Nearly five years ago I met a man who would change my life. Of course, I didn’t really know to what extent at the time. For a while, I thought God put him in my life to get me writing again, but I fell in love with him too. I fell in deep, relentless, all-consuming love with him, as a matter of fact. And there were so many obstacles in the way of us being together, I thought I was destined to live with a broken heart.
But then things very slowly changed. We began trudging our way up a very high mountain, which is why it was apropos that he proposed to me last fall at the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. We began planning an October 3, 2015, wedding.
When you choose a wedding date and subsequently begin to plan said wedding, you create a distinct vision for the event. Oh, it was mapped out so very clearly in my mind: an arbor trailing with fall leaves at the edge of our woods, an aisle delineated by shepherd’s hooks scalloped with romantic tulle and hanging jars of wildflowers. The other side of the backyard would be dotted with round tables draped with ivory cloth and topped by paisley-stamped burlap squares, anchored by centerpieces of wildflowers in glass jars, candles, tiny pumpkins, pinecones and a stack of books. A dance floor would twinkle with lights as stars began to emerge in the darkening skies, and a paisley-piped triple-tiered wedding cake decorated with our monogram would provide a sweet ending for our night.
I’m a writer and librarian, and I love musical theatre; hence, I planned a “story” theme. Our programs looked like Broadway Playbills. Our tables were named for couples from our favorite stories. The hand-lettered chalkboard sign on the way out would read “And they lived happily ever after.”
But about six weeks out from the wedding, that “happily ever after” looked farther and farther away.
First, I suffered a freak accident getting a pedicure. When I climbed into the chair, I slammed my foot into the plastic faucet of the soaking basin. I cut a chunk from my right foot which later required antibiotics to treat. For several weeks, I was unsure if I’d be able to wear shoes on the Big Day! The doctor even threatened me with hospitalization if the antibiotics didn’t work. While I was recovering from that, I had an unfortunate encounter with a poisonous millipede which left chemical burns on my left foot. I’m not even making this up; I promise! In the coming weeks I also dropped a heavy gun belt on my foot and a metal keyboard tray fell on my foot too. It was looking like someone didn’t want me to walk down the aisle!
But that’s not all that went wrong.
First one bridesmaid canceled due to her husband’s medical issues. I was sad, but my motto was “The Show Must Go On!” A week after that, another bridesmaid, traveling internationally, told me she was unable to commit. So I was scrambling around figuring out how we would rearrange the bridal party. No big deal. I wasn’t going to be Bridezilla. I had it all under control. Or so I thought.
Then the bartender announced he was backing out. At that point, I thought I was going to lose it, but friends helped me find a replacement. Things were looking up for a brief, shining moment.
Very brief. Because then my fiancé hurt his shoulder playing rugby. For a while, we were afraid he was going to need surgery, but after consultation with an orthopedist, he learned he simply needed to avoid using his arm for several weeks. This was another crushing blow to our wedding agenda. He had a week vacation from work during which he was supposed to be finishing last minute projects around the house. Thank goodness for a friend who helped us finish tiling and pull the downstairs bathroom together just in time.
Two weeks before the wedding, my fiancé had a meltdown. He wasn’t sure if he could go through with it. Even though we’d lived together for two years, the financial ramifications of the union were – for lack of a better term – freaking him out. He had a terrible case of cold feet, which was sort of ironic considering my earlier foot issues (cases of hot feet?) But we sat down and discussed his fears and together we figured everything out. So I was still down two bridesmaids, but my feet were healed and I had a new bartender and an on board groom. What could go wrong now?
A week out from the wedding, the weather forecast looked okay: partly cloudy and 67 degrees. Not bad, I thought. I’ll take it. But in the coming days things began to look bleak. Devastatingly bleak.
We soon discovered that Hurricane Joaquin was heading right for us, and the Tuesday and Wednesday before the Big Day became two of the worst days of my life. The place at which we had reserved tents refused to put them up in bad weather (which, duh, was why I had reserved them in the first place.) We called around all over Delmarva and no one had a tent to spare. At that point I wondered how in the world we were going to pull this off, but then we found two tents for a reasonable price online and paid extra for two day shipping.
But the forecast worsened.
