I had kept a planning notebook as a souvenir, thinking it was a novel idea for a keepsake, but it was the Pastor’s comment to me at the end of the wedding day that has inspired the penning of my body of verbage here today. In fact, there were many compliments, even from folks with lots of money, who could have afforded a much more extravagant shindig. Perhaps I do have something to share???
If, like us, you find yourself short on coins with a wedding to plan in short order, don’t let your stress blossom into maniac Bridezilla or Momzilla, and don’t think your only recourse is a Justice-of-the-Peace wedding in the judge’s chambers, or feel like you must surrender to prenuptialish debts that will hauntingly linger over your newlywed heads. My dear friend, I would be honored to help you put a lovely little affair together with all the bells and whistles and without a lot of Benjamins.
In fact, let’s just you and I pore over the lanky details of my daughter’s ignoble affair and cross our fingers that you’ll find something here that will make your skirt fly up (as Ree Drummond would say)!
The Short Path to the Altar
In the beginning…
Just when life was starting to get boring… HA! I have to chuckle, because at that time life was anything but boring. In fact, that youngest daughter of ours was entirely too high maintenance for my liking. Let me paint you the picture: This is how that summer played out… May: graduation… June: trip to the ER… July: vacation… August: wedding… September: promotion at work… then the birthdays and holidays madness began as it does every year in October. Errrch, back up. Did you catch that? August – Wedding?
So, sandwiched between Graduation and the ER that youngest daughter of mine and I were sitting at the counter in the kitchen talking about what all we wanted to do in Seattle for vacation next month when a piece of unfamiliar jewelry caught my eye. “What is this?” I inquired, as I grabbed her hand to gain a closer look. Without hesitation she began sobbing. “What? Oh dear! What?” I worriedly burbled. “Are yooooooou…getting married?” I gasped. She nodded, too choked with emotion to answer. I picked myself up off the floor, staggered back to my seat, and – awe sheesh…what’s a mother to do?…hugged her and gave her a moment to collect herself. Half a second later I demanded details!
Finally she began spilling. She described how he took her to dinner at the Fire Rock, even got down on one knee… I was so caught up with emotion and romance that I nearly missed it when she heralded the bombshell: “We’ve set a date for August.” <Screech…and shove the transmission into park.> August? …like, the month after next, or August, a year from now? Yeah, August, two months from now, she affirmed.
Tipping backwards off my chair again (which I hadn’t fully steadied myself back into to begin with). Ha, ha, ha, surely she jests? Which was the position I took for about a week or so. Denial, that’s always the first stage. Then began the begging and pleading, and the trying to talk her out of it. Not completely “out of it,” just into waiting a year and having a spring wedding instead. Queue the Trace Adkins song, “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Talk about things kind of moving too fast!
She seemed agreeable to this – thank God. But evening went and morning came and waiting, it turns out, was just a passing fancy. A week later she was back to her original plan. Go ahead, say it, I did myself. Is she pregnant? Negative ghost rider, the airstrip is empty. And the next remark that wore a path from everyone’s lips to our ears: “She’s too young to get married!” I hear ya. I’m telling you, these two just wanted to be married. They gave such a strong impression of seriousness about it that all that remained by the end of the month of June was to, by golly, call their bluff.
In all seriousness, I guess it would be different if we had any reservations at all about the boy, but we don’t. We love him to pieces. He’s that little bit of ruff-and-tumble that we’ve all been craving in this family for a couple decades. And so, like a devoted mother, I rapped my head against the wall a few times, rolled up my sleeves and went to work on my daughter’s special day. (BANG! There’s the shotgun; the race has started….where’s the broom?)
The Wedding Planner
Now I can’t downplay this enough. I can NOT confess more vehemently my lack of expertise in wedding planning. I myself got married in Las Vegas. What the heck do I know about wedding planning? All I had to do to plan my own wedding (over a quarter of a century ago) was to pick a chapel and check off a list that they sent to me in the mail: dress (list of rental companies), bouquet (list of florists), tux (same rental companies), and pictures (list of photographers)…check, check, check, check.
The hubby and I flew into McCarran International, swung by the courthouse for a marriage license (no blood tests or ID required), got a ride to the chapel, crammed ourselves into white outfits, and said “I do…I do” and it was wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-married-stand here-click–photograph-and-off-you-go, ta-da! It ended in a limo ride to Caesar’s Palace for champagne.
The daughter didn’t have the first clue either. She basically gave me carte blanche to plan the whole thing and tell her where to stand – which I now treasure, actually, because with her sister living so far away it would be exactly the opposite. When her time came (a few years later) she had the whole thing planned down to the most intricate details and told ME where to stand — which was pretty great too, and you will be reading all about that another day. But for this one, I had to cowboy up, it would be my only shot at it.
Aside from my lack of experience, the only other reluctance was in the gut-wrenching angst that half the guests would be total strangers, whom I feared could be judging me/us in how good of a job I did on this. I muddled my way through each succeeding panic attack by actually putting those thoughts out of my mind. The only ones I truly had to win over were the bride and groom. It was, after all, their day, and if by some miracle I managed to impress them, truly that would be the acme accomplishment. Everyone else would be a bonus!
