Tag Archives: weddings

Expectations

wedding

I’m standing in front of a tent full of people. I’ve finished my glass of white wine, my cowboy boots are cutting into my ankles, and my lace dress feels just a bit too sweaty to be beautiful. I unfold the crumpled paper, look out at these faces, some I know, some I do not, and I begin to read.

Joe, I have known Ashley a long time.

It feels a lot like singing, this performance, in the way that time moves so swiftly I don’t quite notice it’s passing. I read all the words. I look up once in awhile, smile at the appropriate times, slow down when I feel like I’m rushing. But I’m not really aware of what I’m doing or how I’m doing it. It might be that everyone’s looking at me but hardly anyone knows my name. It might be the heat of June. It could be stage fright. It’s probably all three.

I know what I talked about only because I wrote it down. I painted a picture of when we were little girls, playing Little House on the Prairie and baking together, playing Manhunt on summer nights. I talked about loyalty and love — only briefly — because they are things I don’t feel fully equipped to address. How can anyone wax wise on ideas of lifelong and commitment and trust?

Suddenly, I am done. I smile again, she is crying, and we hug. I hug Joe, too, and sit down quickly. I feel embarrassed, surprised, that I have just given my first maid-of-honor speech, and I’m not even sure how it went.

12038477_10153144006791409_8719650255126417372_n

I knew in the back of my mind that one day, I would be a maid-of-honor. I thought that perhaps I would have to give a speech, tell a story, celebrate two lives becoming one. I knew all of this, and yet I was surprised.

~     ~     ~

I sit across from him and I think: I don’t know you. I don’t know anything about you.

It’s hard to give someone a shot when you compare him to someone you’ve known for awhile, or, at least, someone you thought you knew, and who now colors your interactions with but I wanted someone like this, and this. 

Things never end up the way you expect.

~     ~     ~

We sit in a restaurant, and the waitress gives us free watermelon sangrias. Someone’s mistake has become our blessing. Susie looks at me and says, “A good omen!”, and we toast to the beginning of our new lives in a city busier than my little hometown of 26 years. Who knows what lies ahead? So we toast and smile and hope.

summer

We pose for a picture — two high school friends who accidentally followed each other into adulthood. The caption? “2015-2016…bring it!” Even as we’re smiling, I am aware that much lies ahead. Every year is unknown. Bad things happen. Students cry. I get frustrated with myself for everything that I lack, and as I’m smiling for this photo in late August, a little bit of fear creeps in and settles in my stomach.

september (1)

It’s December in two days. We want to get a Christmas tree, but we’re not sure how to get it home. The convertible is not conducive to carrying trees, so we’re pretty sure we’ll be trekking it two miles. I can picture cars whizzing past us, shaking their heads with pity at those poor girls in L.L. Bean boots dragging a tree halfway across the city. Worse things have happened. I climb the winding stairs to the third floor apartment, open the door, see the perfect place for a tiny tree in the living room.

I drink tea and hang Christmas lights around the windows in my room. I am at the same time content and longing, happy with a tinge of sadness. I burn a cedar candle because we haven’t gotten the tree yet and I want that fresh smell. I wonder what to get my mother for Christmas, and I think about last Christmas and how much I stressed over a gift that didn’t end up mattering. I think of two books that sit on a shelf — haphazardly, I’m sure, or perhaps on the floor — and I wonder how many things will end up differently than I expect a year from now.

What will Christmas 2016 look like?

Will I look back and think, Praise God?

Will I focus on the smell of fresh-cut trees, the laughter of roommates floating in from the living room, the joyful way we ate breakfast on the back porch in the sunlight?

Or will I feel heavy with the weight of the unknown? Or, perhaps, the now-known but not-wanted?

Sometimes you are maid-of-honor at a childhood friend’s wedding. Sometimes you stop talking to someone you love. Sometimes, you sit across from a man and give him a chance.

Nothing ever turns out exactly the way you expect.

Countdown to Today

IMG_3992

[All photos are from the Bachelorette/s. It’s called “Cath didn’t take a single picture at the bridal shower”. Also, the blur effect is all the rage.]

I can honestly say I was scared.

This is the first wedding I’ve ever been in, and the idea of throwing a bridal shower freaked me out.

I’m not organized enough!

I don’t know how to decorate!

I also am not too good at cooking/baking!

I also am not too good at sitting at four-hour-long parties!

