I was over-the-hill, overweight, and overdue for marriage, according to my mother who had taken it as a personal failure that her oldest daughter had not found a mate despite her valiant efforts. And, bless her heart, she had tried everything. When I was eighteen and had good child-bearing hips, she was looking for a doctor. When I was twenty-five and dancing on bars with my friends, she was looking for anyone employed. When I was thirty and sporting a double-chin, all she cared was that he had a pulse. But despite my mother’s tears and predictions that I was destined for a life of screaming at my soaps in a cardigan and slippers surrounded by cats – I found my charming prince – and before he had the ring box open, my mother had ordered invitations, tested three cakes, and hired the band.
We wanted a small backyard wedding with a couple of friends. My mother translated that into, “big band, open bar, forty-six showers, and an ice sculpture of kissing dolphins.” There was a wedding to be planned, by golly, and I was lucky to be consulted.
Six weeks and twenty-four arguments later, the wedding was canceled. Surprisingly, not my mother’s fault. My charming prince’s mother had a serious health issue and went from spring-in-her-step, to we’re-not-sure-how-much-time-she’s-got, in a matter of days. It’s hard to plan a wedding when your husband is losing his mother and his father is losing his best friend. We wanted to get married, we didn’t want to wait, and we wanted his parents there. There seemed to be only one option – take the wedding to her. Period. End of discussion.
I won’t bore you with the details – the refunds lost, the wedding invitations turned into scrap paper – the comments I received from sixteen bridesmaids who were aghast that we would live in such a world where a bride would have to make such a sacrifice on the biggest event of her life. Her special day. I won’t tell you what kind of stress comes with trying to plan a last-minute wedding three states away. I won’t tell you how hard it is just to find a church, a preacher, and a restaurant with tables within walking distance of the hospital. I won’t tell you what it was like to find out three days before the event that his mother was worse and couldn’t leave the hospital and now she wouldn’t be able to come to the wedding that had been moved just for her. I won’t tell you the panic that set in as we quickly threw together a wedding ceremony to be held in the lobby of the hospital.
I can’t tell you how many nurses it took to do her hair and make-up. I will tell you how many rules were broken as we turned her hospital room into the bride’s dressing room. You can laugh at the image of me running down the halls of the hospital in my full-length white bridal gown and veil to get the shoes I left in the car, while the photographer is snapping pictures and trying not to trip over the gurneys.
I don’t remember what it felt like not to have any bridesmaids, or what it felt like to have soft music replaced with intercoms paging doctors. I don’t remember it feeling like a conference room. I remember looking out and seeing his mother holding his father’s hand. I remember seeing the nurses that I had never met, crying in the back row. It was the happiest moment of my life. My smile could be seen from a mile away. It was still my day. My family was there – his family was there – some families I didn’t recognize were there – and I’m convinced that even though there was no stained glass, God was there too. My charming prince’s mother is gone and his father left this earth shortly after. I will never regret our decision.
I tell you this story, not to encourage you to cancel your dreams, but to give you some advice as you launch into one of the greatest days of your life – or into any dream for that matter. Know that there will be things that go wrong that are beyond your control. Accept that, and go into it from the beginning knowing what’s really important. Lower your expectations. I’m not saying to change your plans, just your reaction when things don’t go the way you planned. Remember who you’re trying to please so that you won’t look back in regret that you planned this dream for someone else. And keep your sense of humor. You will be stressed, no matter what happens. Your sense of humor will keep you sane. And remember that life doesn’t always promise happily-ever-afters. Or maybe it does, and you just have to know where to look.