Continued from earlier, when I told you about the courtship and wedding preparation in honor of this, the second anniversary of my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world.
It had seemed until the week of the wedding like everything was under control and we were on track to have a lovely, low-key event.
Buckle up, because the universe had other ideas.
Part Three: Natural Disasters, Meaningless Schedules, Technical Difficulties, and the Moment of Truth
This is what Jon says about the sequence of events on our wedding day: “There was this fan, and a big pile of shit. And what happened was that the shit hit the fan, and then there was shit EVERYWHERE, and we were like ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!’ ”
It had been my intention to edit this story down for this post and give only the highlights, but I honestly feel like you need the whole picture in order to understand the scope of the disaster. Also, this sort of is only the highlights. There’s so much more I could say. But the general facts are as follows:
Being a recent transplant from the other side of the country, I didn’t (and don’t, still) have many friends locally – most would have to travel from out of state to attend the wedding. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, even if they have the funds and time off for it to be possible. Understandably, most of the friends I invited couldn’t make it. I say it’s understandable, but it was still disappointing. I deeply appreciated those who did come, but they were here for such a short time that we didn’t get to spend much – if any – time together, and scheduling a rehearsal of any kind was impossible.
Not having a rehearsal was the first of many mistakes.
At the dawn of the wedding week, I had this lovely schedule printed out. One for my time, one for Jon’s, to help us keep track of what we could expect/ what was going to be required of us on an hour-to-hour basis for the entire week. I did this because we both have executive dysfunction that I was trying to help us manage, not to be some kind of strict commandant. It was a great schedule, reminding us to take time to eat, sleep, and unwind, while also being a reminder that certain things we needed to do would definitely require x amount of time out of our daily budgets.
From Monday through the first half of Thursday, we kept to this schedule really well. I was proud of us. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Yay, us! The work on the decorations, plateware, glasses, and beverages was long-complete and everything was packaged up ready for transport to the event site. Thursday was for getting all layers of the cake baked so they’d be cool for decorating on Friday, and for buying and practicing my makeup with my bridal attendant Tasha who had just arrived from Nevada. I would be doing my hair myself – a simple style – and had already practiced that. No problem. Buying the makeup went fine. I started on the cake.
Somehow, that’s where things started to go pear-shaped.
Oh, there were no problems with the actual baking. It just, somehow, took more time than I’d budgeted. I’m still learning the baking differences between the dry sea-level altitude of my desert origin and the humid heights of Washington, PA.
While I was waiting on the various layers to come out of the oven, I checked the weekend weather report. Our unseasonably warm week was now predicted to turn into a sudden cold snap on Saturday morning and my dress was really not designed for that. This is probably the moment when panic started to creep in, as I rummaged through my fabric stash for something I could turn into a warm wrap that wouldn’t completely destroy my look. I found a gorgeous, liquidy bit of silver silk velvet that I’d always wanted to find a use for, but after so many moves wedged into its box, it was wrinkled to all hell and needed a good steaming.
So, when I was finally done with the baking, I undertook the long process of steaming that piece of velvet with my tiny travel-sized fabric steamer instead of sitting down with Tasha for my makeup test.
This was several mistakes all in one. A real whammy.
By the time I’d gotten all the wrinkles out, it was well past midnight and I needed to be getting to bed because Friday was going to be a huge day with a lot to do. I hung the piece of velvet carefully to keep any wrinkles from re-forming and resolved to throw it together into a wrap as soon as I found a minute the next day.
But there were no minutes on Friday. Friday was basically the everything day, but I’d worked it all out on the schedule; there would be time for all of it, if we stuck to the plan.
The day started with getting my pot of gumbo for the wedding lunch going, then a drive into Pittsburgh with Tasha to pick my son and his wife up from the airport. Another one of my out-of-town guests had also asked for a ride from Pittsburgh to my small town, but I didn’t have the time for that because I needed to get back to the salon for my hair appointment.
We’d carefully orchestrated a plan that took care of everyone: I picked up the kids and drove them to the rental car place, leaving them with Tasha because they were too young to secure the rental themselves. Once they had their rental, the three of them would drive the rest of the way into the city to pick up my friend Julia. Meanwhile, I was hightailing it back to Washington to make the next stage of additions to the gumbo, put the rosemary chicken into the slow cooker, and get to my haircut. I only ended up being about twenty minutes late, and that was traffic’s fault.
While I was getting my hair done, after his work shift Jon would head to U-Haul to pick up a van for taking all of our rentals out to the park, then go pick up said rentals. The U-Haul would then sit out front overnight, all packed and ready to be driven out to the venue in the morning.