LOGISTICS!!!

(Clearly there are a lot of things I’m not good at.)

IMG_3941

[I dared Beth to send a picture to Joel…of her removing her engagement ring before we hit the town. She did, but he didn’t freak out. It’s like he knows her or something.]

Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. The Matron of Honor, while in sunny California, delegated jobs to each of us. I was so grateful because without clear purpose, I’m like a chicken with my head cut off.

Or like me on caffeine.

The girls in charge of the food did a phenomenal job. I grew up with them, and if their family does one thing well, it’s throw rockin’ parties. I’ve never left their house hungry. There was strawberry-rhubarb pie, scones too numerous to count with homemade whipped cream, homemade chocolate fudge, finger sandwiches, cookies, specially-made cake, and tea (because it was, of course, a tea party).

(I stole the best idea from a bridal shower in April: the bridesmaids opened all the envelopes before passing them to the bride. I saved So Much Time and everyone thought I was a genius. I took the credit.)

IMG_8585

Best part of the day? Probably asking the bride questions that the groom had already answered…his sister and I (good friends from high school) got the biggest kick out of the answers (“What’s the best meal she’s ever made you?” “Ummm…tacos?!”), and it didn’t hurt that for every wrong answer, a piece of bubble gum was unceremoniously shoved into the bride’s mouth. It’s hard to stay dainty when you’re drooling.

All-in-all, I was very pleased. Even the mother-of-the-bride emailed us, thanking us for a wonderful shower.

I leaned over to S, my partner-in-decorating-crime, and whispered, “Now we know what to do for the next shower we throw together.”

IMG_9135

As the guests left, we bombarded them with homemade tea favors shipped up from dear friends in Arizona and

North Carolina. I slipped in honey sticks and everyone left saying, “See you in a few weeks!”

Realizing I can be a bonafide young woman who throws lady parties.

I don’t want to get too good at it, though, ’cause then y’all will be knocking on my door.

~     ~     ~

After bridal showers come bachelorettes. Not only did we have a fun night dancing (where I broke it down on the dance floor, drove through the city in a SUV taxi, and got everyone safely home by 12:30PM), but we also had a “grown-up bachelorette.” We ate dinner and then walked down to hear live jazz and eat dessert. I had foolishly worn a maxi dress in 90 degrees, and I was regretting it now, huffing and puffing down the sidewalk.

10505609_10152241389376819_5511063018848495694_n

[See the trumpet player in the background? He posed perfectly.]

I ate this delectable hazelnut gelato with homemade whipped cream.

That was just two days ago. A mani-pedi, panera date, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner later, here we are on Friday, June 27th, 2014.

My college roomie, my gym buddy, my Starbucks friend, and my loyal recital partner, it’s your big day.

I said I didn’t think I’d cry, that I’d be brimming with smiles.

But the thing is, I’ll probably cry, because the way he looks at her – his eyes soft and his grin unstoppable –  is enough.

10482895_10202406218456920_5668084713436905668_n

[Just wait for pictures of the wedding. It’s gonna be a partaaay.]

Proposal of the Century

I blame Disney, but I’m not sure that’s entirely fair.

Somehow, somewhere, I got the idea that romance had to be BIG. Dates had to be special and frequent. The proposal had to be elaborate, perhaps with candles or a sunset thrown in.

“Mama, how did Daddy propose?”

It was an innocent enough question for a five or six-year-old. I remember my mom pausing, furrowing her brow a little.

“Hmmmm. Well, we talked about it at Calitiri’s.”

I did not understand.

“You talked about it? You mean, he didn’t surprise you?”

[Insert helicopter landing with champagne here.]

“No, no surprise. I remember eating dinner and your father and I talked about getting married.”

“But then later he got down on one knee, right? And gave you a ring?”

[Insert the many proposals Anne of Green Gables got and turned down in the snow.]

“No, there was no ring, honey. Well, he did give me a sapphire at Christmas, but that wasn’t really an engagement ring.”

The dinner conversation happened in October and they were married in May.

“At least you got a honeymoon, right? Where did you go?”

“We went to Nova Scotia on a boat from Maine. We stayed in a cabin and it was freezing.”

I remember trying to understand why there wasn’t more. I thrived off stories, but my parents didn’t really give me much to work with. A dinner conversation? No surprise? No down-on-one-knee? Are you kidding me?

