The photographer went to the reception site to take photos of the food and cake. We had a few drinks at the Half-Time, then we made a quick stop at a liquor store for more beer and at a White Castle for "sliders," since some of the guys were getting hungry. Then we went back to the Commodore for dinner and dancing.

We got to the reception and were surprised yet again: Ann and Cindy, the woman who had made our wedding cake, had also made a groom's cake and topped it with a blown-glass Ferris wheel that they had ordered custom-made to commemorate our engagement! It was really lovely, sparkling and shiny, and in the top seat was a little diamond ring! I couldn't believe it--that they had managed to keep it secret all this time. Ann had also cross-stitched a sassy picture for us, and someone (we still don't know who) had put up a framed list of "rules" on how the wife should treat the husband. We all got a good laugh, and I started making plans on how to use the beautiful frame it was in! The cake was lovely, encircled with fresh flowers and topped with our wedding gargoyles (he in a tophat and black bowtie, she in a little veil and pearl necklace with a bouquet of flowers).

The photographer took the last of the photos of the cake-feeding and the best man's toast. Then we had dinner, which was a selection of appetizers ranging from fresh turkey breasts with mini-croissants and condiments, to coconut chicken tenders with orange marmalade sauce, to sliced tenderloin of beef on garlic croutons with honey mustard. My favorites were the hot artichoke gratin and the Brie en croute with apple wedges and crackers. I could have eaten an entire Brie by myself! We had cake and coffee for dessert, and one of our ushers kept champagne flowing for much of the night.

Then Doug and I danced the first dance, "Unchained Melody," by the Righteous Brothers. Many people stood around the dance floor and blew bubbles on us as we danced. The wedding party joined us on "Theme from Aladdin (A Whole New World)." I danced with my dad to "Butterfly Kisses," and Doug danced with his mother to "Kiss From A Rose." Then the party opened up, and the dance floor filled up with people. I don't think Doug missed more than half-a-dozen songs the whole night; he was dancing like a madman. I made the rounds, talking to everyone and thanking them for coming. There were many compliments on the food and the ceremony, and all the little touches I'd done to make the day unique--the fresh flowers for guests at the church, the program that took so long to get right, the favors of little flower pots and Dove Promises wrapped in tulle, the bubbles. It made it all worthwhile.

We didn't do the garter toss or the bouquet toss. There were so few single people at the wedding that we thought it would be a bust. So I gave the garter to Doug's younger brother Brad, the only single sibling in either family, and the next day I "awarded" the throwing bouquet to Sarah, my only unmarried bridesmaid. The original throwing bouquet had been incorporated into Trish's bouquet, and the throwing bouquet that the women had put together from the leftover flowers was wilting pretty badly by the end of the night, anyway. Sarah and I had a good laugh over it the next day.

At midnight, Doug and I danced the last dance together ("Crazy" by Patsy Cline), and began to organize getting people back to their hotels. Some of the wedding party had gotten pretty drunk during the course of the night, so after Doug and I closed the bar tab we gathered people up to get them out of the Commodore. That took a bit of doing, since everyone was tired and not very motivated. We finally got everyone into cars and going around 12:30 a.m. My parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and Doug's brother and sister-in-law loaded the gifts into my dad's truck and took them back to the house for the night. Several other bridal party members went out even after the reception, in downtown St. Paul.

Doug and I went down to the Hotel Sofitel, in Bloomington, where I had arranged for us to have roses and champagne in the room, and room service the next morning. It was a lovely room, but both of us were so dead tired that we collapsed upon getting there. I took a shower and pulled all the bobbypins out of my hair, and Doug just curled up on the bed. I gave him a backrub, and we cuddled up and fell asleep.

Sunday, June 1st
We had planned a brunch/gift-opening at our house at 10:30 the next day. Ann had offered to pick up bagels, cream cheese and orange juice, and I had coffee and cream there already. But when we woke up the next morning, Doug was terribly sick to his stomach. Apparently something he had eaten did not agree with him, and later we joked that my first wifely duty was holding Doug while he threw up. I was terrified that something at the reception had made him sick, and other guests as well. However, I felt fine except for being a little tired, and we had eaten off the same plates. Room service came, and Doug didn't want to eat, so I ate my breakfast and part of his as well. He took a shower, and I called the house to make sure it was all open and ready. I was afraid we might not make it back, but Doug said he could make it home.

