If this is the kind of thing that makes you gag, save yourself the trouble and just don’t read it!
Two years ago, I was a nervous mess. I was afraid of getting the bird flu. I was afraid of forgetting some detail that would make our wedding fall apart. I was also excited, very excited. I had spent the past year waking up every morning with a smile on my face because I was planning our marriage. I am not exaggerating. Every morning following your proposal, I would wake up with a smile on my face as soon as I remembered that we were getting married.
I knew that you were going to propose. I was pretty sure that you asked my dad if we could get married when you had lunch with him in San Francisco. But, I liked that you were trying to keep it a secret, so I was not too probing with my questions. However, from that point forward, I was dying to know when you would ask. On our nine-year anniversary, when you took charge of our plans for the day and drove me out to our favorite little restaurant on the beach, I was certain you were going to ask. As the Irish music played loudly and we wove through the hills to the Pelican Inn, I could hardly take the anticipation. Then, as brunch unfolded and a walk on the beach ended with no question, I felt let down. It was not happening.
You were sneaky and you did not even realize it. By not asking on our anniversary, I thought that you probably wouldn’t ask anytime soon. I thought that there was still a small chance for my birthday, since August 8, 2008, 8-8-08, was a day that I had been looking forward to since I was a kid. However, then too, as an entire day passed packed with activity and no question was asked, I felt disappointed. All that remained of my 25th birthday was a dinner with my family, which did not seem like the setting you would choose. I’m happy that I was wrong.
|Just hours before you proposed. In retrospect, you looked a little nervous!|
The degree of fanciness should have tipped me off. You should have warned me to dress a little more nicely. I should not have drank such a weird combination of champagne and mixed alcohol with our friends before dinner. However, as everyone went around the table and shared their favorite memories of me, and as I realized that you were poised to go last and feeling nervous, it hit me that this was it. I could not eat a single bite of my food. I could hardly hold back my tears of happiness and excitement. Even with the queasiness from my strange pre-dinner drink selection, I was elated. I will always remember how you began to inch back your chair as you told the story of us to my family. Somewhere there is film footage that Debra recorded. That truly was one of those life-altering moments that will always be seared into my memory.
You were so sweet with the decorated room at the Sheraton after dinner. I remember devouring the left overs from dinner as my nerves settled. I remember sitting in the window seat, looking out over the capital park, calling and texting everyone in my phone book. The trip that followed to the Oregon coast and British Columbia was a dream, a dream filled with every Dixie Chicks song ever recorded, my over-priced Canon GL2, and countless lists of wedding guests and ideas.
Planning actually ended up being a lot of fun. For an entire year, we worked through the list of things to do, traveling to different venues throughout Northern California with my family, tasting delicious food, chasing down Celtic musicians. We really did travel all over Northern California to pick the perfect spot. I will always remember the displeased look on my dad’s face when we pulled up to that cute little B&B in Placerville. I will also always remember my face when I realized that the pretty little winery that put on quite a pretentious show outside of Placerville expected guests to use outhouses!
|Score on the Celtic musicians!|
Nothing could compete with true wine country, however. The changing leaves of autumn and the sun shining just right through all those leaves felt perfect. No matter what anyone else says, despite its pomp and circumstance, the Napa valley is one of my favorite places on earth. I love its rolling hills and pretty towns. I love how it offers an escape from the ordinary, a chance to feel like you’re living a fairy tale even if afterward you go home to a 650-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley. Visiting Hans Fahden Vineyards with you was like visiting my fairy tale wedding. We thought that we were playing make believe for the day and teasing ourselves with an option out of reach. Instead, it was just one of many visits before it was our fairy tale for the day.
After dragging my dad, Debra, and Kaitlyn to pretty much every option within 200 miles of Sacramento, we finally got them to Hans Fahden and Auberge du Soleil. I will always remember sitting around that round table in Auberge’s incredible restaurant, drinking delicious wine, voting on the winning venue. Even sitting in that glorious restaurant perched up in the hillside, Hans Fahden won, unanimously. I was beside myself that we were actually going to get married in my favorite spot imaginable. I had thought that a cliff side elopement over the sea in Mendocino was what I wanted, but Hans Fahden let me dream even bigger.