Where was the princess treatment?

Where was the extended year-long planning process?

Where was the gift registry? The two-week European honeymoon? The violins?

IMG_4489

I was five and I thought men treated the women they loved like princesses. Look at Belle or Cinderella, for instance. You don’t see them having conversations about things. I thought that maybe my father didn’t quite know how it worked. I thought that love and romance were the same thing, and my parents just didn’t get it.

These days, my friends would probably say that I’m not a romantic. They tend to like things a little more mushy, a little more This Is Supposed To Be Romantic. The thing is, I’ve been thinking lately, maybe my parents had something right.

What’s better than down-on-one-knee with a ring and roses?

Maybe an eyes-to-eyes and mind-to-mind conversation.

Maybe a six-month whirlwind-ish engagement.

Maybe a focus on the marriage instead of the pomp and circumstance leading up to it.

~     ~     ~

I have so many friends getting married now, and each one is doing things differently. Some are “The bigger the better!” and others are more low-key, and that’s okay. I can’t wait to go to weddings, be in weddings, see the love that I’ve watched grow over the past few years. I’m loving the process of choosing colors and flowers and dresses, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Everyone has a different style.

My romantic just looks a little more like a conversation.

[This is not to say that I will never once post a photo of me and the lucky guy, or that I won’t announce our upcoming nuptials on facebook. I may be a luddite, but I know where to draw the line.]

[Photo credit: Sarah. Thanks for going on a cruise!]

Good Things #16

Music. Okay, I know this one isn’t new either. (I turn up a song on the radio, say, “Oh my gosh, I love this song!” and my little brother rolls his eyes and says, “Cath, this was big like six months ago.” Well, Harry, deal.) To add to my appreciation of this song: we sang it around a bonfire at the woodland wedding I attended this summer. Picture this: all of us wearing fern crowns at a cabin in the woods with a stream rushing by. This song will help you picture it.

Books. If you’ve even been in the same room as an education major, you’ve probably heard of the book The Skillful Teacher. Well, that’s what I’m spending my time with this week (getting ready for the second weekend of my grad class). It’s not too shabby, either. I even implemented a few ideas in the classroom already. Thank you, Saphier, Haley-Speca, and Gower. (I apologize for the blur.)skillfulTaking your contacts out. Okay, am I the only one who loves this? Whenever I wear contacts, I can’t wait to rip them out of my eyes. (Too graphic?)

Blogs. I’ve been following Bethany Suckrow over at She Writes and Rights for awhile now. She wrote this post, “Explicit Realities, Explicit Language,” and it struck a chord with me. It deals with the experience and expression of sexual abuse and how euphemisms just don’t cut it. I’m sure there are other sides to the issue, but she has a lot of good things to say.

Homemade beeswax candles. They are amazing. They burn so much brighter than you’d think, and they smell like honey and sunlight. We’ve also been known to make candles out of such things as turkeys, frogs, and skeps…

IMG_0629

Children’s Musical. Yes, the time is here. We auditioned for “Aladdin, Jr.” this past weekend and rehearsals start Monday. Kids ages 5-13, faces beaming, singing their hearts out in Agrabah. I kinda wish I could be in it…

Hiking. I am eagerly awaiting a fall hike this afternoon. I envision me, somehow miraculously stronger than I’ve ever been, ascending a mountain far larger than I’ve ever hiked before. In reality, we will probably be walking more than hiking, and I will be just as un-strong as I am at this moment.

And I leave you with one last song. Enjoy your Wednesday!

A Midwestern Wedding

I am a selfish woman.

I like to have most of what I want, and I like to have it now.

~     ~     ~

The few days after a wedding, there aren’t many things I can think about except that wedding. I tell people all about the dresses and the music and the food, and I wish in a little part of me that I could live it again.

My Good Things was postponed because I was making my way back from Columbus, Ohio. Another friend got married and one day turned into a weekend and a 13-hour-each-way drive and a reunion.

[It was when she raised her eyebrows at me, smiling, that I caught a glimpse of the real her. We were in the second row – a whole line of college friends – but it wasn’t until I saw those upturned eyebrows and grin that I thought, There she is.]

~     ~     ~

I worry that I will be forgotten. I live day to day, doing my thing in this small town, and I wonder how long it will take for these friends to forget. How many earnest conversations on dorm room beds does it take to be remembered? How many secrets whispered (or giggled) does it take to burn me into someone’s memory? How many coffees, rides in the bug, walks on the beach, trips to the city, or tears that both embarrass me and liberate me does it take to leave a print?

