Sunday, August 28, 2011

Behind the Scenes on Wedding Day - Part I. "Almost Showtime!"

Well, the events of the previous weeks and day left me a bit drained, but I got a few hours of sleep and finally THE BIG DAY had dawned!  In this blog I have already written a glossy-magazine style perfectionistic overview of the wedding, as well as my own personal gratitude to God on granting a wonderful wedding day for my daughter.  Well, I thought as a final dose of realism, I would offer a behind-the scenes, glitches-included, record of the wedding day!  (Often taking stock of what didn't work is what is most helpful in wedding planning for the future!)

The wedding ceremony was to begin at 12:00 noon, and the bridal party ladies were scheduled for hair and makeup and due at the church by 7:30 or so.  Thus to allow for pre-wedding photos, the day had to start out pretty early.  (TOO early...note to self, try to talk my younger daugher into a later start time for her wedding festivities!)

The bride, bridesmaids, and I had all spent the night at the Waco Hilton, so the plan was to meet in the lobby at around 7:00 AM and carpool to the church.  Besides waking up and showering, I had to figure out what I needed to bring.  Besides my MOB outfit, I still had the Bride's gown and veil and undergarments with me.  One very important item I had forgotten at home was my dressy silver clutch handbag, so I just loaded smaller items in my big everyday purse and plastic grocery bags, and had my hubby get out of bed to help me carry all the clothing down to the lobby.  The wedding dress literally must have weighed at least 20 pounds by itself!  (I figured I would just do without a purse for the ceremony - couldn't tote that big thing with me down the aisle!) 

My husband stayed behind at the hotel -- his white dress shirt still needed to be ironed.  He also needed to get the digital projector that he had brought with him set up and loaded with the slideshow down in the reception room.  (Of course, at this point, the bride and groom still had the digital file of the slideshow --somehow we were going to have to get it from them before everyone had to be at the church for the ceremony!)

The ladies and I loaded up a couple of cars with our wedding attire and accessories and headed to the church.  Our wedding coordinator had graciously offered to have juice and sweet rolls waiting for us at the church, and when we arrived at the bridal dressing room, about 10 minutes late, they were indeed ready and waiting, as were the young ladies from Trendz Salon in Waco.  And what delightful, helpful young ladies they turned out to be!  Their informal banter helped to calm all of us down a bit, and they also shared some helpful advice and forgotten supplies.   (I think they must have a few weddings under their belt!)

"Backstage" - in the Brides' Room
This is where the pre-wedding hours reminded me of getting dressed for a performance or a play!  Hence, getting ready for "Showtime!"  Our star, the bride, had one hairstylist attending solely to her and that stylist got started on her first, knowing that she would require the most time.  The secondary hairstylist started working on the bridesmaids, while the makeup artist started on other bridesmaids. 

We opted to have all the bridesmaids (and me) getting their makeup done professionally, and that became a line item on our wedding budget.  This was to ensure that the makeup style and colors were all complimentary and done at the same level.  The hairsyling was up to each individual attendant -- they were to pay for it themselves if they wanted their hair styled by the professionals.  I paid for both my daughters' hairstyling, (the bride and the maid of honor) knowing that the bride and my younger daughter, with the important role of MOH and singing two solos in the wedding, would want to look her best.  I'd say about half the bridesmaids opted to do their own hair, and half opted to pay for the professional touch.  (I must say that they all looked gorgeous in the end!)

That's me on the left after
getting dressed and "made up".
The Bride is getting her makeup
done on the right.
I just opted for a blowout and style of my short hairstyle, rather than a fancy "do" and took my turn in the makeup chair.  (We offered the services to the Mother of the Groom too - but she opted to do her own.  Note: -The MOG is such a pretty lady naturally-- she looked amazing without the professional services!)

We had one last minute challenge to deal with.  My daughter the bride had purchased lovely matching pearl pendant necklaces and earrings for the bridesmaids to wear.  In her haste to pack things up and leave our home a few weeks before, she had forgotten to bring the boxes of jewelry that she had not already given out to the maids, and she forgot to ask me to bring them with me.  So, some of the maids had the sets, and some didn't. 

