August 23, 2001


David and I watched our wedding video, a couple of nights ago, for the first time.

We'd already seen bits and pieces of the ceremony on tape.  We watched a few minutes of it at my sister's house, for instance, the final night of our honeymoon (until The World's Cutest Nephew accidentally hit the *Render VCR Inoperable!* button on the remote control).  But this was different. This video was uniquely created, edited and narrated for us by my dad and my stepmom, as their special wedding gift to us. It features hand-lettered credits, my Dad's cartoons, occasional endearing technical glitches and,best of all, my father's irrepressibly droll narration running throughout. ("Well, there goes another damn airplane.") It also features a fifteen-minute introductory segment, where my father visits all of the important landmarks of my childhood/teen years: houses I lived in, schools I attended ... even the tree under which I lost my virginity.

It's really an incredible piece of work.


The tape arrived in the mail earlier this week. On Tuesday night, after our company went home, we crawled into bed and tossed the video into the VCR. This was the first time we'd had a chance to watch our wedding, straight through from beginning to end ... and it seemed especially appropriate to be watching it on our *monthiversary.* (One month to the day after we said "I Do.") Naturally, I wept buckets as soon as I heard my sister on the tape singing "Grow Old Along With Me" ... and when I saw my two beautiful daughters, mincing across the lawn in their matching dresses ... and when I watched David slipping the wedding band onto my left ring finger. 

And naturally we both found plenty of things to hate about the way we looked.

"It looks like I'm wearing a yarmulke," David said, as he watched his videotaped bald spot gleaming in the sunlight.

I was even tougher on the bride. "I'm totally wearing the wrong shoes for that dress," I gasped in horror. There was at least a two inch *interval* between the hem of my dress and the top of my incredibly uncomfortable Payless pumps. Plus my slip is showing, my part is crooked, and whenever I turn sideways in the video -- thirty-pound weight loss or no thirty-pound weight loss -- I still look as a big as a Frigidaire. White is not a particularly forgiving color.

But none of that stuff really matters, and we both know it. The truth is we were having as much fun dissing ourselves, while we watched the video, as we were reminiscing. "Would you do anything different?" I asked David, when the tape was over. He said no ... he thought the wedding was pretty close to perfect, just the way it was.

"What about you?" he said. "Would you want to change anything?"

I thought about it for a minute. While I don't believe I would do anything differently, exactly, I might not do some things the same. (And yes, that makes sense. At least, it does in *my* head.) I might have remembered to pack both pairs of wedding shoes, for instance: that way I could have ducked into the bathroom and swapped them out when my feet started to bleed. I might have made a more concerted effort to find a full-length mirror, at some point before the wedding. I might have paid a little more attention to how I combed my hair. I might not have sat down on a wet picnic bench in a white dress, while we were eating pasta and wedding cake. (The dry cleaner says the pine tar will probably never come out.)

But like everything else in life, this wedding was a learning experience, and most of the "learning" came directly from the stuff that didn't go according to plan. The thing about learning experiences, of course, is that you have to pass the wisdom along. Otherwise Karma shows up on your doorstep at 3 a.m., one morning when you're least expecting it, and whacks you over the head with a broken Waring blender, ten or fourteen or eighty-seven times in a row.

So -- for what it's worth -- here is some of the "wisdom" I've "acquired" this year. Who knows? Maybe it will help another bride-to-be, out there in the vast *FootNotes* audience somewhere ... especially if she's wondering if she's the only fortysomething second-time-bride who ever tried to plan a wedding in a world full of twentysomething Size Twos.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Start Shopping For Your Dress As Soon As Possible.

    Never mind about "dropping a few pounds before the wedding," or "paying off your credit card first," or "waiting for the new spring/summer/fall/winter line." Start looking for your wedding dress NOW. Immediately. Today. In fact, if he proposes over dinner I suggest you forego the dessert menu and head directly to the mall before it closes.

    This is especially important if you are

    • Fortysomething or older
    • A "Returning Bride"
    • Not a Size 2
    • Ever-so-slightly cash-deficient
    • Not a close personal friend of Vera Wang
    • Any/all of the above

    Why the rush, you ask? Simple. Because the wedding dress industry hates you.

    I'm serious. They. Hate. You.

    They do NOT want you to look lovely and radiant and bridelike on your wedding day: they want you to look like your Great-Aunt Doreen's sofa. (Or like you're wearing your Aunt Doreen's sofa slipcover, anyway.) They do NOT want your dress-shopping experience to be fun or easy or pleasurable: they want you to suffer and sweat and feel bad about yourself. They do NOT want you to find the wedding dress of your dreams: they want you to settle for second- (or third-, or fourth-, or eleventh-) best, out of simple exhaustion. And desperation.

    And they most especially do NOT want you setting foot inside one of their ultra-snooty *Every Bride Deserves To Be A Beautiful Bride! (Except For YOU, Because We Hate You)* bridal boutiques.

    Just ask Ludmilla.

