Weddings, Weekends, Winners

It’s cold again.  The surrounding districts have all closed based on the forecast of snow and freezing temperatures.  Perched atop my wicker patio furniture, I can confirm the absence of one and presence of another.  If there’s no precipitation, there will be no ice, and my district opted to wait until morning to make the call on yet another snow day.  While we’ll all enjoy the peace at home, cancelling school will simply find us making up those days later on.  We already lost President’s Day.  Could Spring Break be next?

Wednesday last week was our final snow day, amounting to a full week off.   The sun returned, and he brought a heat wave so needed by Hampton roads that fifties felt like summer in January.  The time away from school had allowed me to pursue other projects and catch up on work, devoting the extra creative energy to things normally neglected until summertime.  Still, it wasn’t until Wednesday, the last day of our snowcation, that I got finally got excited about wedding planning.  Maybe it was the writing therapy the night before which set my heart in a position to hope.  Maybe it was the reprieve from the ice and snow. Regardless, I woke up thinking about the fact I am going to marry my Charming in six months, and I don’t have anything to wear.

Alright, that may seem silly, but wedding gowns take time to be ordered, shipped, and altered.  Our TheKnot.com account enjoys adding to my daily unattended worries by reminding me of wedding checklist deadlines upon login.    I’d spent some of the morning already getting inspired with ideas for decorations like forsaken pallet wood being redeemed in the form of signs fashioned to adorn the reception venue.  That checklist made me call my mother for her opinions and to see when she’d be able to visit Hampton again.

All the other planning is fine over the phone, but when it came to dresses, I had really been hoping to wait for my mother; however, when I called her to share wedding ideas, we realized our shopping would simply have to be done right then and there on the phone together.  In fact, Mom had surgery on her knee today, and though the procedure appears to have gone well, her recovery will take some time. With her procedure looming and full awareness we’d be returning to school, it was a refreshing afternoon for both of us, worries cast aside, navigating the web and directing one another to yet another dress or designer.

It wasn’t even fifteen minutes into our URL dress shopping that we fell in love with the same gown at the same time, and it just so happen to be sold in the shop where my friend Angel was fitted for her dress two years ago in January.  Angel was able to meet me there for an open four o’clock appointment after work and brought champagne that helped compensate for the absence of other family members.  My top two choices were the original I’d gone into see and another I wouldn’t have considered were not the managing staff at Blush Bridal so effective in assessing what will accentuate a bride and fit with her concept of the “right” dress.  Every quiz I take gives me words like romantic, whimsical, and traditional.  The final two dresses both fit the description, but they couldn’t be more different from one another.

As I stood atop the pedestal in the bridal shop, Angel Skyping my parents in for the final preview, I just really wanted one opinion, and it wasn’t my mother’s.

I desperately wanted to know which dress Charming would choose.  Which one looked like Mrs. Charming’s wedding gown?  When I walk down the aisle in Duck United Methodist Church, which dress will simply make him fall in love with his bride all over again?  That’s what the right dress does, you see, and why stores can charge more than a thousand dollars for fabric you’ll wear only once.   The paradox is that though Charming is the only one who can tell me which dress he’d choose, it wouldn’t make him fall in love with me all over again if he’d already seen the bride in her gown before the wedding day.  Everyone knows it’s bad luck, but that’s not why I have to wait until July 14th to know if I made the right choice.

Thursday, we were back in school and the cold settled back in just in time for our weekend in the Outer Banks attending their annual wedding expo, and with it my sullen mood.  Charming and I spent all morning navigating the exquisite displays with gourmet food samples, floral arrangements, photo booths, and vendors on all sides encouraging you of the need for their particular services.  It was overwhelming, and securing a caterer was my number one order of business.  Unfortunately, the pricing was always just convoluted enough to make us realize we’d have to wait until we’d secured requested quotes for our reception before being able to compare apples to oranges, or in this case, Swedish meatballs to country ham biscuits.

