Being the last to get married, out of a large group of girlfriends, I attended a gazillion weddings spanning the 80s and early 90s. I was the epitome of “always a bridesmaid,” could catch a bouquet at 30 yards with my eyes closed, and sliced up wedding cake with the precision of a samurai. By the time it was my turn to wed, I’d paid my dues.
Eight hours after Flash proposed, I started making a list and checking it twice. Vengeance is mine, I thought to myself. After writing down every woman I’d ever stood beside during her wedding, I realized we’d have to find a bigger church if I had all of them in the ceremony. So, I only included those I’d kept in close contact with during the previous five years. Flash’s job was to find corresponding groomsmen to walk the ladies down the aisles. Then we added the ring bearer, the flower girl, and my future stepchildren. We had 22 attendants in our wedding party; it looked like a remake of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
The bridesmaid dresses were multicolored, like watercolor masterpieces. Unlike many of my predecessors, I chose a tea-length pattern, telling my attendants, “You can wear the dress other places later.” But, strangely, I never saw any of them wear their dresses again, and Rosebud’s dress came back to me in the form of a photo album cover. Being a more loyal friend than they, I kept my collection of bridesmaid dresses - hanging medals for my Heroic Acts as a Single Woman – for decades. Since the Smithsonian wouldn’t take them, six years ago I decided to donate them to a local resale shop.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. We don’t take any clothing older than two years,” the twentysomething-year-old said, as she glanced at my pile of taffeta, lace, and bows.
“Two years? That’s it?”
“Yes ma’am. We want clothes that are more current, so women will buy them. How old are these?”
“They’re classics. From 1982, 1985, 1986, 1990…”
“Oh wow. Those are like antiques, right? I wasn’t born until 1991.”
I politely glared.
“Maybe those could be like costumes,” she continued, in spite of my face telling her to stop talking and put her pacifier back into her mouth.
I ended up donating them to a local high school’s theater department as “period pieces.”
Before our big day, it was a full-time job making preparations; all of our evenings were spent making decisions. Because Flash is a man who cares about details, he helped register for gifts and select china, silverware, and stemware.
“I’ve never understood why people say their wedding stressed them out so much, Flash,” I told my beloved one day. “This is fun.” He agreed.
Then, the wedding grew closer. There were flowers and invitations to order, a cake to have made, and a million details were rearing their ugly heads. We wished we could select everything in one place, rather than researching and running countless errands. Finally, we called a wedding planner recommended by our friend Leona. It was the best decision we made through the entire process. We told June, our affordable Miracle Worker, exactly what we wanted, and she made it all happen. I’ve often wished I could hire her again, for life in general.
Our bride’s cake was a triple-decker, with spring colored frosting flowers. But our groom’s cake was the masterpiece of our reception. It was the Best Chocolate Cake in the History of Baking. We hated that we had to share it with our guests. When we called Mom from our honeymoon, to check on my Aunt Maxine who was in the hospital, Flash took the phone from me before we hung up. “Is the chocolate cake still in your freezer? Are you sure it’s all there?” he asked. Trust me, dear reader, it was even great frozen. On top of our groom’s cake, sitting on a layer of chocolate drizzle, was a frosting castle, with Cinderella’s pumpkin-turned-coach beside it; it matched our invitations. Amazingly, and perhaps disgustingly, that castle stayed fairly intact and sat, wrapped in plastic, on top of our bedroom dresser until a couple of years ago; when we adopted Mom’s old dresser that doesn’t have a shelf on top, there was nowhere to display it.
“Flash, should we throw it away?” I knew it was crazy that we’d kept an inedible edible for over two decades, but it was vintage 1994 frosting art.
To my surprise, Flash hesitated. “I don’t know,” he responded. “It’s amazing that it has lasted this long.”
“Should we wait until our 25th anniversary, or throw it out now?”
Being a smart husband, he said, “Whatever you want to do.”
I moved it to the garage. Finally, a year and a half later, it was time to say goodbye. But first, I asked Flash to take a picture of it.
“As you wish,” he replied. He went above and beyond, moving the castle to the bright green grass of the front yard, posing it in different places, and making it look romantic. I fell in love with Flash again, over a stale and discolored castle.
Since I’d seen every kind of wedding-day faux pas imaginable, I expected things to go wrong on our day. My soon-to-be stepdaughter, Zelda, an Olympic pouter, scowled throughout the service. My future stepson, Mario, was performing his own comedy variety show, front and center. And my nephew Bowie was crying, as one of the groomsmen tried to console him. I thought perhaps Bowie, only five at the time, thought he’d made a mistake as ring bearer. When the preacher, our friend Casey, asked, “Are there rings?” Bowie said, “Oh no!” and went bouncing up the stairs to deliver the ring. None of us had explained that the little plastic ring attached to the pillow was simply for decorative purposes. Casey bent down and whispered into Bowie’s ear, “I don’t need the ring on the pillow.” So, I assumed Bowie was crying out of embarrassment.
