Anyone have a worse wedding tale than mine? Let me start by saying my parents hated my then boyfriend John. One, because he is part Asian, and two, because I was breaking curfew left and right to spend more time with him. [insert evil grin] They decided to blame HIM and called him a bad influence. Add in the fact that I had gained a ton of weight in College (most before I even met him)...they decided to blame him for my weight gain too. Basically, everything in my life they found fault with was blamed on John. I am still clueless to this day why...except that my Mom is crazy. I already posted about some of her issues in an earlier entry entitled Amnesia.
Well, we got engaged December 15, 1990. We told John's parents, siblings, my friends and coworkers first. A few days later we told my parents. Can you blame me for procrastinating telling them? John and I had been together for almost 5 years at that point and my parents STILL hated him. Well, my mom was PISSED that the whole world knew before she did. I started looking at reception sites and talking to the church right away. I wasn't doing it secretly, I just didn't broadcast my plans to my Mom. I honestly didn't think she wanted to be involved because of her past attitude. When she found out I was planning to have the wedding that June (only 6 months after the engagement) she freaked. When I told her about the places I was looking at (Holiday Inn, Knights of Columbus, etc.), she double freaked. She told me they wouldn't pay a dime for my wedding unless I had it in a place she approved of. Then she announced we had to wait until the NEXT June to give them time to "save up some funds" or whatever. I thought waiting a year and a half to marry was excessive since we had dated for so long... so I went to talk to our local parish priest hoping to enlist his help. My mother had already gotten to him. First, he accused me of being pregnant; then he said we couldn't get married in the church without preparation classes, proper announcements and such. *Sigh* I gave in. I thought, "What the hell, if they are going to pay for it. I will have a much nicer wedding than we could afford on our own."
My mother had a plan, I found out later. She pushed for the MOST expensive reception location possible (we looked at places like the Stow Country Club, a very expensive hotel in Boston and this pricey snobby restaurant in Lexington). She fell in love with the restaurant. Excuse number one from my parents: they didn't have enough cash to pay the entire $5,000 down payment...would we pay half? So we did. Why were we going 5-star when it looked like they couldn't afford it? Mom insisted. Her family would NOT be attending a cheapo wedding in a low class place. It's always been about keeping up appearances to her. Then came the agreement: Would we agree to pay for SOME of the expenses? Again we agreed. The dress, the flowers and the photographer became my expense. Limos, church, music and reception would be theirs. Did I mention that my mom is very image conscious? A snob. Pretentious. Superior to the rest of the planet. You get the idea.
Let me digress here and tell you about the wedding party. My best friend all through High School, Kathleen, was to be my maid of honor. The brides maids were my childhood best friend (who had moved to upstate NY just before High School started) Pam, my College roommate Jennifer (also now a very good friend), my favorite cousin Gina (Mom's sister Beth's daughter) and my 2 soon to be sister-in-laws, Laura and Anne. 6 girls. John was a little freaked. He had his - as his best man, his buddy Patrick from college, his childhood friend Ed and my brother Mike. Only 5 guys. Horrors! The wedding party was off balance! *giggle* I didn't really care.
This is where fate decided to mess with us in a big way. First my SIL Laura was diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the beginning we were all optimistic. It was big, but they had hopes the chemo and radiation would take care of it. I figured I had lots of time for wedding planning now, thanks to mom - so we spent lots of time with Laura. I was glad to get to know her and Anne better. Since they both lived in NYC, I hadn't really gotten to know them well while we were dating. At the same time, my best pal Kathleen (who had struggled with depression for years) was having a particularly hard time. She had suffered a seizure the year before and was on special meds for that. Her shrink was a quack, in my humble opinion, because he kept changing her meds, upping the dose, changing the drug...trying to find the magiccombo to make her happy. This messing around with the chemical balances in her brain caused the seizure. Add in the fact she was known to suddenly stop her meds when she got tired of feeling different from the rest of the world...she was not supposed to drive a vehicle while taking her meds. She totaled her car. Her car was a major life line for her and the sole source of her independence. I could write a whole post about her domineering mom and lapdog dad and the complete lack of control over her own life. She couldn't even balance a check book or do her own wash. Anyway, I was also having a rough time. I wanted to be there for her, but with the problems with my parents, John's sister, plus I was also in the middle of a sexual harassment fiasco at my work...I was preoccupied, to say the least.
When the wedding planning finally got underway - my first stop, along with Kathleen (once again - best friend since freshman year of high school and maid of honor), was the Filene's Basement annual wedding dress sale. I got my dress in one day for $64. I was PSYCHED! But how to get this dress past my mom. Never mind that it was beautiful and fit me perfectly. It was CHEAP! Horrors! So I had a plan. I would go with her to all her hoity-toity dress places... probably dozens of them. After a couple days of looking, I would suddenly appear with the dress I bought. I would say "Remember that dress we saw in such and such a store? Well, I went back and bought it!" knowing she would never admit to not remembering the dress I was talking about. Brilliant, right? Kathleen was even a talented graphic artist (art major) and did a fake receipt for me pricing the dress at $1200.
