Saturday, July 24, 2010

77 days until the wedding.

Some things yet to do:
1.Find Christina’s wedding gown.  We are planning on making the drive down to Oxnard to the David’s Bridal mega-warehouse next week and finding something beautiful with few alterations needed.  We are now down to the wire with the timing of this purchase.  I will be invoking the help of every benevolent force in the Universe to insure that this day is a happy, productive and satisfying event.

 2. Find my dress.  As is my usual routine, I will shop alone and curse silently (or perhaps aloud, just for fun) the appearance of my upper arms, hips and assorted other body parts as I either struggle to squeeze into or swim around in dowdy mother of the bride dresses.

The non-fashion element of these garments does not trouble me since I’m supposed to be blending into the background rather than standing out and making a bold and glaring statement on my daughter’s wedding day.  I’ve had two trips down the aisle of my own….now it’s Christina’s turn to be in the spotlight.  I do have an appointment to get my hair “done” on the day of the wedding which will be a real departure for me.  The most I’ve ever dared to do (after bidding a not-so-fond farewell to the perms of the 1980s) was to put barrettes in my hair to keep it out of my face.
3. Decide what the men will wear.  We have a sketchy idea of what this is all about, but nothing has been firmly determined yet.

4.  Reception favors.  I recall attending a wedding years ago and receiving as a reception favor a $5 gift certificate to the local movie theater and a pack of Dentyne gum, tied together with a little pink ribbon.  This must have been an inside joke between the bride and groom, because the rest of us didn’t know what to make of it.

5. Details of the bridal shower at the end of August.  More to follow on this in an upcoming blog post.

I decided to consult with my 1950s bridal etiquette book to see how I’m doing with the suggested timelines and procedures, and stumbled across this delightful nugget of advice:

“If your parents are divorced but you are very friendly with your father, it is quite correct to have him take you down the aisle and give you away.  However, instead of joining the family in the front pew on the left side, he then retires quietly to the side aisle and to a pew in the back of the church, or in the case of only one aisle, he walks back a few pews to a special seat.”

Good God!  This reads as though divorced fathers are lumped into the same outcast group with leprosy patients and the criminally insane!  I like that this divorced father (who, in the 1950s, was probably an ex-con who reeked of whiskey and had a bleached blonde, leopard-print-wearing secretary/mistress by his side) was supposed to “retire quietly” to some “special seat” in the back of the church.  Why not just put a folding metal chair in the men’s room for him?  He can prop the door open to keep tabs on what’s happening with the “real family” up front….

The book continues:

“If you are devoted to a stepfather, he may take the place of your real father with loving propriety and probably with just as much nervousness.”

What a sordid picture this paints!  Even though Christina’s dad and I are divorced, he will be sitting right up front with the rest of us, proud of his only daughter on her wedding day.  Christina’s stepfather will be performing the marriage ceremony, so she will be surrounded by good men who love her very much (that is, unless one of them shows up drunk, handcuffed to a stripper and swigging gin out of a flask).  Then we'll need to look into that "special seat" option.....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I was startled to see the countdown on the wedding website today….86 days until the big event.  My stomach dropped a little as all of the details left to attend to came rushing into my head.  I know that somehow, everything always gets done, but at this point, the various items on my to-do list seem to be taking on a life of their own and marching towards me like some sort of demented Fantasia Broom Army of responsibilities.

We have met with the florist and are feeling confident that the aesthetic details will be handled beautifully and with a fun sense of style.   I keep finding myself thanking the powers that be that all the vendors we are working with are professional, pleasant and not at all interested in forcing their own visions down our throats.

Back in the day when I was the events manager at a lovely old Inn in Illinois, I would meet with the brides and their assorted family members who had a vested interest in how the wedding details were being handled on a daily basis.  I think that I was more of a negotiator and peacekeeper than event coordinator, because invariably, there would be passive/aggressive power struggles, petulant tears and tightly clenched jaws as the bride and her mother (or mother-in-law to be) battled tooth and nail to see their unique (and often completely opposite) visions come to life on the day of the wedding.  
Thankfully, Christina and I seem to be skipping this portion of the wedding preparations!

True story: on the morning of a large wedding reception which was due to take place at the Inn later in the day, a mother of the bride showed up unannounced in my office with curlers in her hair and 25 pounds of cooked shrimp in a huge red Igloo cooler.  We did not (willingly) serve shrimp at receptions in those days, but by God, she was determined that we would on her daughter’s wedding day!