    What this means is that you are going to have to work four times as hard as the "average" bride-to-be (read this: Daddy's Little Princess) in order to find your perfect wedding dress. It's going to take you four times as long. You're going to have to drive four times as far, endure four times as many crowded shopping malls, disrobe in four times as many fitting rooms. Before the whole damn thing is over with, you'll have four times as many new gray hairs.

    But then again, you'll probably be four times as thankful when you finally do find your dress. There's something to be said for that.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't Color Your Hair Less Than A Week Before The Ceremony.

    I don't care if you never ever use anything but good old reliable Shade #68B ... or if you've been coloring your own hair since fourth grade ... or if your mom is MISS CLAIROL, forcryingoutloud.

    Don't color your hair less than a week before your wedding. Trust me on this one.

    It takes at least seven days for the icky chemical smell to disappear completely, for one thing (and for the brown stuff to stop bleeding onto the pristine white hotel towels). Plus -- and this is the most critical part -- by coloring your hair less than a week before the wedding, you leave yourself zero margin for error. And leaving yourself plenty of nice, wide margin for error is the key to being a relaxed, radiant, successful bride.

    (A bride who isn't standing at the altar in Miss Clairol #68E because she misread the little numbers on the box, four days earlier.)

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Buy Two of Everything.

    Very early in the wedding-planning process I stumbled across an amazing secret:

    If you buy two of everything, you'll always have a choice.

    I'm not talking about buying two identical items -- like two identical pairs of suntan sandal-toe pantyhose, or two identical packages of plain brown bobby pins -- although that also makes sense. I'm talking about two different styles of the same thing. Two different pairs of white shoes, for instance. Two different pairs of pearl earrings. Two different flowery bridal headpiece thingamabobs.

    (Two different wedding dresses.)

    While this may not be the most practical (or frugal) approach in the universe, it does save on emotional wear-and-tear. You can relax a little. You know you have options. You know that you're not irrevocably "stuck" with Plan A, because you've got Plan B hanging in the closet/packed in the suitcase/rolled up in a little ball at the bottom of your purse. (Unless of course you accidentally forget to pack Plan B ... in which case you wind up irrevocably stuck with Plan A, after all. Or unless you decide at the last minute to forego both the Plan A and the Plan B flowery headpiece thingamabobs, and go bare-headed instead.)

    Whenever possible, buy two of everything.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Send An Invitation To At Least One Person You're A Little Nervous About Seeing Again.

    In this case it wasn't my ex-husband, or my potential new in-laws, or even The Relatives Who Hate Me who made my palms all slick and warm and itchy, whenever I remembered they were coming to my wedding.

    It was Kevin, my friend from high school.

    Kevin and I were never romantically involved, exactly, but our teenage friendship was intense and complicated and chemical and weird and all of the other stuff that makes boy/girl friendships so interesting, especially when you're remembering them from a nice safe distance of twenty or thirty years. I hadn't seen him since 1978. I hadn't spoken to him since a year or two after that. (He says I called him one year on my birthday, drunk and incoherent. I have no memory of that, but it sounds like something I would have done: I was always getting drunk and incoherently calling people to tell them it was my birthday.) Inviting him to the wedding just sort of happened accidentally, after we discovered each other online via *FootNotes* earlier this year. It was only after he'd accepted the invitation that blind, gibbering panic began to set in.

    (What the hell have I done??!?)

    But here is what I learned through this experience. Inviting people you know and love and are comfy with to your wedding is easy. Inviting somebody you haven't seen in years, on the other hand -- or somebody you don't especially like, or somebody who doesn't especially like you, or somebody to whom you were once married, or somebody who still owns a Polaroid of you sitting naked in a bathtub -- lends a nice interesting *edge* to the occasion. It sort of lifts you out of yourself. It forces you to be more outwardly focused than you might have been, otherwise. It makes it feel less like a family barbecue, and more like an honest-to-god wedding.

    And -- in the case of seeing my friend Kevin -- it sometimes turns out to be one of the unexpected highlights of the day.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Write Your Own Vows. Or At Least A Portion of Them.

    I almost blew this one off at the last minute, believe it or not.

    Not because I was having a hard time getting my portion of the ceremony written. As I've said before, I had my vows written ten minutes after we got engaged. And not because David was having a hard time getting his part of it written, either. He composed a rough draft of his vows during the flight to TicTac, two days before the wedding ... and then he sat in our hotel room the morning of our wedding (see below) and pulled the rest of it together.


    No, I almost blew it off at the last minute because I had stage fright.

    As we were standing there at the altar in front of our family and friends, listening to Brother-in-Law Tim talking about love and committment and two hearts joining together as one, I experienced a sudden and profound attack of the Oh god! I can't do this heebie-jeebies. Not Oh god! I can't marry this person!, but Oh god! I can't recite these stoopid vows in front of all these people!  All of a sudden, the stuff I'd written seemed all wrong. It wasn't traditional enough. It wasn't solemn enough. It was too breezy and informal ... more suited to a *FootNotes* entry (or a One-A-Day commercial) than to a wedding ceremony.