With the venue selected, it was time to pick the vendors. One of my favorite moments was when I suggested to the first caterer that I might like cheeseburgers as an entree. How lowbrow of me! At least I got to have them for our rehearsal lunch, gosh darnit. I really enjoyed breaking tradition and pushing boundaries with the planning and budgeting. A rehearsal lunch instead of dinner? Yes, and it allowed for a leisurely outdoor meal that could not have been better. “Flowers in Napa Valley for less than $1,500, are you crazy?” Yes, and I made it happen beautifully. Or, how about the magic of the Chad? Caridwyn and Sons, with Chef Chad and planner Deana was one of our best finds. What delicious and inventive food! The tasting in itself was an event and Deana kept us on our toes with the linens in that fabulous warehouse and by chasing us around to keep us on schedule for the big day, (not to mention also chasing our crazy-but-talented-but-late-but-dramatic photographer).
I was so excited when we thought to ask my Uncle Patrick to marry us. I did not want a stranger to do it and there was no better person in our families to stand in front and orate than Uncle Pat. It didn’t hurt that he is such a close extension of our family. Our day trip to Napa to get his officiant license was another of my favorite memories. Lunch at that little Italian restaurant in Sonoma was perfect. I will also always remember practicing our vows around the table in Dani and Pat’s breakfast nook, anticipating getting to say them in front of everyone, spending all that time crafting the words for our ceremony together.
|Beautiful flowers on a “budget” (above/below)|
After everything was planned, all that there was left to do was wait, which brings us back to two years ago from today. With the bridal shower and bachelorette party done, the dress fitted, all of the little details attended to, two years ago today, I was the most anxiously excited that I had ever been in my life. I took my eco-fair trade wedding band out of its pretty little teal bag to try it on repeatedly. I recited the vows that we so carefully wrote together just for practice. I was so excited.
When finally the big day arrived, I was beside myself that I actually fell asleep the night before. Sharing the room with Kaitlyn was one of my best decisions because having her there with me, instead of sleeping in a room alone, was surprisingly comforting. I remember awakening, shocked that I had fallen asleep at all. Granted, I had not slept much that week, so I was probably lulled to sleep by pure exhaustion. You and I spent the morning together, holding hands, greeting family members and friends that stayed in Calistoga. It was a good morning. I felt rebellious spending time with the groom before the wedding. It was important to me, though, that we had time together amidst all of the chaos. In other words, that multi-hour couples spa session the afternoon before was part of my master plan for togetherness!
After visiting my dad, who had set-up shop across the street from our boutique hotel to write his father-of-the-bride speech in that cute cafe, it was time for us to part ways and get ready. It turned out that I had miscalculated the time it would take to get me ready, or failed to calculate rather, but it retrospect, the time we spent that morning is more important to my memory of our wedding than more time primping. That was another way that I was not the typical bride, I insisted on primping myself (with the help of bridesmaids!), instead of hiring a team to get me ready. After all, what are bridesmaids if they’re not put to work? Despite my slight miscalculation in timing, we managed to be ready just in time for the music to begin and for our crazy photographer to arrive. We also managed to have a wonderful time shut away in that little room atop the stairs, getting ready with my mom, grandma, Aunt Dani, and Debra. My mom and grandma were so cute with their creation of a beaded dragon fly for my bouquet.
Walking with my dad down the stairs from the bridal preparation room was surreal. I remember exactly how the early autumn light hit the leaves on all of the trees. The high level of anxiety made me super aware of every sensation. I remember the breeze and watching my pretty bridesmaids giggle on ahead of me. Even though the walk to the aisle probably only took a few minutes, it felt like an eternity, like I was moving in slow motion. I was flooded with the emotions of walking with my dad beside me, about to “give me away.” I was surprised by his nerves and deeply touched by his sweet words and support. There was no one else with which I would have rather spent those last few pre-ceremony moments. Having my arm through his reminded me of all the years and San Francisco trips we had walked together through the city like this.
|Bridesmaids about to walk…|
|A very special walk with my dad.|
Finally, we crossed the bridge and the procession stopped for a moment to wait for our reluctant flower girl to make her appearance. I could see the eyes of our friends and family peering toward me, trying to catch a glimpse. My heart beat faster as I realized that this was it. I had been trying to capture every minute detail in our walk and now it was really time. I remember walking toward the aisle and smiling so big with anticipation at every guest along the way. Each face someone special to us. It was such a cool feeling! But, there was one set of eyes that I was most anxious to find. Your’s.
