I’ll always say, “2016 sucked, but at least it was the year I got married!” (On September 11th, of all days.) Yes, we chose to make an honest man/woman out of one another on one of the most cursed days during one of the most cursed years. Good thing we aren’t superstitious people!
Actually, I have always been a bit superstitious about weddings. I can very easily trace this superstition back to the day my older sister Jenny got married, when I was 14. Not only did I pass out in front of the whole crowd right during the vows, but Jenny’s appendix sent her into surgery the very next morning. Something about weddings seems to make long-term health problems and tears of all flavors (joy, stress and anger about napkin rings) bubble to the surface.
For this reason, the idea of a wedding has always made me sweat a little. Not marriage, just the wedding. A part of me sincerely hoped that I would get my appendix removed before the idea ever crept up in my life.
Things did not work out quite in that order. Appendix still intact, Neil and I got to a point where calling one another “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend” just didn’t sound right anymore. We were more than that to one another, and it was time to make that official with the state. We skipped engagement, for the most part, and just decided to start planning a wedding.
We knew we wanted to get married in our backyard with close family, but we also wanted to have a party with friends. We fell in love with Bauhaus Brewery as a venue for that, and the only day they had available in our time frame was Sunday, September 11th. After we realized that planning a September wedding in March leaves you with close to zero options, we took them up on it.
We were trying to sort out some details on our own before announcing our plans, just so we could have our ducks in a row before we got relatives too excited. Then, my parents fished it out of me by asking for nine months’ warning before I got married so they could join Weight Watchers.
“Start now,” I said. They rejoiced.
By some miracle, my mom found her late mother’s long-lost wedding ring the day before we went in to order my wedding ring. That meant I got to use her diamond. My Grandma Lil was incredibly funny, cool and generous and this was a special way to feel like she was present at the wedding. That was exciting, and then I found a dress I loved, too.
As the day got closer, I began to feel struck by an intense gratitude for all the things friends and family do for you as you prepare to get married. People were baking, planning showers, drawing beautiful chalk signs, and ordering me lovely flowers so I wouldn’t have to think about it. I even got a funky, handmade paper banner that said, “Future Mrs.” backward (“SRM ERUTUF,” which is more my speed anyway). I was really enjoying everything, and feeling closer to my friends and family as a result. Maybe, I thought, my wedding could just be a fun, simple day — no stress, no drama.
Well, I was not quite that lucky.
My wedding week was one of the craziest weeks of my life. On Monday, Neil’s parents came over to help us plant flowers, and my friend Jen also came over to make sure I fit in my dress. (Before that week, my big drama was not quite fitting in my dress!) Right as I got the dress on, I got a text from my mom saying my dad had experienced signs of a heart attack and had been rushed to the hospital.
My dad, a fan of granola bars and biking, who I have seen drink a handful of beers ever, having signs of a heart attack? Now that’s crazy. I looked at myself in my wedding dress and felt absurd. It was nice to have Jen there in that moment, as she is a strong and kind warrior who has been through a lot, and always knows just what to say. Neil’s parents told me to leave the gardening to them and go see my dad.
I got really familiar with the valet service at St. Joe’s hospital that week. When I showed up, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my dad was laying in a hospital bed looking cheerful and happy, a bit bashful that he’d made everyone come all this way for what he was sure was nothing. After waiting with him for awhile, Neil and I finally left. We went to Buffalo Wild Wings, because we like to eat chicken fingers and do dumb trivia when we’re feeling blue.
The next day was my birthday. 29! At this point, it was only 5 days till our wedding. We expected dad to get out of the hospital with possibly a couple stints in his heart. Instead I got a call from my mom saying they’d gotten bad news. He had a major blockage in his heart and would need open heart surgery the next day. He may not make it out in time for the wedding.
I rushed over to the hospital once again, canceling our reservation for dinner that night at 112 Eatery. I don’t think food tastes very good when you’re insanely anxious about your dad’s open-heart surgery. That night I went to bed as early as I could since I had to get up at 5 a.m. to head back to St. Joe’s.
The day of his surgery, I felt a little better. I tried to tie up a huge freelance project in the waiting room. Now that’s a hard task.
At this point, my dad’s mom, aka my Grandma Pat, was being rushed into the E.R. and back home on what seemed like a daily basis. We weren’t sure what was going on with her, other than that her Alzheimer’s was getting worse. We were a little worried about focusing on this in front of my dad, as we didn’t want any bad news to get his heart racing. My uncle Terry and aunt SueAnn were able to take care of my grandma that week, which was a huge relief. They came to the hospital to be with us while we waited for the surgery to be over.
Luckily, my best friend since 7th grade, Angela, works in the heart unit at St. Joe’s and came down to hang out with me. She slipped behind the scenes at one point to see if there was any news about how dad was doing. She came back gleeful, saying the word was that the surgery was over and he was doing great. At this point I got a major adrenaline high. He’d had a triple bypass, and he was going to pull through!
Then, the wedding started to come back into sight. It might be a thing after all …
We weren’t yet totally in the clear though, as Neil’s family was having their own medical emergency that week. Neil’s aunt Bonnie, who I had quickly come to adore, needed to have surgery on a brain aneurism the next day. This was yet another scary battle for Bonnie, who has been fighting multiple myeloma, aka blood cancer, all of this year. The next morning, I waited anxiously for news as to how her surgery went, and received good word around 2 p.m. Was it time to exhale?
Neil and I went out for my birthday dinner that night, and cheersed to two successful surgeries. 112 Eatery is so good y’all. You have to get the nori encrusted sirloin with ponzu, oh and the butterscotch budino. I was so glad we waited to have that fancy dinner until the surgeries were over.