When I came home to a full house of guests, that was a little overwhelming. The travelers were hungry and we’d promised to feed them hot wings that claimed to be “The Best in the ‘Burgh,” so everything was put on pause while we did that. It took f o r e v e r and really kind of threw a grenade into the rest of the Friday schedule. When we got home, everyone helped me finish up the last stage of additions to the gumbo, then we all hung out while I decorated the cakes. My other bridal attendant Jamie and her guest, also in from out of town, were supposed to join us, but they got caught in terrible crosstown traffic and had to give up on making it.
As I was finishing up, one of the cake layers was too moist and collapsed under the weight of the frosting. I had to Frankenstein it back together.
I never did have a minute to sew my wrap, so I had to just pull something tolerable out of my closet. It didn’t really go, but I had to have something because Saturday was now looking like it would be genuinely cold. We hadn’t budgeted or planned for space heater rentals, so this was shaping up to be a genuine problem. The guys, also, never finished loading the truck in the midst of all the chaos. They would do it in the morning while Jon’s lasagna was in the oven.
By the schedule, we had to knock everything off and be in bed by midnight in order to make sure we got enough sleep to handle our busy morning. But our officiant arrived in Washington around midnight and went straight to her hotel. There was no time for a rehearsal, so we planned to just do a quick run-through on site with Erin in the morning before the guests arrived. We’d already had a video call with her a few weeks prior to discuss our general expectations, and we weren’t planning anything elaborate, so this seemed like it would be adequate.
Saturday, you must understand, was scheduled down to the minute. The big limitation was available daylight hours – if it was going to be so cold, it was vital that we conclude everything before the sun went down.
Six a.m., Saturday morning, I was awoken by a sudden, profound, smothering silence. As I opened my eyes and registered that I was in complete blackness where there ought to have been the soft glow of a night-light beside the bed, my sleepy brain realized that the power was out.
A split second later, I was wide, horribly awake: if the power was out for any significant length of time, the pot of gumbo that had been left on the stove to simmer overnight would soon start to cool and the shrimp in it would go off.
I had to wake Jon and explain the situation while he struggled to gather his sleepy wits about him. Together, we tried and failed not to panic. We determined that it was our entire area, not just our house or street. I hit upon the desperate idea of sending the pot of gumbo and the standing burner we’d bought to have at the park to the kids’ hotel for them to manage, on the hope that they were far enough across town to still have power.
They were jet-lagged and difficult to awaken, but we eventually got them on the same page and they did in fact still have power. So Jon bundled up and hauled the gumbo across town to find the kids’ hotel. That, apparently, was a whole adventure all its own so early in the morning. Jon says he nearly drove off a cliff trying to find the way up the hill to the hotel parking lot. Even once he got there, the parking lot was a maze and it took him a while to find the spot where the spawn was standing outside to wait for him.
Just as they’d finally connected and were making the handoff, the power came back on at our house. I called Jon and he came back with the gumbo, leaving behind a sleepy and disgruntled spawn. When Jon returned, it was with the news that it was FREEZING COLD outside. Earlier in the week, temperatures had been in the 90s.
Needless to say, we began the day completely out of sorts.
Since he was up, Jon decided to get started on the lasagna that was to be his contribution to the wedding lunch. He planned to shower later after loading the truck. I gave our house guests their wakeup call and they proceeded to move through their various morning routines while I went down to the kitchen for some breakfast.
Jon’s responsibilities that morning were to make his lasagna, load up the truck, get himself enhandsomed, leave the house by 10:00 a.m. to drive the truck to the park where he would meet a few helping hands, unload, and wait for me to arrive.
The things I had to take care of were straightforward enough: make some rice to go with the gumbo and the chicken, do my nails, hair, and makeup, and meet Jon at the park by 11:00 a.m. We would meet our officiant there and have a quick run-through of the ceremony before using our helping hands to get the decorations in place. Event to commence at 1:00 p.m.
But as Jon began to assemble his lasagnas for the oven, he discovered that he’d miscalculated: there was not enough sauce. One of his groomsmen arrived right as he was starting to panic about it, so off Shawn was dispatched to obtain more sauce. Jon kept assembling the lasagnas while he waited.
I’d finished my breakfast but Tasha was still fumbling around sleepily and was not yet ready to do my makeup. They wanted to shower first, but they didn’t want to shower until after they’d helped Jon load the truck. I also couldn’t paint my nails until after the truck was loaded. Jon wasn’t loading the truck until the food was cooking. I still needed to make rice but didn’t want to get in Jon’s way in the kitchen while he was trying to finish up his work and growing increasingly stressed; I sat out of the way and waited.