My younger daughter, the MOH, was dispensed to Kohl's to try and find something similiar.  Not being familiar with the town, she had to rely on her phone's GPS navigator to get her there and back.  Unfortunately, she was not able to find jewelry identical to the others the bride had purchased, so she just had to buy similar pearl jewelry.  As a result, she was the last one to get her hair and makeup done, adding to the case of nerves she already had about being MOH and singing in the wedding!  (She and her singing patrner for one song, the groom's brother, had not had much time to rehearse together.)   So as the noon hour drew closer, she, the bride, and I were all starting to feel the pressure!

It was now about an hour before the wedding ceremony was to begin.  The hair and makeup session was drawing to a close, the bridesmaids and I had already dressed, and the bride was finally to the point of getting her dress on.  The photographer arrived just before this and started snapping pictures. The bridesmaids and I started to help her get into her undergarments.  In the back of my mind...something was bugging me.  I had seen lovely portratis of brides dressing in romanticly decorated rooms.  We were in the church bathroom, surrounded by institutional sinks, towel dispensers, and stall doors.  Really?  But I had no time to rethink (or ask to redo) anything...

Just as I was starting to lace the corset of the bridal gown up, I got called to the foyer.  My hubby had finally just arrived, and had tales to tell of the unfortunate turn of events at the reception venue.  The groom had to swing by there (out of his way) before going to the church to give the FOB the digital file of the slideshow, then they discovered the big screen had still not been set up by the hotel personnel. My husband and the wedding coordinator's two assistants (her very lovely and capable grown daughters) had to set up the screen themselves!  Another issue with the Hilton that should not have happened!

But on the positive side, one of the groom's grandmothers had an extra purse that she had brought with her - a sequined black bag.  We had mentioned that I had forgotten my dressy silver clutch at the Rehearsal Dinner, so she had made sure to deliver the extra bag to my hubby when he came over to the church, in case I wanted to borrow it!  So sweet of her -- and I took her up on the offer!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Counting Down the Hours: Frantic Friday

Friday morning of the Wedding Weekend dawned. We knew that Saturday (wedding day) would be extremely busy and stressful, but we figured Friday would be more of a laid-back type of day.  Little did we know...

My younger daughter packed up and headed out ahead of us in her own car because the bride and bridesmaids were having a Pamper Day at a spa in Waco with a catered lunch, instead of a Bachelorette and Bridesmaids lunch.

My husband and I loaded up our car to almost overflowing, and made the drive in fairly heavy thunderstorms. We arrived around lunch time, and we had a nice lunch at a restaurant near our hotel with my sister and her husband. We went back to the hotel to check in, but were told our room was not quite ready -- neither were the other rooms we had reserved for the bride and bridesmaids.

No matter, we thought. Our daughter the bride had texted us on the drive down to Waco and asked if we could run a quick errand for her, since she would be tied up with the Pamper Day activities with her maids until almost time for the Rehearsal at the church that evening.  We had planned to display one of her formal bridal portraits prominently at the reception, in the true Southern wedding tradition. So, she had ordered an enlarged gallery-sized print at a local camera shop, and asked us to pick it up for her. She had purchased a large frame for it on sale at Kirklands, and we were to pick that up at her apartment and take it with us to have the camera shop people put the portrait into the frame. We figured we would run that errand and be back in an hour, and our rooms would be ready-- the official checkin time was 2:00 anyway. That would give us plenty of time to relax a little and change clothes for the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.

Well...we hit our first big Wedding Weekend snag. When we got to the camera store, they had the print ready all right, but they said they did not have a big enough cutting board to trim it off. So, they could not frame it for us. They suggested we take the photo and the frame to a Hobby Lobby or Michaels. Bear in mind, we are not familiar with this town at all. They tried to give us directions to Hobby Lobby but it went in one ear and out the other, and we do not have any GPS unit or apps on our phones. We called my daughter and she basically talked us to the street that Hobby Lobby was on. I spied a Michaels on the way, so we decided to just pull in there.