We had a little bit of a budget to work with. Not much. Just a shoestring; but at least something. Thank heaven for her daddy putting a small stash away for this day. So, I got started by asking lots of questions: What would your dream wedding look like? Where would it be? How many people would be there? Do you have a dress in mind? Who would be your bridesmaids? Hey, look what I found…do you like this? What do you think of that? If I was going to thrill them it would be by letting them do most of the dreaming and me just being the facilitator to help their dreams come true. In a round-about way they did all their own wedding planning, but shhhh, don’t tell them. I’m having so much fun with this!!!
Gracee and I started with a sheet of paper which she had saved from her last class of high school — Family Life. Wait a minute. Could I have that class to blame for all this? It was a wedding planning sheet. We pulled out a one-subject school notebook and began jotting a list of all the things we were going to need. A dress. A ring. A place. Someone to marry them. Guests. She wanted her sister to be her Maid of Honor, so that meant plane tickets were a top priority, and we couldn’t do that or set a date until we could find out when her sister could get time off work?
Do you believe in signs?
That was a question my little bride girl posed to me as we were wading through the check-list early in the planning game. And here’s how the question came about. Originally the wedding was set for August and then as I told you earlier, I talked her out of it, and then the kids changed their minds back again. Originally the older sis got the time off work, and then let it go back, and then she couldn’t get the time off again because all of her coworkers wanted time off in August. It was really touch-and-go if she would even be able to finagle a couple days in August to be the maid-of-honor at all.
When the 13th and 14th opened up for her I bought airline tickets at a fantasticly low price, however, moments later I got a call from my credit card company of an unauthorized attempted charge, which motivated me to cancel my card. The airline ticket got lost in the shuffle. The airline confirmed we had the reservation, but the charge wasn’t showing up on my statement. So the big question was, would Dani have a ticket when she got to the airport or wouldn’t she? And, should I try to purchase another ticket while the prices are still low and risk a possible double purchase? We’re on a shoestring here, remember?
Sign number two: the pastor that we had originally arranged to perform the wedding, the pastor whom we all LOVED, couldn’t do the new date we ended up with, because he and his family would be in Central America on a mission’s trip. Hmmmm.
Right around the corner from that, Gracee set her engagement ring on the bathroom counter while she took a shower and when she reached for the towel to dry off, heard the clink of it hit the floor, and then disappear FOREVER! (The ring has never been found by the way).
Then in July the groom lost his job as a result of the downturned economy.
Gracee began adding it all up and wondering, “Are we doing the right thing…especially when everyone is telling us we’re too young to get married?”
Well, for all my motherly wisdom, I didn’t have an answer for that. Alls I knew was we had all ventured into something big and at some point we were committed. Grandma’s words (as she dependably kicked the pants off of us at Yatzee) rang in my ears, “Never change horses in the middle of the stream.” Every other trite euphemism followed in a convoy: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. When God closes a door, look for a window. The list goes on and on. The bottom line was God hadn’t shut the door; He’d just inserted a few detours. So, until the door slams, we had a plan and had to just stick with it, come hell or high water. Well, and I can vouch for the high water too… I’ve never seen Casper so green in a summer, but that’s beside the point.
As long as we are on the subject however, I beg you (the reader), that as you are reading this story, PLEASE, would you offer a prayer to our Maker for these kids. When the honeymoon is over, the statistics are staggering of the divorce rate for young couples. On the flip side: the number of children born to unwed couples in this country is equally overwhelming. These kids, bless their hearts, wanted to do the right thing. Will they have troubles? Doesn’t everybody? Marriage is hard work, no matter what your age, but marriage can endure with lots of love, a strong determination, and most of all God’s blessing and assistance. God invented marriage and He didn’t set age limits, and what He has joined together I pray nothing will tear asunder. I’m holding out hope for the fairy tale for these kids. Won’t you please join me? Better to marry than to burn with passion, Paul says (1 Corinthians 7:9).
Gracee and I started with a list of wants and a budget. Her dad and I had $3000 saved to spend for each daughter’s wedding. That was the entire wedding budget and the limit of what we had to work with. That money had to pay for plane tickets, all clothing and accessories, all decorations, the location, the ceremony, the reception, and the honeymoon. We could not put anything on a credit card. This was it.
Maid of Honor’s airplane ticket – $240 round trip
Location, Casper Mountain Cross Country Ski Lodge, booked two months in advance, $200, plus liquor license ($35), plus kitchen rental ($150), plus refundable deposit ($200).
Pastor – donation ($100)
Dress – $600.00 (plus alterations)
Ring for the groom – $300.00
Invitations – $20.00 (on sale half price at Hobby Lobby), postage = $17.60, + copies (map and RSVP card) = $2.00.