So we got home, and people were already there, making coffee and setting out bagels. Doug was still pretty sick, but no one else seemed to have been affected, so I breathed a sigh of relief and figured that it had been something that he alone had eaten. We had a nice time chatting with our families and members of the wedding party, although Doug just sat on the couch, drank cranberry juice and didn't say much. We opened a few gifts, but Doug decided that he needed to take a nap. So he disappeared upstairs, and I stayed and chatted with everyone, thanking them again for coming. Nearly everyone was gone by that afternoon, but Doug didn't start feeling better until late that night.

Overall, however, despite Doug's illness on Sunday, it was a nearly perfect weekend. We attribute that to the world's best attendants and a whole lot of planning and double-checking. Incidentally, we called the florist the following Monday, and although she never admitted that she had made an error, she said she would refund us the money from the missing pieces and the pieces we had to use to fix the problem. It would be about $200. Two weeks went by, and when we heard nothing and received no check, we called the florist again only to find out that the number had been disconnected. We don't know if the florist went out of business or filed bankruptcy or what. Fortunately, we had paid the last installment of the wedding flowers on a credit card. So we immediately wrote to the credit card company and put that last payment into the dispute process. I expect that it will work out somehow. Our final wedding total ended up being about $3000 more than we had originally budgeted, and all of that was spent on the reception site and the catered food. My parents graciously picked up that tab, and they were very pleased with the results. So our wedding ended up costing right around $10,000 (not including rings or honeymoon in Las Vegas).

Things I Would Have Done Differently
Leaving the Reception: Although Doug disagrees with me, I would have left the reception earlier. By the time we got to the Sofitel, it was 1:30 in the morning, and we were too tired to enjoy the room or the champagne. I would have liked for us to have had an hour or two to wind down and enjoy each other's company, because for us the old adage was true: you don't see much of your new spouse on the day of the wedding. You spend so much time running around greeting and thanking guests that there is very little time to spend together.

Disposable Cameras
I also would have controlled the disposable cameras a little more, maybe put labels on them as to who should get them. As it was, very few of the cameras got used at the reception. I had intended to hand them out to particular individuals to use on groups of people, but I never got around to it. We did recover all but one of the cameras, and we took the unused cameras on our honeymoon to Las Vegas and shot the rest of the pictures there. But I wish we had made sure the cameras got out to people and got used at the reception. Members of our families and wedding party have been sending us candid shots, so we do have lots of photos, but it would have been nice to have had more photos from the disposables as well.

Things That Couldn't Have Been Better
Our Wedding Party: As I've said already, I was delighted and honored to have the wedding party we had. They were generous, a joy to be with, and as excited and happy as we were. There was not a person in the bunch I would have changed.

The Limo: We didn't plan to have a limo, but I admit I jumped at the chance to have one when Catherine offered. We got a limo van, which was large enough for our entire wedding party (more than 15 people), and it was a great opportunity for us to relax a little before the reception with many of the people who are closest to us. Initially, I didn't know how it would be to have so many people along, but I'm really glad that Doug and I didn't just go alone. It was a real treat to have the limo, and it's a memory I will cherish. We had a great time, and our wedding party was so much fun to celebrate with. Thanks, Catherine!

The Food: Although I believe that had we gone with our initial plan to do all our own cooking, it would have gone fine, I must say that the catering by the Commodore was excellent. Everything was really delicious, and we got lots of compliments on the food. The cost was, of course, more than we had initially planned, but neither of us regrets the decision to move the reception from Town Square Park to the Commodore.

The Bubbles and The Guests' Flowers: As so many people on the wedding newsgroups have said, the bubbles were a pleasure and a great addition. A large number of guests said they'd never been to a wedding with bubbles before, and that they thought it was a nice touch. And I'm glad we decided to give single roses to our guests as well. The roses were inexpensive since they were from the farmers' market, and I think our guests liked the effect. We took the extra flowers to the Commodore and put them on the tables.