That is the selfishness I’m talking about. I watched my beautiful friend in all her honest joy, and I felt a tug of sadness.

I am no longer part of this.

I do not run into her in the hall, running down the hill, rushing to class, singing goofy songs in my too-small apartment.

I know her great worth, but I do not get to have that shine on me like I used to.

It was an honor to be invited, to witness their vows and their love in a way that living across the world doesn’t allow me to.

It was an honor – and a good time to remember that we can love deeply over great distances.

Just because we don’t share our days anymore doesn’t make the ones we did share any less real.

[I wrote a poem about her my senior year. About how she ate almonds while she talked in English class, how her rings flashed when she talked. I wrote about her, I think, because I knew our friendship was going to change, and I had no control and that had to be okay with me.]

~     ~     ~

They broke the bread and drank the cup, he pronounced them husband and wife (to which she yelled, “Yes!”), and they danced and shimmied around in a circle. We sent them off with sky lanterns and laughter and a tinge of sadness because Italy is far away.

It isn’t about whether or not I am part of it. It is about the fact that it is, and it is beautiful.

July 5, 2013

I am sitting in a colorful floral dress. The tent I am under blocks the sun, but there is no denying the 95-degree heat, or the fact that there is a line of men standing at the front in three-piece suits. I am immediately grateful for my female status (and the accompanying summer dresses).

There are so many people sitting around me – many I know peripherally, a few I’ve known for over twenty years, their faces as familiar as family. July 5th, 2013 crept up on me, after a life of Dunkin’ Donuts Dunkaccinos and chocolate doughnuts, White Farms key lime pie ice cream, wiffle ball, touch-football, volley ball, “Tribute to the Best Song in the World”, Strong Bad, three goofballs talking and laughing over a beer.

wedding2

I have had the amazing privilege of watching one of my oldest friends marry one of my dearest friends. Not too many people can say that. As we all stood, singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” I listened to the harmonies that filled the air in that tent, and I thought how beautifully lives were converging right in front of me. From the multi-colored florets made lovingly by women in the bride’s life to the music performed by gifted family, this wedding was like seeing their two souls overlaid.

~     ~     ~

The ceremony is over, we are standing, clapping, hooting, when suddenly music starts playing. They are singing – the newlyweds – singing and dancing and the bridal party joins in. A wedding flash mob? Yes, please. Make it to the Muppets’ “Life’s a Happy Song” and let me join in from the audience, surprising my family, and it’s even better.

wedding4

I sing “Life’s a piece of pie!” and run up the aisle to join the dancing. We’re all smiling, singing to the surprised audience, all these faces I have loved for so long, and I’m grateful to be part of this day.

wedding1

[Later, at the reception, I will need to leave the room as the bride dances with her father to Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold.” I will rush past the groom’s mother whose eyes will also be glistening, I will run down the stairs and walk around the parking lot, crying alone in the hot summer evening. I won’t fully understand this strong reaction, but I will know that it’s all mixed in with growing up, friendships, changes, love that never happened and love that might happen, and the realization that the midwest is calling my friends away from me. All this will happen, but then I will wipe my eyes, run back up the stairs, and dance for the following three hours.]

wedding5

[Proof that I take my dancing a little too seriously. And that my friends are cool.]

Babies grow up and marry their great loves and change the lives of those around them.

What to do with joy

This morning I woke up to a little snow on the ground and birds everywhere.

IMG_1174

I also woke up to roughly the fifth engagement announcement on facebook. Two good friends from college got engaged right before Christmas (not to each other!), and the rest of us had secretly been wondering: Okay, what’s the hold-up, guys?

IMG_1173

I didn’t realize Christmas was the time to get engaged. I also didn’t realize how horribly some people deal with their own disappointment.

A status popped up recently, and it went something like this: “Stop posting your engagements on facebook. It just reminds me of how alone I am. Thanks.”

I blinked.

What? Was this person seriously asking others to contain their joy because they themselves didn’t share it?

What about the part in the Bible that says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” (Romans 12:15)?

I admit wholeheartedly that I have no problem mourning with those who mourn; this comes naturally, sadness, sympathy, and confusion being things I can understand and empathize with.