The framing assistant at Michael's was helpful but very slow-moving. He just did not pick up on the time constraints we were under. He suggested that we actually would need a thicker mat to make the portrait look nicer in the frame than the flimsy one that the Kirkland's frame had come with. We agreed that he had a point, so he selected several types and colors of mats and leisurely tried them all out against the portrait and the frame to find the best "look". Finally we all decided on one. Well, he said, he did not have a big enough mat of that particular material and color in stock, but he could order it and it could be here in 3 to 5 days! My husband and I just looked at him, probably wild-eyed, and said, "We need it done today! The wedding is at noon tomorrow!"  

So, the framing guy disappeared in the back and eventually re-emerged with several large mats that he had in stock. Once again my hubby and I tried to remain patient while he tried them all out. We finally decided on one and placed the order, with the understanding that we would be back before closing time that evening to pick it up. By the time we left the store, it was pushing 3 pm. The rehearsal was scheduled at 5 pm, and we had to get back to the hotel, change, and make the 20 minute drive to the church.

Then we hit Snag Number 2. We pulled up to the hotel entrance and my husband suggested to save time, he would go get us checked in if I would start unloading the car. I figured he would be gone 5 or 10 minutes max. I located a wheeled cart, and started the unloading. Well after 20 minutes, I basically had the car completely unloaded and still no sign of my husband. I waited another 5 minutes, and could wait no more. I just left all our stuff at the curb and ran inside to see what was going on. He was standing at the desk, with a frown on his face. Our room was still not ready, although most of the other rooms were. He handed me the keys to the bridesmaid's rooms and I went back outside to wait with our things.

The bridesmaids pulled up about then, all fresh and relaxed from their spa day. I handed them their keys, then waited, waited, and waited some more in the hotel's driveway on that muggy, warm Texas afternoon. We did not get into our room until after 4 pm! I was so angry I could have screamed. We had to rush around getting changed, and we were definitely feeling sweaty and disheveled. I also quickly had to figure out what things I would need to re-pack in the car to take to the church with us, in order to hand them over to the wedding coordinator. We arrived 10 minutes late to the rehearsal. (Would you believe we still beat those bridesmaids there, even after they got into their rooms a good half hour before we did?)

The rehearsal went off without too many glitches (other than a slight disagreement between the pastor and the wedding coordinator about some ceremony details and positions of the bridal party.) I honestly do not remember much about it. While we were there, a typical Texas late afternoon spring storm blew up and we could hear the thunder booming outside and rain pouring down torrentially. It had stopped raining by the time we left the church and made our way to the restaurant for the Rehearsal Dinner, but the streets were still wet and halfway flooded, some traffic lights were flashing off and on, and the Friday evening traffic was horrendous.

The ceremony rehearsal
The groom's family had booked a family-style Italian restaurant close to the church for the dinner. The food was good and plentiful, but the evening wore on a bit because the groom's grandparents (from out of town) were late arriving due to the storms, traffic, and the conditions of the streets, and then we only had one waiter working the entire party of 25 people or so. The evening was very informal -- there were no slide shows or speeches or toasts, just visiting amongst the guests and eating the dinner. In the back of our minds my husband and I knew we still had to go back to Michael's to pick up the bridal portrait before it closed, and as the time drew nearer to closing time for the store, we ended up having to leave the party rather abruptly.

We got a bit lost and barely made it to Michaels 10 minutes before it closed. Our framing guy had even begun counting his cash and closing out his register when we got there, so we all had to traipse across the store to the main registers to check out. The portrait did look very nice, although we were pretty stressed and perturbed after literally having to run around town all afternoon and evening long, for an errand that should have taken no more than an hour if the camera store had just had the right equipment!

We made it back to the hotel, changed to casual clothes again, and relaxed just a little, but I knew we still had some work to do downstairs in the ballroom. Denise, our wedding coordinator still had to finish up the bouquets and floral arrangements for tomorrow, and I knew she would not be down there, but I wanted to see what, if any progress had been made on the reception space setup. The cake-ball stand had been damaged a bit in the car trip, and we had to repair it and put the tiers back together and deliver it to the ballroom too. We had run into the groom's parents in the lobby downstairs, and they had brought the cupcake stand with them, and had already dropped it off in the ballroom.