But after the ceremony, when we all filed out into the hallway, he buried his head in my arm and sobbed uncontrollably. Only Mom knew what was happening. A few months earlier, when I’d told Bowie I was getting married, Mom heard him say, “I don’t like it when my Aunt Kim gets married.” She knew he thought he was losing me. It never occurred to me he thought I was leaving him for another man. During the wedding, when I looked back and smiled at Bowie, Mom heard a big sob; poor Bowie just couldn’t hold it in any longer.
A month after the ceremony, Flash and I couldn’t wait to see all our quite expensive photographs, taken by a professional in town. For the first time we noticed, in glaring fashion, an ugly outlet with black cords plugged into it, showing in several of the pictures. Our church auditorium had been remodeled shortly before we were married; through all the planning, rehearsal, and massive photos taken, nobody had noticed the glaring cords.
Thankfully, my friend Jimmy, also a professional photographer, took my favorite photos of the day – all candid shots. Those are the pictures I treasure the most - they reflect the joy, anticipation, and humor of the day,
Since then, we’ve attended many weddings. No two are alike, and I’ve been taking notes, deciding what to do if we renew our vows for our 25th wedding anniversary – we’re going for Silver next spring. We could have another big ceremony. Or we could elope. But after two decades as husband and wife, elopement loses its sense of mystery and surprise. We could take a cruise, or finally take a road trip further west than the Rockies. Or maybe we’ll take the advice of my friend Gypsy. Before Flash and I married, she kept telling me, “Take the money and go to Hawaii…trust me! Skip the big wedding!”
I loved every minute of my Big Fat American Wedding, but Gypsy may be onto something in the area of a vow renewals. Instead of a destination wedding, we’ll have a destination renewal. But, we’re older now. And settled. We don’t need the Big Hoopla of yesteryear; we’ll keep it simple.
A little jaunt to Bora Bora next April will be just fine.
After having a spa day that includes liposuction and Botox, my girlfriends and I will spend a wild night watching The Wedding Planner and My Best Friend’s Wedding, while consuming massive amounts of everything chocolate. Flash's Silver Anniversary Bachelor Party will take place on a disc golf course, with party favors being trial size tubes of Bengay.
My bridesmaids, the ones who are truly loyal, will stand with me once again. Our dress code will be Menopausal Casual - no binding on any part of the body will be required. Bras are optional, as long as dresses are not form fitting on top; matrimonial muumuus are what I've got in mind. The groomsmen may wear traditional island garb, although we’re requesting they not go commando underneath any grass skirts. This must be a proper ceremony. My niece, Bevo, now 35, will repeat her flawless performance as our flower girl. Bowie, now 31, seems to have adjusted to my marriage, so there will be no weeping during his ring carrying. I hope.
The ceremony will be performed, again, by our friend Casey. After 25 years, we don’t need frills or flashiness. We’ll exchange plain anniversary rings – Flash’s, a solid silver-plated band; mine, an understated 12-carat solitaire surrounded by baguettes. Nothing gaudy.
After we say “I do again,” a flock of 100 kookaburras will be released into the air at the sound of a trumpet, the birds’ laughter being heard throughout the South Pacific. Phil Collins will sing “A Groovy Kind of Love,” accompanied by steel drums, as my Prince Charming and I make our way down the aisle and wave at thousands of friends, family members, and celebrities.
After Matthew McConaughey toasts the happy couple, the reception will commence. We’ll party like it’s 1999. But, without the agility to dance for six straight hours, and minus the ability to stay up until 3 a.m. and still function in society, we’ll shut the place down promptly at 10 p.m. So, I guess we’ll party like it’s 2019.
As we bid adieu to our guests, Sam Elliott will pull up in a horse-drawn carriage to take us to our bungalow. The crowd will shower us with rose petals as we ride off into the palm trees, with a “Still Married” sign attached to the back of the carriage. The next morning, the Breakfast of Wedding Champions will begin at 9 a.m., and we and our wedding guests will eat until we’re sick. For the next seven days, we will all enjoy island life.
And then, we’ll return to our realities. We’ll cling to the memories of that vow renewal, and dream of paradise for the next five years – until it’s time for our 30-year anniversary celebration. Nothing fancy – just a little get-together.