Bridal Registry – (honeymoon savings account at the bank)
Bouquet – (handmade, along with the corsages and boutonnieres) – $35.00 (all flowers and ribbon were half off at Hobby Lobby)
Cake – $200.00
Pictures – $300 for photography and photo CD (we hired a friend of our daughter’s who did photography as a hobby and had never done a wedding)
Bridesmaids – (they would buy their own “little black” dresses, we would buy them small gifts)
Groomsmen – (Tuxedo Rentals – $120 each (tux, vest, slacks, and shoes) X 3 = $360.00, and we would buy them small gifts)
Music – (CD’s, A Day to Remember, O’Neill Brothers, Volumes 1, 2, and 3) = $24.00
Decorations – Tulle = $45.00, Flowers = $23.00, Ribbon = $8.50, Runner = $10, Rose Peddles = $5.00, Doves = $5.00, Green vines = $14.00, Table decorations (tablecloth, boxes, cards, pens, flowers) = $20.00 / the dollar store,
Serving items for buffet (bowls, trays, napkins, plates, utensils, cutlery, glasses = $80.00/Party America
Food and Beverages (meats, cheeses, rolls, condiments, salads, chips, veggie trays, iced tea, water, champagne, mints) = $250.00 (Sam’s Club and grocery store)
Marriage License – $25.00
Honeymoon Reservations, $600.00 (Thermopolis 4-day hot water weekend, plus 2 messages, and one extra dinner for two)
WHO • WHAT • WHEN • WHERE • WHY
(not necessarily in that order)
Nailing down a Location
The bride and groom talked about where they would like to have the ceremony. Our daughter had always wanted either a mountain, or a beach, or a Las Vegas wedding. Well, if they chose Las Vegas most of their friends and family would not be able to come. We certainly couldn’t afford to fly them. That left a beach (Alcova Lake) or the mountain.
Matt suggested the cross country ski lodge on Casper Mountain. Hmmm… but was it available for that weekend? The date was immovable, since it was the only day the maid-of-honor could be there and the plane tickets were already purchased. Our son-in-law, who knew the people who managed it, called and it was. We just needed to run up there and look at it, and pay the deposit. We did that the very next day. Deposit (refundable) = $200.00. Rent + kitchen + liquor license = $385.00. — Location checked off the list.
Acquiescing an Officiant
Where do you go to look for a pastor when you don’t have a church home? It is as hard as actually finding a church home. Picking up a phone and calling around is a scary proposition. A variety of philosophies exist out there, from the highly conservative sects who seem oppressive and chauvinistic by secular society’s standards, to the people with a litany of rituals (kneeling, standing, chants, and holy water) that not a lot of us would probably be familiar with. We didn’t want a looney moony with a tambourine in one hand and a swirl of canibus smoke rising over his shaven head, or a liberal who has come out of the closet and reads in a monotone from some new exotic version of a genderless Bible. We didn’t want to frighten the guests with someone who may lay hands on the couple, and go off in tongues when we bowed our heads in prayer (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it might be unsettling to some of our guests – particularly the groom’s family who aren’t any of them church goers at all); nor do we want someone who is bent on converting our family and the grooms with an hour-long evangelical sermon and alter call, just because this may be the only time he’ll have the chance. I’m sorry, forgive me. I don’t mean to poke fun or be disrespectful, but we were just looking for something short and sweet, and religiously normal, if that even exists today.
We needed to find somebody soon as most (at the very least) require the couple do some premarital counseling, or (at the very most) may require them to join the church and begin attending twice a week. With Matt working and then us being gone for two weeks in July there were really only about seven weeks for them to work with.
Then I remembered a coworker and longtime acquaintance having mentioned something (in one of those breakroom chats during lunch) about her husband getting ordained and them going out of town to do some guest preaching on weekends. I hadn’t talked to her in ages, not since I left that job over a year ago, but I rang her up anyway. We chatted for a while and then I popped the question. Her answer: Yes, Mike was licensed to marry and yes, they would love to meet with our kids.
I talked to the pastor on the phone and arranged a time for the kids and him to meet. He asked about their spiritual condition and said he wouldn’t push the religion if they were uncomfortable, but that marriage was a Christian institution and he was a minister of the gospel and it would have Christian undertones throughout. The kids definitely wanted a Christian ceremony, otherwise they’d have asked for a justice of the peace. We were all comfortable with Mike’s proposal.
Mike continued that he and his wife Susie preferred to meet with couples as a team, and that they may even bring their kids along. He felt like he could offer the male perspective and Susie could offer the female perspective. Our pastor said his wife would also be attending the wedding. He said they felt a tremendous responsibility that if they married a couple they wanted to establish a relationship so that later when the couple hit rough patches in their marriage they could be able to be there for them and counsel them through it (how amazing is that?). He said he would like to have about six meetings before the ceremony. I was immediately at THRILLED that I had found the perfect person and was so impressed with Mike and Susie’s ministry.
The meeting went wonderfully. Mike and Susie and their sons met with our kids at a nearby restaurant. Mike gave them some papers that explained different ring ceremonies to get them started. Mike and Matt hit if off really well. They are both welders and even worked for the same company at one time. Matt really respected him. And Susie shared with Gracee that she knew her even before she was born. Susie and Mike told them they bowled with us on a Friday night league many years ago. In fact she remembered when I got pregnant with our daughter and brought the ultrasound photograph to the bowling alley to show everybody. Not only was there that history, but Susie also was the playground lady at Gracee’s elementary school for the seven years she was there. Gracee and Matt felt a kinship with these people, and it looked like it would be a match made in heaven for all of them.
Mike pulled out his planner to jot down the new date set for the wedding and make a date for their next meeting. It was then that the ship ran aground. Mike and Susie would be on a mission’s trip to Central America that August 14th weekend. They couldn’t do it. Oh my gosh, my heart fell in a sink hole as deep as the Pacific Ocean. What a bummer! Now what do we do?
Wanting to be helpful, they referred us to a pastor who was a friend of theirs, whom Mike said shared his same philosophy. We finally managed to nail down a date that worked for both the new pastor and the kids for their first meeting. The soonest possible was the first Friday after we returned from vacation. That would give them all just four weeks before the wedding to squeeze in meetings. The first meeting did not go well. The kids were uncomfortable with his personality and style. They were willing to make it work, but as the wedding coordinator I couldn’t live with them being uncomfortable with their pastor. This was supposed to be the best day of their lives. I wanted the ceremony to be beautiful and sweet and memorable in all the best ways from beginning to end. So, I went back to the drawing board with the weeks ticking by.