At two in the afternoon, the vendors left their booths to prepare for the tour to take place between three and seven Saturday night.  Our goal was to visit as many locations on the wedding tour.  We would be able to meet specific vendors we’d been impressed with at the show, check out restaurants, sample DJ’s in action, and most importantly, each location would give us a stamp on my VIP card, and each stamp would result in one ticket for the expo free giveaways.  Charming and I are competitors, after all, so regardless of the fact we were both drained from the morning’s missions, we endured traveling up and down the OBX mile markers, narrowing our choices down as we drove and reviewed before hitting the next stop.

We decided to sneak in a visit to our reception venue, Jennette’s Pier because the first location we visited was nearby and the person in charge hadn’t returned from the expo yet.  It was perfect timing; we arrived in time to witness the ceremony on the pier and had just enough time to poke around and take pictures and video inside before the wedding party would climb the stairs and pass us on the way.  Catering the event was the company of the woman we’d just missed down the street, and Metro Rentals was right about the 15×16 dance floor fitting flawlessly in the room’s setup.  That was my favorite moment on Saturday.  I wasn’t stressing about numbers or options.  For a simple stolen moment, I was able to picture our own reception held in this space in exactly six months.

As we fled the scene, Charming pointed out the pastor who had officiated the cold ceremony outside in January.  It was Pastor Grant, my pastor at Liberty Church at Hampton, whom I’ve never met before.  Our church has thousands of members, and I know he wouldn’t recognize me, but my feet didn’t care.  They walked me right over to him and introduced us.  In our brief exchange, he was able to meet Charming.  I told him that my parents’ pastor in New York was a friend of his who would be pleased to hear I made my membership official in Pastor Grant’s church.

And just like that, reality was back.  We returned through the blistery cold to the car and began collecting stamps and making choices.  There are choices to be made about everything, and I won’t be a member at Pastor Grant’s church for long.  The priceless opportunity we’d had at Jennette’s to both see our venue and meet my pastor was lost amidst the hustle and bustle that found us at 7:03 pm with nine stamps, stuffed with samples, and ready to not think about anything wedding related until the morning.

On January 14th, we visited the church where we’ll be married on July 14th, and after a lovely service and upbeat chat with our officiating Pastor, John Tyson, we returned to the final hours of the expo with a list of specific vendors to speak with again and initiate contracts with others.  The first task, however, was to turn in my VIP card at the giveaway desk.  There were two options: a wedding or a honeymoon package.  When we came to understood the wedding date was pre-set for October, we opted to put all nine tickets into the Honeymoon pot.  The expo ended at two pm, and all the hopeful brides and their companions piled into a school auditorium for the long-anticipated drawing.

I’d just finished telling Charming that I wasn’t sure why we’d stayed, that I’ve never won a drawing in my life, when the OBX Bridal Expo staff announced the winning ticket number for the Honeymoon Giveaway.  Charming was telling me it was us, and I was looking at the ticket triple-checking because he must be wrong… but we won!  Everyone cheered as we took center stage.  The package includes several exciting elements and accommodations, but I think my favorite will be Sunset Sailing with Kitty Hawk Kites.

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Planning a wedding isn’t always fun, but it certainly has its highlights.  If I could make a photo strip of memories from this expo, it would contain our stolen visit to Jennette’s Pier and unexpected meeting of my pastor and worship at Duck Methodist and holding that gift basket on that stage.  The planning, the details, the numbers – those aren’t fun.  Doing it with Charming is what makes it an adventure.

I think we both learned at the OBX Wedding Expo to expect the unexpected, hard work pays off in ways we don’t see, that veering from the traditional path results in cherished surprises reserved just for us, and that even when we’re not giggling about our wedding night, the result of the serious discussions and decisions made in the car driving to and fro in search of vendors and stickers is not about a day at all.

It’s all about us.  I’ve got Charming, and Charming’s got me.  Forever and always.  With or without the Honeymoon Giveaway, this weekend helped me understand that we are the winners, all the time, that the best award I can imagine is seeing Charming’s face rest on me walking toward him moments before I will vow to love and honor and respect him until death parts us.

It won’t be about the dress or the caterer or the size of the dance floor then.  I know everything else will fade, and the prize of our marriage will come into full focus.

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