The sauce arrived. Jon finished his preparations. As he was putting the lasagnas into the oven, the power went out again.
My sense of the timeline almost completely loses cohesion right around here. At this point, we were already behind schedule and all hell broke loose. Jon was panicking. I didn’t know what I should be doing with myself. Somewhere in this shitstorm, my other bridal attendant texted that they were running late.
The kids showed up at the door. Pretty much before they’d even stepped foot inside, I informed them that they needed to transport these raw lasagnas and the boxes of rice to Jon’s mom’s house for her to take care of. They were real sports and did just that, suffering a horrific tomato sauce accident in their rental car for their trouble.
That was out of the way, but Jon was now in a proper lather as we all began loading the truck. There was still no power and no knowing when it would come back on. And, apparently, we were bringing the contents of the entire house with us to the park, because loading took a thousand years. When we finished, Jon had a quick shower and shave and tore off in the truck to the park. I believe he was about an hour later than planned. The kids took Hento with them in their rental and followed behind to help him unload.
Tasha finally went to take a shower. The power was still out, so I couldn’t curl my hair while I waited. I did my nails instead, frantically holding them under the cheapie nail dryer in the hope that they’d set faster. Even so, I was only able to do half of the manicure I’d practiced, because there was no time to add the silver tips. Whatever, at that point.
At last, we sat down to begin my makeup at just about half an hour after I was supposed to be arriving at the park.
And here my Thursday mistake reared up its monstrous head to devour the rest of my carefully-orchestrated schedule. Because we hadn’t practiced my makeup, Tasha was improvising. It did not go well. There were several re-starts, as the time ticked on. They didn’t have experience working with my eye shape, and the colors they’d wanted to use didn’t play well on my skin. The power finally came back on and I asked another friend, Becky, if she could start curling my hair while we were trying to get the makeup right. She was no hair expert she said, but bless her she helped. It was profoundly lucky that all I’d planned was a simple high ponytail, because there would have been no time for anything else.
The makeup session honestly turned into a nightmarish time vortex. I was both acutely aware of every passing second and also lost in a haze of mounting panic. I was supposed to be getting married at one o’clock. Eleven thirty. Twelve. Twelve-thirty. Guests would be arriving at the park and the decorations would not be up because I was the only one who knew what to do with them, and here I was sitting in the makeup chair a half-hour drive away. One o’clock. One-thirty. Tasha finally called it done and held up the mirror. I didn’t even look, to be honest. No matter what I looked like, there was no more time to do anything else. I nodded, ran upstairs to do my simple high ponytail, and then waited another internally-screaming half hour while Tasha and my other house guest finished getting themselves ready.
FINALLY, we gathered the cake layers we would be transporting, the boutonnieres, and my dress, and tumbled out the front door. I stopped dead on the front porch and blinked down at the driveway. Jon’s car was there, blocking mine in. Of course it was – he’d driven the U-haul. Of course.
I was trapped and couldn’t get to my own wedding.
Hysteria bubbling over inside me, I called Jon. I never make phone calls, and I was hours late. He answered in a panic, assuming I’d been in a horrible accident.
“I can’t marry you today,” I babbled into the receiver.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“I can’t marry you today because I’m trapped at the house. Your car is blocking mine in.”
“…don’t you have my spare key?”
Reader, I cannot tell you how shocking this revelation was to me in that moment. Of course I had his spare key, and of course I had completely forgotten that I had his spare key. I was in a catastrophizing spiral and this yanked me back out by the scruff of the neck.
“…I have a key? I HAVE A KEY!”
More than anything, Jon sounded bemused. “O… kay…? I’ll be seeing you soon, then?”
We piled into his car and tore off for Shelter #8 at picturesque Mingo Creek County Park, thirty minutes away. And because of course this is what happened, of course it was, when I got there I immediately discovered two things: there were no parking spots, and the unseasonable heat right up until that day meant that the leaves had never turned for Autumn. They’d either simply died or were still green.
I had to park waaaaaaaaaaaay down the street past the next pavilion and hike back to our site with cake and dress in tow.
There Jon was waiting with another revelation: I’d had the only copy of the seating chart at home with me, so they hadn’t even been able to set up the tables while waiting for my arrival. Our guests were just huddled up under the pavilion trying not to freeze, get in the way, or die of boredom.
