Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Wedding And Lessons Learned

Have you been wondering if I fell off the edge of the planet? I feel like I have.

One of my brother in laws got married this past Saturday and then my in-laws stayed on with us for a few days. I feel worn out from the experience -- although not because anyone is particularly high maintenance.

Friday afternoon, my sister-in-law, her husband, their two kids and Justin's youngest brother came over. My children haven't seen their cousins in over two years, but they had a wonderful time and were instant best friends. It's a pity they live far away.

The rehearsal dinner was very simple -- lasagna and salad -- but my mother-in-law planned for a crowd and made four large lasagnas. We've been eating leftovers all weekend -- not a bad thing.

After dinner, the rehearsal began. I've never been involved in a wedding other than my own. I've only been asked to be a bridesmaid twice and one time the couple eloped and the other time the engagement didn't work out, so I don't have a lot of experience. Somehow though, my husband and I became the go-to people. I guess we're just bossy. This leads to the first lesson learned -- -- you must have someone in charge -- even if you have Bridezilla on the loose and she wants to plan it all, you need someone to be in charge when she is up front and not available -- preferably someone who is not immediate family, knows how weddings work, and is capable of giving orders and direction. It doesn't matter how simple you want your wedding to be -- if you want an actual wedding ceremony, you need a coordinator of some sort.

My soon-to-be sister-in-law was not Bridezilla. She wanted a simple, uncomplicated ceremony. There weren't too many things she cared about, but with no one planning any of the other details -- a lot was forgotten until the last minute.

At the rehearsal point all the kids were fairly excited about being in the wedding, although The Boy was a bit grouchy, because he was going to miss the birthday party of his best school friend the next afternoon. We hadn't planned on The Girl being in the wedding, but when "the big kids" got up to practice their stroll down the aisle, she followed along saying, "Me too." Since my babysitter for the wedding day had fallen through (she's pregnant and feeling miserable), we decided letting her have a role would probably forestall fits the next day. Fortunately, I had a few dress choices at home that worked, so I didn't have to go buy a flowergirl dress at the last minute.

The next morning, we got there to the church building at 11:15. The place was pretty chaotic. The reception hall was mostly decorated, but not entirely. The arch she wanted for the church wasn't put together, let alone decorated (and as an aside, I would not recommend an arch for a wedding, they are not that great a decoration, very flimsy, and it's hard to get everyone centered on it for pictures). The groom was sitting at the back of the church picking out music for the ceremony and importing it to his computer. He didn't have a great selection, but we happened to have all our CDs in the car (I had brought them along so I could change out the few we normally carry in the car, while we were driving) and we still have two CDs of wedding music that someone bought for us when we were planning our own wedding. (The moral of that story is Never Throw Anything Away. He used them for much of the ceremony music.

Somewhere in there, my mother-in-law ran in and asked if I knew a good punch recipe, because no one had remembered to get punch (I was especially baffled by the desire to color coordinate it to the bride's colors). This was one of many, many trips to the store that morning. Others included a trip to pick up the wedding cake, by the bride's mom. Another to buy vegetables for the veggie tray. Another to buy a second guest book, because the first had been misplaced. I could go on. As I said, you need someone in charge of a wedding, with lists and a plan, or everyone runs around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I'd intended on getting all the photos taken before one o'clock, since the wedding was at two. We started taking photos around one. It was only due to Justin's running everyone in and out that even that got done. Around the time guests started arriving, I realized that without anyone in charge, there would be no one to tell guests that only the immediate family would be seated by ushers and that they should just go in and sit down. They were causing a log jam at the front door. I sent Justin out to act as an usher for anyone who wanted one and asked my sister-in-law's husband's mom to also stand at the door and ask people to be seated and to be in charge of making sure family got seated in order and that the flower girls, ringer bearers and the matron of honor went down the aisle at the correct times. I told Justin which side was the bride's and which the groom's, but he got them mixed up, so most people were on the wrong side.

At 5 minutes until the wedding was to begin, grandparents were being seated and it was time for the show. My sister-in-law's husband had been drafted to man the computer with the music and was doing a decent job. He had the song for seating family playing, and then faded to the song for the kids and the matron of honor and then faded into the wedding march. Then when the bride was 3/4 of the way down the aisle, the music stopped. And then started from the beginning of the wedding march again. What happened as it turned out was that Wes (the groom) had gotten it into his head that he should program all the filler music while guest were being seated to shut off at 2 o'clock so that the wedding could start. He hadn't told anyone he'd done this and his computer clock was 5 minutes or so behind the watches of everyone else. Another lesson learned -- practice the music and walking to it -- do not leave your musical selections until the last minute. Especially if you must use canned music and not live performers, you need to have it work perfectly. I again felt very, very fortunate that a dear friend had drafted his extremely talented father and brother to play piano and violin at our wedding.

Musical bobble-ups aside, the wedding proceeded and a very short time later, I had gained a new and beautiful sister-in-law.

The reception began immediately, because the newlyweds had a 4:30 flight to catch. They hadn't planned on doing a receiving line -- thinking it was too formal, but my husband grabbed them and insisted, which meant they did actually get to greet their guests and say hello. Receiving lines are really extremely efficient. They cut the cake, circulated a bit, went to change -- I grabbed my other brothers-in-law and husband, sent them out to get some shaving cream and told them to go write "Just Married" on the car (pay back for the same being applied to my car seven and a half years ago) -- and the bride and groom took off for their brief honeymoon to Chicago -- without the groom's coat or the bride's purse. They actually had to turn around and come back for the purse, but didn't realize his coat was missing until they got there. They had to get him something in Chicago to keep from freezing.

I took all the pictures and am glad that we took photos the week before at the park, because the ones from the ceremony are all pretty crummy. I've never made any pretence of being anything other than an amatuer at photography and have always been far out classed by my father and older brother (the latter actually makes money selling art photos once in a while). I guess I picked up a few pointers along the way though, so that helped some. Everyone else seems perfectly pleased with the quality of the pictures from the wedding, but I wouldn't have been all that thrilled if those were all I'd gotten (which is far too close to the truth of what I did get for my own wedding pictures). The lesson in that is -- you get what you pay for. I'm currently fixing up photos. Photoshop is my friend.

No matter what screw-ups there were and whether things could have been better -- they are married just the same. That's what really matters in the end any way. I'm thrilled to have a delightful new sister-in-law and am suddenly amazed that the boy I met when he was fourteen when I started dating his brother has suddenly become a full-fledged, grown up man -- I suppose he's been one for quite some time now, having spent four years as a Marine and almost another three beyond, but it has only now really hit me.

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