We had to track down a hotel security guard with a key, but we finally got into the ballroom around 10:30 pm. I felt some pleasant relief then...the room was looking very nice already. The tables were all set with the linens on them, and the dance floor was in place. My husband and I re-organized the dessert table and got the stands put together and in place. For the first time, I could see it all starting to come together! This wedding was really going to happen, and even though I was exhausted and stressed out to the max, I was also getting pretty excited to see if it all turned out the way we had envisioned it during the last year of wedding planning!  At this point, I thought, "It is what it is..." and just had to let it go and trust that all the planning would pay off.

Here is the infamous framed bridal portrait, displayed at the reception!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Home Stretch (The Last Weeks before the Wedding)

One week out.  The butterflies were starting to stir in my tummy. Through countless texts between our wedding coordinator, my daughter, and me, we had succesfully dealt with last minute rental decisions (linens, dancefloor, limo, etc.)  Denise, our wedding coordinator, was working on the menus and programs.  My employer was quite understanding, since it was obvious that I was spending some of my on-the-clock time dealing with last minute wedding details. 

Finally it was Friday, exactly one week before the wedding weekend, and I was looking forward to chilling a bit, attending my daughter's college graduation the next day and just spending some last quiet(er) moments of family time before Wedding Week hit in full force.

My daughter at this point was getting pretty frazzled and pulled in too many directions.  Early in the week she had one last shower to go to (an informal lingerie shower given by the bridesmaids.) Shortly after returning home from that, she started packing her things up to move out of our home, and the next day she left, heading down south to join her fiance in Waco. They were extremely busy with their last minute wedding projects.  They were preparing and packing for the honeymoon, and she also needed to begin packing for the move from her apartment to her fiance's apartment after the wedding. There were also preparations and rehearsals to attend for her upcoming college graduation ceremony.  Sandwiched in between her graduation and the wedding, the groom's brother was also graduating from high school, and they planned to attend that together too.
I was admittedly blue and weepy the first few days or so after she moved out...I had expected her to possibly stay with us until early the next week, so when she started to pack up her things it was an unpleasant surprise. It is just so final when you watch your first child leave the nest for the last time as a single girl, knowing that life in your household would be forever different. I had also hoped to have her more conveniently close by for any last minute wedding details that might come up. As it turned out, it was probably better that we had some space between us during those last few days before her wedding.

So, it had been a tough week and that Friday evening, I was at my computer relaxing with Facebooking and blogging, when I noticed an email had come in from the reception venue banquet manager at the Waco Hilton.  She was trying to get the menu finalized at Denise's request, so that Denise could get the menus sent to the printers.  (I think Denise had an inkling that something wasn't quite right, so she went the roundabout way and got the banquet manager involved.)  We still also had not given the hotel the final headcount for the food, either. (It was due several days before.)  My hubby and I had done all of our last minute calling of our relatives who hadn't RSVPd (and I was really surprised at some who hadn't!) But, my daughter, her fiance and his family still had some rounding up of guests to do, to get a final tally.

The food order attached to the banquet manager's email was no where near complete.  Most of the appetizers to be served in the pre-function area were not mentioned, and there was no mention of a vegetarian option which (we thought) had been planned all along as the alternative to the parmesan chicken lunch entree.  I texted my daughter quickly.  There was evidently a major misunderstanding.  Several months before, she and her fiance had visited the hotel for a "tasting", and my husband and I assumed that the selection of foods had been finalized at that time. My daughter said that no, she thought they were just doing the tasting, and my husband and I were going to place the actual food order.  So here we were, one week out, with the food order incomplete. 

It was an unwelcome surprise, being so close to the wedding. Tempers flared and communication was short and tense.  My husband and I eventually got the order straightened out and communicated to the venue, along with a ballpark guest count.  Actually, we were a bit peeved at the hotel catering manager for not pursuing this with us earlier in the game.  We felt it should have been her responsibility to follow up and make sure the food order was on track.  Denise, the wedding coordinator put it all into perspective.  One week out, this could still be fixed.  If it had been NEXT Friday, she said, then we REALLY would have had a problem! 