But rejoicing with those who rejoice? Isn’t that just as important?

The past two years, I’ve realized what it means to allow yourself to experience life fully. And that means allowing both deep pain and deep joy to be expressed.

I would never say to a friend, “Please, don’t cry anymore. I love you, but I don’t want to hear it.” (This despite my previous post about learning how to deal with other people’s pain.)

So how can we think that asking others to stifle joy is an appropriate response? Does the fact that others have found love and are looking forward to a life of marriage make you any more alone? Lonely? Sad?

Would them being single make you happier?

We are called to love one another. And one way that love is shown is through the sharing of joy.

I know that I won’t be able to keep myself from singing it from the rooftops, when I find someone to walk through life with. I don’t expect anyone else to, either.

IMG_1169

Snapshots of a Friendship

One time we made a cake just like Laura Ingalls’s wedding cake. We beat the eggs against a wooden cutting board with forks, “to be authentic.” It wasn’t very good.

We used to have pinecone fights in the neighborhood, run around gathering the wet, sharp cones and then hurl them mercilessly at the other team. We loved it, but the neighbor kids told their parents and we were outcast. We thought at least we were better than our dad and his friends, who used to throw hard little acorns at each other.

Once, in the woods, we all crawled through frozen underbrush to the little stream that had frozen over. It was the coldest it had ever been. We slid on our bellies along the ice, the tall snow-bent weeds hanging over us to make a canopy. We’re like seals, I said.

Man-hunt. The game of summer nights and over-excited pre-teens. We raced around town with flashlights, screaming, scared and exhilarated. She had a crush on the neighbor boy, so that made night-time chasing even more fun.

We used to talk about when we grew up, getting married. She said I’d definitely be in her wedding. I said she’d definitely be in mine. She said she wanted to be seventeen. I said, Oh my gosh, no.

She invited me to Starbucks in September, offered to pay. I should’ve known.

Will you be my Maid of Honor?

I sipped my caramel macchiato.

Yes, I will be your Maid of Honor.

Every December, we had a Christmas Feast. We filled stockings for each other, wrapped up inexpensive gifts, baked a little chicken (with Mom’s patient help). Every year we would string popcorn and cranberries, watch “White Christmas,” and drink hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream.

This December, we will go dress shopping. I will sit quietly as she tries on dress after dress. I will watch her and think about throwing pinecones at each other, concocting terrible plays about wilderness adventures, walking to get ice cream on summer afternoons.

Her mother and sisters and I will laugh and chat while she’s in the dressing room. We will marvel at the passing of time, the beauty of her smile, her excitement.

It feels like the blink of an eye since we were little girls. Thank goodness she waited til twenty-three.

Wedding Bliss

Saturday I did something for the first time:

I went to my first high-school-friend-wedding.

We all knew it was going to happen since forever ago – they’d been together since junior year (we don’t count the tiny spurt sophomore year…), and the date had been set for almost THREE YEARS.

And yet we couldn’t believe it was here.

We, the other five of us girls and the new significant others, sat in two pews. There was no designated “bride-side” or “groom-side” because they’d pretty much grown up together in church and high school, so it would’ve been weird to split us down the middle.

Some of us teared up at the ceremony. Seriously, she was beautiful. I love it when dark-haired women wear white. It’s stunning. They were both just so happy, and we were all sitting there like, wait, this is really happening?! Someone leaned over and whispered, “They’re actually adults! They’re married!”

S. looked at me and said, “What does that make us?”
And I said, “Not adults and not married.”

Kind of true, I guess.

~   ~   ~

At the reception – during the cocktail hour and decently long photo time – I got so antsy. I couldn’t sit still in the hideously upholstered chair at the country club, so I got up and stood around while my friends talked genteely. I probably looked like a freak. They told me as much. So finally I told them I needed to go for a walk.

I wandered outside for awhile. The grass was bright green and the sun was hot. It was a good day for a wedding.

I think sometimes I get overwhelmed by so many people. I needed some space. To think through what just happened. That it is FOR LIFE. A small moment alone in the sweet-smelling air to gather myself for the long night of celebrating ahead.

We danced like crazy, the bunch of us that, until that night, had all been kept in little “this-is-who-you-were-in-high-school” boxes – now set free to be who we’d become in the last five years.

They’d never seen me dance.

And now the first of us are married, blissful on a little island.

That’s the way to celebrate.