I stopped by my old church, now under completely new pastoral staff, and chatted with the church secretary about who might be available. She gave me a list and said she would pass my number on to them. If any of them were available on the date we had chosen they would be in touch. I also dropped by the courthouse and asked about a list of marriage officiates. They gave me a short list, mostly judges. There was also a biker guy that was a little unorthodox, but ordained, and came with good references, and then at the bottom was one lone pastor. I called the pastor. He was already booked for another wedding that day.
I got to thinking maybe I could track down a pastor from my old church. For sure two of them were moved completely out of state, so that was unlikely, but one might still be around. He used to live right across the street from my parents, but moved several years back. I called the church where he went to be pastor after leaving our church, but it just rang and rang and rang. No answer. I went through the phonebook and called a man by the same name, and left a message. He never called back. Tick, tick, tick… time was ticking away.
Then I remembered a gal at my present work sharing a tape recording with me of a sermon preached by her nephew at a local church. I asked if he was licensed to marry. She called him up and asked. He was. I talked to him and he was available to do a ceremony on the 14th of August – thank God! Only thing was, he lived out of town, was crazy busy between now and then, and would have very limited time to meet with Matt and Gracee before marrying them.
We set up a first meeting at my house. The meeting went great. I liked him right away. He had much of the same philosophies as Mike, our original choice, and a heart of gold to go with them. He also had some neat ideas that would make their ceremony special. For instance, he told them about a couple he recently married in an outdoor ceremony in the Big Horns (mountains). Rather than lighting a unity candle together during the ceremony this couple took two different colors of sand and poured them together into a vase. It signified that once two people are joined together it is impossible to ever separate them back out again. The kids loved that idea, and as soon as the meeting ended they ran right out to Hobby Lobby and bought sand.
I left for work and they showed up in my office maybe an hour later to show me their choice of sand colors and vase. I loved it. I shared with them a thought I had about an arch (a focal point) for their outdoor ceremony. It would be something that they could stand under or in front of that would serve as a backdrop. Although I knew Gracee wasn’t into a bunch of decoration, I thought she might like the idea of an arch. I had seen some arches at Home Depot and Menards, but they were $100 or more. So I shared with Matt an idea I had for a homemade arch that would blend in with the outdoor setting. I sketched it out on a scrap of paper. They loved it, and turned on their heels and headed out the door to his grandparents land on the mountain, and find and chop down the trees to make it. By that evening he had it roughly erected in his back yard and was excited to send me a phone picture to see what I thought. The boy had made my dreams come true. It was exactly what I had invisioned. I then sketched how I planned to decorate it and sent him a photo pic back. He and Gracee loved it. How fun! — Enthusiasm mounting.
We have a pastor — Check that off the list.
I wasn’t sure what the laws were for this, so I called and asked. In the state of Wyoming, the kids wouldn’t need blood tests and there wouldn’t be a waiting period. The license would cost $25 and the bride and groom needed to appear at the courthouse with valid driver’s license any time before the wedding to pick it up. The license would be good for up to a year. As soon as we returned from vacation Matt and Gracee went and got the marriage license. Cost = $25.00. — Check that off the list.
Dress and Ring
We decided that it would be fun to look for a dress and a ring while we were in Seattle. There was so much more to offer there than in Casper. Dani arranged a consultation at David’s Bridal for Tuesday, right after lunch. We spent most of the afternoon trying on dress after dress after dress. Gracee didn’t have any ideas what kind of dress she was looking for, except that she wanted to go with a sweetheart strapless. So we started with her size and whatever was the least expensive. After a good twelve dresses she finally found one that she loved, sort of. It fit like a glove and was tightly fitted all the way down to about the knees, where it flared out. That was the part she wasn’t sure she liked. We all liked ivory, as opposed to the white. It just went so much better with her skin tones. But the price tag = $1100.00. Ouch!
We decided to keep shopping, and went to look for rings instead. Gracee wanted to get Matt a tungsten carbide ring, because they are so durable given his profession. Every jewelry store had them, and the chain stores all had basically the same selection. But what size is his finger? It is important because a tungsten steel ring cannot be resized, nor can it be returned if it is special ordered. I had measured his finger with a strip of paper wrapped around and taped, but that wasn’t real accurate. He needed to be measured at a jewelry store. Gracee called him and when he got off work he ran and got himself measured. Size 13 they said. That size requires a special order. The largest rings come in size 12. We decided since all the stores had basically the same selection for the same prices we could wait until we got back home to buy one, but we’d have to do it fairly soon for a special order to give it time to come in.
As soon as we returned from vacation Gracee and I headed to our mall and found exactly the ring that she wanted to get for him. We ordered it, and it came in within two weeks. We also stopped by Casper’s only two bridal shops hoping to maybe just rent a dress, rather than buy one. We discovered that our stores didn’t rent. So she tried on what they had in stock, knowing the style that she wanted. Out of two stores she found one dress that she liked. It wasn’t a sweetheart top, but they said it could be altered. So, we placed a hold on the dress and called the alterations lady to make an appointment. A week later we were buying the dress (off the bargain rack, yippeee, for less than half the price at David’s), confident that the alterations lady could make it perfect.