My fiancé said that he wasn’t getting married if his family from New York didn’t feel comfortable braving the storm to drive down. One by one he called his sisters and his two out-of-town groomsmen to ask what they’d like to do. The latter decided to stay home, as did another of my bridesmaids. I spent two hours biting off what was left of my nails as I waited to learn if I’d be getting married or if the fourteen pounds of frozen meatless meatballs in my fridge were going to be staying there for a long while.
We did consider rescheduling. They were predicting 5-8 inches of rain between Wednesday and Saturday with wind gusts up to 50-60 mph as a nor’easter pounded the coastline in advance of the hurricane. But trying to get 80 people together in one place with only a few weeks’ notice is no easy task. Not to mention we had a marriage license only good for another week, a crap ton of food and drink, rental items already paid for, and I had told everyone I knew I was getting married. The thought of not getting married on October 3rd was soul-crushing.
Finally my fiancé got off the phone and announced he had found a solution. Most of his family was not willing to make the trip. However, his parents agreed to come down no matter what, which was good enough for him. And all of the sudden, the wedding was on!
Because of the uncertainty and the rain, I wasn’t able to do a lot of set-up in advance. Much of the festivities needed to be moved indoors, so we were trying to figure out where to put 40-50 people (down from our original guest list of 80) in our 2500 square feet house. We decided to do the ceremony outside with umbrellas and erect one tent for the bar and at least two tables. Everything else would go inside. I scrapped my extensive seating plan (which had changed approximately 100 times in the prior weeks) as well as half of my décor. I still had my (now terribly wrong) Playbill programs and the cute wedding games (Mad Libs anyone?) I’d created along with the plantable seed-paper bookmarks we used as favors. I was committed to making this work.
The day of the wedding was just plain crazy. I ran all over the county gathering last minute things and my friends and fiancé tirelessly cleaned, set up, got food ready, put up the tent and secured it against the ferocious wind. Amidst all that chaos, we had to call a tow truck to pull his parents’ car out of the mud in our front yard. We also had to wait to hear from our photographer who had missed the rehearsal due to flooding in his neighborhood. A few hours before showtime, he assured me he could get out at low tide.
We were running out of time so I threw on my makeup, didn’t bother to fix my hair, and got into my dress without any assistance. My ladies were running around trying to get themselves together so there was not a bit of relaxation! I wore rain boots under my dress – my something borrowed.
Next thing I knew, my youngest son and my last-minute flower girl (appointed the night before at the rehearsal based on the fact she owned a purple dress) were heading into the backyard. My older sons flanked me, ready to escort me into the angry, swirling wind. As soon as we arrived at the leaf-covered arbor where my betrothed waited, there was a sudden downburst of wind and rain as if to punctuate the commencement of our vows.
The ceremony was beautiful despite the wind, rain, and shivering, umbrella-canopied guests. Even in my sleeveless gown, I felt warm and glowing the entire time, with a smile perpetually tugging my lips upward. The words my dear friend Phather Phil wrote were breathtaking, and I was completely in the moment as I looked into my beloved’s eyes and promised to be his “till death do us part.”
Twenty minutes later, we had said our “I do’s” and kissed. We headed down the aisle, a newly minted Mr. and Mrs., to the Star Wars Theme, crossing underneath a light saber arch. We had made it! Despite all the odds we faced from injured shoulders, to canceling bridesmaids and bartenders, to millipede burns, to tents threatening to blow away, we emerged victorious. And wed.
It was not the wedding I envisioned, not by a long shot. But as I told the minister at the rehearsal: “If we end up married by the end of the night, it’s a success.” It was not the beautiful, sun-kissed early fall wedding with dancing under the emerging stars I had dreamed of; it was blowing and muddy – tow trucks and begging neighbors to use their driveways were involved. We didn’t have the 80 guests I’d planned for surrounding us, but we had 30-something loved ones who proved they would be there for us no matter what.
In the end, it was not at all what I’d imagined or planned, but it was so US. We have overcome so many struggles in our relationship, and the events leading up to our “I Do’s” were just a few more to overcome. We’ve always climbed every mountain that stood in our path. I can’t help but believe our wedding day was just exactly as it should be. It was completely ours, and it was perfect. And now we are finally living our happily ever after, secure in the knowledge we can not only climb any mountain but we can also weather any storm.