This was a complete surprise to me, and after some scrambling around to see how we could accommodate this sudden shellfish invasion, I decided that we would charge her a “plate fee” per person to serve the shrimp, much like a cake cutting fee or wine corkage fee.  She readily agreed, relieved not to have to physically fight me for the right to serve that shrimp to her guests.
Apparently, I did not get clearance from the right person, because as we were setting out the home-cooked shrimp for the reception, the General Manager came by to see how our preparations were going and nearly fell over at the sight of this interloping shrimp piled high and wide across our largest serving platter.  Her eyes popped and she looked at me as though I was laying out the mangled carcasses of road kill on a pretty bed of lettuce.  I was roughly pulled aside and questioned about my motives for allowing outside food to enter our premises.   
I pointed out that these same people had also brought their own cake and wine, so why not shrimp?  This line of logic only infuriated her further and I was told that there would be consequences to my actions since she was absolutely convinced that I was somehow receiving a kick-back from this whole thing.  At $1 per plate service fee for 75 guests, I still can’t imagine how I would have been in it for the amount of money that I would have been able to skim off that particular event.
The reception was wonderful, the shrimp was consumed and enjoyed, and the family never knew of the drama that was simmering just below the surface.  On Monday, I was summoned to the office of the General Manager, and there she sat with the owners of the Inn and the head chef, all glaring at me.  Obviously, they had convened for a meeting before my arrival, and all that was left was for them to reprimand me for making this “sneaky deal” to bring in the shrimp without getting written approval from each of them, hand me my final paycheck and show me to the door.  My protests about the surprise addition on the morning of the event fell on deaf ears…. I was being unceremoniously relieved of my duties as Banquet Manager right there on the spot.

Years later, when all of the management had changed and one of the owners had passed away, I went back to work at that Inn as a server and learned through a bartender who had been working there for 20 years that after I had been fired, the head chef had been caught with his hand in the till, cooking the books, as it were, and receiving many kick-backs in various ways.  
This news explained what was really going on that day of the shrimp reception.  I was never offered an apology because all of those people were long gone, and frankly, I didn’t care by that point, but smiled when I saw that cold shrimp platters were now available for wedding receptions!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The invitations have arrived!
And after much stalling, procrastinating and futzing with the various address lists (which unfortunately coincided with a computer crash and much loss of data), the Save the Date magnets will go into the mail this week.  As we sat around the table addressing envelopes for the Save the Dates, it struck us that the wedding countdown is now taking on more of a realistic meaning.  At 100 days out, it’s no longer a fuzzy romantic fantasy, it’s serious business.

I have noticed (with more than just a little trepidation) that I am becoming increasingly emotional as the wedding inches ever closer.  I read a story on the Internet about the last days of a beloved elderly German Shepherd and burst into tears.  I looked though some photos of Christina when she was in elementary school and became misty and nostalgic even though I remember full well that those years were not easy for either of us.  The first notes of Pachelbel’s Canon in D had me reaching for the tissue box.  
This is not a good sign.

I reasoned with myself that perhaps I was getting all the tearful emotions out of the way before the wedding and that I would be dry-eyed, calm and poised on the day of the big event.  Friends and family who have been down this road before me laugh heartily at my suggestion that I will be able to navigate the entire day in a composed, pleasantly smiling manner.  Every one of them tells me that waterproof cosmetics are the only way to go.  There are the occasional horror stories about running, dripping noses and no tissues to sop up the mess.  Uncontrollable coughing jags during the ceremony triggered by choked-back tears.  Or low-cut dresses which reveal hives and emotional blotchiness.  At this point, I am considering wearing a turtleneck and plastic bib with a pop-up tissue dispenser.

At my first wedding, I was anything but emotional.  I was the epitome of left-brained organization,
planning and executing the entire day to within an inch of its life.  There was nothing romantic or sentimental about it:  I was the hard-boiled general contractor, overseeing this event with all its vendors, guests and arrangements…..I should have walked down the aisle with a clipboard rather than a bouquet!

My mother was a shadow in the background of all this fuss.  Since she and my dad arrived from California the Thursday before the wedding, there was really nothing for her to do or manage.  Not that I would have released my stranglehold on anything, anyway, and certainly not to her, given her recent emotional outbursts about how much money “all of this” (grand, sweeping gesture with both hands) was costing.

So here I am in the mother of the bride shoes, the overseer of Christina’s wedding, but now much more emotional and tender-hearted as I crack the whip over the heads of the various vendors.  
Perhaps the feelings of the past are finally welling up and spilling over.

Waterproof mascara and the giant economy size box of Kleenex it is!