I found several cute dresses on eBay for phenomenally inexpensive prices. I showed them to Gracee and she liked them, but the problem with eBay is you can’t try it on. You also don’t know the quality or what exact condition it will be in when it arrives on your door — or how long it will take to get to you. If we had more time that might have been the best way to go for the budget, but we didn’t have the time.
The first alteration of the dress we bought was not quite what Gracee had in mind. So we sent it back for another attempt. The second alteration was also not exactly what we had in mind, so we sent it back. The third attempt, thank God, was perfect, and not a moment too soon. The dress was finally ready only the day before the wedding. Christina’s steamed and packaged it for us, and we walked out the door with dress in hand only half an hour before rehearsal. That’s really cutting it close!
Dress = $600. Alterations = $40. Tiara = $90.00. Ring = $300.
— Dress and ring checked off the list.
Hobby Lobby has a whole wedding section, and a sizeable selection of print-your-own invitations. The day Gracee and I stopped in everything in the wedding isle was on sale for half off. We picked up invitations and some wedding decorations, the cake topper, a garter, a runner, and rose peddles. I also picked up two wedding CDs, and this neat little thing to make a homemade bridal bouquet. I talked her into going with silk flowers so that we wouldn’t have to bother with picking up real ones last minute and fretting about them wilting. All the flowers were on sale half off too, so I picked up several clusters of some dark purple ones she liked. My mom and I later cut them apart to make bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres, which would accent her black and white theme. Price tag for everything = about $100.00.
The invitation was a simple one sheet deal. It was a beautiful ivory page with scroll work around the edge. The words were printed on a sheet of vellum that fit over the ivory sheet and fastened at the corners into slits. I researched online the protocol for wording and invitation etiquette. I discovered that in a perfect world the invitations should really go out about six weeks before the wedding so that out-of-town guests can make arrangements. Well, that was a laugh. I had only about that much time to plan the whole wedding. It was one of the first things I did as soon as we got back from vacation though.
I don’t know if it is protocol or not to include registry info, but everyone was asking, so I thought it fitting to include that in the invitation. I also felt with the location being a little difficult for me to find the first time it might be prudent to include a map and directions. Including a response card is customary, but would there be time for people to return those? That would also cost twice the postage. But it would be nice to know how much food we’ll need. Is there anything wrong with a telephone RSVP? Well, that’s how I requested the RSVPs.
So, before I could send the invitations the kids needed to be registered somewhere. Matt and Gracee didn’t really want to register anywhere. Matt had been on his own for a few years and pretty much had everything a person needs to set up housekeeping. I couldn’t talk them into the usual Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Target, or even Wal-mart. So, I suggested maybe doing a honeymoon registry where people could give towards the honeymoon. The kids liked that idea.
I found a couple places online that did honeymoon travel registries, but was reluctant to set something up with an unknown company. So I went to a local bank and opened a money market savings to serve the same purpose. A note explained to guests that if they so wished they could make a check out to the Honeymoon Account and it would be deposited into that account, The bride and groom would use whatever was in there for a trip on their one-year anniversary.
I drew a map, made copies, and cut the copies apart so I could include a map with each invitation.
I purchased postage (the post office had a stamp with wedding rings on it, how cool is that?).
I also asked guests to prepare a toast to the couple during the reception.
I bought a skinny calligraphy pen and addressed all the envelopes, stamped them and got them in the mail by the third week of July, not quite 4 weeks before the wedding.
Invitations = $30.00. Copies = $5.00. New Bank Account = $5.00. Calligraphy pen = $3.00. Postage = $17.60 for 40 stamps. — Invitations checked off the list.
As soon as I had a date I was on the phone to my photographer friend, Laura, to book her for the wedding. Sadly she was already committed to another wedding for the date. I cried my woes to Dani (oldest daughter) who had a friend who did photography as a hobby. She asked him if he would be interested in shooting a wedding. At first he begged off, fearful that it being his first wedding he would screw something up. He was available that day however, and she successfully talked him into it.
Fee = $200 plus $100 for the disc for a total of $300.00. — Photographer checked off the list.
I actually made a few more trips to Hobby Lobby. I went back to pick up some ivory tulle to decorate the home-made arch that Matt built. And I wanted some dark purple tulle to attach to the chairs along the isle where the runner would be. I wanted to use ivory roses with that. And I thought some greenery and matching flowers would look nice with the tulle on the arch. We also needed more rose peddles and bubbles to send off the bride and groom.
I stopped in to Party America to pick up the serving trays, bowls, spoons, napkins, cups, cutlery, champagne glasses, and such for the reception. While there I found an adorable lucky-in-love silver horseshoe that I thought could hang from the arch, right in the center.
Total for all = around $100.00.
I purchased silk flowers (around $30) from Hobby Lobby and enlisted my mother’s help in turning them into a bridal bouquet, bridesmaid’s bouquets, corsages for the moms and grandmothers, and boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen, fathers, and grandfathers. We spent a lovely Saturday afternoon, my mom and I, putting them together and listening to the wedding ceremony CD I had put together. It was a treasured experience spending that afternoon with my mother. She did a fantastic job creating little floral works of art. They turned out gorgeous.
And I used tulle and the same silk flowers to decorate the arch, and the guest seating on the day of the wedding. — Florals done!