    It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

    But since I didn't, in this case, have a Plan B at the ready -- no auxiliary set of vows, tucked discreetly inside my bridal bouquet -- and since the only other speech I've ever memorized was my big line from the ninth grade Spanish Club Christmas play ("El rey proclama que todo el pueblo tiene que ir a su ciudad natal para paguir sus impuestos") -- I was sort of stuck reading the vows I'd already written.

    Surprise!  It turned out fine. Better than fine, actually. People -- including my new mother-in-law -- are still telling us that the personal vows we exchanged were one of the best things about the wedding.

    Watching the video now, I have to agree with them.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't Take Your Wedding Anxiety Dreams Seriously.

    Here's how I see it.

    There are two ways you can deal with the perfectly normal, perfectly healthy pre-wedding stress and anxiety that every bride-to-be experiences: you can either allow it to manifest itself via migraines, violent fingernail shreddage, midnight Girl Scout cookie binges and/or wild shrieking arguments with your fiance over frozen chicken breasts ...

    ... or you can quietly suffer through the occasional Wedding Anxiety Dream.

    (Which doesn't hurt, doesn't make you fat, probably won't jeopardize your relationship, and is completely forgotten, ten minutes after you wake up ... unless of course you write about it on your website, in which case the dream is preserved for the ages, like a beetle caught in amber.)

    Me? I'll take the dreams, please.


    In fact, towards the end there I was actually starting to enjoy my Wedding Anxiety Dreams. (My personal favorite? Probably Seagull Pie.) They were great fodder for the website. On a slow news day, all I had to do was plunk a Wedding Anxiety Dream into a template, write a couple of paragraphs around it, toss in a gratuitous graphic or two ... and vóila! Instant journal entry!

    Somehow I don't think I'm going to be able to get away with using *Overflowing Toilet Anxiety Dreams* quite the same way.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Try Things Out In Advance.

    If you're going to be doing/wearing/walking around in anything new or different or slightly out of the ordinary on your wedding day  --  dangly earrings instead of posts, for instance, or a pinker shade of lipstick than you're accustomed to, or bikini underwear instead of your usual modest, comfortable, slightly-matronly Hanes For Her waist-highs -- I strongly suggest you try it out at least a couple of days in advance of the ceremony ... just to make sure that nothing squeaks or pinches or falls apart or smells funny or rides up and wedges itself in painful and potentially embarrassing fashion, midway through the ceremony.

    You wouldn't believe how strongly I "suggest" it.

    (Or maybe you would.)

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't Purchase Your Bridal Jewelry On The Internet.

    That pearl necklace looks so lovely there on the website, doesn't it?

    So elegant. So simple. So classic. The pearls almost look real ... and a "silvertone setting" is nearly the same thing as platinum, right? You're sure it will look perfect with the earrings you ordered from Plus the price is right: not so cheap that you feel like you're buying junk, but not so expensive that you're going to have to hide the credit card bill from your fiance again.

    You pull out your VISA and place your order.

    Except that when the necklace finally arrives,  it doesn't look anything like it did on the website. In fact, it looks just like the other four wedding necklaces you've ordered off the Internet this spring: cheap, fake, poorly-made, the wrong color/wrong size/wrong style ...

    ... and destined for your daughter's Christmas stocking next year.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Allow Yourself To Be Even More Selfish Than Usual, Towards The End.

    The day before the wedding, my mom had me scheduled for a midafternoon manicure, to be followed by dinner and rehearsal at my sister's house in Auburn.

    "What about my nap?" I said.

    I was running on about four minutes' worth of sleep that day. Plus I was at that icky place hormonally (the 72 Hours From Hell, which had by that point already become the 144 Hours From Hell) and I knew that my resources were running dangerously low. The least little glitch would be enough to make me snap like a baby carrot.

    "I need to fit a nap into the schedule," I said, with somewhat more insistence than is normal for "If That's OK/As Long As You Don't Mind/Please Don't Hate Me For Asking" me.

    My mom understood, I think. After my nail appointment, she dropped me off at the hotel. I went directly upstairs to our room -- David was at my sister's house helping set up folding chairs, so I was alone -- and I took a solid one-hour nap. When I woke up I didn't exactly feel "rested" ... there were way too many shrieking voices in my head for that ... but I did feel better.

    I think that towards the end, you need to exercise your God-given Bridal Rights as much as possible. These include:

    • The right to use all the good towels.
    • The right to maneuver every conversation around to the subject of *you.*
    • The right to capriciously change your mind about stuff every five or six minutes.
    • The right to burst into tears over absolutely nothing.
    • The right to order a side of bacon with your low-fat Denny's Slim Slam breakfast.
    • The right to demand that everybody rearrange their schedules so you can take a "nap."

    I also think that you probably need to really, really enjoy exercising those Bridal Rights ... because once that ring is on your finger, the Diva stuff is over.

          *      *      *      *      *      *

  • Don't Watch Your Wedding Video For At Least A Month After The Ceremony.

    Save it for your monthiversary.

    Trust me: by then you'll be ready to see yourself walking around in bad shoes, with a crooked part and pine tar on your butt ... and you won't even flinch.


one year ago: close encounters of the walgreen's kind

throw a rock