The Photos: I also have no regrets about doing the photos before the wedding. I had initially planned to have them after the ceremony, but by the time we were married, I was ready to get in the limo and start the party. Doug and I took a few minutes before the formals started to admire each other and talk about how excited and happy we were. The women's makeup was fresh, our hair looked good, and everyone's faces showed the excitement and anticipation of the day. I was also really glad to see Doug before we stood at the altar together; it made me much calmer. If I had to recommend a course of action, I'd say do the photos before. Then when the ceremony is over, you can cut loose without worrying about messing hair or makeup.

One Brides Advice
My best advice to brides and grooms is to have a resourceful and willing wedding party. This is not to suggest that couples should choose their attendants based on their skills in flower-arranging or sewing, but it doesn't hurt to have people around that day who can step in and take care of things--and are willing to do so. The fact that we had a group of people around us who were more concerned about things going smoothly than about their own individual desires or whims lessened our stress load immensely. Despite what you think or plan, you will never have enough time to check up on everything. I don't know what we would have done if the bridesmaids had just stood around wondering what I was going to do about the missing bouquet. Instead, they saw that it could be fixed and fixed it, and took a ton of worry and stress off me and Doug in the process. Again, I don't want it to sound as though wedding parties should be chosen according to their abilities, but I have been a part of weddings where the wedding party was more of a burden than a help or a pleasure. I will always be grateful that ours was a delight.

Second, have a strong-willed, assertive person willing to be the "bad cop" and to organize the day. We had Ann, and she was really wonderful. She was everywhere all at once--over at the Commodore setting up, at the church coordinating the wedding party, yelling at the florist's answering machine, sending people down the aisle at the right time, gathering things that had to get from one place to the next, running over to the Commodore after the ceremony to make sure everything was as we'd planned--and at the end of the day, she was still our friend! Every couple should have someone who doesn't mind being the voice of authority on a festive weekend and who is willing and able to get things done and motivate people. Although it could be a family member, it was better for us that it wasn't; Ann was able to move around while family photos were being shot, for example. We were honored to have her as "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

Third, be comfortable, both physically and emotionally. My dress was silk and quite light, and I had soft slippers on my feet and wedding sneakers as a backup. Since I sweat a lot, it was important that my dress and shoes not be heavy. Doug had his tux double-checked for the proper fit, and he said he was also comfortable. And I was ready to be emotionally comfortable because I had planned everything I possibly could plan to the last detail I possibly could imagine. Something will go wrong: you can't plan this large of a party without having something go wrong, and you have to be willing to let it go. I thought I would really lose it when the "flower fiasco" happened, but Jim, our best man, kept saying, "Nothing you can do about it, so just let it go." He was right. You do the best you can, and when you have, you can have the luxury of having it happen and letting the bad stuff go. Little things going wrong or not proceeding the way you wanted can really ruin the day if you let them. It's not worth it. You invest too much time, money, effort and emotion into this one weekend to let the details get in the way.

Last--and this seems like a no-brainer--just have fun. When all is said and done, it's your wedding, and you should enjoy it. Because you've invested all that time and money and effort, you can relax, and I'd recommend it! Since the wedding, friends of ours have said that they didn't really have fun at their own weddings--they were too worried about having everything work out exactly the way they'd planned, down to the letter. I strongly believe that the wedding couple sets the tone for the festivities, and if you're too stressed out to have fun, the guests pick up on that. Doug and I agree that our wedding weekend was among the top weekends of our lives so far. Several people came up to us and said that ours was the best wedding they'd ever attended, and I think it was in part because it was so evident that we and all our attendants were having the time of our lives. And we were. We were dancing and drinking (water and soda as well as champagne!) and laughing and making memories to treasure for a lifetime.

I speak for both Doug and me when we wish all future brides and grooms the very best weddings possible. Although the planning was time-consuming, things weren't always exactly what we might have wanted, and there were a few stressful moments, I have to say that it was really worth it. If I had it to do over again, I'd do it almost the same way. We often fantasized about eloping in Las Vegas during the year before the wedding when we couldn't possibly face planning yet one more element of the wedding, but now I know we would have regretted it. For us, having the big party, with many of our near and dear family and friends around, was the way to go. It's not for everyone, but I'm glad we did it. And I appreciate the good people at WedNet who have given us a forum to tell everyone about it. Thanks to those of you who have contacted me over the year and offered your suggestions and well wishes, and best of luck and joy in your coming weddings and lifetimes together.