I just happened to know someone who did cakes. She worked at a my Albertsons grocery store, in the bakery department, but also does cakes on the side. I got her number from a friend and called her. We met and discussed a cake design that I had found online, to see if she thought she could duplicate it. She was confident that she could. And in fact, made it even cuter! My sister-in-law added some of the florals that we used in the wedding as she set the cake up in its place for the reception. — Cake = $200.00, checked off the list.
Gracee wanted “beautiful” music. I found A Day to Remember CD’s at Hobby Lobby and she listened to them and said they were perfect. Neither of the ones I got though had all the tunes I was looking for. I wanted the Here Comes the Bride song for Gracee’s entrance. Online, at Amazon.com I found a third CD of the O’Neill Brothers, A Day to Remember, Beach Wedding and it had that song on it. I ordered it, along with a couple of books of Wedding Toasts (used).
When that third CD arrived I ripped all three CDs to my computer and took the songs I wanted and made my own CD that included about half an hour of music that could be played as guests arrived, followed by the song that would queue the Pastor and Groom, and the bridesmaids and groomsmen to begin their march. Include the Bridal Chorus for the Bride and Father’s entrance, and about 20 minutes of music that could fill the background during the ceremony. And end with the wedding march for the bride and groom and wedding party to exit to.
Total cost for music = 3 CD’s at $6.00 each, plus one blank CD to burn to = about $20.00.
— Music checked off the list.
Matt offered to bring and set up his stereo, which had a remote so the person in charge of the music could stop and start, skip, and turn the volume up and down from their seat. I put my brother-in-law Michael in charge of this.
I spent probably two weeks trying to come up with an inexpensive honeymoon to send the kids off on. Gracee thought she would like a cruise. Well, I researched cruises. I found a 3-day Mexico cruise that departed on their wedding day, but it would require them to have an early morning ceremony, followed by a late morning flight out of town that could not be delayed and must fly into Long Beach so that the commute to the Port would be minimal. They would have to catch the shuttle from John Wayne International to the Port of Long Beach and make it there in time to board the ship before it disembarked at 5:00PM. If all the stars lined up properly it could work. But if not, these kids who have never been on their own out of the state of Wyoming would be stuck somewhere along the way with no transportation, and a dismal plan B that’s not in the budget. Although it is not required when you depart and return to the same US port, the cruise line does suggest passports in case of an emergency, should travelers find themselves stranded on foreign soil and need to make other arrangement to return to the US. Well, we don’t have time or the budget for passports.
Besides all that, there is an age restriction. If anyone is under the age of 21 they must be accompanied by someone aged 25 or older. Both Matt and Gracee were under age 25. It looked like on one website where I spent some time that there may be an exception for married couples if they presented their marriage certificate at time of boarding, but none of the cruise liners websites that I researched said anything about this exception. Should we risk it?
The cruise thing was looking like it probably wouldn’t work out, so I suggested a long weekend in nearby Thermopolis. The Day’s Inn has a nice, romantic package they call a Hot Water Weekend that includes a honeymoon suite, bottle of champagne, Prime Rib dinner for two in the Safari Club, free breakfast buffet, free use of the indoor and outdoor hot tubs, and tickets to nearby attractions. I could pay a little extra and add massages, tans, and private sauna or hot tub reservations. They could leave right after the reception and come back three days later. They decided they liked that idea and I booked it. I had the hotel send me a gift certificate in the total amount that I could give to the kids at the reception to pay for it.
Total = $500.00.
— Honeymoon checked off the list.
Bridesmaids and groomsmen were penciled in on an ever changing list from the beginning to the end. The only part of the bridal party that stayed constant was the Maid of Honor, Dani, the bride’s sister. For a while Gracee was going to have three bridesmaids, Dani, Kayla, and Shannan. Matt was going to have his best man Beau, and two others, of which Morgan was one. Then Beau and he got mad about something and that changed everything. If Beau wasn’t going to be in it, then Shannan wasn’t either. So, Matt and Gracee settled on just two each. The boys went and got fitted for their tuxes right after Gracee settled on a dress. But then Gracee never got together with Kayla to find her a dress. Then Matt and Beau made up and Beau was back in the wedding. Beau had to get fitted for a tux. It was the night before at the rehearsal that we finally knew exactly who the bridesmaids and groomsmen would be. Thank goodness Shannan had a little black dress.
I really needed this to be low maintenance. I didn’t know how much time I would have to babysit a buffet table. We didn’t have the budget to have it catered. So I decided to go with meat and cheese trays, veggie trays, salads, chips and dip, iced tea and water, and champagne for toasts. I got everything at Sam’s Club the day before the party. Price tag for food, beverages, and champagne = $250.00. — Food checked off the list.
On Wednesday I picked up the keys to the lodge and paid the rental fee.
The Pastor met with the kids about an hour before the rehearsal got started. Husband and I picked up Dani (maid-of-honor) at the airport, stopped by and grabbed Gracee’s dress from the bridal store – that had been freshly pressed, loaded up all the food trays from the refrigerators at home, and headed up the mountain.
Matt and the groomsmen set up the arch of Aspen branches with rope and a stake to steady it out back. We placed the little unity sand table out there with it. We rehearsed the ceremony, marking out where everyone would stand, where the guests would be seated, and where the runner would be placed for the bridal party to enter upon. We rehearsed the music and where the bride’s maids and groomsmen’s ques were to enter.