The next morning, it occurred to me that I needed to scoot on getting ready for my wedding. I also got a manicure and pedicure with my mom, sister and my sister’s daughter, Kaylee. The man doing my nails had just had heart surgery of his own, and was telling me about how it feels to be two months out from the procedure.
“You feel like you have no freedom anymore,” he told me, showing me his giant scar. “I was really depressed until my wife told me to cut it out.”
Dad was getting stronger every day, but he was a bit down from the shock of everything. Angela hung out with me at the hospital several times when I went to visit him, and told me that many people don’t even remember their time in the hospital after a surgery. Maybe because of the drugs, or maybe because of the trauma.
Saturday was our small rehearsal dinner at Neil’s parents’ house. They recently moved into a beautiful place in Prior Lake on top of a hill, with a killer nightly show from the sunset. We ordered catering from Revival because it has the best fried chicken ever, and for me there’s no romance w/o chicken.
That night ended up being really hard for my sisters and I, as we weren’t sure whether or not dad would get out of the hospital for the wedding. We FaceTimed with him and there were lots of tears.
Neil and I smeared some cake on one another, as his mom Darcy surprised us with a cake. I wish I could go back in time and enjoy that night more. Neil’s parents and family really put on a lovely party for us.
The next morning I woke up early, ready to let my favorite hairstylist in to get started on hair. Before she came over, I got the bad news that my Grandma Pat had passed away in the middle of the night. I felt a lot of remorse that I hadn’t had more time to visit with her in that final month, and that I had missed her birthday party that weekend. I’d had no idea at the time that she was in such bad health. Grandma has always been a super strong, healthy and sturdy person, living to the ripe age of 90. I was so sad that she hadn’t been able to make it to my wedding, as it would have been wonderful to be with her that day.
Almost no one was over when the hairstylist showed up, ready to get started on hair. I had to explain that it had been a highly unusual week in our family.
I did get some good news though. Dad was getting released from the hospital and would make it to the wedding!
Neil and I decided we could both invite one or two friends to our backyard wedding. When they started coming over and drinking mimosas, it started to feel more like a wedding.
We took Fireball shots and Angela wrestled some fake eyelashes onto my eyes. My mom and sisters joined to help me get ready.
I came downstairs and my nephew Levi, who REALLY likes girls, said, “Whoa aunt Becky, you look like a princess!” I asked him if I should marry him instead of Neil and he said, “No, you should marry Neil … but you can marry me in your dreams.”
He was our ring bearer, which he had misinterpreted as “ring barrier.” He was sure his job was to guard the rings with karate and punch any robbers that interrupted our wedding. I gave him the rings tied to the pillow and he asked me which one I was going to pick: the black one or the gold one with the diamond. “The gold one,” I said. He later came back to confirm which rings we had each picked.
We lined up to get ready, and then Neil walked in to pee. I hid behind my parents and told him not to look at me yet. Levi overheard this and ran out into the yard where everyone was waiting, shouting, “NO ONE LOOK AT AUNT BECKY! It’s a surprise how pretty she is!” That of course made me cry with laughter, right as the ceremony started.
Kaylee, our flower girl, began to walk, using the careful pace she had so diligently practiced. Levi followed behind in a rush, shouting, “Hurry up Kaylee! Hurry up!” Again I was losing it.
Our actual wedding was a breeze compared to the emotional ups and downs of that week. I was fully prepared to have as much fun as possible. Our family deserved it at that point! I barely cried, got my vows out ok, and our officiant James Diers gave a beautiful speech he wrote just for us. Then we had a champagne toast and rearranged ourselves into groups for pictures.
Our photographer, Nicole of Nylon Saddle, gave us a couple hours just to take photos alone, which was lovely. We went to the Guardians of Health water tower by our house and took some, and then went to her studio in Northeast and took some more.
Our reception was lovely, and featured food from one of my favorite restaurants, Hola Arepa. We even got extras to take home!
My dad went home to rest up, and my mom was a true champion, greeting everyone warmly. That was quite the week for her, and I’m still amazed at how strong she was.
Neil’s music fraternity brothers did their little serenade for me, which I thought would be mortifying but it was actually quite sweet. The best part was that Jay Gabler joined in, pretending to sing along, which cracked me up. The night went by fast, and turned into a little dance party at the end, featuring All Tomorrow’s Petty. More James Diers, what up!
After the wedding, we stayed at the W Hotel downtown, which sent us a complimentary bottle of champagne. We stayed up late laughing, eating room service, toasting and even opening a few cards. It was a truly magical ending to a great wedding and a tumultuous week.
It had been hard, but it ended up being very special. Most importantly, I beat my sister by having a more dramatic wedding than hers. Just kidding.
Our wedding week was really hard on our family, and I wish in some ways that I could go back to that day and be more present. I bet everyone thinks that about their wedding day though. Looking at things positively, my dad is now on the mend, and so is his brother, who soon after had his own bypass surgery. I hope my Grandma Pat was watching from her own special perch, with the rest of my grandparents.
People always ask what I think of getting married. Overall, I found the experience to be one full of gratitude. So many people went out of their way to do really nice things for us. When I put on the ring, I felt like the act of getting married wasn’t just between Neil and I, but something that connected us to our whole families in a great way. I know that’s cliche, but it’s true.
Being married doesn’t feel terribly different than not being married, as we had already been together for five years and lived together for three. But I had a blast through the whole process, and we got to enjoy a lot of thoughtful presents and a killer honeymoon in Japan.
Whenever I look at my wedding ring, I think of that scene in The Simpsons when Marge says only two people in club Simpson have “special rings,” and Bart & Lisa get all excited and blow their whistle rings.
Are they really so different?
If you’re thinking about getting married, that’s my take on it.
Make sure everyone gets a health checkup at least a month beforehand. Oh, and when you’re standing up there, DO NOT LOCK YOUR KNEES!