My first clue that something was amiss came earlier that day; I had been puzzled by a comment Denise made in a phone conversation we had.  She was meeting with the banquet manager at the hotel at the time.  She asked me, "Why are you having a buffet table for the appetizers when you are serving so little food...why not just pass an hourdeuvres tray?"  I was taken aback by the question and had no idea where she was coming from at the time.  Now, I knew.

Just graduated!
The next day was a long one, involving meeting some of my husband's family to carpool down to Baylor University in Waco for my daughter's graduation ceremony.  We proudly watched her walk the stage to get her Bachelor's Degree, Magna Cum Laude.  Afterwards we shared a meal with our relatives, my daughter and her fiance, and his parents who had come to show support for their future daughter-in-law.  It was actually a very pleasant evening of visiting and bonding.  We ate at the restaurant of the Hilton which would be the reception venue, hoping to meet up with the banquet manager to discuss things a bit more.  But, she was no where to be found.  We kept things as light as possible with my daughter, not mentioning the menu issue once, because we could tell that stress was taking its toll on her.  We said good bye after the dinner, and we would not see her again until next Friday, the day before the wedding!  We were dog tired on the drive back home that evening.

Still on the agenda was one last D-I-Y project. I wanted to make a hair ornament for my daughter to wear after taking off her veil for the recepion.  We had priced them at the bridal stores and they were pretty outrageous; they could cost $100 or more.  I knew I could make one much less expensively if I could find the right materials.  It took a shopping expedition to both Hobby Lobby and Michael's on Sunday afternoon, but I found some things that I thought would work.  The plan was to make it that evening or Monday get one more thing checked off the list. Of course I just didn't find the time, until much later in the week!

I went to work Monday through Wednesday as usual of Wedding Week.  In the evenings of the early part of the week, Denise, my daughter and I corresponded frequently about the order of the wedding service, and details for the program. As the week went on, my direct conversations and texts with my daughter were less frequent and still somewhat subdued, and I hated that things seemed to be a bit uncomfortable between us.  I took Thursday off.  My husband and I spent most of the morning with more emails and phone calls back and forth with Denise and the hotel venue conveying the final guest count, discussing final delivery arrangements for the rentals, table setup up, the seating chart, etc.  I also got a pedicure, ran errands and did a little shopping. 

I had decided against doing welcome bags for our out of town guests staying at the hotel, since we did not expect too many of them, and most of them had just driven in a few hours from other parts of Texas or Arkansas.  But I thought it would be nice to make little "Emergency Kit" gift bags for the bridesmaids.  So, that Thursday evening I got Dollar Store white bags and pretty light blue and white curling ribbon, and filled them with items like travel-sized deoderant, toothpaste, Tums, safety pins, gum, bobby pins, etc.  In hindsight, it was a nice idea -- but a total waste of time.  As it turned out, the bags did not get delivered to the girls until the hectic morning of the wedding, and some of the girls did not even open them. A few of the bags actually went back home with me after the wedding.

That night I also started gathering all the many items we would need to load into our car to take down to Waco with us the next day. This included favors, vases and containers, decorating items, wedding gifts, the bridesmaid's gift bags, and my big wedding planning binder, not to mention the bride's gown and veil and our wedding apparel.  We also had taken the tiers of the cardboard cake ball stand (already decorated) apart for the trip for easier transporting (or so we hoped.)

The hair clip in action!
I got started making my daughter's hairclip after 11:00 pm on Thursday night.  Considering the hour and how exhausted I was, I think it turned out pretty darned good -- it turned out to be just the right size for her massive curled long hairdo.  It took around 30 minutes, and the materials cost maybe $10!  I remember going to bed that night, so tired I was almost in tears, thinking I wish I could just sleep through the coming weekend.  That was the first time, ever, in this whole wedding planning process, that I was just ready for it to be OVER!