Helping me with wedding stuff was hard on Kathleen, however. She saw in me everything she wanted to achieve in her own life and was even more depressed. She called me at work one day in May and wanted to meet me for lunch. You can read how that day went in my very first journal post. I never got the chance to "make it up" to her. The fact that her mom could even think straight enough to come up with the idea of getting me someplace private so when I got hysterical, it wouldn't be in front of the entire office, just goes to show you how controlled she was. The wake and funeral were 3 days later. 2 days after that I was invited to Kathleen's house by her mom for dinner, expecting the typical "She would have wanted you to have this". All photos of Kathleen had been removed from the house ... her bedroom had been repainted, new carpet laid and her brother's thingshad been moved into the room. His old room was now a nondescript guest room. All Kathleen's artwork, possessions, clothes... gone. She had a memory box that contained every card, letter, note passed in the hallway... everything I had ever given her. This was also gone. Her mom said her things had been given away. Goodwill and such. And didn't Brian's new room look great? It was cold and horrifying. She gave me a packet of black and white photos from one of her photography class projects (because I had been with her that day helping with the figure studies) - the photos of her I took had been removed. She gave me a bunch of food coupons that had been in Kathleen's new car glove box. That was it. I had given Kathleen a sapphire friendship ring years before and noticed her mom was now wearing it. I didn't mention it. I asked her mom about some clothes I had loaned Kathleen (included the pair of jeans I had worn the day I met John)... all given away. I still get angry and teary to this day thinking about how cold this woman was and how little I understand her reaction to Kathleen's death.
WELL! After several months of mourning, I moved on with planning. I asked my college roommate Jenn to be my new maid of honor (I would have asked Pam, but she lived too far away to help me - and she understood). After accepting Mom's choice of photographer (very expensive), and florist...oh wait, make that FLORAL DESIGNER (also VERY expensive, $340 JUST for my bouquet) mind you, these were all things WE were paying for... our first stop in the wedding dress shopping was Pricilla's of Boston on Newbury Street. For those of you not familiar with the store, with Massachusetts society this store is the equivalent of Vera Wang. The FIRST DRESS they showed me at $6000 something dollars, was the one she wanted me to buy. Ok, it was really beautiful and perfect for me...BUT! We couldn't even afford all the other crap we were paying for, and no way I was spending that kind of money on a dress I was wearing ONCE! And how was I going to get her OFF this dress in order to slip the dress I already had (riding in my car truck for several months now) into the works.
On the ride home in the car, I had the blow out to end all blow outs with my Mom. I accused her of deliberately trying to put us in the poor farm. In the heat of arguing over expenses, she let slip that she thought John was CHEAP and he would LEAVE ME when he heard how much all this was costing. She also told me we would have ugly children. She sure didn't know him very well, did she. She was TRYING to drive him away! Ha! That was it. I told her we were NOT having a 4 piece orchestra playing during the hors d'oeuvres and NO WAY to the live band. I wanted a DJ, darn it! I hate cheesy wedding bands. They butcher the music I love so well. I wanted a DJ. I was NOT going to spend $6000 on a dress...and I was seriously rethinking the flowers. All the fighting went on right up to Mom's front door. At the door, she said if the wedding wasn't EXACTLY how she wanted it, the wedding was OFF. Oh yeah? Try and call off MY wedding, will ya. Fine. I got some stuff together and drove the 5 hours down to NJ that night and showed up on John's doorstep in tears at 2:30am.
It was now late February and the wedding was June 21st! I called and canceled the reception site hoping to get back part of the deposit. No go. IF they rebooked the space, then maybe. The wedding was on a Sunday, however. Not as popular a day. Since everyone knew that the date was June 21st, I was determined to keep that date. John's mom worked as music director and organist at her local church. She pulled strings and got us her church on the 21st (between a spot reserved for funerals and another wedding...with the caveat that we HAD TO stick to a strict schedule so as not to interfere with the other wedding). I got a ball room at the local Embassy Suites, limo, photographer, a friend of John's sister was doing our cake, a friend of John's was doing our video, a friend of John's mom was our DJ, florist, brides maids dresses...oh no.
My friend Jenn called to tell me she was pregnant and would be TOO FAR ALONG to be comfortable in the wedding party. Ok. One more Maid of Honor gone. Desperate, I called Pam. Despite the long distance planning, she agreed to step in. I mailed her pictures of the dress I like. OK. My future MIL offered to throw the bridal shower (have I told you yet how much I ADORE my MIL). OK. Called my cousin to tell her about the location changes and who to contact with her measurements...Mom strikes again. My cousin didn't feel comfortable being in the middle of a family feud. Lord only knows what my Mother told them, but none of my mom's side of the family or dad's would be coming to my wedding either. I already knew my own parents weren't coming. Fine. John had plenty of friends and relatives. I still had 64 people to invite. That is a nice size wedding, right? I got toinvite people I probably wouldn't have if my family was coming. My boss and her boyfriend, coworkers, people like that. Oh, and by this time I had moved to NJ and was living with John, I had a great new job and all. No reason to stay in MA now that best friend was gone and the wedding was no longer going to be there.
