Sunlight streamed in through the window, pooling on the faded bedspread. I could hear the low rumble of conversation coming from outside, and the sound of a child laughing. I opened my eyes from a mostly sleepless night and looked at the clock on the night stand beside me. The neon letters read 6:13 a.m. I rolled over, a smile already beginning to form, and caught a glimpse of long blonde hair peeking up from beneath the covers. The other bed in the hotel room was already empty.
I shook my long time friend, Tifany, awake from her slumber. “Good morning,” she said, grinning. “You’re getting married today!”
A few minutes later, two more of my friends and bridesmaids came in the door, bearing coffee and pastries. Becca handed me an apple fritter, and Trish sat on the bed, blowing steam from her brown paper cup. Each of them gave me a knowing smile, and it was understood. They were excited for me, the first of four to head down the aisle.
After breakfast, and a confusing episode of Iron Chef (the Japanese version,) the day officially began. Becca, ever efficient, came up with a shower schedule. We dressed, and primped, and swapped lipsticks and mascara. “Does this feel like prom night to anyone else but me?” Trish joked. By 10, we were all packed up and ready for checkout.
“Let’s go, ladies!” Tifany exclaimed. “We’ve got a TON of stuff to do today!!”
The morning bled into afternoon, and a whirlwind of activity. First thing was first—we headed back to the beach house, where the rest of the bridal party, Brian’s family, and most importantly, Brian, had slept the night before. There were bouquets to be made, pies to be baked, lights to be strung, and Hors d’œuvres to create. But when we arrived, the house was already bustling with activity. Brian’s Uncle Paul and my Dad had taken command of the kitchen, and we were promptly shooed away. Blake, Deepak, Drew, and the other groomsmen had taken it upon themselves to be in charge of set up (“just as soon as this last game of Madden is over.”) Aunt Tina and Walt had taken over kid duty, and were busy talking, drinking coffee, and keeping 4 year-old Rosie occupied.
And so, all that was left was bouquet making. Heather arrived with buckets of pink roses and Gerber daisies, and the five of us sat at the huge dining room table and began assembling. I sat there, hands full of roses, and looked around at my friends. My family. And my heart filled.
By 2, it was time for the ladies to hit the road for hair and nails. I kissed my soon-to-be husband, gave him a few last instructions, and we piled into Becca’s car and headed for town.
The next three hours are a blur. Nails were painted, hair was twisted up and pinned. Each lovely bridesmaid was sporting her own unique style. Brian’s cousin, Shelby, and the fifth bridesmaid, kept the rest of us laughing with her antics. Funny high school stories were told, my lifelong friends got to know my newest friend, and we had an absolute ball.
Before we knew it, my stylist was asking for my veil. And the room instantly got quiet. I watched my friends watching me, each one with her own reaction. Shelby was excited, Trish and Becca smiled from ear to ear, Tifany and Heather each wiped tears away. And then it was official. I was a bride.
An hour later, we were back at the beach house holed up into the biggest bedroom we could find. Make-up bags, perfume bottles, and lint rollers littered the bed. Two or three bridesmaids shared the mirror, applying mascara or lip gloss, or fastening earrings or necklaces in place. I sat, hands in my lap, as Trish swiped eye shadow over my eye lids. “We’re just about done here,” she said over her shoulder. “It’s DRESS time!!” The holy grail for any bride–that all-white garment bag–was passed from one set of hands to another until it hung before me from the closet door.
I took the dress from its hanger, stepped in, and felt the satin slide up and over my body. Heather zipped up the back and, voila…I was ready. And the girls…well, they were the loveliest bridesmaids I’ve ever seen.
More tears were shed (but carefully! Don’t smudge her mascara!), hugs were exchanged, pictures were taken, and then I finally got to see my parents. Dad beamed with pride, Mom fussed with the skirt of my gown, careful to keep any tears shed from my sight. We lined up as the sun began to set, ready to traipse across the street to the beach, where my family and friends waited.
What a sight we must have been–bridesmaids all donned in celadon, groomsmen in slacks and flip flops, a bride and her parents–dodging cars to parade down the public beach access. Shrubs and weeds snatched at my dress and veil. My foot snagged on a vine and only my Dad kept me from falling. And then we crested the dunes, and the small ceremony space came into view.
And there he stood, feet in the sand, beneath a canopy of flowers.
I felt my heart rise up, and the tears prick my eyes. I felt my Mom squeeze my hand, and a tear escaped. And we began our walk to the alter.
My ears buzzed, filled with the sound of the waves crashing, and suddenly my Dad was handing me over. I hugged him, and then my mother, and I felt the dam loosen further. I was going to burst into tears and it was going to be ugly. “I will NOT cry, I will NOT cry,” I began thinking to myself, a mantra that didn’t seem to be working. Then I turned to face Brian, face crumpled, ready to boo hoo. But he took my hand, and looked into my eyes. And the overwhelming need to cry dissipated.
We stood beneath a purple sky, sand between our toes, and the rest of the world fell away. I was completely unaware when a surfer walked behind the alter. I had no idea when Rosie’s hat blew away in an errant gust of wind. For me, in that moment, there was Brian and nothing else. We shared our vows, we exchanged rings, we sealed the deal with a kiss.
And finally, finally, we were man and wife.
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Eight years have passed since that sunset ceremony on the beach, and I still get the same feeling each time I remember it. The overwhelming need to cry, the rush of love, the sense of absolute joy. There are bits and pieces of that weekend that have started to become fuzzy over time, cobwebs gathering in my memory. But the moments that mattered most–a quiet moment with each of my bridesmaids; gut-busting laughter filling that little beach house; watching with wonder as two families so easily became one; Brian as he stood, legs akimbo, as he watched me cross the sand–those are the memories I’ll carry with me always. And I would do it all again in a heart beat, just exactly the same way.
Happy Anniversary, Brian. I’m so glad I said yes.