Everyone pitched in to get the thing set up in a hurry, but man. I have to tell you that was really demoralizing. You don’t invite the audience backstage before a show to see all of the unsightly chaos that takes place in order to bring the final masterpiece to life.
And because it was such a rush job, with everyone trying to manage a piece of it so I could just go put my dress on, I had to settle for things being set up as they were instead of the way I wanted them. Mistakes were made. Whole décor elements were forgotten. And the packing and debris never got put away out of sight after setup. There were just empty boxes and power cords and spare plates lying around in plain sight in the middle of what was supposed to be my tasteful woodland elf wedding creation.
No one figured out how to place the stands on the trellis correctly, so it sagged through the whole ceremony.
We’d made a special trip to the store to obtain extension cords, but no one ran them out to the artificial trees to light them up. And the friend manning our playlist could not get the volume working properly on the bluetooth speaker and misunderstood when I explained how to manage the song order. Really, just sort of a disaster.
Jon’s boutonniere broke when I pinned it on him and he had to swap it out for one of his groomsmen’s. I mean obviously, at this point.
Just about exactly two hours late, I had my dress on, Jon had given the wedding party their instructions,
and we all started walking down the aisle to the too-quiet-to-be-heard sound of the overture from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It. was. freezing. And then as Jon and I approached the tree, the music went right into the post-ceremony fanfare and Jon had to repeatedly call for the playlist manager to cut the music before she was able to shut it off several bars in. People were laughing. Really mood-setting, that.
Listen, Hento was the most adorable ringbearer in the history of ringbearers,
but that was the only thing that went right until the moment that Jon and I stood holding hands in front of my friend from high school who was about to join us in marriage.
After that, though, none of it mattered.
To say that I had hearts in my eyes as I looked at the amazing man I was marrying may sound cheesy and cliché, but it’s the honest truth. He recited his vows first. I started to choke up as I listened to him. By the time it was my turn, the floodgates were ready to burst. I sobbed my way through my vows. One of our guests recorded this part of the ceremony, and I am almost totally inaudible because of how completely the tears are robbing me of my voice. I sob-whispered the words, meaning every single one from the marrow of my bones.
It didn’t even matter when the music was still wrong (it was supposed to be the main theme from Star Trek: the Motion Picture followed by the main theme from Star Trek: Voyager) as we turned to face our friends and loved ones after exchanging our rings and our kiss.
We were Joined.
It would be nice to say that things proceeded smoothly from that point on, but of course that wouldn’t be true. There was no doing anything about the fact that it was 42º and growing chillier as the wind and clouds rolled in. There was a minor dispute over the seating arrangements. In the midst of the wedding-morning chaos and power outages, I’d forgotten to warm the rosemary chicken, and the chafing dishes on site had not been adequate to the task on their own.
Our guests did their cheery best to deal with the weather through “lunch,” (it was now more of an early dinner,) but the writing was on the wall: we’d have a tough time convincing anyone to stick around for games, even if they could stand to pull their hands out of their gloves long enough to play. And we did, sadly, have one guest who insisted on throwing a little bit of a nasty scene on her way out after verbally abusing the other attendees and being a general black cloud over the occasion.
Jon and I ducked out for a few minutes after lunch to get some photos, but I was freezing in my dress and needed to get back into my warm wrap under the pavilion. Also, I feared people would disappear before we cut the cake if we took too long. Indeed, we did lose a few guests in that interval. So, after only a few quick shots of us making goo-goo eyes at each other, we went back and had a perfectly lovely cake that hadn’t cost us many hundreds of dollars. Jon’s cake tastes are simple and I wanted him to be able to enjoy whichever layer he wanted to eat, so we had chocolate, yellow, and gluten-free chocolate (for me), all with white sugar icing.
After that, there was really no holding anyone there any longer. It was later than it should have been, and it was cold. Those who urgently needed their car heaters left, and everyone else helped pack the whole thing up. We had it all struck in less than half an hour.
There are things that went right, of course. With the exception of that one bitter guest, everyone else seemed to think that the ceremony had been moving, the decorations lovely, the food delicious (cold chicken notwithstanding,) and the experience unique. They were all good sports and we appreciated having them there. As already mentioned, Hento was perfect. It was a genuine treat to see the friends and family members who had traveled from out of town to be there, and I definitely felt surrounded by love from (almost) everyone present. I think I looked pretty in my dress despite the last-minute hack job alteration on a gown initially large enough to have served as a tent. I was tickled by all of the geeky little elements we’d been able to work into the elegant elfy décor.
And that is the story of my disastrous, beautiful wedding day.