Matt’s mom came and helped set up the lodge for the reception. We set up tables for the buffet, and all around for the guests, and one at the end of the room for the bridal party, leaving the center open for dancing. We cut purple table cloths into runners and laid them down the center of each table. We set white boxes at the center of each table and filled them with pens and note cards, and a purple flower. We placed a note at each table that explained to the guests that we wanted them to jot down marriage advice for the couple and place them in the box. I thought this would give the guests something to do during slow times and while eating and visiting. It would also be fun for the bride and groom to read later. We scattered wrapped mints down every table.
We set out the serving pieces for the buffet and assembled the disposable champagne glasses. I plugged the boom box in and set the reception music CD on top to have that ready to go. And we carried in all the food and placed it in the refrigerator for the next day and hung the bride’s dress in her dressing area and the groom’s tuxes in theirs. Then we locked it all up and headed down the mountain to the airport to pick up Sis and Darrel.
Gracee and Dani shared a bedroom and giggled half the night reminiscing over childhood memories and being giddy with anticipation. Danetta and Darrel shacked up on the air mattress in the spare bedroom downstairs. Matthew and I settled in way past midnight, exhausted and anxious. I don’t think I slept a wink. (Normally there is a rehearsal dinner hosted by the groom’s family, however our son-in-law’s family did not arrange one).
The Wedding Day
We all rose early and went out for breakfast, then Danetta and I headed up the mountain to set up for the wedding. We began by decorating the arch outside with tulle and greenery, flowers and doves, and a good luck horse shoe to hang in the middle. It was a thing of beauty. Just wishing I hadn’t fallen off the stupid ladder and sprained my stinking ankle in the process. I had no time for a gimp ankle. Oh man it hurt!
We laid the runner along the ground and lined it with stones to keep it from blowing away. We carried out chairs to line each side of the runner and tied tulle to them with little bouquets of roses and ribbon bows. Directing a quick prayer to the heavens we asked God to hold back the rain clouds and then made a quick last minute check before we departed to come home and get ourselves ready.
Gracee and Dani went to get their hair fixed at noon, and then dropped by the tanning salon before heading up to the lodge to get ready. The bride and her maidens used an upstairs room to dress, and primp, and ready themselves. The groom and his groomsmen used the long closet just off the kitchen downstairs.
Matthew, Darrel, Danetta, and I piled in two cars and headed back up the mountain to the lodge. The groom’s mom was there with camera in hand and so was our photographer. My sister and her family weren’t far behind us and quickly took to their positions with music, ushering, beverages, and videography. At precisely 4:35PM I started the wedding music playing on the stereo outside and Matt (the groom) and I sat out the unity sand. He looked so handsome in his tux. I hugged him and choked back tears. His groomsmen looked awesome as well. The Pastor arrived. I didn’t have time to be nervous as Gracee was desperate for me to help her with her makeup and last minute things. At five minutes to five I left the bride in the care of her father and went to find my seat out with the guests.
Angry clouds collected over our heads. The groom and the pastor stood in position over in the trees. A streak of lightening and clap of thunder beckoned us to get started. Michael started the music to get things going. The winds picked up as the groom and Pastor moved into position. The first set of groomsman-and-bridesmaid walked up the path. In a moment the best man and maid of honor were in place. More wind. More thunder. Finally the dad and bride appeared from the doorway. Gracee’s father walked her up the rose peddle strewn hill and handed her off to her groom, then sat beside me and took my hand. The Pastor began.
Raindrops dropped here and there. They were big old fat raindrops that splashed through our hairdos and ran right down our scalps, but they couldn’t dampen our spirits as we each one held our breath in hopes that Mother Nature would give us just twenty small minutes. She was impatient, dropping larger raindrops upon us more frequently, but mercifully held her deluge back for just enough time. The couple exchanged vows and poured their sand. The pastor preached, invited the couple to kiss, and introduced them quickly before letting us all go down the hill. The couple received us under the porch of the lodge with rain starting to pick up. We all carried in chairs, found places at the tables, and helped ourselves to food, as those clouds outside finally cut loose in a torrential downpour. The groomsmen frenzied around to gather up the stereo and speakers and bring it all inside.
As the guests helped themselves through the buffet the bridal party gathered outside under the porch for photographs. Then we all joined the guests making platefuls of food to tame our growling bellies.
The Maid of Honor cracked out the first bottle of champagne and gave her toast.
The rain stopped and the sun came out. After more eating, the Best Man delivered his toast.
After more eating, the mother of the bride presented her toasts to the bride and groom..
This was the toast that I nervously offered to the groom first:
“Today it’s official, you’re our son!
I just love the sound of that. <Smile>
I prayed all of Gracee’s life for you.
God is good, because you are PERFECT!
You are adorable, and fun, a hard worker,
And what I love most about you is that you have a good heart!
Gracee’s dad and I love you soooo much,
And toast you with a long and happy life with our daughter
..As part of our family, for better or for worse.”
I then took a deep breath, cleared my throat and turned to the bride:
“Daughter. It’s impossible to believe you could be a bride today.
Where has the time gone?
It was just yesterday I slept in a Lazy Boy beside your incubator, in the hospital;
…only a few days ago that I walked you to your first day of Kindergarten.
I woke up this morning and here you are, full grown and beautiful.
May you and Matt always be happy.
May your differences always complement each other
…and bring you closer
As you depend on each other’s strengths
And help with each other’s weaknesses.
We love you and are soooo proud of you today.
