Lots of girls aspire to be a princess on their wedding day. I didn’t.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. My wedding was something I looked forward to for ages, planned meticulously for nearly a year, and enjoyed every second of while it was happening. But was it a day fit for royalty? … No. But was it wonderful? Of course! Getting married was about more than me and my moment in the sun as “The Bride.”
It was about the journey from two single people to one family. It was about the whirlwind of preparation in the days leading up to the ceremony, the small army of people who brought my tumbling mass of ideas into reality, and the quirky touches and beautiful moments that made the whole crazy process special. And mostly, it was about the incredible feeling of love that infused every person and every thing that the wedding touched.
Because even though my fiance and I did spend close to a year (okay, it was mostly me fussing for that year… though he was a very good sport and pretended to listen when I launched into yet another soliloquy about chair styles) choosing the photographer, the food, the venue, and a million other details… there were still so many little things to finish in the last week before the big day! It couldn’t have all come together without the generous souls who jumped right in to help.
First, my house became a little factory. Three days out, my father was in the backyard painting lawn games with my future husband
while my mom sat beside me sewing yards of silvery drapes and my stepmother folded and assembled scores of programs. My family rocks. And they have skillz.
At t-minus two days, my friend’s husband spent two hours punching out one hundred stiff paper leaves for the escort cards
as my mother-in-law hauled vases into my bathtub so that the flowers for the bouquets would stay hydrated. My friends are the best I could ever ask for.
When the time came to pack everything up and head for the hills (Yes, literally: we got married on a farm in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains) I could hardly believe we fit everything into just three cars and an RV.
I barely slept on my last night as an unmarried woman. I was too excited, and I still had too much to do, anyway.
I finished writing the escort cards by hand at four thirty a.m., and I hopped in the shower at six. The sun rose bright and perfect by the time I finished brushing my teeth, and I breathed a sigh of relief. We had a plan for inclement weather, but I regarded it primarily as an insurance policy to convince Mother Nature Herself that there was no need for rain. It was kind of how taking an umbrella to work on a cloudy day usually means blue skies by noon, you know?
I met my bridesmaids for breakfast at seven, and we were due at the hair salon by eight. We rode there in style, chauffeured by my father-in-law-to-be in his giant RV, and thank goodness for all that extra space. We were toting seven women, what felt like several miles of satin and tulle in the form of our dresses, shoes, makeup, a whole garden full of hydrangea bouquets, surprise bridesmaids’ gifts, and I can’t even remember what else. We’re talking a lot of stuff. The air was full of chatter and an almost audible buzz of pent-up energy.
When we arrived we took up half of the salon, and it was such fun when other customers noticed that we were a bridal party and waved or wished me good luck. Around ten we emerged curled, braided, pinned, and spritzed. I had an elaborate peacock feather fascinator tucked above my right ear and a fine silvery web of veil covering the back of my head. I felt beautiful.
But, true to form, I was not about to spend the rest of the day sitting around waiting for the ceremony. There was work to be done!
Rolling up at the farm, we found setup already in full swing. Groomsmen carrying tables and chairs to the reception site looked a little like leafcutter ants hurrying home,
and the caterer’s staff were busy piling the tables with linens and dishes as soon as they were set up. Even the boyfriends of the bridesmaids pitched in after having flown in from Arizona and California for the weekend. Some vacation for them, eh?
I led a brigade of helpers around the reception site, spreading satin overlays and tying on chair sashes. Then there were shepherd’s hooks, strung with dozens of paper lanterns, to stake in the ground.
When we finished in that area, we moved on to setting up a small pavilion in the ceremony area. At some point in all the chaos, the photographer arrived and then the baker, bringing one of the loveliest cakes I’ve ever seen.
We set up lanterns and the lawn games and hung dozens of tiny escort card leaves on a manzanita tree. I honestly don’t know how everything got finished except through sheer force of will. Or perhaps the Universe was smiling on us and slowed down time. Who knows?
What I do know is that I was so busy all day, but each time I paused to look around, I realized again how hard absolutely everyone was also working to make things beautiful. Every family member, bridal party member, and staff member from the farm and the caterer was amazing, managing to smile and have fun while they transformed an empty field into a glorious party.
Before I knew it, time ran out and I only had an hour before I was due at the ceremony site to get safely hidden away before guests arrived. All the ladies hightailed it upstairs to the bridal suite, and mild chaos ensued as we steamed dresses, applied makeup, and fixed any curls that had started to droop. I live far from most of them, so those moments together were precious. We gave each other advice on eyeliner and undergarments like we’d never been apart. And finally, it was time to step into my gown and let everyone else deal with trying to lace up the corset back.
It was surreal seeing myself in the mirror when they were done. I had been running around all day just planning a party, but suddenly before me stood a bride. Not a princess, but a nervous, elated, slightly shaky young woman about to embark on a new and thrilling chapter of her life. It was time to go.
Hair and makeup? Check.
Veil, dress, and impractical silver shoes? Check.
Old trinket, new earrings, borrowed brooch, blue peacock feathers? Check.
Supporting cast of beloved friends, family, and the most incredible future husband all waiting for my entrance? Check.
I took one last look at the sun streaming through the window, falling on the comfy old clothes I’d been wearing all day, and walked out the door.