I will always remember peering past the standing guests and seeing your grinning face. I was so happy. I could not take my eyes off of you. Our long-planned moment was finally here! As we said our vows I felt excited and emotional. I had the kind of smile that cannot be stopped. I also had a few tears escape. The moment that Uncle Pat declared us man and wife, officially combining our two last names, everything felt so right. You were finally my husband. A title much more deserved that boyfriend of fiance.
As we walked away from the ceremony and the Irish music played in celebration, I felt triumphant. My favorite wedding picture is of us leaving the ceremony to have our few moments alone before the pictures and the guests and the celebration. I loved the way that the Irish music floated through the vineyards, reaching us alone in the little garden past the bridge. I really had never been so happy in my entire life.
The time that followed was such a hub-bub of pictures, and greetings, and hugs. I had not anticipated how difficult it would be to have practically everyone that we care about in one space and not be able to stop and fully spend time with them. As we took our photos, I was so anxious to get up to the guests. I felt like we were missing our own party! Our photographer swore up and down that when it was all over, it was the pictures we’d be happiest to have, but I’m still not sure that I agree with her. While the pictures were nice, I still wish she could have shot the wedding party before the wedding and left us with a bit more time to mingle. Even so, my memory of being together with our wedding party, that same beautiful autumn light pouring across the hillside, Celtic music floating from atop the hill, is cherished just the same.
When finally it was time for our big entrance and Michael Jackson started thumping, I could not help but feel the excitement of the celebration ahead of us. I was so tickled that our wedding party actually participated, more-or-less, in our vision of a dance party entrance. All of the groomsmen rocked it. My brother, Justin, and your uncle got down. My bridesmaids were a little less enthusiastic, but still managed to bust a few moves. Opening the doors to the caves for dinner and getting to see the tables lit up in the candle light was another moment that I had anticipated in the planning. I was not disappointed. It was stunning.
|Yummy dinner + speeches|
Dancing. Lots and lots of dancing followed. My favorite, of course, was our dance together to “Stand by Me.” Watching my family get down on the dance floor was a close second. Thanks to my bridesmaids, I was able to relive the jumping up and down to the Black-Eyed Peas “I got a Feeling” from my bachelorette party. I remember finally taking off my horribly-uncomfortable-but-adorable purple heels and realizing that I had not noticed how much they hurt for hours because I was so pumped up with adrenaline. Cutting our cake was fun, even if we did not get to actually eat any of it that night. Removing my garter was more of a show than I had anticipated and, of course, watching Kiley catch the bouquet was pretty cool, since she really was the one that got married next!
As with any good party, it ended too soon, but I felt truly satisfied. I had the time of my life. Really, that is the song that we should have played last, instead of “You Shook Me All Night Long.” We thought we were funny. Even though I could have danced for hours longer, that will always remain the best dance party of my life. I did not mind leaving, because it meant that I finally got to be alone with you. Getting out of the parking lot will always be a funny memory, my dad’s Infinity decorated by the bridesmaids and my younger cousins, covered in lipstick, toilet paper, and some border-line inappropriate comments. Arriving at the hotel, the bar patrons cheered for us and we made our way up to one of the prettiest little suites I have ever seen, decorated like the room of a modern Spanish castle.
|Time to dance the night away!|
Our honeymoon was a collage of the fanciest rooms we’ve ever stayed in on our own, suites and cottages in wine country and on the coast. We had so much fun hauling all of our gifts up to our room at the Fairmont in Sonoma and opening them one-by-one in front of the fireplace. I hope to revisit each of the spots we stayed one day, although I know that they will never compare to those sleepy early-autumn days following our wedding. Even with our love for travel, I’m glad that we did not rush off on some stressful trip afar. Instead we got to truly relax and luxuriate together in the memory of our beautiful wedding.
The days and weeks that followed our wedding, I would awaken and replay every memory that I could gather, smiling to myself at how lucky I felt. At some point, I stopped this ritual, which is why now, after two years of marriage, I wanted to write it all down for us to remember and share with our kids and grandkids. Even with all that I wrote down here, there are still so many details that go untold. I just hope that by recording what I was patient enough to put down in words, the other little happy memories continue to come back.
The other day upon marveling at another couple’s forty years of marriage, we made it our goal to go 75 years together. Not 75 years married, but together. That would mean that we both have to live to be 92. That would put us at 66 years of marriage. I think it’s a good goal. Who knows, maybe we’ll even make it to 75 years of marriage and live to be 101! Maybe we’re selling ourselves short with the first goal. All I know is that each year I get to add with you by my side is a year that I’m incredibly lucky and grateful.
I love you.