Blessings, darling, for a long and happy life together!
I was trembling so badly, and my mouth was so dry I barely noticed that there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I hurried and took my seat hoping for clapping to waste away the emotion. One of the gals at our table had tears running down her face and she asked me how I wasn’t crying. I didn’t know, I told her. I guess I was too nervous to cry. I cried when I wrote it, I told her. In just a few minutes both Matt and Gracee were behind me hugging me. It was really a special moment I won’t soon forget.
After just a little bit it was time for the dances.
We had all come up with a kind of non-traditional dance routine, but never had time to rehearse it, so I wasn’t sure if they would really go through with it or not. To my enchantment they did, and it turned out perfect.
The father and bride began the Father/Daughter dance to My Girl but after about the first stanza the bride’s sister cut in to dance with her father, as she was his girl too. The bride stepped aside in disbelief and annoyance and watched for a moment or so before cutting back in and taking her father back for herself. Dani stood back with her arms folded when along came the groom and tapped the father on the shoulder to cut in, but not to dance with his bride – he and the father took off in a two-step and everyone laughed as groom and father danced for a little bit of silliness.
Right then the bride and groom’s song began, I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, by Aerosmith (from the Armageddon Sound Track). The bride and groom danced for about half the song and then the dance floor filled with couples, including husband and me. The bridesmaids danced with the groomsmen. The sister danced with the groom. The grandparents danced. The kids danced. Dani danced with Uncle Michael, Mom and Dad danced, and we finished the song. It was magical. I could not have choreographed it better.
People ate and drank and danced. Mariah, the groom’s sister and the groomsmen and his dad had sneaked out during the reception and decorated Matt’s truck and the wedding party gathered out by the arch for outdoor pictures of the bridal party, now that the rain was gone. Of course being young it all descended into silliness, which was just perfect and so much fun.
Then it was time to cut the cake. Ooops, guess who forgot to bring a knife for the cake? Thank goodness Matt had his pocket knife – I’m sure that was totally inappropriate, but kinda cute really. Of course the bride and groom destroyed each other with cake and frosting. They were both covered in it by the end. I trotted up and playfully smacked the groom and drug the bride to the bathroom to get cleaned up. My gosh, she had cake in her hair, in her ears, and all over her face. Sheesh. That boy!!!! And while they cleaned up, the Szewczyk’s graciously served cake to everyone.
Once cleaned up, both went back out and opened presents. People had eaten their fill and some were ready to leave. The bride and groom started to get undressed and head out on their honeymoon, when they remembered they hadn’t tossed the bouquet or garter yet. So they quickly put their clothes back on again and came back in the room to do that. The groom went for the garter with his teeth and then sling-shotted it to the young single men, and the best man caught it.
Gracee then turned her back to the young single girls and one-two-three launched her bouquet over her head. The funny thing is Matt’s mom had run to get in on the action, even dragged a chair over to stand on to be higher up than all the other girls. And guess what? She caught the bouquet! It was a riot.
We all gathered with rose peddles and bubbles to send them off. They headed away on their honeymoon (a hot water weekend in Thermopolis) with all of us waving them on. It was a short and sweet little shindig, but charming and fun too. They say if it rains on your wedding you’ll be rich… so the kids have that to look forward to.
The guests who remained to the end began filtered out, all of us shaking hands and hugging, and being pleased to meet each other. Then it was time to clean up. I would have been there until the cows came home had it not been for the selfless help of Matt’s mom, my friend Treva and her husband Doug, daughter Dani, and my sister-in-law Danetta and brother-in-law Darrel who pitched in and collected garbage, vacuumed, packed everything out to the cars, and helped me clean and lock up. The groomsmen took down the arch and hauled that away, along with the column and stereo. It took the small mob of us two or more hours to clean everything up inside and out. I cleaned cake from the carpeting and wiped champagne from the countertops and tables as I pondered the entire evening in my heart. It was darkest night outside when we locked the doors behind us and headed back down the mountain.
Life-of-the-party-Dani, who had maybe had just a little too much champagne – hee hee, entertained us for most the evening, and when we got home said she was going out with friends, but when we checked later to see if she was gone, found her asleep in the bedroom, with her clothes on – actually her dress, but also a pair of jeans, and her glasses all smashed catawampus on her face. Her hair all still pinned up in bobby pins. Still makes me giggle to think back on it.
Treva and Doug came to the house and spent the evening with Sis and Darrel and us until after midnight to cap off a delightful day.
What a beautiful wedding. I had a total blast. As the guests were leaving the groom’s mom came over to say it was the most comfortable, enjoyable wedding she had ever attended. The groom’s grandmother also came to me to say this was exactly the wedding she always wanted to have. A few days later the pastor called to do some follow up, and suggested I consider a career as a wedding planner. Well, I don’t know about that, but I figured it merited a place in this blog.
It truly was delightful from beginning to end. The guests were self entertaining and just an awesome crowd. The groom’s friends were fun and funny and a hoot and a half to hang out with. Matt’s family were all wonderful people, from his very friendly and outgoing sister, to his workhorse mother, to his warm and friendly grandparents, and his dad and Uncle Stinky!
So, now standing on this side looking back, it was a plan worth our investment. The wedding turned out better than I could have imagined. It all just went so smoothly, so comfortably, so perfectly. I think organization was the key. And having lots of help! And having terrific guests doesn’t hurt things either.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son.” Matthew 22:2