All this time my SIL Laura had bravely been fighting her cancer. Radiation and chemo hadn't worked as well as the doctors had hoped. She couldn't be in the bridal party, but she was DETERMINED to be at the wedding. She had lost her eyesight, then her ability to walk. She had moved home with my MIL and was getting regular hospice care. She made me PROMISE I would not cancel the wedding if, heaven forbid, something should happen to her. She lost her fight in April. My MIL and FIL both insisted the wedding go on. They wanted to celebrate something happy in her memory and the memory of my best friend Kathleen. I had already decided I wasn't going to throw my bouquet. I had several mutual friends from High School coming to the wedding. Our friend Louanne agreed to bring the bouquet back to Massachusetts and place it on Kathleen's grave for me. Kath was always meant to have that bouquet. We had concocted a plan together months before on trajectory and how I would throw it to be sure she was the one to catch it. [grin] She was so great. I miss her terribly to this day.
The bridesmaids were down to my friend Pam and my soon to be SIL, Anne. A couple weeks after Laura died, I got a call from Pam. She had met a new guy and was totally in love. A week later, she was calling to tell me she was moving to West Virginia to live with him in a house his dad left to him. Oh and wasn't he nice to allow his mother to continue living there. (Excuse me? Alarm bells went off. The dad left everything to his son and not the wife?? There is something wrong with that...) I began to hear from Pam less and less after she moved. I was making all the decisions on my own. I guessed her measurements and put the down payment on her dress. Time was running out. The wedding was now a month away and she hadn't come up to visit me, as she promised, to help with the invitations, wedding favors (which I was making myself) and my veil (which I was also making myself). I called the West Virginia number she left for me over and over, leaving messages with a woman who sounded just shy ofbrain dead with a slow southern drawl that made her sound like a hillbilly with marbles in her mouth. "Pay-am? Pay-ams naught heeah riiite nay-ow." she slurred out. "Can I leave her a message?" I said in my clipped Yankee accent. "Whhhhhuuuut?" repeat. repeat. repeat. I guess I spoke too fast for her. It's kinda funny now. But NOT AT ALL at the time. I was one big ball of stress, horror and sadness.
Anne stepped in to help with invitations, favors, all the rest of the last minute stuff. Anne was my savior. Finally, one week before the wedding John answered a call (I was out). It was Pam. She was in a shelter for battered women, running for her life. The "new man" turned out to be a monster. He had been beating her and nearly killed her. All her belonging were locked in a trailer with a padlock only HE had the key to. She left with the clothes on her back and her car. That was it. And no, we did not expect her at the wedding. We understood. And yes, we would send her some money. John called his mom and gave her the heads up. He knew I would fall apart when I got home. MIL called Anne who came right over. She was armed with a pendant that had belonged to John's grandmother (my something old - given to her when John was born - a grandma's keepsake engraved with his name and birth date), a blue beaded rosary that had belonged to Laura (something borrowed and blue) and a new chain for the pendant (something new). When I arrived home, John told me about the call from Pam and Anne promptly volunteered to be maid of honor and sole bridesmaid. I was devastated, but also deeply touched. She really came thru for me in the end.
How was the wedding, you ask? [get to the punch line, Bec] The ONLY thing that went wrong was the AC was broken in my limo and it turned out to be a rather warm day. John's cousin Maria did my makeup and hair... and I was a little wilted by the time we got to the church. My parents ended up going to my wedding and bringing my aunt and uncle (mom's sister and husband) - my cousins still didn't show up, nor did Dad's side of the family. The wedding was flawless. My MIL and FIL cried at the tribute we did - a candle lighting ceremony in memory of Laura and Kathleen. The reception was beautiful. The food was incredible, the DJ was great. John and I and our new NJ friends Jeff (the guy who did our video, John's co-worker) and his wife Beth danced the night away. We were often the only ones on the dance floor. We didn't care. We were married, John's parents had a really good time, and now we could get on with our lives.
P.S. My mother ended up apologizing to John at the reception. I had told the DJ there would be NO father/daughter dance nor would my husband dance with his new MIL. They ended up requesting it on their own. It was at the end of the reception and by then I was so happy I didn't care anymore. Because I had already ordered a bridesmaid bouquet for Pam, I had an extra. My actual bouquet, of course, was on its way back to Massachusetts. So I got to throw a bouquet after all. It fell on the floor on my first toss. No one went for it, they all took a step BACK (you can see it on the video)!!! Second try, Anne got it. You can see in the video it was headed for the floor again and the look on her face was "oh what the hell". She was relieved we didn't do the garter belt thing. I guess that is what the girls were afraid of.
Whew! There you go. If you made it this far, join me in a beer and a shot (or two or three). Now...on to the honeymoon from HELL in Jamaica. Another post for another day.